Nathanael, a disciple of Yeshua of Nazareth, is mentioned only 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.
It starts with an invitation from friend Philip, an early follower of Yeshua: “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael sniffs, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Yet he accepts Philip’s invitation to meet the Man of mystery, who will greet Nathanael with this stunning introduction: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” Deceit in Greek, dolos, implies trickery, cunning, exploitation. Bible commentator A.T Robertson describes a true Israelite as one “living up to the covenant name, Israel at its best, without falsity. The servant of Jehovah was to be without guile.” Did Yeshua express this because He rarely encountered this kind of person?
Nathanael answers, “How do You know me?” Yeshua says before Philip called him, He saw him under the fig tree, a Jewish figure of speech referring to the study of God’s Word. Nathanael’s skepticism and scorn melt instantly: “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Yeshua responds, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” Robertson writes, “The wonder of Nathanael no doubt grew as Jesus went on.”
This is one of the most wonderful exchanges in all of Scripture, and reflects the kind of follower Yeshua seeks and welcomes.