The call of Nathanael


JOHN 1:45-51

Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come reflectionstodayfrom Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true Israelite. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”


YOU WILL SEE GREATER THINGS. The Gospel speaks of Jesus’ conversation with Nathanael after the latter is invited by Philip to “come and see.” Nathanael is from Cana in Galilee, where Jesus turns water into wine (cf Jn 2:1-11). He does not appear in any other New Testament book except in the Gospel of John.

A harmonized reading of the Gospels tends to identify Nathanael with Bartholomew of the Synoptics. This is because in the Synoptic listings of the Twelve, the name Bartholomew comes after that of Philip. And Philip is precisely the one who brings Nathanael to Jesus. In addition, Bartholomew is a patronymic name, one that gives the name of the father, thus leaving open the possibility that this disciple has another name, precisely: Nathanael Bar-Talmai.

In the Gospel, Jesus refers to Nathanael as “a true Israelite.” There is a contrast here between Nathanael, who has no duplicity, and Jacob, the first to bear the name “Israel.” The popular etymology of the name “Israel” was “the one who sees God.” Indeed, Jacob had a heavenly vision (cf Gn 28:12-15). But he was a man of duplicity (cf Gn 27:1-45). On the other hand, Nathanael is promised a vision of heavenly things, similar to Jacob’s, but this time the messengers of God ascend and descend not on a stairway but on Jesus, the Son of Man. Nathanael is about to recognize who Jesus truly is. He will experience the full impact of the messianic titles he uses of Jesus: “Son of God” and “King of Israel.”

SOURCE: “365 Days with the Lord 2018,” ST. PAULS Philippines, 7708 St. Paul Rd., SAV, Makati City (Phils.); Tel.: 895-9701; Fax 895-7328; E-mail:; Website: