John 1:43-50 Nazareth, really?

43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree’, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”

Nazareth, Really?

Word about Jesus is spreading around the region of Galilee, especially around the shores of The Sea of Galilee.  Jesus did not come from down by the shores, but he came from a town on the side of a hill to the south.  Galilee is a much larger region than just the shores of the lake.  I came from Devon, England and I lived in Plymouth.  Totnes had a reputation in my family for being a bit backward.  Totnes boys (pronounced ‘buy’) were deemed stupid and probably worked down the treacle mines (fictional mines where the particularly stupid worked).  If my friends had announced that they were dating a girl from Totnes I would have probably doubted whether they were serious.  Could anything good come from Totnes?  In the Chicago area similar things might be said about the south side of town.  Can anything good come from the south side?  Jesus comes from the wrong side of the tracks and from a questionable birth, however a personal encounter with him removes all prejudice.

We are invited, like Nathanael, to just come and see.  Put our presuppositions about Jews, men, God, and religion to one side and just meet with Jesus.  It is anticipated that when you meet with him he will speak a truth that disarms you.  Even if you think you know Jesus, try and put your ideas about him to one side.  Try and let him be fresh and new in ways that perhaps he has ceased to be.  He will surprise you with who he truly is and you might see heaven through him. 


Jesus, please show me that you are near.  Show me my own blocks to your truth.  We all need to learn and we all have our preconceptions.  However, Nathanael’s humility in just letting you in is a lesson to us all.


  1. Who comes to Nathanael?
  2. Why do you think he is a skeptic?
  3. How does Nathanael change?
  4. What presuppositions do people have today about Jesus?
  5. How might you need to drop prejudice or preconceptions about Jesus?

About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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29 Responses to John 1:43-50 Nazareth, really?

  1. Nick says:

    Philip finds Nathanael and tells him that Jesus is coming, and Nathanael is skeptic when he hears that the supposed Messiah is of Nazareth. “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” he asks Philip. He already has the idea that this man named Jesus cannot be the Messiah based on his presuppositions of Nazareth. His mind quickly changes when Jesus comes and displays His supernatural knowledge, knowing already who Nathanael was. I think that some people today, kind of like Nathanael, might think that Jesus does not know them or have an interest in them. However, just like He knew Nathanael, Jesus knows each and every one of us and has an interest in all of us.

  2. Ed says:

    Beautiful to get that description of Jesus being from the wrong side of the tracks, so they (we) thought. Yes, clear your mind to open it.

  3. Jenna says:

    1. Philip found Nathaniel.
    2. Nathaniel is definitely skeptical about this “messiah.” Maybe Nathaniel didn’t really believe in a Messiah, or maybe he wasn’t sure about a Messiah that came from lowly circumstances, like Nazareth.
    3. Nathaniel changes when he meets Jesus, and Jesus reveals that He’s not a normal man – He has special knowledge about what Nathaniel was doing when He wasn’t there. Nathaniel goes from saying, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” to “You are the Son of God!”
    4. Many people today think of Jesus as just a good teacher or fictional character or at most, a prophet of God. They see Him as meek, mild, and universal, who invites all to find their ideal way to God.
    5. I do often forget that Jesus is not just the kind, loving Rabbi who called Nathaniel, John, Peter, Andrew, and Philip, but is also the zealous Jesus that clears the temple in the next chapter of John. I’m excited to study the book of John this semester, because I’ve never studied all the way through a gospel before. Seeing who Jesus is throughout the book of John is probably going to shake me up a little.

  4. Sara Cavitt says:

    1) Philip comes to Nathanael and tells him about Jesus.
    2) He was skeptical when hearing that Jesus was from Nazareth, because he had prejudices and did not think anything or anyone good could come from there.
    3) His skepticism changes to belief when Jesus shows that He knows him.
    4) There are many various presuppositions that people have today, such as believing that He is non-existent, that He does not care about them or love them, that He is hateful, or that He is not the Savior but just a man.
    5) I think I need to remember and be reminded that He is faithful, because I can easily become overwhelmed in life and forget that He is in control of all things!

