“Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’
“‘Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?’ Nathanael asked.
“‘Come and see,’ said Philip.
“When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’
“‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked.
“Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were under the fig tree before Philip called you.’
“Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’”
~John 1:44-49 (NIV).
There are a number of things going on here to observe and a number of questions we might ask ourselves as we enquire more of God in reading this passage.
For instance, we could easily surmise that Jesus was simply attempting to flatter Nathanael before we read on, seeing that he’d already observed Nathanael from a perspective that Nathanael wasn’t aware of; him therefore not being able to put on an act, like we will often be tempted to do ourselves if we know we’re being watched.
Nathanael – ‘No Guile’ in Him
This is essentially what Jesus is saying about this disciple-to-be. He knows him to hold a quintessential integrity, additionally, because Nathanael doesn’t simply accept the complement and say “thank you,” hiding his real feelings. He enquires further of Jesus: “How do you know me?”
In other words, he’s gauging how truthful Jesus is, regarding what he’s said. He’s testing God.
And without knowledge of who this Jesus is Nathanael’s to be forgiven. Indeed, his treatment of this situation merely affirms to Jesus what he already knows—there’s no guile in this Israelite.
This whole experience would’ve been markedly dichotomous for Nathanael.
First, he has to deal with the Philip’s wrap of Jesus—this one from “Nazareth,” the insignificant town not otherwise disposed to being ‘the birthplace’ for the Messiah. Add to this the actual meeting with Jesus—and the personal interaction—both feeling each other; Jesus verifying, Nathanael divining the intent of Jesus. Then, finally, and instantly, Nathanael is ‘converted’ into a disciple upon seeing Jesus’ amazing insight.
As We Meet Jesus...
Have we met the Person of Jesus lately? Have we met him at all?
One of the most stunning visions I had of the Person of Jesus was in an admonishing way. I had just rejected something good that I shouldn’t have—I, as it turned out, wanted more... I saw simply the vision of Jesus’ face, and his facial expression as if to say, “Are you rejecting my love and this goodness I have for you?” The look said it all. The look of confused amazement—utterly without condemnation; it revealed instantly to me, my folly.
We ‘meet’ Jesus in an enormous variety of contexts.
He is so many things to us. The real Jesus is piercingly relational. He is not usually speaking to us to ‘back us up,’ but to grow us in him. This almost always means he’s asking us to grow our own characters unto his fruitfulness—we’re not doing anything for him; he’s doing this for us. This generally has nothing to do with other people—it’s between us and God.
Of course, other people are the major benefactors as we grow personally with Jesus; we’re empowered, finally, to love, better, more consistently; to a stronger and higher standard.
Meeting the Person of Jesus is often a personally-threatening form of love, although God never has anything for us but the best for us personally.
Jesus, here, reveals the truth to us—the majority of which we’ll find hard to accept. If we do accept this, however, we can grow, going on with God to that higher revelation of his Spiritual Presence.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.