"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. And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see. Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! 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. Nathanael answered and saith unto Him, Rabbi, Thou art the Son of God, Thou art the King of Israel" (John 1:45-49).
What so instantly and unequivocally changed Nathaniel's heart and mind regarding the Lord Jesus Christ? The Apostle John does not specifically explain the reason for Nathaniel's dramatic transformation of opinion concerning the Lord Jesus. We do know that the Lord's words led Nathaniel from unbelief to certainty: "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God" (Romans 10:17). We must therefore consider the two simple statements uttered by the Savior that led Nathaniel to trust and devotion.
"Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" First, the Lord Jesus looks into Nathaniel's heart and rightly identifies his disposition and character. Nathaniel seems to have been one of those people who trucked no nonsense, and who could not abide dishonesty. He was who he was. He said what he actually thought. What you saw was what you got. These are good qualities, although such folks can sometimes rub others the wrong way. Philip, for example, could have been offended by Nathaniel's initial dismissive response. Thankfully, God's servant persisted in affirming the truth - "Come and see" - likely because he knew Nathaniel well enough to realize that the Lord would have little trouble convincing and converting an honest man. God had worked in Nathaniel to form such forthrightness and lack of deceit. He worked in him further still by leading him to the Christ who finds a comfortable home in those who realize and practice the value of truth and reality. "On the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the Word, keep it" (Luke 8:15).
The Lord proceeded to the most persuasive and powerful confirmation of His identity. "Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee." The Lord Jesus gets personal with Nathaniel, telling him something Nathaniel likely believed no one other than God could know. I have long suspected that the fig tree mentioned by the Savior may have been a special place where Nathaniel had encounters with God. Or perhaps something happened under the tree of some other nature and significance. Whatever the case, the Lord Jesus seems to have read Nathaniel's mail. He knew something that Nathaniel believed to be only privy to God and himself. This instantly changed Nathaniel's opinion and conviction regarding the Lord, and his subsequent confession of Christ rings through the ages, declaring the Divine sonship and appointed royalty of the Lord Jesus.
We do well to pray for others and for ourselves that God will grant Nathaniel-like experiences of His personal working in our hearts and lives. We all have hidden places deep in the soul, fig trees known only to God and ourselves. When He lets us know in some manner that He knows, the origin or strengthening of faith will likely soon follow. God is the most personal of beings. He thus purposes to act personally in each of our lives so that we experience genuine relationship and fellowship with Him. We don't try to manufacture such encounters. But we do expect that our Lord will read our mail, as it were, and then let us know that He knows the hidden places of our hearts known only to Him and ourselves. Thereby we increasingly discover the Person and Position of the Lord Jesus, and the love, the personal love, He bears within His blessed heart for each of us.
"Thou God seest me."
"O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me. Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising, Thou understandest my thought afar off."
Weekly Memory Verse
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.