Jesus wants to go to Galilee. He has a reason. There is someone he is looking for. While there, He encounters two men. John writes of these two men who become followers of Jesus. These two future disciples have individual encounters with Jesus yet faced unimaginable experiences in the days ahead.
John tells us first about Phillip. He lived in Bethsaida as Peter and Andrew did. He had probably heard about Jesus for when Jesus found him and asked him to follow, he did so. Later Phillip found Nathanael. I can imagine these two as young Hebrew men, discussing the scriptures and the prophecies, wondering if they would see it in their day. So, after Jesus found Phillip, he had to find Nathanael.
In the lists of the disciples, we don’t read about Nathanael but rather Bartholomew. Apparently, Bartholomew is a last name whereas Nathanael is a given name. So most likely the two names indicate the one man.
These men have different encounters with Jesus. Phillip’s quick response caused him to find his friend and declare “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael, unlike Phillip, had questions, “Can anything good come out of that town?” Phillip encourages him to come and see for himself and takes him to Jesus. Jesus knows the approaching Nathanael and tells him what He sees. Nathanael is unsettled and asks the question, “How do You know me?” Jesus answers him in a way which confirms to him that yes this is Jesus the Christ. He proclaims, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Greater Days Ahead
In my mind I can hear Jesus, “You believe because of what I said, just you wait. Much greater experiences await you.” The rich reality of following Jesus held much more for Nathanael than he could comprehend. Jesus gave Him a tiny glimpse. These two men though having individual encounters with Jesus, faced unimaginable days ahead when they responded to Jesus’s call “Follow Me!”