Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
Jesus’ conversation with Nathanael is set-up by the Lord’s statement here. Very soon Jesus is going to blow Nathanael’s mind, but before He can do that He has to set the pieces on the board. So, the Lord sees Him coming to Him and says “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile.”
In other words He says “Look at this person; this is an honest person!” To lack guile means to lack a desire to deceive others or even to deceive oneself.
The Lord’s words are, of course, true, but it’s the reason He says them that is most important. Why mention Nathanael’s trustworthiness, of all things? The answer is because He knows Nathanael is skeptical of Him, so later—when Jesus convinces him of His deity—Nathanael, the honest man, will confess his faith in Jesus, removing all skepticism he once had.
Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
Nathanael heard Jesus’ description of him as he approached the Lord and it naturally intrigued him. He no doubt thought “Who is this Person that He could have such an intimate understanding of me?” He asks the question “Where do you know me?” In other words, he asks “Have we met before?” Apparently they hadn’t, yet Jesus knows the hearts and minds of all people He encountered.
Not only that, but Jesus is Divine, and can see all things. Thus He says to Nathanael, “before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael had been sitting alone, far away from Jesus’ human eyes. The Lord had been with Philip and Peter and other disciples; He could not have seen Nathanael, or certainly have known where he was at that moment. Yet He knew. His omniscience is revealed to Nathanael.
Notice that Jesus does not scold the skeptical Nathanael for wondering if the Messiah could really come from a place like Nazareth. Instead, He simply provides Him with the proof of His Deity. He will do the same with Thomas later on (ch20:27-29).
Here the Lord informs Nathanael, not only that He is Divine, but also that He has been observing him. God has been watching him. God has taken an interest in him and God is calling him for a purpose. What tender-hearted person could resist a thing like that?!
Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
In the previous verse, Nathanael did not refer to Jesus with any title. He simply blurted out “from where do you know me?” Now, with his mind blown and his faith bursting at the seams, he addresses’ Jesus as “Rabbi.” He had been skeptical to follow Jesus the way Philip and others were, but now he was ready.
Nathanael confesses that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel. Without equivocation, Nathanael submits to Jesus as the Messiah, predicted and prophesied about throughout the Old Testament. His confession is significant, because it is the first (not counting the words of John the Baptist) public confession given in the book. The other disciples invited people to follow them by saying “we have found the Christ!” but in this case we have a man make a very declarative statement about who Jesus is.
Remember how this conversation began, with Jesus saying of Nathanael: “This is a man with no guile” (v47). In other words Jesus told everyone around “whatever this man says, you can take it to the bank.” And after five minutes with him, Nathanael was ready to confess to all that Jesus was the Christ.
Do you see the power He can have on people? All you have to do is come in contact with Him with an open and tender heart and He can show you amazing things. That’s all anyone today needs: Just approach Jesus with a tender heart and He will show you amazing things!