You know me, some of you, because we see each other every day. You know me, some of you, because someone introduced us. You know me, some of you, because you discovered me on your way to somewhere else.
When Nathanael asked Jesus, “How do you know me?” he wasn’t talking about simple introductions. That’s because Jesus, when he saw Nathanael approaching said to those standing around, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
This would have been the last thing Nathanael would have expected. After all, his comment to his friend Philip about Jesus had been “can anything good come from Nazareth?”
With this kind of public greeting, Nathanael is stuck. Either Jesus is a sham, in which case you can’t trust what he says (and Nathanael would desperately like these words to be true of him) or Jesus is completely accurate, in which case Philip was right and Nathanael completely wrong.
So Nathanael says, “how do you know me?”
Nathanael had a lot riding on this question. A true son of Israel, one who actually cared about Messiah, about following well.
And now, he’s risking everything with one question for this potential Messiah: how do you know me?
And Jesus tells him where he was sitting.
What a waste of insight! Think of all the things Jesus could have said about Nathanael’s thoughts or sins or doubts or struggles or stupidity or mistreatment of people as a child. Jesus could have made him miserable.
That’s what we expect of God at times. Shaming us.
Instead, Jesus told him a simple concrete detail from the past 15 minutes.
And Nathanael knew he’d found the rabbi he wanted to follow.
A rabbi who knew everything and didn’t use it for guilt. Who more than dominance wanted relationship.