The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come, follow me.”
John 1:43 (NLT)
John was the only Gospel writer to record this first encounter between Philip and Nathanael, and Jesus. Notice that Jesus found Philip. This was not just a random selection. Jesus was looking specifically for this certain man. Likewise, the Lord finds all of us. We say we found the Lord, but in reality, He wasn’t lost. We are the ones who were found by the Lord.
Jesus called Philip personally and Philip trusted Him and followed Him. We do not know what kind of heart preparation Philip experienced, for usually God prepares a person before He calls him. We do know that Philip proved his faith by seeking to share it with his friend Nathanael.
The next day Jesus set out to go into Galilee; and when He came upon Philip, He invited him to join them.
Jesus: Follow Me.
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from a town called Bethsaida; and he decided to make the journey with Him. Philip found Nathanael, a friend, and burst in with excitement:
Philip: We have found the One. Moses wrote about Him in the Law, all the prophets spoke of the day when He would come, and now He is here—His name is Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter; and He comes from Nazareth.
John 1:44-45 (VOICE)
Notice that Philip found Nathanael just as Jesus found Philip. This wasn’t a random selection any more than Jesus’ finding Philip was random.
It’s not recorded in this account that Jesus told Philip that He was from Nazareth and His father was Joseph. But apparently Jesus did give this information to Philip, so more was spoken between them than what was recorded here.
Nathanael: How can anything good come from a place like Nazareth?
Philip: Come with me, and see for yourself.
John 1:46 (VOICE)
John 21:2 suggests that at least seven of our Lord’s disciples were fishermen, including Nathanael. Fishermen are courageous and stick to the job, no matter how difficult it may be. But Nathanael started out a doubter: he did not believe that anything worthwhile could come out of Nazareth. Our Lord was born in Bethlehem, but He grew up in Nazareth and bore that stigma (Matt. 2:19-23). To be called “a Nazarene” (Acts 24:5) meant to be looked down on and rejected.
If Nathanael had stopped right there with his preconceived notions, he wouldn’t have found the Christ and become an apostle. Our prejudices can block us from receiving from God and those He sends.
When Nathanael hesitated and argued, Philip adopted our Lord’s own words: “Come and see” (John 1:39). What great theology. We are not to be the judge and jury. We don’t have to convince anyone who Jesus is. We simply give our testimony or witness and then tell them to check Him out for themselves. The Lord will prove Himself to anyone, just as He did to Nathanael (John 1:47-51).
As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.”
“How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.”
John 1:47-48 (NLT)
When Nathanael came to Jesus, he discovered that the Lord already knew all about him! What a shock! Remember that Nathanael had been skeptical that the Messiah could come out of Nazareth. He was coming to check Jesus out, but before he could ask any questions, Jesus ministered to him through the gifts of the Holy Spirit in a way that removed all his doubts. The Lord knows us inside and out. If we will let Him, He will likewise minister to us in ways that remove our doubts.
When Jesus revealed His knowledge of Nathanael, where he had been and what he had been doing, this was enough to convince the man that Jesus indeed was “the Son of God, the King of Israel.”
Nathanael: Teacher, You are the One—God’s own Son and Israel’s King.
John 1:49 (VOICE)
On the surface, this doesn’t appear to be such a powerful encounter as to make Nathanael come out with this strong declaration of Jesus as the Son of God, the King of Israel. But that’s because we don’t know what Nathanael was thinking and/or doing under the fig tree. I suspect he was praying and asking God to speak to him or show him a sign, and Jesus’ statements answered his prayers so completely that it brought this response.
Suffice it to say that Jesus spoke to Nathanael in such a way that Nathanael knew only God could have directed Him to say such things. The Lord knows right where we are, and He can do the same for us.
Jesus: Nathanael, if all it takes for you to believe is My telling you I saw you under the fig tree, then what you will see later will astound you.
John 1:50 (VOICE)
Jesus flowed in the gifts of the Holy Spirit and spoke to Nathanael in such a way that it removed all his doubts. Jesus was saying, “You haven’t seen anything yet. There will be much greater miracles than these.” No doubt Nathanael agreed totally with Jesus after three-and-a-half years of being His disciple (the Bartholomew of Matthew 10:2-3).
I tell you the truth: before our journey is complete, you will see the heavens standing open while heavenly messengers ascend and descend, swirling around the Son of Man.
John 1:51 (VOICE)
There is no scriptural account of Nathanael seeing this. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. There are many things in the earthly ministry of Jesus that were not recorded (John 21:25). It’s also possible that Nathanael might not have seen what these angels were doing in the unseen realm, but he saw the results of this angelic activity through the ministry of Jesus.
However, Jesus’ use of “verily, verily” in the King James Version implies this was going to literally come true. There is no reason to doubt that Nathanael didn’t literally see this come to pass. Three of Jesus’ disciples saw Jesus transfigured (Matthew 17:1-9). If they saw those spiritual things, Nathanael certainly could have seen these spiritual things.
Andrew Wommack’s Living Commentary
Bible Exposition Commentary – Be Alive