John 1:45 – Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
John 1:46 – And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
John 1:47 – Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!
John 1:48 – Nathanael saith unto him, Whence knowest thou me? Jesus answered and said unto him, Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.
John 1:49 – Nathanael answered and saith unto him, Rabbi, thou art the Son of God; thou art the King of Israel.
John 1:50 – Jesus answered and said unto him, Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig tree, believest thou? thou shalt see greater things than these.
John 1:51 – And he saith unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.
Hello readers, today I will be talking about being seen by Jesus under the fig tree. This is quite an obscure part of the Bible, you could easily just read past it time and time again and never get anything from it. In John, we read that John the Baptist bore witness of and pointed people to Jesus Christ. People were believing on and following Jesus Christ for themselves, and then they were finding and telling others. This is a cornerstone of the Christian faith, finding Jesus Christ, finding truth, and then passing it on to others, leading others to Jesus Christ, who is the sole source of truth, hope, meaning and eternal life.
There was one man who heard of Jesus Christ, but when he heard that Jesus was from Nazareth, Nazareth being a town of low repute, he wondered how it could be possible that anything remotely good could come from such a town. This man’s name was Nathanael, and he was told by Phillip that Jesus was the Christ. So he went to check Jesus out, and Jesus saw him coming… and it ended up with Nathanael believing on Jesus Christ for himself. As Nathanael coming Jesus said “Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” Phillip asked Jesus Christ how he knew him. And Jesus said “Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee.” And that’s what we will be looking at today.
Jesus saying he saw Nathanael when he was under the fig tree caused Nathanael to believe, it made quite an impression on him. What did Jesus see of Nathanael under the fig tree? What does this even mean? We don’t know what Jesus saw. That is between Jesus and Nathanael, but we know that Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree, and this bit of information meant a lot to Nathanael. Jesus called him an Israelite indeed, because he was an Israelite in heart, most were just physically Israelites, but spiritually they were not right with God, they were not children of faith, they were not true children of God. We know that Nathanael at some point was under a fig tree before he was ever told by Phillip about Jesus Christ. Jesus saw Nathanael before Nathanael saw him, and God sees you, and knows you, long before you know him, long before you know what’s what and who’s who. He is God, you are just a created being. Jesus knew Nathanael before Nathanael knew Jesus. Jesus Christ knew Nathanael’s heart. This is what we will learn today. God isn’t confined to a church chapel, he never ceases to exist, he doesn’t get tired… as God said to Jeremiah “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee“. God sees you in secret (Matthew 6), he knows your heart better than you do. That why we should read God’s word, because it ministers to our heart, it reveals the truth to us, about ourselves as much as anything else. It is a light shining in the darkness of the readers heart, eliciting a response of coming to the light, or of distancing oneself from the light because the deeds of the reader or hearer are evil.
Jesus said of Nathanael that there was no guile in him. This is significant. Nathanael’s heart was prepared for the coming of Jesus Christ. It wasn’t a heart full of guile, but instead was a heart of an “Israelite indeed”. The Bible says in 1 John that we are to abide in him that we should not be ashamed before him at his coming. Even some true Christians are going to be ashamed when Jesus appears the second time, because they were not prepared for the bridegroom. They lost their way, instead of preparing themselves, purging themselves, dealing with sin, they got distracted, they got caught up in rubbish. It is important to prepare our hearts for the Lord, and that is a work of the Holy Spirit, preparing the way to receive that good seed, preparing our hearts for the light of Christ. Nathanael’s heart was prepared long before Jesus spoke to him, a heart so prepared it would recognize the Lord instantly. The Bible says in John, “he came unto his own, and his own received him not”. Most people didn’t know who Jesus was when he came the first time, they didn’t recognize their God, the God they claimed they knew and served. Their hearts were not prepared for Jesus Christ. John the Baptist came to prepare the way of the Lord, preaching repentance, because repentance of sin is what prepares your heart to receive the Saviour who will forgive you of your sins, and save you from them forever. Nathanael was different from the masses, he did receive Jesus Christ, he did believe on him, there was good soil in his heart ready to receive the incorruptible seed of the word of God. Jesus came to a fig tree in Jerusalem and it had leaves, but no fruit. And Jesus cursed the fig tree and it immediately withered away, never to bare fruit ever. Jesus came to a nation with leaves, but no fruit. People with the leaves of profession, the leaves of godly appearance and religion, but there was no fruit, there was no substance to it. And the end of that kind of Christianity, religion, and life in general today can likewise only end in cursing, not blessing.
