Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree

By Elizabeth Prata

Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and said of him, “Here is truly an Israelite, in whom there is no deceit!” 48Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you. 49Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!John 1:47-49

This is another one of those moments where the narrative is short on details but long on valuable lessons for us. It’s like the gap in the conversation in John 3:2 and 3:3, between where Nicodemus says ‘You must be from God…right?’ and Jesus replies ‘You must be born again’. Wait, wut?

Barnes’ Notes did a good job of commenting on the Nathanael-Jesus conversation. There is a gap between where Jesus says ‘here comes a man with no deceit’, and Nathanael proclaiming Jesus ‘the Son of God and the King of Israel’. There are things we can learn nonetheless about this interaction.

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Barnes’ Notes: “When thou wast under the fig-tree – It is evident that it was from something that had occurred under the fig-tree that Jesus judged of his character. What that was is not recorded. It is not improbable that Nathanael was accustomed to retire to the shade of a certain tree, perhaps in his garden or in a grove, for the purpose of meditation and prayer. The Jews were much in the habit of selecting such places for private devotion, and in such scenes of stillness and retirement there is something especially favorable for meditation and prayer. Our Saviour also worshipped in such places. Compare John 18:2; Luke 6:12. In that place of retirement it is not improbable that Nathanael was engaged in private devotion.”

Barnes’ Notes: “I saw thee – It is clear, from the narrative, that Jesus did not mean to say that he was bodily present with Nathanael and saw him; but he knew his thoughts, his desires, his secret feelings and wishes. In this sense Nathanael understood him. We may learn:

  1. that Jesus sees what is done in secret, and is therefore divine.
  2. that he sees us when we little think of it.
  3. that he sees us especially in our private devotions, hears our prayers, and marks our meditations. And,
  4. that he judges of our character chiefly by our private devotions. Those are secret; the world sees them not; and in our closets we show what we are. How does it become us, therefore, that our secret prayers and meditations should be without “guile” and hypocrisy, and such as Jesus will approve! ~end Barnes’ Notes

We know that Jesus knows our hearts. We know we should do our devotions. But when it’s put it together like that, that He knows our character through our devotions, it brings things home a bit more, doesn’t it?

I’ll post tomorrow more about devotions. For today, we can learn from Nathanael. Put yourself in his shoes. The region is abuzz with news of a man who preaches with authority. Phillip goes to Nathanael and says “He is Here! The Messiah! He’s from Nazareth!” And the first thing Nathanael says is ‘He can’t be, Nazareth is such a backwater, nothing good ever comes from there!’ But then this man says something to you that only you knew. The private devotions of your heart, your unguarded moment, your pouring out of what was never said openly. Under the fig tree.

Nathanael instantly knew Jesus was the One. That was all the ‘evidence’ Nathanael needed. Whatever conversation Nathanael had with Jesus under the fig tree in prayer, now continued in person.

What a blessing!! Keep in mind, sisters, our prayers, devotions, conversations with Jesus are with a real person, who really hears, who is here with you, even unto the end of the age. Someday abruptly, whether when we’re gathered to Him in the air or exhale our last and pick up in heaven the next second, we too, will continue our devotions with Him in physical person. What a day that will be.

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