“Nathanael said to him, can any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip said to him, come and see,” John 1:46.
The Bible doesn’t tell us what Nathanael was doing under the fig tree, though it is said that Jewish men often sat under a fig tree for prayer and meditation.
In any case, news about the Messiah was spreading by word of mouth. Philip had come to Nathanael and said: “We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
Nathanael asked: “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” We can almost hear the sarcasm dripping from his voice. Obviously he held the Nazarenes in disfavor. He probably had his reasons, but it was unfair to paint everyone with the same brush. Nowadays we call that stereotyping, and anyone is likely to do it.
Men might say things like “Women are apt to gossip” or “Women can’t give directions.” Women might say “Men can’t do two things at once, because they have one-track minds”—or something like “Men are not sensitive to the beauty of delicate things.” In Matthew 25:40 Jesus said: “Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.” This was in the context of kindness, but the opposite might also be true. Nathanael probably didn’t realize when he made that unkind remark that he was lumping his Messiah in with people he considered no good.
In Jesus’ response, He spoke highly of Nathanael’s character. So we conclude that Nathanael had spoken thoughtlessly. Likewise we may thoughtlessly stereotype others before we know them. In observation of Nathanael’s words before we open our mouth, let’s think first about what we will say before we speak. Fill your mouth with life, not death.