Nathaniel, also known as Bartholomew, was one of Jesus’ twelve disciples. The Bible records how Jesus found many of the other disciples and said to them “Follow me.” Nathaniel’s story, however, is a little different. [John 1:43-51] tells us what happened. Jesus finds Phillip who accepts the invitation to follow Him. Phillip then finds Nathaniel and tells him that they had found “Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote…”. The subsequent meeting of Nathaniel and Jesus gives us a beautiful picture of what it means to find Jesus and be found by Him.
1) “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
This is the question Nathaniel asks when Philip first tells him about Jesus. What was to doubt about Nazareth? Was it too small, too peripheral, not kingly enough for the birth of the Messiah? Whatever the reason, Nathaniel voiced his assumption that Nazareth could not be used by God.
Philip responds to Nathaniel with a simple invitation – “Come and see.”
Can anything good come out of a broken relationship, out of a hurtful situation, or from an unfulfilled dream? Can anything good come out of a divided country, out of those we perceive to be fallen or stubborn? Can anything good come from what we perceive to be insignificant, or unholy? Are we perceiving with our own eyes, or with God’s eyes?
As Nathaniel discovers, good can come out of Nazareth. Jesus, the Messiah and the Christ, was born there and emerged to fulfil God’s purpose of salvation at the cross. In fact, all things can be used, transformed and redeemed for the glory of God. [Colossians 1:16] tells us why:
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.”
2) “How do you know me?”
Nathaniel came to Jesus. As he was coming, Jesus saw him and said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” [John 1:47] Nathaniel then asks the question – “How do you know me?” and Jesus replies, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” [John 1:48]
In this brief exchange between Nathaniel and Jesus, we get a revelation of how much God knows us. He knows where we are from (Nathaniel was an Israelite, of God’s chosen people), what our character is like (Nathaniel had no deceit in him), and the course of our lives. Here, Jesus reveals to Nathaniel that He is indeed the Messiah. Only God is omniscient, knowing all things. Jesus demonstrates to Nathaniel that He is omniscient, and therefore, that He is indeed the Son of God as foretold in Scripture.
How does God know us? He know where we are from, how we were purposefully and wonderfully made by Him. He knows our character, our potential and our purpose. He knows us before we know Him, and even before others know us. He is the omniscient, all-knowing God.
“I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Marvelous are your works,
And that my soul knows very well.
My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they are all written,
The days fashioned for me,
When as yet there were none of them.”
– [Psalm 139:14-16]
3) Nathaniel’s Find
Having realised that Jesus had already found Him, Nathaniel exclaims, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” [John 1:49]. Jesus then replies by giving a prophetic revelation of what is to come.
“…Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these… Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” – [John 1:50-51]
With these words, Jesus implies that Nathaniel will receive even greater revelation and sight of God’s character. Moreover, that he would witness the coming of the Holy Spirit, the death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Nathaniel did not just find the man of whom the prophets spoke, He found Christ and believed in Him. Nathaniel found the way, the truth, and the life – he found salvation, and he found God.
4) What will we find?
Will we accept the invitation to “come and see”? Will we lay down our preconceptions and allow God to show us His character, His plans for our life, and His plans for this earth? Will we seek and find the Messiah, and the Christ?