John tells us at the end of this gospel that the purpose of his writing is so that we who have not seen Jesus face to face will know who he is (John 20:31, see also 1 John 5:13). John began this gospel with a poetic statement of who Jesus is (John 1:1-18). In this passage we get a glimpse into how two of Jesus’ disciples came to know who Jesus is and how they began to live into the reality of God the Son entering into human history in order to reunite heaven and earth.
As devout Jews, Philip and Nathaniel were looking for the Messiah. They knew what they were looking for because God had told his people what to watch for. They studied the Law and the Prophets in order to be ready for the day when the Messiah would come and invite them to participate in this new phase of God’s plan of redemption. As Church, how do we prepare in order to recognize our invitation into God’s work of redemption?
Even though Nathaniel sounds skeptical, he trusts his friend’s recognition of Jesus as worth investigation. By trusting Philip, Nathaniel goes to Jesus. The man that Nathaniel meets exceeds his expectations. Philip had invited Nathaniel to come and see by giving a partial description of Jesus: a man with a hometown and a family. Nathaniel’s discovery is that Jesus is much more: Rabbi, Son of God, King of Israel! Nathaniel’s discovery comes from his study but the key to unlocking this understanding is Jesus revealing that he knows Nathaniel’s heart as well as his mind. How, as Church, have we experienced being known by God so that we can know and trust God?
Jesus names Nathaniel as a true Israelite, one in whom there is no deceit. Nathaniel’s pure heart is able to see God incarnate (Matthew 5:8). Jacob, the first Israelite, one who practiced deception, saw in part, in a dream, what Nathaniel, one who is pure in heart, will see with his physical eyes: God’s redeeming work of uniting heaven and earth. Jesus is revealed to be the gate to heaven, which is also the house of God, that Jacob saw (see Genesis 28:10-17). How, as church, can we more fully live into knowing that Jesus is uniting our realm, earth, with God’s dwelling place, heaven?
 Even here, in this part of the first chapter of John’s gospel, we see that John is developing a thick description of who Jesus is. While John places the declaration of Jesus as Son of God on Nathaniel’s lips, we hear Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man in the conversation. The sequence of revelation of who Jesus is in John 1:35-51 is Lamb of God, Rabbi, Messiah, the one of whom Moses … and the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth the son of Joseph, Son of God, King of Israel, Son of Man.