The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Phil and said, “Tag along!” (Phil was from Bethsaida, the same city Andy and Pete were from.)
Phil found Nate and said, “We’ve found the guy Moses and the truth-tellers were talking about. He’s Jesus, Joe’s kid, from Noweheresville.”
“Nowheresville?” Nate said, “Nothing good’s ever come out of Nowheresville.”
Phil said, “Just come and see.”
When Jesus saw Nate coming, he said, “Now here’s a real patriot! Not a skeptical bone in his body.”
“You don’t know anything about me,” Nate said.
Jesus said, “I know you were sitting under a fig tree when Phil called you.”
“Professor,” Nate said, “You’re the divine one! You’re Israel’s king!”
Jesus said, “You’re saying that just because I told you I saw you sitting under a fig tree! You’ll see bigger things than that. No joke. I’m telling you you’ll see the open gates of heaven and God’s messengers coming and going to the human one.”
Beyond this incident, Nathanael is mentioned only at the end, post resurrection, among the seven who encounter Jesus after an unsuccessful night’s fishing (Jn 21:1-3). So the disciple who questions whether Jesus will amount to anything turns out to be one that disappears into the woodwork.
The whole point of Jesus saying, “Not a skeptical bone in his body,” is that he’s skeptical through and through. Not to mention that a true patriot would never address a peasant from Nowheresville as king and mean it.
When Nate says, “You’re the divine one,” Jesus calls his bluff, saying he will see God’s messengers come only to a human one, but it’s ok, since being human is an “even greater thing.”
In the midst of all this sarcasm and skepticism, the point is that Nate’s expectations of the messiah are completely the opposite of who Jesus really is, and who in spite of that, is still promised, “no joke,” that someday he will see.
For now, Nate is only engaging because he’s going along with his friend Phil. He’s a second-hand disciple. Jesus didn’t call him, Phil did. If Jesus had called him, he probably wouldn’t have come. But that’s ok, too. Because that’s how many of us got into the movement. We were skeptics just checking it out as a favor to a friend. Until we really did see for ourselves that it’s greater to be human.