The Lord Calls Nathanael
In John 1 Philip runs to find his brother Nathanael to tell him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael responds by asking, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
It’s then when Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him he said “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” This puzzled Nathanael and led him to ask “How do you know me?” Jesus said “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
At first glance you have to admit that this dialog between Nathanael and Jesus is a little strange. What I mean is Nathanael is obviously skeptical that they’ve really found the Messiah. Walking up to Jesus he receives this compliment from Him and asks how do you know me? Maybe Philip had been speaking to Jesus about Nathanael or maybe someone else had spoken highly of him. Jesus responds with I saw you sitting under the fig tree. It’s based on that short and simple answer that all his skepticism is erased and he humbly confesses that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel.
The first thing I appreciated from this passage is Philip’s way of getting Nathanael to come to Jesus. Philip was mindful of his brother and wanted him to come and follow Jesus as well but upon explaining it to Nathanael there was doubt and skepticism. Philip doesn’t try to argue with Nathanael to believe his position but simply says “Come and see.” There’s such a great lesson for us to grasp when we seek to teach others the gospel. Many times upon telling people the good news of the gospel there is doubt or skepticism and too often we spend more time reasoning and arguing than simply saying “Come and see.”
Jesus pays Nathanael a true and accurate compliment when he says “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Jesus knowing his heart could see this about him. It’s exactly what Paul was talking about in Romans 2:28-29 when he said “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.” In those days there were obviously many who were Jew by heritage but Jesus points out that Nathanael was a TRUE Jew. Many wear the name Christian today but can our Lord look into our hearts and say the same of us?
I still struggled with why being seen under the fig tree was so impactful for Nathanael until I realized that it was often the custom of the Jews, Jesus included, to have a place of solitary where they could go and spend time in private meditation and prayer. No doubt this tree wasn’t in a public square or somewhere readily accessible but his personal private place. Jesus names the place where Nathanael thought he was hidden. Psalm 139:1-2 says “O Lord, you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. Too often we forget that our secret place is in plain view of our Lord. Maybe there are things being done in secret that are shameful and like David we think we have gotten away with or maybe there are times spent in our secret place where we feel alone in this world and it brings despair. God is always there and that fact should bring His children comfort.
Let’s strive to be like Philip and be quick to tell others the good news of Jesus Christ. Let’s strive to be like Nathanael and live our lives in such a way our Lord can say Behold, a Christian indeed, in whom there is no deceit.