“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” - John 1:43-49
Nathanael and Philip aren’t the most talked about of Jesus’ disciples. Their names appear a few times, but we don’t know as much about them as we do about disciples like Peter and John. Sadly, this can lead to an unintentional belief that their lives weren’t as interesting or important or that their ministries weren’t as successful and exciting as those of other disciples.
Even though this story about them is short, it’s stunning. Philip is called by Jesus and promptly goes out to call his friend Nathanael, proclaiming that Jesus is the Messiah. Philip’s faith is exemplary, and his actions follow it. He doesn’t just remain with Jesus and soak up the presence of the Messiah he’s longed for, but he goes out of his way to find Nathanael and give him the good news. Nathanael follows Philip, dubiously wondering if anything good could possibly come out of Nazareth but trusting his friend’s judgment.
Jesus’ greeting is truly one of a kind. He called Nathanael an Israelite, “in whom there is no deceit.” Jesus himself called Nathanael an honest man of integrity. In a world of corruption, that’s not a statement to be taken lightly. Nathanael is quickly won over to belief by one follow-up statement: I saw you. I saw you under the fig tree. Nathanael knows that the only way Jesus could’ve seen where he was is if he truly was the Son of God, the King of Israel.
We often focus on the disciples we know more about because it’s easier. As Christians, we can tend to focus on the “successful” or “important” people or ministries in our midst. But for every wonderful Billy Graham or Mother Teresa, there are at least a dozen faithful Philips and honest Nathanaels working tirelessly to proclaim the Gospel.
Jesus saw them then, and he sees them now.
Do you tend to measure your faith or ministry against that of other more well-known people? How does the story of Philip and Nathanael help you rest in the knowledge that Jesus not only sees you, but he’s the only critic that matters?
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