Summary: Jesus knew you even when you were under the fig tree.
Jn. 1:43-51 ”Are You Under the Fig Tree?”
According to the Christian calendar, last Sunday was the first Sunday after Epiphany, which was celebrated on Friday, January 6.
The word Epiphany means “to show”, “to make known” or “to reveal”. And during these weeks between Epiphany and Lent, we will be continuing to look at the life of Jesus as He reveals the will of God the Father through His words and actions.
If we had celebrated Epiphany on January 6, then our focus last Sunday would have been on the baptism of Jesus Christ. It’s important to note this event though because many place the start of Jesus’ time of ministry at the baptism.
In our text this morning, continuing the theme of Jesus’ more public ministry, John tells us how Jesus has begun to gather disciples to follow Him. Just a few verses earlier, in verses we didn’t read, Jesus walked past John the Baptist. As He does so, John cries out, “Look the Lamb of God”.
Upon hearing this, two of John’s disciples follow Jesus. These two are Andrew and Peter. The next day, Jesus finds Philip and says simply, “Follow me”. And John records that Philip went with Jesus.
And I’ve always thought there must have been something incredible about the person of Jesus that caused these three men to jump up and join Him. I’ve often wondered exactly what that was. What about Jesus caused these men to leave everything in order to follow Him?
Was it a charisma? Was it the way He carried Himself, confident and sure? Was it the way He spoke or the message He taught?
In this passage, though, we find more than three men following Jesus, for John also records a conversation that takes place between Philip and his friend Nathanael.
First, recognize that Philip saw in Jesus or found in the relationship He was beginning to have with Him, such positive results that He went to find His friend, for John records that “Philip found Nathanael” and then he told his friend about Jesus. “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."(v. 45). Nathanael was probably understanding that what Philip was speaking about was having found the Messiah, the Promised One.
But Nathanael has his own ideas about what the Messiah is supposed to be like and one thing is clear, He isn’t supposed to come from Nazareth. We see Nathanael’s own prejudices coming out as he says, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Nazareth, at this time, was probably a tiny little out of the way sort of town. Not much took place there. It wasn’t, according to the understanding of the Israelites supposed to be Nazareth but rather Bethlehem where the Messiah was found. So once again, Nathanael expresses his understanding of the deeper significance of what Philip is saying to him.
Nathanael’s response is saying, this can’t be the one. Philip, you must be mistaken. He can’t really be the Messiah.
And Philip responds simply, “Come and see”.
Nathanael goes with Philip and when He comes close to Jesus, we hear Jesus proclaim, "Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false."
What’s obvious about this statement is that Jesus sees into the heart of Nathanael. He sees Nathanael’s true character. What isn’t clear, however, is whether this statement is to be a compliment or a criticism.
It sounds like a compliment. Jesus is affirming that Nathanael is true to His cultural identity, an Israelite and is true to his heart, “in whom there is nothing false”. Nathanael is s straight shooter. He says what he means and he means what he says. We heard it just a little bit ago, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
But it could also be a criticism, and I almost think it is, that Nathanael is more concerned about “right religion” than he is about the needs and hurts of others. That if Jesus were to tell the story of the good Samaritan right now, that Nathanael would have to identify himself more with the ones who passed by in order to not be contaminated than to identify himself with the one who stopped. I mean, he obviously comes with certain prejudices and beliefs about what Nazareth has to offer for him.
Whatever the point of Jesus’ comment, whether compliment or criticism, Nathanael is surprised by this revelation of himself. Christ has painted Nathanael perfectly. Perhaps he is surprised that someone whom he has never met knows him so well. That Jesus recognizes the inner workings of his heart, even the things which Nathanael has tried to hide from himself, which peaks Nathanael’s interest and causes him to ask, “How do you know me? How do you know who I really am? How do you know my true self?”