  5. Karas says:

    Phillip came to Nathaniel, telling him about Jesus. Nathaniel probably doubts because of the reputation surrounding Galilee and the difficulty in believing that someone they had longed for so long was finally here. Nathaniel changed when Jesus humbles him by showing him something He couldn’t have known unless He was God/the Messiah. Today people may think Jesus is exclusive, false/a liar, irrelevant, judgmental, or, on the other hand, all love and care and forgiveness and no authoritativeness. I think I would benefit by continued study of the Bible so that any misconceptions about Jesus are corrected. I think currently I need to correct my idea of His faithfulness. If I truly, truly believe He is all He says He is, I shouldn’t need to worry or have my joy affected by circumstances. It’s like the man with the demon-possessed son who says “Lord, I believe – help my unbelief.”

  6. Janice Lee says:

    1. Philip comes to Nathanael.
    2. I think Nathanael is a skeptic because he is a logical, matter-of-fact guy. When Philip tells him that they found the Messiah and that His hometown is Nazareth, Nathanael wonders how his saving King could come from such a place.
    3. Nathanael changes because he encounters Jesus, experiencing His power as the Son of God.
    4. People today believe that Jesus is just a good man and wise teacher.
    5. I need to drop my preconceptions that focus only on Jesus’ loving, gentle character and must remember that He is Almighty God and the lover of my soul!

    • Plymothian says:

      How will his mighty character actually deepen your wonder at his love and gentleness? In nature it might be wonderful to see a bee caress a flower, but what if we see a silverback gorilla caress a flower with the same gentleness?

  7. Chelsea says:

    Nathanael’s friend comes to him. Nathanael may be skeptical because of how unlikely Philip’s story is. Why would the Messiah come out of NAZARETH and speak to PHILIP? There are so many unbelievable parts to this story. Upon seeing and experiencing Jesus, Nathanael’s eyes are opened. Jesus changes his life. People today believe Jesus was a nice man, someone who was full of lvoe and could never condemn someone to Hell. I have to remind myself about the Jesus I serve. He is a warrior who defeated Satan, who does not take sin lightly and will punish those who reject him. He is my Savior and yet calls me his sister.

  8. Amy McCashen says:

    1. Philip found Nathanael.
    2. I think Nathanael is a skeptic because he has never heard of any good coming from the city of Nazareth. He is especially skeptical that not only could something good be found there, but much more the Messiah they had all long anticipated.
    3. Nathanael changes because Jesus tells him what he was doing just a few hours earlier. Nathanael changes becuase Jesus knows him in a way no one else can.
    4. Today people think of Jesus as just a really good teacher or a prophet. Some other people believe that if they come to Jesus, He will automatically solve all their problems and make their lives much easier and better.
    5. I need to be reminded that He is on my side. He is my protector and he is with me. He commands me over and over in Scripture not to fear anything that is frightening. I need more faith and trust that He is watching over me and caring for all my needs.

    • Plymothian says:

      Do you feel sometimes like people are not on your side? That is one of the things in life that it is most important for Jesus to address. You are on a good path.

  9. Mary says:

    1. Phillip comes and gets Nathaniel to tell him about Jesus
    2. Nathaniel is skeptical that Jesus is the one Moses and the prophets were talking about because Nazareth was despised by the Jews.
    3. Nathaniel changes his attitude because Jesus said that he saw him before when he was still under the fig tree. So basically, it was as if Jesus did a mini-miracle, and Nathaniel believed because he saw rather than by faith.
    4. A good portion of people today think Jesus is so loving that He wouldn’t send people to Hell, and that it is the Father that is the wrathful one. Some think of Jesus as their friend, which can be taken a too far, and does not give Him the reverence he is due. Some think Jesus was just a prophet or was a good person….I believe C.S. Lewis said something to the effect of, he is either “lunatic, liar, or Lord”, but don’t call him just a good person. That’s just nonsense.
    5. I am not sure if there are any prejudice or preconceptions about Jesus specifically that I need to drop, but since I have been at Moody I have been learning to be open to exploring views that I may not have necessarily grown up with regarding various aspects of theology. Sometimes this can be very difficult. Even little things. For example, today in one of my classes, the professor said that “He who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it” (Phil. 1:6) is not talking about salvation, but about a financial partnership between two churches…WHAT??? Ok, I will have to look this up later, but for now, I choose to be open to the idea that I may have learned the meaning of this verse incorrectly growing up in the church, and he may be right…the jury is still out for now.

  10. Some of the presuppositions that some people have about Jesus are developed by their view of themselves. In some views, Jesus is someone to speculate about, he is someone whose existence is verifiable/real only when we validate it as so. So a couple presuppositions bred from this view are a) that human beings define what is true or not, or what is worthy or unworthy, b) that our realities lead to more definite truths than the ultimate Truth can relate/reveal to us.

