A blog by Josh Humbert
Ours is the age of celebrated skepticism. It seems doubt and suspicion are modern virtues. Disbelief is worn as a badge of honor.
What…..you don’t believe me? Exactly.
This is the era where you can be skeptical of anyone and everything and you’ll find plenty to encourage you to do so.
Find a person or subject you have some uncertainty about and google search them — you’ll find a chat room full of the latest conspiracies. There are skeptic magazines you can receive. If you can drop your guard enough to give them your email, there’s even a skeptic enewsletter you can receive.
Have we landed on the moon? Were dinosaurs a hoax? Who knew about 9-11? Just how many musical artists are part of the Illuminati?
And if all else fails……..Aliens, right?
At the end of John 1, we find a rather strange account of Nathanael and Jesus. Their interaction comes early in the public ministry of Jesus, as He has been gathering disciples. Jesus gets Philip on board and Philip quickly goes to tell Nathanael.
John 1:45-46 gives us the following interaction:
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Nathanael’s biting response reveals his stereotype-fueled-skepticism. He isn’t content to just doubt Jesus….he has to top it off with small-minded prejudice. “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
In other words, Nathanael sees Nazareth as the “wrong side of the tracks.” It’s a small, inconsequential village of nobodies and nothing in his estimation. There’s no way the Messiah would come from such a lowly and nowhere town.
This isn’t just skepticism, it’s open hostility. But Nathanael is about to show us something wonderful.
As the passage continues, we see something truly remarkable with Nathanael. He ends up going along with Philip to “come and see” what Jesus is all about. When he arrives on the scene with Jesus, he is immediately overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus knows him in uncanny ways. In fact, Nathanael realizes very quickly that Jesus is the Christ! Verse 49 records Nathanael’s bold declaration:
“Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.”
That’s worship. That is a stunning reversal for the small-minded man a few moments ago!
How did it happen? Jesus obviously does His amazing work, but I submit that a part of this is due to Nathanael being the RIGHT kind of skeptic. What makes him special is he possesses one trait that is increasingly rare in the skepticism of our time — real courage.
As we saw in verse 46, Nathanael clearly has no trouble putting his cards all on the table. He is brutally honest. He doesn’t hide his prejudice, he wears it on his sleeve. There’s no hypocrisy or fake-ness. He is a man of NO deceit, a fact that Jesus will affirm just moments later (verse 47).
Now, most skeptics can be honest. They can put their doubts out there and articulate them well. Even among Christians themselves, many will openly deal with doubts around their faith.
However, it is Nathanael’s courage that truly separates him from most skeptics. He doesn’t stay content in his prejudice. He doesn’t remain in his small-mindedness. Yes, he has his preconceived labels and hate for the people of Nazareth BUT he is willing to “come and see.”
Nathanael is willing to set aside all his own conclusions and go see for himself. This is outstanding and oh so rare.
I’ve dealt with many skeptics of Jesus, God, and the Bible. I’ve listened as they share all their doubts and disbeliefs and objections. I’ve heard about every suspicion there is. But it is altogether RARE for the skeptic to set that aside and read the Gospels for themselves.
What Nathanael did takes guts. Anyone can have a preconceived idea or prejudice about Jesus. Anyone can grab a couple skeptical slogans from an internet chat room and hold it as a reason to not believe. It takes real courage to come to the Gospels and investigate for yourself. It takes guts to say “ok, I have these ideas about Jesus, but I’ll set those aside to read and consider Him for myself.”
He won’t settle for a long-held prejudice or bias, He goes to see for himself. He investigates for himself. That’s what makes Nathanael so different. And that’s what makes his skepticism so helpful for our times.
Ultimately, much skepticism in our world is really just a slanted, one-sided view. Many doubters never take those next steps to engage with the material of the opposing viewpoint. It’s much safer to stay in prejudice or slogans. But if the other side is never given a fair chance, how credible is that skepticism?
Are you a skeptic of Jesus? Do you have your own uncertainties ready to reveal at a moment’s notice if you’re questioned about Him? Are you honest about your doubts?
Take it a step further — Do you have the courage to engage with Jesus for real? Do you have the guts to investigate for yourself? To read the Gospels for yourself?
Nathanael had real courage. His encounter with the real and living Jesus changed him forever.
History records that he was whipped to death in Armenia for preaching the Gospel. The man who had all the doubts about Jesus became one who was killed for sharing Him.
Good news for skeptics of Jesus — the invitation still stands. Come and see! Come to the Bible for yourself. Read, think, and consider for yourself. The Bible is the most unique of all books and it still stands just as powerful as ever today as it has for centuries. Have you dared to investigate Jesus there?
Read the book of John. Start there. Examine the life and claims of Jesus. Ask God to speak to you as you read it (even if and especially if you don’t think He exists!!). You can send me questions if you want (firstname.lastname@example.org). Give this a fair and real assessment. Come and see for yourself.
It may just be that there’s good reason to be skeptical about your skepticism. It may be time to doubt your own doubts.
As always, thanks for reading. Your comments and insights are welcomed. If you enjoyed this, please share it. You can also find more content in the archives.