The Berean Expositor
Volume 51 - Page 73 of 181
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response! "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" he asked. Nazareth was looked
upon, as some one has put it, as a "sink of iniquity". Certainly there are statements which
suggest Nazareth was not all it might have been:
"And He marveled because of their unbelief" (Mark 6: 6).
"And all they in the synagogue . . . . . rose up, and thrust Him out of the city, and led
Him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast Him down
headlong" (Luke 4: 28, 29).
To Nathanael, Nazareth was a most unlikely place of origin for the Messiah.
However, Philip was not to be put off by the pessimism of Nathanael, and said to him
"Come and see".
As Philip and Nathanael approached, the Lord said of Nathanael, "Behold an Israelite
indeed, in whom is no guile!" Literally "Behold a true Israelite". Frequently in Scripture
a distinction is made between "Israel" and "Jacob", the former representing the spiritual
seed, and "Jacob" the seed "according to the flesh". If the distinction is maintained here,
the Lord marked out Nathanael as a man of the Spirit, one in whom was no guile, deceit,
cunning, or treachery. There was no subtlety about Nathanael as his replies, both to
Philip, and to the Lord show. "Whence knowest Thou me?, said Nathanael. "Know"
(ginosko) get to know. To this the Lord replied "Before that Philip called thee, when
thou wast under the fig tree I saw thee". The word for "saw" being eidon, to see and
perceive. "When did you get to know me?", "When you were under the fig tree I saw
and perceived you". This convinced Nathanael, for no mere man, could, not only have
seen him under the fig tree, but also have perceived the kind of man he was. Being one
who was acquainted with Moses and the law, and the prophets, Nathanael would know "I
the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways,
and according to the fruit of his doings" (Jer. 17: 10). So Nathanael's reaction was in
accord with the revelation given to him:
"Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God; Thou art the King of Israel" (John 1: 49).
It is an emphatic statement, with slightly more emphasis on the first clause than the
It may be questioned just how much did Nathanael mean and understand by this
affirmation, and it is difficult to be quite certain. What did Philip really understand by his
affirmation in verse 45? It seems clear that Nathanael went further than that. There are
other similar affirmations of faith by others of the apostles: Peter's "Thou art the Christ,
the Son of the living God", yet very shortly after, the Lord referred to Peter as a satan.
How far did Thomas go in understanding his great statement "My Lord, and my God"? It
would seem, and experience seems to confirm it, that it is possible intuitively to grasp
some great fact of revelation, and yet fail to grasp the full implication of it.  Yet
Nathanael said it! THOU art the Son of God! THOU art KING of Israel!
Often the Lord's reply is taken as a rebuke. Yet it is quite possible to translate it:
"Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, thou believest. Thou shalt see
greater things than these". To existing faith, greater things are revealed. It is not clear to