The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 1:44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 1:45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.” 1:46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 1:47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” 1:48 Nathanael asked him, “Where did you get to know me?” Jesus answered, “I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 1:49 Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 1:50 Jesus answered, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” 1:51 And he said to him, “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Summary – This portion of John’s Gospel tells how Jesus “finds” some of His disciples. Jesus finds Philip and Philip finds Nathanael. But Jesus had already found Nathanael when He saw him under the fig tree even before Philip spoke to him. Philip witnessed that they (he, Andrew & Peter) had found the Messiah, “about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote.” The Scriptures foretold of a Savior who turned out to be Jesus and these early followers believed in Him. This text explains how Nathanael came to follow Jesus. It may be that Nathanael (not listed in other Gospels) is one of the apostles by another name, Bartholomew, Simeon the Cananean, or even Matthew the tax collector. In any case Nathanael expresses doubt at first, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” But then with the slightest evidence that Jesus has spiritual power, he makes a remarkable confession of faith. Then Jesus promises that Nathanael will see much more of heaven opened by following Him.
Insight – A key to understanding this passage is to know that “under the fig tree” is likely referring to a place of rabbinic study. It seems that Nathanael was studying about Jacob (in whom there was guile) prior to this encounter. Jesus references Jacob in his words about Nathanael, “Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael wonders how Jesus could know about what he was thinking or studying. Evidently Jesus knew about this through supernatural means. Imagine someone telling you all about what happened to you, but they weren’t there and no one else knew. Spooky. Jesus could see into Nathanael’s life and heart. This small miracle of insight gave Nathanael the confidence to confess, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Now we have much more reason to make this same confession, since Jesus has done all kinds of works of power, finally being resurrected from the dead. We have much more reason to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel.
Child Catechism – Who told Nathanael about Jesus? Philip told Nathanael about Jesus.
Discussion – Nathanael first believed with very little evidence. What reasons give you confidence to believe in Jesus?
Prayer – Father in Heaven, We thank you that you sent Jesus to us. Give us grace to remember the works of Christ and especially His work on the cross and resurrection. By this grant us continual faith in Jesus Name. Amen.