What is Jesus looking for in his potential followers? This seems to be one of the key questions as John begins to tell us about the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. John gives us some wonderfully rich detail about the way in which the first followers ‘discover’ Jesus – but it is just as important to notice how Jesus chooses them. In the choosing of Nathanael Jesus gives us an explicit answer to the question. Nathanael is a ‘True Israelite’ – a straight-down-the-line faithful citizen of the Kingdom. This is all the more striking as Nathanael has just cast doubt on Jesus’ own citizenship – he comes from Nazareth, Nathanael observes, which was regarded by Judeans (‘Southerners’) as barely part of Israel on account of the gentile influences there.
For us as Christians, ‘Israel’ does not stand for a particular piece of ground or territory; ‘Kingdom’ means wherever God’s reign is made manifest in our world. To be citizens of the Kingdom, we live our lives under the kingship of Jesus.
So here is a first thought: what are the qualities in us (or what are the qualities missing from us) that make us true citizens of God’s Kingdom today?
Jesus Calls Philip and Nathanael
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Come with me!” 44 (Philip was from Bethsaida, the town where Andrew and Peter lived.) 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses wrote about in the book of the Law and whom the prophets also wrote about. He is Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
46 “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” answered Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, he said about him, “Here is a real Israelite; there is nothing false in him!”
48 Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered, “I saw you when you were under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 “Teacher,” answered Nathanael, “you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
50 Jesus said, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you when you were under the fig tree? You will see much greater things than this!” 51 And he said to them, “I am telling you the truth: you will see heaven open and God’s angels going up and coming down on the Son of Man.”