Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.
Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”
But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”
Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel.
There is no duplicity in him.”
Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.”
Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.”
And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
No other Apostles by far expressed greater belief in Jesus upon their first encounter as Nathanael. Jesus stated it exactly right. This apostle was devout, holy and a true Israelite. Imagine calling someone a king and never having seen him before! How could anyone call Jesus the Son of God unless his mind and heart was completely enraptured by the love of God.
Jesus swept Nathanael completely off his feet by revealing to him some personal information that for him was truly amazing.
During this brief meeting with Nathanael, Jesus told him that he would experience greater things than with this first meeting.
Nathanael did see greater things. He was one of those to whom Jesus appeared on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias after his resurrection.
Ripples of sunshine surround the name and figure of the apostle Bartholomew, whose full name was Nathanael Bartholomew. Every crown has at least one happy-go-lucky character, and among the Twelve this was Bartholomew. The Lord Himself rejoiced to see this young man without guile enter His circle. Even today the name “Nathanael” suggests to us an agreeable and inoffensive person. Bartholomew lived on the brighter side of life, unruffled, serene, cheerful.
In the four lists of the Twelve in Holy Scripture this apostle was always called Bartholomew. In the Gospels his name was mentioned in the sixth place, immediately after his friend, Philip. In St. Luke’s enumeration in the Acts of the Apostles, Our Lord assigned Bartholomew and Thomas to the same group. Wisely did Divine Providence place these two individuals side by side, the optimist and the pessimist, the apostle of sunshine and spring with the apostle of doubt and cloud. Each in his own different way profited by this partnership. Thomas unburdened himself through Bartholomew, and it was to Bartholomew’s benefit that he was encumbered with Thomas, for through the doubter he was protected from the danger of becoming too free and lax.
It is very striking that the evangelist John never once mentioned an apostle by the name of Bartholomew in his entire Gospel. On the contrary he had much to say about a Nathanael, whom the three older evangelists, in turn, seemingly did know. John wrote about this Nathanael in the first and last chapter of his Gospel. Therefore Nathanael was with the other apostles for a long time, a proviso that Peter stipulated before choosing another apostle to replace Judas:
“Therefore, of these men who have been in our company all the time that the Lord Jesus moved among us, from John’s baptism until the day that he was taken up from us, of these one must become a witness with us of his resurrection”
From the two passages in John there is no doubt that Nathanael had heard the apostles; in the first chapter and in the last, this apostle was counted with the known and recognized apostles. Also, his calling was clearly and fully explained. There is no reason to doubt that Nathanael was an apostle, or that Nathanael and Bartholomew are two names for one and the same apostle. For if the Nathanael mentioned by the evangelist John was one of the Twelve, then he could have been no other than the one called Bartholomew by the other evangelists. All the other apostles in the four scriptural list were given by one name. Since Bartholomew was named in the lists by his father’s name, Bar-Tholmai, son of Tholmai, he alone is the only apostle who could have had the personal name of Nathanael.
One cannot go wrong if he keeps that happy meeting between Jesus and Nathanael before his eyes. Thoroughly honest, happy, cheerful, and inspired, he has been an inspiration to men of all ages. He was popular and much liked by the other apostles; his colleagues eagerly sought his friendship. Clear, truthful, and frank in everything, he was so simple that anyone could see through him. He was really the apostle without guile or deceit.
At the Last Supper revealed, “‘One of you will betray me.'” No one thought of Bartholomew. Not even a slight suspicion was raised against him. Only sunshine and spring surrounded this apostle. When the disciples walked along the long, hot roads, with the Lord, tired and stickly with dust, and when the pressing of a crowd was so taxing that they could not find time even to eat, when they, along with the Lord, had no place to lay their head at night, there was Bartholomew, cheerful, tireless, and happy as ever. He alone of the followers of Christ could lift up their sinking spirits. Then the eyes of the Lord would benevolently fall upon this disciples as they had in the hour of their first meeting. Nathanael Bartholomew was called because of his natural ability to reflect the goodness, kindness, mercy, and love of the Savior.
For the melancholy Thomas, for the sober Philip, for the objective Matthew, it was a real blessing that Bartholomew occasionally led this second group of apostles to look at the brighter side of life. He put some cheer and life into this melancholy, sober and objective group. He brought the fragrance of spring and a bit of poetry into this somewhat too cool, somewhat too dry, somewhat too gloomy atmosphere. With his keen natural perceptiveness, he could brighten and enliven Thomas, tease and animate Philip, transfigure and perfect-Matthew. He could rub against all three of their natures and get away with it three times as often as any other apostle. It is good to stand to the sunshine, but it is better to be the sunshine for others. In doing all this, Nathanael did not overstep the fine border of tact. It is very striking how old legends again and again allude to this apostle’s distinguished origin and refined speech. The silence of the Gospels also gives an indication of his quiet reserve. He could hold back his happiness lest he becomes too frolicsome, or even loud and boisterous.