  11. zacbodine says:

    1) Who comes to Nathanael?
    We get two pictures one of Philip meeting out and bringing him to Jesus but we see that before that Jesus met him. “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” I say Jesus comes to him first because no one would bask in the notion of being seen if it was not a wonder. So what you saw me? I saw a girl in the plaza today. In conversation I tell her this. She then proceeds to exclaim “Yes, I will marry you and devote myself to you!” Does that make sense? No, it does not make sense. She would probably call me a peeping tom and get creeped out. Jesus’ radical seeing and knowing and Nathanael’s instant wonder of a response makes me believe this is not something passive. It cannot be that Jesus stands in the background waiting to be met, but meets Nathanael in a mystery and then has someone reveal that mystery by bringing him to the living Lord Jesus.

    2) How does Nathanael change?
    Isn’t it odd that Jesus doesn’t reject him? After all he does have poor theology, right? He makes a decision to follow Christ on a wonder of emotion. He comes to Jesus with doubt and a feeling of indifference, yet Jesus doesn’t deny him. Jesus doesn’t deny us, poor theology and all. He invites us to come and know him which will intern fix and shape our whole lives (theology included) to love him and be in with him. His demand is “Come!” or as Philip says, “Come and see.”

    What is amazing is the question that Nathanael asks that I wish I would ask Jesus more often, “How do you know me?” It was the secret place that Christ knew. It would be like me asking that question and Christ responding with “I saw you in the dark room with your computer” or “I saw you whilst wishing you didn’t exist.” Nathanael is known by Jesus before he even physically sees him. He is accepted and wanted before even speaking a word. What is amazing still is the exact “knowing” of Jesus himself. Nathanael is not only introduced to Jesus, but he acknowledges the exact nature of who Jesus is, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Even in a doubtful, cynical disposition once meeting Jesus this cannot be denied.

  12. tim pruiett says:

    1. Phillip
    2. Because the claim that someone is the Messiah the one they have been waiting for is pretty far-fetched. It’s almost too good to be true.
    3. People assume Jesus is just a good teacher, or a genie to grant their wishes, they don’t see Him for who He truly is.
    4. I maybe presume that Jesus doesn’t have my best interest in mind at times. i know He does but, there are times when i’m impatient that I think my way is better than His which it certainly is not.

  13. Ashley says:

    1. Philip comes to Nathanael.
    2. Nathanael seems to be a sceptic just as most of us are. He doubts whether anything good can come out of Nazareth, just as we tend to doubt that anything good can come out of the rough places we know.
    3. Nathanael changes when he realizes that Jesus knows him!
    4. There are many different presuppositions about Jesus…People seem to either emphasize his humanity, therefore forgetting his deity, or emphasize his deity, thereby forgetting his humanity.
    5. To drop preconceived notions about Jesus, I think it will take a lot of prayer. I need to pray that God will open my eyes to see him as he truly is, instead of who I assume him to be.

  14. Kathleen says:

    1. Philip finds Nathanael.
    2. Nathanael was skeptical because people from Nazareth have a bad reputation. That is why he asks if anything good can come from there. Especially when Philip mentioned the Messiah.
    3. Nathanael chances when he meets Jesus and Jesus knows he was sitting by the fig tree.
    4. I think people’s presuppositions about Jesus come from how others represent Jesus in society. I think a lot of people think of pushy street evangelists or the people who won’t stop knocking on their doors. This only helps them develop a negative attitude toward Jesus. On another extreme, I think some people see Jesus without understanding He is a just God and they will be held accountable for their sins.
    5. I need to focus on understanding who Jesus is as stated and demonstrated in Scripture, instead of who I just make Him out to be in my mind.

  15. nataliaria says:

    Philip comes to Nathanael, after Jesus had called Philip to follow Him. I believe that Nathanael is hesitant to believe because Jesus is not what He expected; he had built an expectation of the Messiah that he would follow, and Jesus did not fit into the frame of his expectations.

    Nathanael changes greatly when Jesus speaks prophetically to Him, demonstrating His omnipotence and omniscience. This causes Nathanael to change from hesitant and skeptical to professing Jesus as the Son of God, Israel’s King.

    In our day and age, I believe that people see Jesus as either the ultimate “good guy” who says to do nice things and who doles out forgiveness to anyone who requests it, or they believe Him to be a mythical story like Achilles or Zeus, both of which are mildly interesting and completely irrelevant to our lives.

