Jesus decided to go to Galilee. There he met Philip, who was from Bethsaida, the hometown of Andrew and Peter. Jesus said to Philip, “Come with me.”
Philip then found Nathanael and said, “We have found the one that Moses and the Prophets wrote about. He is Jesus, the son of Joseph from Nazareth.”
Nathanael asked, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip answered, “Come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said, “Here is a true descendant of our ancestor Israel. And he isn’t deceitful.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God and the King of Israel!”
Jesus answered, “Did you believe me just because I said that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see something even greater. I tell you for certain that you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.” (John 1:43-51)
Jesus can’t be ignored. People have to make a decision about him, one way or the other. Philip quickly became convinced that Jesus was the long awaited Messiah, so he asked Nathanael—elsewhere in the Bible referred to as Bartholomew—to come and meet Jesus.
Nathanael was doubtful. Nazareth had a bad reputation and he couldn’t see how Israel’s Messiah could call such a place home. When Jesus saw Nathanael, he said something that Nathanael probably thought was mere flattery. So he asked Jesus a simple question, “how do you know me?”
Jesus’ answer about seeing him under a fig tree convinced Nathanael that Jesus was the Son of God and the king of Israel. Why did Jesus’ few, and rather mundane words convince Nathanael of so much? Because no ordinary person could have known where Nathanael was or what he was doing. It meant Jesus really was the Messiah.
Jesus’ response to Nathanael’s expression of faith was to let him know that, in effect, “you thought that was impressive? You ain’t seen nothing yet.” Jesus would perform far more impressive miracles than something akin to what Sherlock Holmes or a stage magician might have been able to figure out.
Jesus inspired passion in the hearts and minds of everyone he came in contact with. They either accepted him or rejected him. You can’t stay on the fence about Jesus.