Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the one that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets as well: he is Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, he said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree and I saw you.”
Nathanael answered, “Master, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said: ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that.
Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
Nathanael combines two attitudes which we rarely meet together but which actually represent the ideal for anyone in search of the truth: he is both critical and open-minded. When Nathanael reacts to Philip’s grand claims of having found the Messiah by the rejoinder, “Can anything good come from Nazareth,” he is merely being critical. He neither rejects out of hand his friend’s claim (which would be pure, unfounded skepticism, since he has not looked as yet into the matter), nor does he accept it unquestionably (which would amount to being gullible). He merely manifests a healthy doubt, which in the circumstances is the right attitude to adopt.
On the other hand, he does follow Philip’s suggestion to “come and see,” which shows that he has an open mind. Although Philip’s story is almost unbelievable, Nathanael does in fact agree to check it out.
All this is confirmed by Jesus’ warm praise of Nathanael: “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” In other words, Jesus is saying in a Semitic turn of phrase that Nathanael is an honest man.
Honesty and critical open-mindedness are still the best attitudes for anyone interested in finding the truth.
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