In considering four instances where trees are mentioned and the reason for this in the Bible, we saw Adam and Eve hiding amongst the trees in the garden and Zacchaeus up the tree for get a view of the Lord Jesus as He passed by. Today I want to look at Nathaniel who was seen by Jesus under a fig tree. Jesus who was recruiting disciples, moves towards Galilee, finds Philip and calls him. Philip finds his brother Nathanael testifying that he found the long awaited Messiah. Noticed that as soon as he believed whom Jesus was, he went and shared his faith … although infant days, he shared the Gospel. Please read:
Jn 1:43 The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
Nathanael hears what Philip has to say and demonstrates immediate skepticism. Look at the pin pointed accuracy of Philip’s testimony … “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip was saying prophecy has been fulfilled … yet Nathanael comes up with a question … “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?”
You and I might see this as a huge insult, even blasphemy … but look how he phrases his question … “Nazareth!” Nazareth was southwest of the Sea of Galilee. It held a small community of people … less than 500. Being so far from Jerusalem and such a small town with no major cities close by, it was the very last place anyone would expect something interesting happening there.
It’s like asking … “Can anything good come out of Benoni?” The answer is yes … Charlize Theron! To be known as or called a Nazarene would be like calling someone a “country bumpkin or a hillbilly”. It’s like saying Nazareth could not produce anything of worth. No one would think that Messiah would come from there. It’s unimaginable. Philip does not leave it there … he had told him his belief … and now says … “Come and see.” Fine you don’t believe me … come and see for yourself … and he does.
As Nathanael nears Jesus he hears Jesus saying … “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” What a great tribute. Nathanael was a man of character … Godly character. He is authentic. He is the right material for a disciple of Jesus … though he is not selected and designated as one of the twelve (Mark 3:14-19).
Nathanael questions this Man who tells him all about himself … “How do you know me?” He is flabbergasted! Jesus then points out exactly where he was … even before Philip told him about Messiah and asked him to “come and see” Jesus for himself. Jesus said … “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
In hearing this, Nathanael is convinced, declaring … “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” How could anyone know where he was and what he was doing at such a distance? Surely this man must be Divine … Messiah! He calls him “the Son of God … the King of Israel” correctly. Jesus is God and as God He is King … over far more than just Israel.
Because he took Jesus at His Word … “saw you under the fig tree” … he had saving faith … and Jesus then tells him that because he believed he would see even greater things than Jesus pin pointing where he was when Philip testified to him. When Jesus says:
Jn 1:50 “You shall see greater things than that.” … 51 “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
The word “you” “changes from singular to plural where Jesus now addresses all with Him. The answer to what the “greater things” are is found in Genesis 28 when Jacob had his “ladder experience”. It refers to God the Father’s supernatural help, care and ministry to His Beloved Son whilst on earth … and by implication, God the Holy Spirit’s ministry to believers after Jesus’ return to glory.
We are not told what Nathanael was doing under the fig tree. Various commentators suggest prayer or the study of the Law. We don’t know … but what we do know is that our God sees all things. This is encouraging and comforting but it is also challenging and scary. The encouraging and comforting part is that we are never alone, irrespective what our circumstances are. Our Lord knows where we are and what we are going through all the time. He feels for us His people.
This is why prayer is so important. Without minimizing the trauma and pain you might be going through, without rubbishing you being at the end of your resistance because of no money, no physical strength, no emotional energy … all alone with no one to turn to … you may pray to God because He knows your present experience. He has said, “never will I leave you nor will I forsake you.” Trust Him. The challenging and scary part is willful sin. After what He has done for us at Calvary, when we sin knowingly, we surely stab His heart, hurting Him terribly. We are all guilty here and need to be intentional about ceasing sin.
Lord, thank You for knowing where I am and what I’m going through. Help me to trust You through prayer. Amen.