43 ¶ The day following Jesus would go forth into Galilee, and findeth Philip, and saith unto him, Follow me. 44 Now Philip was of Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. 46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 48 Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee. 49 Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel. 50 Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these. 51 And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Jesus adds Philip to His disciples. Philip acknowledges that Jesus is the one of whom was foretold in the Scriptures. It is interesting how Nathanael is willing to make that declaration based on Jesus’ seeing him before Nathanael came into his presence. Jesus sees us long before we see Him. Nathanael was an Israelite in whom was no guile in that Nathanael was honest and modest and not possessed of a wicked tongue (see Exodus 21:14; Psalm 34:13; and 55:11 for guile in context).
Nazareth is not mentioned as such in the Old Testament. It is today called the, “Arab capital of Israel,” as it has a large Arab population. (4) This kind of questioning will come up again in chapter 7 as people question Jesus’ origins. It is not unusual to be raised in a different place than where we were born as we are a highly mobile society, which they were not at that time. In Jesus’ earliest years, though, there was little doubt in King Herod’s mind. First, there was this prophecy from the Old Testament.
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
Here, Herod is disturbed by the implications of it.
Matthew 2:1 ¶ Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also.
Later in that chapter he will order all of the children who were two years old and under in Bethlehem killed, hoping to kill Christ.
Jesus is calling to Himself disciples. They are all Jews; beard-wearing, pork-abstaining, Sabbath-observing, Temple-going Jews. We need to keep this in mind as we look at prophetic imagery like the fig tree. God had likened the Hebrews He delivered from Egypt to fruit on a fig tree.
Hosea 9:10 I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.
Nathanael was a faithful Jew, an honest man called out by Christ, whom Christ foreknew before he came to Him. God sees who will come to Him even before they do. Nathanael was one of the, “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father.” (1Peter 1:2). It is also said that those that God foreknew would come to Him are predestinated to have something happen to them after they come.
Romans 8:29 ¶ For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.
This is the process that we who believe all go through. God saw clearly through time, from the beginning, who would come and be saved permanently, once and for all, and those people were predestinated to be, at some point, like Christ.
Ephesians 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
…sealed by the Holy Spirit with the promise of a physical resurrection of the body.
Romans 8:23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.
Now, anyone who knows very many Christians will affirm that 99.9% hardly reflect any inkling of that at this point in their lives. Paranoia, bigotry, fear, hatred, arrogance, and self-righteous and willful ignorance do not make us look as if we are becoming like the Christ of the Bible. As time goes by in this gospel we will learn more of what it means to be a Christian, in the process of becoming like Christ, and we will see how far off the mark the vast majority are so no one should act like they’ve arrived, so to speak.
Verse 51 links up with and explains Jacob’s vision from Christ’s perspective as God promises the land his people will inherit to him and speaks of the blessing the Jews will be to all the families of the earth in that Christ comes through them.
Genesis 28:10 ¶ And Jacob went out from Beersheba, and went toward Haran. 11 And he lighted upon a certain place, and tarried there all night, because the sun was set; and he took of the stones of that place, and put them for his pillows, and lay down in that place to sleep. 12 And he dreamed, and behold a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven: and behold the angels of God ascending and descending on it. 13 And, behold, the LORD stood above it, and said, I am the LORD God of Abraham thy father, and the God of Isaac: the land whereon thou liest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed; 14 And thy seed shall be as the dust of the earth, and thou shalt spread abroad to the west, and to the east, and to the north, and to the south: and in thee and in thy seed shall all the families of the earth be blessed. 15 And, behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest, and will bring thee again into this land; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.
Christ is the only link between man and God. He is the only way to Heaven. If you are really His, He has already saved you, and you are being molded by Him. Nathanael believed in simple faith and was blessed by Christ. But, we are all under construction, works in progress.
(4) Laurie King-Irani, “The Arab Capital of Israel,” Journal of Palestine Studies, vol. 25, no. 3 (Spring, 1996), pp. 103-105. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2538265 (accessed 4.15.2015).