    In my life, I believe that the most common misconception that I hold about Jesus is that He is the same as those closest to me. That is to say, I find myself believing that hard work, dedication, and a great attitude are called for, that I might earn a spot in His favor, and perform what I think He wants well enough that He might smile upon me. But these things, while they may be true of many people, are not true of Jesus, who bestows love, grace, and acceptance on His children regardless of their having done well in daily tasks or not.

    • Plymothian says:

      Yes, you are unconditionally accepted by Jesus. Now the question is whether you receive the acceptance and pass it on to others.

      • Sarah Deurbrouck says:

        1. Who comes to Nathanael?
        Philip is the first one to come to Nathanael, but Jesus approaches him next.
        2. Why do you think he is a skeptic?
        He questions what good could come from Nazareth, regardless of who Philip said it was coming from Nazareth.
        3. How does Nathanael change?
        As soon as Jesus shows that he knows Nathanael, Nathanael immediately gives reverence and honor to Jesus.
        4. What presuppositions do people have today about Jesus?
        Because some of Jesus’ actions can be confusing, people are confused about Jesus. Many just degrade him to being a good teacher. Others believe he is just a fictional character.
        5.How might you need to drop prejudice or preconceptions about Jesus?
        It is so hard to understand what it was like for Jesus, fully God and fully man, to live on this earth. The balance between his deity and humanity often causes me to make false assumptions about Jesus. By truly understanding Scripture for what the text is trying to say would help me from making misconceptions about our Savior.

  16. Rachel says:

    Philip comes to Nathanael to share the incredible news: the Messiah had arrived! Nathanael might have heard many false claims to Messiah-ship in his time. This seemed too good to be true! When Nathanael gets a glimpse of the pure omniscience of Christ, His presuppositions are blown away. This man was different!
    People today might believe that Jesus is aloof, judgmental, or demanding, as his followers often are. Even so-called “believers” tend to uphold their own ideas about Christ instead of allowing him to reveal himself. What would happen if I asked the Lord what he thought about me instead of harshly judging myself according to “his” standards?

  17. Michael Huber says:

    The presuppositions about Christ are many today. But in the end they still really result in the same distrust of who Christ said he was and a reinterpretation of the events of his life.

  18. Beth Coale says:

    Read it.

  19. Rebekah Thompson (Bekah) says:

    1) Philip comes to him
    2) Because the place that Philip explained Jesus was from was a stereotypical place of bad people. How could the one who was suppose to be perfect, the son of God, the greatest human being to ever walk to face of the earth going to come from a place of everything horrible.
    3) He changes when Jesus speaks to Him, all he does is make a few simple statements and He knows that Jesus is the real deal.
    4) That Jesus was perfect and therefore he wants us to be perfect and so when we are not perfect God judges us and makes us feel bad and guilty about the life we are living even though it is fun for a little while. Jesus is just a teacher. Jesus didn’t really raise from the dead.
    5) Stop listening to the worlds definitions of who God and Jesus is and start listening and reading what the Bible says he is and who the Lord reveals Himself to be.

  20. Austin Brose says:

    Who comes to Nathanael?
    Why do you think he is a skeptic?
    How does Nathanael change?
    What presuppositions do people have today about Jesus?
    How might you need to drop prejudice or preconceptions about Jesus?

    Phillip found Nathanael. I think Nathanael is a skeptic because he assumed that because Jesus was from Nazareth that He would not be the Messiah, and the one prophesied about. Nathaniel undergoes an immense change, he comes to a sense of awe and worship when Jesus says that he already knew who Nathanael was. People today think that Jesus was just a “good man” or a religious teacher, they think he was weak and just another person that people blindly follow. When it comes to prejudices that I can have about Jesus, I think that I need to drop the idea that Jesus was timid and meek. Jesus was strong willed and courageous.

  21. Oddly enough, I was thinking about the idea of reading this gospel with fresh eyes as I read this morning. I thought, “I wish I could kind of erase what I know the end is going to be simply so that I am able to see in the lenses of the disciples and others in the book.” I often think and feel like telling the “characters”, “Can’t you see that this is Jesus Christ,mason of God?!” But then I remember that I actually have background knowledge which is firming my thoughts. My goal as I read is to think, “In all honestly how would I have reacted? What role would I have played?” in order to read in a sort of new light and with fresh eyes.

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