In John 1, after Jesus’s baptism, he calls his first disciples to follow him in carrying out his mission. Some of the disciples called their brothers to join Jesus once they learnt about him. One such disciple was Phillip, who Jesus called and he called his brother Nathaniel. Nathaniel’s response was not a favourable one as he questioned whether or not anything good could come from Nazareth (John 1:43-46).
In this case Nathaniel did not even acknowledge Jesus as the person to whom Phillip referred. But reducing his significance, referred to him as a thing. To Nathaniel’s surprise, the next day when he does meet Jesus, he made reference to distinguishing characteristics about Nathaniel. He goes further to share that he perceived in his spirit, the conversation which Nathaniel had with Phillip and where he had this conversation. “Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel””(John 1:49)!
Jesus does not allow Nathaniel to get away with the statement he made before, but calls him out on his scepticism. “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””(John 1:50). Some people hold fast to the notion of, “seeing is believing,” and are so doubtful and cynical that it’s off putting.
It’s one thing to be doubtful, but Nathaniel’s remarks were borderline derogatory and discriminatory. We do not have the right to look down on other people, because of their place of birth or origin. No one determines where they are born, or other characteristics such as nationality, race or even our families of origin. God allowed Jesus to be born in a manger, in a town of no significance, to parents without much notoriety to teach us a lesson in humility.
Your beginning does not determine your ending and God can do great things with small beginnings. “But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are” (1 Corinthians 1:27-29).