Nathanael's Conversion

John A. Keith

Perhaps one of the most over-looked persons in the New Testament is Nathanael. He is mentioned but six times in the Bible. His conversion under the Old Testament economy differs from anyone else’s we read about under Christ’s Law after the church was established; however, the inward change was much the same.

John 1:45 says, “Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” I cannot help but think that Nathanael must have “picked up” on the excitement in Phillip’s voice when he came announcing his find. After all, Phillip had found “the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14), the One who would fulfill the law of Moses and the message of the prophets, Matthew. 5:17. 

In verse 46, Nathanael doubtfully responded, “And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth was an obscure place and not even mentioned in the Old Testament. It does not appear that Nazareth was extraordinarily wicked. Nathaniel's question indicates that Nazareth simply did not fit the assumption that people had about where to look for the Messiah. Phillip was undaunted by Nathanael’s negative response. Such an answer might prompt one of us to say, “Well, just forget it.” Cynics are often given little chance or patience. Not Phillip, he said simply, “Come and see.” Sincere and earnest investigation of the evidence is the surest way to clear us from doubt and any misgivings we might have. Adam Clarke said, “He who candidly examines the evidence of the religion of Christ will infallibly become a believer” [Adam Clarke, Commentary on the Whole Bible (London: Mason and Lane, 1837), Vol. V, p. 521].

Nathanael went to Jesus, and, when Christ saw him coming, He said, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” (47). Jesus at once manifested Himself to this seeker. Jesus revealed Himself as a heart searcher. Nathanael responded, “Whence knowest Thou me?” (48). The basic meaning of Christ’s response was, “I’ve always known you.” Nathanael has now found that “good thing” which came out of Nazareth (?), really, out of Heaven. He came and saw for himself the wisdom and power of God manifested in God’s Son, Jesus the Christ. This guileless seeker became a joyful finder. When seed falls into good ground (an honest heart), it brings forth fruit (Mt. 13:23).

He confessed Christ as the Son of God and as the King of Israel - mighty to save (Isaiah 63:1) and worthy of total submission (Jn. 14:15). If we acknowledge Him as our Savior, we must submit to Him as well. Recall Thomas’s confession, “My Lord, and My God” (John 20:28). We, like Nathanael, must be willing to confess Him, not only with our mouth (Romans 10:9, 10), but also with our entire manner of living (Romans 12:1, 2)!

Verses 50 and 51 must have served as a great source of encouragement for Nathanael. Greater than the fact that Christ knew Nathanael, someday he would “see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” One cannot help but recall the vision of Jacob in Genesis 28:12. Christ is the only way between a sin-cursed earth and an “open Heaven.” John. 14:6 says, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” 1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.”

Nathanael had doubts, and we sometimes have doubts. We must seek out the truth like Nathanael. We need to verify the things we are told and taught (like the Bereans, Acts 17:11). Sometimes we simply need to “Come and see.” We need to allow God to encourage us, and we need to encourage one another to faithfulness to Him that one day heaven might be our home. –70 Gale Ave., Newport, OH 45768.

Return to West Virginia Christian