43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, "Follow me." 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 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."
Jesus found Philip. Previously we saw that Andrew and another sought Jesus, Andrew brought Peter. Andrew said we have found the Messiah. The differences and similarities between how these came to Jesus and how Philip and Nathanael came are something to consider.
Jesus found Philip and simply told him to follow him. At this time, Jesus was near the location where JTB was baptizing. The town was a very little Podunk called Bethany across the Jordan. This is not the town near Jerusalem. But look at where Philip lived – in Bethsaida which is at the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. Where did Andrew and Peter live? In Bethsaida also. What are these fishermen doing so far south, 70 miles as the crow flies, but much further by road?
Presumably Philip was also one of JTB’s disciples and these guys were down there trying to find out who the Messiah was and learn from JTB. Since Philip hadn’t followed along with Andrew, Jesus had to find him. Philip’s statement to Nathanael was similar to Andrew’s about finding the Messiah. It didn’t take much to get them to follow Jesus. They were primed and ready.
Jesus found Philip. This points out that it is God who works to bring us to him. Though the others were seeking the Messiah, they still must be called by God. We were chosen by him. We didn’t choose him. Many people claim to be seeking God but never find him. They openly reject Jesus and therefore cannot be truly seeking God. The problem beneath this is that Jesus isn’t seeking them. They haven’t been called. That may seem very harsh, but we have to remember that this is God’s plan, and he will execute it when he chooses. It isn’t based on our “seeking” that comes from the “goodness” of our spirits because we don’t have any goodness there until we are regenerated by the Holy Spirit. But more on this will have to wait until Chapter Three.
The one of whom Moses and the Law and Prophets wrote about. These guys knew their Scripture. I hear a lot of people saying they were unlearned fishermen; I don’t think so. They had seen the Messiah from all the books of the Old Testament. They were unlearned by the Pharisees’ standards but knew a lot. This points out that we don’t have to go to seminary to learn the Word of God.
It is interesting that the Sadducees missed the Messiah because they relied only on Moses. But even there, there was enough to see the need for and the promise of a Messiah. When Jesus was on the road to Emmaus Jesus taught the two disciples, “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:18). It is interesting how often people start talking about Jesus from the New Testament but neglect the very important part of the Good News that he was predicted and promised from the beginning of time. In Luke 16:31 and John 5:46, the Bible say that if you don’t believe Moses, you won’t believe Jesus.
46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out
of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
Can anything good come out of Nazareth. Even though Nathanael had a bias against Nazareth, he still went to see Jesus. His skepticism was proved inaccurate. However, he wasn’t like the Pharisees who were closeminded when they insulted Nicodemus in John 7:52. We must keep an open mind when we approach Scripture to see what God has for us. We can’t be like the Pharisees who would not consider anything that didn’t match their traditions and set theology. Nathanael came to see if Philip was right.
47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!"
Jesus saw Nathanael and said he didn’t have any deceit in him. He wasn’t saying that Nathanael was perfect, but that he spoke his mind. He didn’t cover up his skepticism with deceit. This is a hard thing to do because always speaking our mind can cause trouble. It takes discernment when to hold our tongue and when and how to express criticism or skepticism without causing harm to others. It is also tough when we are people pleasers and want to avoid conflict. The good news is that Jesus knows us through and through. We don’t have to pretend with him. When we rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us, we can also have the discernment to speak the truth in love.
48 Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
Jesus’ statement was a shock to Nathanael. What about us? Shouldn’t this show that God knows us as well? He knows our thoughts before we speak them (Ps 139:4). He sees what we are doing (Ps 139:2-3). We are accountable to him for what we do (Heb 4:13) even though he hems us in, determines our steps (Ps 139:5).
Jesus saw Nathanael while under the fig tree. This is something the omniscient Son of God revealed to the human Jesus. It shows that Jesus is truly both God and man. Revealing this to Nathanael was enough to convince him that Jesus is the Messiah. It is interesting that this appears to be his first encounter with Jesus and he makes such a bold statement.
49 Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"
Son of God, King of Israel. Two titles for the Messiah. I get the feeling that Nathanael didn’t have a very good grasp of who Jesus really is. As time goes on, I think that we will see all the disciples had a very limited understanding of who Jesus is. Both of these titles can be related expressly to a conquering Messiah and not to a suffering servant.
We aren’t much better when we first come to know Jesus. He is Savior. It is only after we get to know him better that we begin to fully understand the magnitude of who he is and what he has done.
50 Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." 51 And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
They will all see greater things. Greater than seeing him under a tree. Greater than being King of Israel. What is greater than seeing these things? Seeing Jesus’ glory. This can’t be referring to his baptism when the Spirit descended on him because that already happened. It can’t be referring to Jesus’ transfiguration because only Peter, John, and James saw that. This must be referring to the glory of Jesus that we will all see only in heaven. It is the reward we have for our faith in Jesus. Nathanael has just expressed a limited faith in Jesus, and he responds by saying that this is only the beginning. Eternity will be so much more than just being seen under a tree.