Philip, who met Jesus and was convinced about his identity, didnt waste any time spreading the word. He goes to his friend Nathanael and boldly proclaims, We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wroteJesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph. Well, in Deuteronomy 18.15, Moses wrote, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him. And the prophets wrote hundreds of times about the one God was going to send. The rabbis interpreted no less than 456 passages to be about the Messiah. Its Jesus!
Nathanael didnt just fall off the apple cart, so hes immediately suspicious. And who wouldnt be? People can claim anything they want. Nate blurts out a cynical, Nazareth!? You must be joking. We all know that prophets dont come from Galilee.
Philip wasnt going to be so easily put off. Come and see for yourself. Philip doesnt try to convince his friend, but invites him to check Jesus out for himself. This is still a wise strategy and good advice. If theres an issue to be explored, it should actually be examined.
In the previous story, Jesus seemed to know Peter even though he hadnt met him before. Here he does the same thing to Nathanael. Before Nate gets a chance to talk, Jesus tells him about himself: You live up to the covenant name of Israel with your good character. Youre a good man with a servants heart and good motives.
Nathanael is quickly taken aback in shock and is thrown off of his cynical defensiveness. How do you know me?
Well, Jesus responded, before Philip got you, you were just praying under the fig tree, and I was listening to your prayers.
Nathanael is blown away. He knows he was just praying about those things, and using some of those exact words. He didnt just get off the boat, but he wasnt stupid either. Based on the evidence Philip had shared with him, and the evidence he just heard, he responds in faith. Faith is always based on evidence; its never blind. Nate isnt dumb, and he understands who he is standing in front of, and he gives his testimony to the “jury”. Any devout Jew could see who this man is. Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel. What is faith in God? It is our knowledge from Scripture combined with the reliable testimony of others, bolstered by our direct experiences with Jesus himself. When someone is prepared, open, and ready, they know the truth when they see it.
Nathanael is a student of the Torah and is quick to bring his knowledge of the Scriptures to bear. Speaking in the words he has been taught as a follower of YHWH. Son of God was a Messianic title and refers back to Psalm 110. He adds, You are the King of Israel. This goes back to Psalm 2. Nathanael is speaking in the most lofty words he can come up with to express what he thinks of Jesus.
Youll notice that Jesus doesnt deny anything he says. Jesus doesnt say, No, Nate, Im just a normal guy. He accepts the titles Nathanael gives him, and adds, Theres even more. You havent seen the half of it.
You will see the heavens open. Whoa, now this is a common motif about expectation of the end times, but is also a common expression at turning points in history. Whoa. So the symbolism of the heaven open is Messianic, and the beginning of eschatological happenings. According to Jewish tradition, the heavens opening was one of the things that signified the inauguration of Gods kingdom.
and the angels of God ascending and descending This is a reference to Genesis 28.12ff, when Jacob had his vision at Bethel about a ladder joining earth to heaven. But this time it isnt the angels creating the bond between heaven and earth, but Jesus himself. Cool, isnt it. Jesus himself is Bethelthe house of God, and the gate between heaven and earth.
So far we have learned that Jesus is the Logos, both God and man, the Messiah, the Son of God, the King of Israel, and the bridge between heaven and earth. And this is only chapter one. Hang on to your hat for whats coming.