by: Pastor David Huffstutler
Matthew, Mark, and Luke list Bartholomew ( “son of Tolmai”) as a disciple (Matt 10:2–4; Mark 3:16–19; Luke 6:14–16; Acts 1:13), and John speaks of Nathanael (John 1:45:–51; 21:2). Both names are for one person—Nathanael, son of Tolmai. Two passages in John mention Nathanael by name, give us a small idea into who he was, and illustrate two lessons for us today.
Some believers still have questions.
After meeting Jesus, Andrew found Nathanael to meet Him as well, identifying Him as “Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45). Nathanael overlooked Andrew’s reference to Scripture and Jesus’ lineage: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). His bias overshadowed the Bible, but only for a moment. He took Andrew up on his offer: “Come and see” (John 1:46). Though Nathanael questioned the possibility of Jesus truly being the Messiah based on where He was from, Nathanael had faith, saw Jesus for Himself, and doubts were cast aside.
Jesus initiated the conversation and described Nathanael a believing “Israelite indeed” who was known for “no deceit” (John 1:47; cf. Rom 2:28–29; 9:6–7). Nathanael asked a question again: “How do you know me?” (John 1:48). Jesus replied and demonstrated His omniscience: “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (John 1:48). Again, his doubts then vanished. Nathanael replied, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (John 1:49). Jesus answered that Nathanael would see greater things than this, confirming his faith all the more (John 1:50–51).
And giving believers answers will make them people of conviction.
Interestingly, the final time we see Nathanael, he had no more questions. For whatever other things he may have seen to confirm his faith (cf. John 1:50–51), he saw the resurrected Jesus. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to Nathanael and six other disciples (John 21:1–2). These seven were fishing, catching nothing (John 21:3–5). Probably not recognizable from a distance, Jesus called from the shore and commanded them to cast their nets to the other side (John 21:6). They did so, caught 153 fish, and, just like last time something like this had happened (cf. Luke 5:1–11), they knew that it was Jesus (John 21:6–7; cf. Luke 5:1–11). Nathanael included, “None of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord” (John 21:12). Nathanael didn’t need to ask questions at all. His faith in Jesus had been confirmed before, and it was confirmed in Jesus again.
Whatever questions you and I have about our Lord, we can strengthen our faith by finding our answers in Scripture (cf. Acts 17:11). In doing so, not only will we believe in who He is, but finding answers to our questions will strengthen our faith all the more.