The beginning of an undertaking is thrilling. The difficulties have not yet appeared and all the promise awaits. Jesus’ calling of his disciples is quite captivating.
Two sets of brothers kick off the disciples’ walk with Jesus.
Andrew’s invitation to Peter, “We have found the Messiah” (John 1:41) carries with it all the expectation of the Old Testament and all the hope for the future. Jesus gives Cephas a new name, “Peter,” which previews the confession he would make three years later.
James and John, sons of Zebedee, leave their father and their business to follow Jesus. Later they would request seats at the right and left hand of Jesus (Mark 10:35-37).
The next day, Philip is called to follow Jesus. Like Andrew with Peter, Philip finds Nathanael.
“We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
Nathanael’s response is pointed, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). Nathanael was from Galilee (John 21:2). The reputation, such as it was, of Nazareth would have been known to him. Certainly other Jews were skeptical of Jesus’ provenance (John 7:52).
While we cannot hear the tone of Nathanael’s counter, we can assess the honesty of it. After Philip invites Nathanael to investigate, Jesus gives one of the greatest compliments paid to a son of Adam, “an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (John 1:47).
With deceit was how the Jews sought Jesus (Matthew 26:4; Mark 14:1). With deceit was how Elymas the magician opposed the truth (Acts 13:7-10). Deceit was one of the many sins attributed to the Gentiles who did not acknowledge God (Romans 1:29).
Nathanael did not fellowship with those in their deceit. Rather, his company is perfection. Jesus “committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). Jesus knows the hearts of men, and his judgment is without error. He knew Nathanael inside and out.
Nathanael’s response to Jesus also indicates the honesty of his heart. “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49).
Nathanael was dubious about Jesus, perhaps even prejudiced against Nazarenes, but his honest heart overcame it all. “Honest inquiry is a sovereign cure for prejudice.” /1
Whatever our preconceptions, misconceptions, or incomprehensions, the answer is an honest heart willing to diligently examine the evidence.
That honest discovery is where we meet the Son of God, and begin our walk with him.
Will you be a Nathanael?
1/ F.F. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Erdmans, 1983), 60.