Nathanael: What Jesus saw
When Jesus saw Nathanael, He said, “Here is truly an Israelite. There is nothing false in him.” John 1:47 (NCV.) Nathanael is only mentioned once in the Bible, but Jesus’ simple words showed that he was a man from whom we can learn a lot. What does it mean that there is nothing false in somebody?
In other stories, we see that Jesus had very different words for the Pharisees. In Matthew 23:25-26 (GNT) Jesus tells them, “How terrible for you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees! You hypocrites! You clean the outside of your cup and plate, while the inside is full of what you have gotten by violence and selfishness. Blind Pharisee! Clean what is inside the cup first, and then the outside will be clean too!“
The Pharisees were educated Jewish people. They tried their very best to look good in front of people. They loved to show the people how religious they were. But while they kept all the outward laws, they cared nothing about the sin that was living inside them. They only served God for their own benefit, and not because they truly loved Him.
Jesus met many people in His life and He was pure and true, inside and outside. He knew and kept all the Jewish laws, but He also saw that all those outward laws could not take away the sin that still lived inside people.
In the “Sermon on the Mount” Jesus gave some examples of how the law could not take away the sin that lived inside people’s hearts. “You have heard that it was said to our people long ago, ‘You must not murder anyone. Anyone who murders another will be judged.” But I tell you, if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be judged.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NCV). And, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You must not be guilty of adultery.’ But I tell you that if anyone looks at a woman and wants to sin sexually with her, in his mind he has already done that sin with the woman.” Matthew 5:27-28 (NCV).
With these examples, Jesus showed that the law could only punish someone if they actually murdered another person or did adultery. But Jesus resisted the sin on the inside – that hatred and that lust that lives in human nature – so that it never had a chance to come out in the first place!
What do people see in me?
When Jesus met Nathanael, He sensed that he was an upright man. He did not just try to look good before people or doing all the right things to get people’s praise. Nathanael must have truly loved God and served Him with his whole heart for Jesus to say that. His spirit agreed with the life he lived. Nathanael wasn’t trying to put on a show for Jesus or to hide anything, and Jesus could see that, before they even spoke a word to each other.
It made me really think – if I met Jesus today, would He be able to say the same about me? What do the people I am together with every day see? Do they see someone in whom there is nothing false? One who is honest and upright and has nothing to hide? One who treats others with respect, no matter who they are?
Recently, I heard someone say that it isn’t our nature to be honest in all circumstances. When I heard that, it made me think about the Pharisees. They worked so hard to look good in front of people and they couldn’t even see or admit that they were full of sin on the inside.
In Psalm 51:6 (AMP) David wrote, “You desire truth in the innermost being, and in the hidden part [of my heart] You will make me know wisdom.”
If I want to be like Nathanael, I have to take a very good look at what is on the inside, in my heart, in the hidden where no one else sees. It can often happen that a small, “harmless” lie seems okay if it can help me out of a difficult situation. Or maybe I feel I have to act differently depending on who I am with. Do I tell others the truth, even when it is hard? Am I willing to lose people’s approval to stand up for what is right?
Completely honest in all things
When I started to think about these things, I wondered how it is even possible to overcome all this? How can I be completely honest like I want to be? To speak the truth when I know I should?
It’s written in Proverbs 4:23 (CEV): “Carefully guard your thoughts because they are the source of true life.” It all starts in my thoughts! If I guard that, and watch over it always, then I will also never be false! It means I have to be completely honest when I see the sin that lives in me. I have to admit that it’s there and ask God to help me overcome these sins. I can’t pretend it isn’t there or hide it somehow.
When I am completely honest with myself and with God, then I learn to love it when God shows me the truth about myself, because I see that the truth can make me free from the sin that lives in my human nature. And as I learn to be honest with myself and God, I can become more and more honest with the people around me too.
Now, instead of seeking praise or favour from “important” people, I learn that the only important thing is what God thinks of me. When I have to tell someone the truth, then I do it because I want to be honest and upright, no matter what it costs. And I don’t need to lie to try to get something for myself, because I trust that God will bless me if I am righteous.
In John 8:32, Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” When I love the truth about myself, nothing can touch me or move me. No situation and no person can separate me from God. He stands by my side in every situation, ready to give me all the power and help I need to overcome. And then, without words, I can be an example like Nathanael – one who Jesus can say has a completely pure heart.