It’s easy to miss what actually is the important thing to learn here. Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree. We don’t know what happened, but the man we are presented is someone who was ready for Jesus Christ, someone who had sought God. It was a wicked nation, full of guile, but this man had no guile… we read in the Bible that Satan is full of guile, guile being subtle, sly, cunning, deceitful. Nathanael wasn’t a child of the devil. His heart had the attributes of a saved person, not a person living in darkness. Something happened under the fig tree, maybe it was Nathanael praying to God, maybe it was Nathanael repenting of his sin. It’s funny how Nathanael knew exactly what Jesus was talking about. Because under the fig tree was obviously an important moment in Nathanael’s life, because when Jesus said this to Nathanael, well then Nathanael said he believed, he was convinced Jesus Christ was the Son of God then and there. Obviously noone else on the planet could have possibly know what happened under the fig tree except God. Whatever it was, when Jesus came, Nathanael’s heart was prepared for his Saviour, and he recognized truth when it came, he came to the light.
A heart prepared to God, well God will find you, he is God after all. The gospel is never in vain to any heart that is prepared for the good news of forgiveness, salvation and eternal life. God knows you better than you do. He knows your fears, your desires, he knows those that call upon him. Isaiah 55:6 – Seek ye the Lord while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. God sees you “under the the fig tree” just like he saw Nathanael. What happened in Nathanael life was private and personal, but God knew, and when Nathanael heard it he knew that Jesus was God, his spirit was revived by hearing the word and authority and power of Jesus Christ talking to him. God sees you in your lowest moment, he sees you when you truly cry out to him in a broken heart, in dust and ashes, he does see it, he does hear, and he does respond. He saw Nathanael, he found Nathanael. And he will also find you. We have a God, THE God, who sees everything. Hebrews 4:13 – Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. He does see your most precious moment before God, just as he saw Nathanael’s.
You might be under a fig tree today. Israel was a cursed fig tree, full of leaves, and Nathanael wanted truth, and the true Saviour. People were wondering, waiting, they didn’t know what to believe, he was willing to check out the man whom Phillip testified of as the Christ. Phillip said we’ve found him! It was what Nathanael had been looking for, it was WHO Nathanael had been looking for. There was a complete acknowledgement by Nathanael when Jesus spoke to him, he didn’t required signs and wonders and miracles, in fact Jesus said he’d see greater things than this, and that he’d see angels ascending and descending upon the Son of man. Nathanael would discover in time more about who Jesus Christ was, and what he was born into the world to do, to die for the sins of the world, a person on whom the entire creation revolves upon, a person who created the whole thing, who is the way, the truth, the life. Because Nathanael received Jesus Christ, he would see heaven open through Jesus Christ, what a wonderful consequences of believing on who Jesus Christ is, he is the way to heaven, through Christ, heaven is open to us. You could be snowed in under a fig tree of being at a church where there is no truth, in a lifestyle that is barren, among friends and yet something is missing, having as much as you want of all this world offers, yet unfulfilled, yet seeking, yet searching. Well if you are a true hearer, if you have ears to hear, if you have eyes willing to be opened by Jesus Christ, he will receive you, the gospel is that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, who came to earth as a man to die for our sins, because all mankind has sinned and the consequences of sin against God are severe, and in fact only curable through the shed blood of Jesus as a sacrifice for you in your place, dying a death you could not die, rising from a death no human being could ever rise from. Death did not hold Jesus, because he did no sin, death did not hold Jesus, because he is God. Hopefully you can be as ready for Jesus Christ as Nathanael was when the light comes.