John 1:43-51 JESUS CALLS PHILIP AND NATHANAEL
The next day, Jesus goes to Galilee and finds Philip and tells him to "follow me" and Philip does. These words "follow me" often ring in a Christian's ear. Jesus calls us to follow Him as well in a simple two-word statement. Following Jesus is not complicated or difficult to accomplish.
Philip was from Bethsaida where Andrew and Peter lived. Since Andrew and Peter were already following Jesus, he would have seen them and decided to follow along as well. Then Philip found Nathaniel and testified about Jesus to him. Nathaniel exclaimed, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Nazareth was despised by the Jews because the Roman army was stationed there. Nathaniel's home town was Cana, about 4 miles from Nazareth, so he would have been subject to the attitude of the label placed on Nazareth. The stereotype label of Nazareth was assumptively placed on anyone from the city. Nathaniel could have let that thought stand, but instead choose to go with Philip where his attitude was changed. This is a lesson on having an open heart toward anyone we meet. It is the old adage of not judging a book by its cover. Whether we call it a "label," a "stereotype," or a "prejudice," the attitude is all the same. Go ahead -- Take an attitude check the next time you meet someone new and greet them with an open heart. Looking at the situation from Philip's perspective, his friend exclaimed a prejudice and rather than entering a defensive mode, he merely invites Philip to meet Jesus. This is also an example for me to follow when someone gossips to me about another person. Lead the one to meet the other to allow his attitude to change in a first-person meet-and-greet. My words may never change a person's heart (so there is no reason to create tension by trying), but learning of their own accord just may.
Philip took Nathaniel to Jesus and from a distance Jesus spoke "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!" Nathaniel was surprised that Jesus knew him and asked Jesus "how?" Jesus drops another whammy and tells Nathaniel that He saw him under the fig tree before Philip called to him. That was enough to convince Nathaniel! Jesus knows me too! He knows everything about me. I cannot pretend to be someone I am not, so why not just be myself! The "real me" is the "me" that Jesus knows.
What is meant by "no deceit?" It may have been a familiar Old Testament that Nathaniel recognized as Jacob (Israel) deceiving Esau. If so, Jesus would have been building up Nathaniel to say there was nothing like the deceit of Jacob in his heart. When I am in worship, Jesus says to me, "I saw you there."
What was Nathaniel doing under the fig tree? Scripture does not say, but it was common in Bible times for a person to sit under a fig tree to pray and read scripture. If this is what Nathaniel was doing, he would have felt a warm-fuzzie hug from Jesus in Jesus's words.
Here is a great example of how I need to bring others to Jesus. Jesus still does all the doing, but He works through me. Philip had to tell Nathaniel “come and see.” Nathaniel had to come. However, Jesus had been watching Nathaniel all along. My job is merely to say "come and see" and it is on that person to come and it is on Jesus to give the gift of faith.
I can imagine the speechless look on Nathaniel's face as Jesus continues by telling him that he will see even greater things, that being the heavens opening up and angels coming up and down on the "Son of Man," that being Jesus Himself. Jesus is referring to Jacob's dream in Genesis 28:12 (And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it!) and Nathaniel as an Israelite would have been familiar with the scripture. I can imagine the wheels in Nathaniel's head turning and churning as he pondered Jesus's words. Jesus is the ladder between heaven and earth. In following Jesus, Nathaniel would learn the truth about Jesus's nature as God and man. John 14:6, "Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." Jesus is the one and only link, the one and only way, the one and only mediator between heaven and earth. Scripture does not say, but how much more convinced would have Nathaniel been if this was the scripture he was reading while under the fig tree!
Jesus says "In that dream, I'm the ladder."