Seeing a Miracle: Nathanael 

January: John 1

In the gospel of John, the story is told of Phillip coming to his friend Nathanael (also called Bartholomew) in Bethsaida, all excited about his new discovery. Phillip said, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and the prophets did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” 

Nathanael’s reply is less than hopeful. “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” 

Undeterred, Phillip says, “Come and see. (John 1:45-47) 

Bethsaida was a fishing town on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee (a freshwater lake about two-thirds the size of Bear Lake.) Andrew and Peter were born there but moved to Capernaum, another fishing town only six miles away. In contrast, Nazareth was not on the seashore but in the hills near a road leading to the Jezreel Valley (near Meggido or Armageddon.) Nazareth was a poor area with small-terraced farms and family flocks, fed by a single well. Very traditional in its belief structure, Nazareth is estimated to only be home to between two and five hundred people at the time of Christ. In contrast, Capernaum was four times as large and Bethsaida was bigger than that. 

Before Nathanael even got to Jesus, the Savior saw him coming and called out “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile.” (John 1:47) Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “A person without guile is a person of innocence, honest intent, and pure motives, whose life reflects the simple practice of conforming his daily actions to principles of integrity.” (See “Without Guile, Wirthlin, April 1988 https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1988/04/without-guile?lang=eng ) We see that sincerity in his ability to recognize truth and change his behavior based on increased knowledge. 

Upon hearing Christ’s statement, Nathanael asks how He knows him, and Jesus replies, “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” (John 1:48) Hearing these words, I’m sure, feeling their truthfulness was enough. Nathanael recognizes the miracle that miles away Christ had seen him and declares, “Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.” 

Jesus’s response seems one of surprise. “Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou?” Then he gives him a blessing for his belief. “Thou shalt see greater things than these…Verily, verily, I say unto you Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.” (John 1:49-51) 

For Nathanael, Christ didn’t turn water into wine, heal him from a disease or help him find his car keys, but he performed a miracle that changed his heart. Christ saw him and knew him, and Nathanael recognized it as such—a MIRACLE! His willingness to admit that he was wrong and that something good could come out of Nazareth was immediate. His pure heart prepared not only to have this miracle happen but for him to recognize its power. Not only did Nathanael’s guileless attitude prepare him, but he may have been praying or pondering under the fig tree. Like Cleopas and his friend on the road to Emmaus, and the Nephites gathered at the temple in Bountiful when the resurrected Christ first appeared to the New World, as we reach to commune with the infinite, miracles will not only increase in our lives, but we will see them more clearly. 

In his Oct. 2022 address, Pres. Nelson promised us, “As you make the continual strengthening of your testimony of Jesus Christ your highest priority, watch for miracles to happen in your life.” I pray we live our lives in a way to invite miracles into our lives and keeps our hearts pure enough to recognize and appreciate them like sweet Nathanael of old.

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