John is a perfect example of the work of the Spirit in the lives of the prophets. John can recognize that Jesus is the “Lamb of God” and the “Chosen One of God,” but later he asks, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we look for another” (Matthew 11:3)? That’s because the Spirit moves, but doesn’t always explain:
1 Peter1:10-11 “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who predicted the grace that would come to you searched and investigated carefully. They probed into what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating when he testified beforehand about the sufferings appointed for Christ and his subsequent glory.”
The Spirit not only revealed Jesus’ essential nature to John, he showed John who the Messiah was. John then fulfilled his purpose by pointing Jesus out to others. Andrew followed, and told his brother Peter. Jesus found Philip, who went and got Nathaniel. Nathanael was skeptical, not expecting anything good to come from a hick town like Nazareth! Jesus reveals to Nathanael that he knows his nature and where he was before he came. Nathanael is amazed, and at the very least recognizes Jesus as the Messiah, even though he spoke even better than he knew when he called Jesus the “Son of God!”
There is also a play on words here. Jacob becomes Israel in the Old Testament, and Jesus alludes to that when he calls Nathanael “a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit.” Jacob swindled his brother out of his birthright and his blessing in Genesis 27. But he was called by God, and later he dreamed and “saw a stairway erected on the earth with its top reaching to the heavens: the angels of God were going up and coming down it” (Genesis 28:12). Jesus is recalling that dream here, and revealing that He is the ladder that provides access to God. Hallelujah!