Nathanael, a disciple of Yeshua (Jesus) of Nazareth, is mentioned briefly in the Gospel of John (chapters 1 and 21). We know little about this Galilean except for an impactful first encounter with Israel’s Messiah.
Invited by friend Philip to meet Yeshua, Nathanael sniffs, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet he agrees to meet the Man of mystery. When Yeshua sees the men approaching He greets Nathanael, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Yeshua might have been signaling Psalm 32:2: Blessed is the man “in whose spirit there is no deceit.” Deceit in Greek, dolos, implies trickery, cunning, exploitation, treachery. Baptist preacher and theologian A.T. Robertson describes this Israelite as one “living up to the covenant name, Israel at its best, without falsity. The servant of Jehovah was to be without guile.”
Nathanael responds to the the greeting, “How do you know me?” Yeshua says before Phillips’ invitation He saw Nathanael under the fig tree, a Jewish idiom that means withdrawing privately to pray or study God’s Word. Nathanael’s scorn and skepticism melt instantly: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Robertson writes, “Jesus saw Nathanael’s heart as well as his mere presence there. He saw him in his worship and so knew him.”
Israelite indeed. How many did Yeshua encounter during His earthly ministry? Was Nathanael among a small number? How many would He find among Jews and Gentiles in today’s church?