When Jesus sees Nathanael coming toward him he calls him a “true child of Israel.” We do not know why Jesus has this strong reaction to Nathanael. We know that Nathanael was sitting under a fig tree, but we don’t know what he was doing. We know that Philip approached him, although we don’t know why, and that Nathanael accepted his invitation to see who it was from Nazareth that was fulfillment of the law and prophets. We also know that Nathanael says the “right things” in response to meeting Jesus.
What was it about Nathanael—about who he was, about his faith, about whatever he was doing under the fig tree—that warranted Jesus’ reaction to seeing him and also the inclusion of this story in the Gospel of John? One possibility is that Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart and spirit and had known him since his own beginning. That fact and Nathanael’s curiosity and openness to the One who Phillip wanted him to see results in Jesus’ reaction.
This begs the question—what would Jesus’ reaction be if he saw me today? What would I be doing? Would I go with Phillip? What would Jesus sense of my being, my heart, my spirit be? Jesus has known me my whole life, so would the trajectory of my being and becoming warrant a similar reaction?
—Elizabeth Collier has degrees from three different Jesuit universities, including a PhD in Christian Ethics from Loyola University Chicago. She teaches at Dominican University in River Forest, IL.