“Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’” (John 1: 49)
When I think of the people called by Jesus to follow him I have missed Philip. I remember James and John; and Simon Peter and Andrew; and I remember Levi being called from the tax booth. But I somehow missed Philip. Then Philip goes and invites Nathanael. So when I miss Philip, I also miss Nathanael.
We know from verses just before this one that Nathanael and Jesus pondered about one another. Nathanael pondered if any good could come out of Nazareth. And Jesus pondered about Nathanael being a man in whom there is no deceit. So we know that in spite of Nazareth being the Sodom and Gomorrah of their day, Jesus, who is God incarnate, comes to them from there. And we know that Nathanael is a good man because Jesus has said so. He is a man without deceit. So what is it about Nathanael?
I ponder about what Nathanael was experiencing when he was under the fig tree before Philip called him. The moment that Jesus mentioned that he saw him before Philip called him; that he was with him under the fig tree. It must have been something special. It was so life-changing that Nathanael said to Jesus ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel! What was going on with Nathanael? Was he crying? Was he contemplating suicide? Was he visited by God with great joy? We don’t know. What we do know is that Nathanael experienced a life-change of some sort. And because Jesus knows what was going on in his (our) life he sees Jesus not just as Rabbi, but as Son of God, as King of Israel.
Where are these experiences in our lives, our secrete lives, under our own fig trees that Jesus sees us and then lets us know that we have been seen as he did Nathanael? How do we become as appreciated by Jesus as Nathanael was? I believe we already are.
I believe that when Jesus/God sends us to someone, God also prepares that same someone to receive us. And not always does the person we are sent to, or who is sent to us, made aware of it. Many times God speaks to us through us. So we need to be careful. Who was the Philip that God sent to you about Jesus? What was the holy time and place (fig tree) of your life? Name the person. Name the place. Name the time. To do so is healing. These fig tree moments are more important than first realized. I have had several. I was under a fig tree in Basic Training at Parris Island South Carolina. I was under another fig tree at The Episcopal Seminary in Alexandria, Virginia. And I’m pondering that God is not done with me yet. We all have those Nathanael, fig tree moments. It doesn’t mean that we are pure, but it does mean that Jesus sees us at those life-changing moments and only you (Jesus and you) know what’s going on.
Let us hear what the Spirit is saying through and to God’s people and “Ponder anew what the Almighty can do.” John Thomas Frazier Sr.