Hunkered Down Devotion

John 1:43-51 (Voice)
43-44 The next day Jesus set out to go into Galilee; and when He came upon Philip, He invited him to join them.
Jesus: Follow Me.
Philip, like Andrew and Peter, came from a town called Bethsaida; and he decided to make the journey with Him. 45 Philip found Nathanael, a friend, and burst in with excitement:
Philip: We have found the One. Moses wrote about Him in the Law, all the prophets spoke of the day when He would come, and now He is here—His name is Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter; and He comes from Nazareth.
Nathanael: 46 How can anything good come from a place like Nazareth?
Philip: Come with me, and see for yourself.
47 As Philip and Nathanael approached, Jesus saw Nathanael and spoke to those standing around Him.
Jesus: Look closely, and you will see an Israelite who is a truth-teller.
Nathanael (overhearing Jesus): 48 How would You know this about me? We have never met.
Jesus: I have been watching you before Philip invited you here. Earlier in the day, you were enjoying the shade and fruit of the fig tree. I saw you then.
Nathanael: 49 Teacher, You are the One—God’s own Son and Israel’s King.
Jesus: 50 Nathanael, if all it takes for you to believe is My telling you I saw you under the fig tree, then what you will see later will astound you. 51 I tell you the truth: before our journey is complete, you will see the heavens standing open while heavenly messengers ascend and descend, swirling around the Son of Man.

In this short passage from the 1st chapter of John, we pick up where we left off yesterday, with Jesus continuing to assemble his disciples – the followers that will travel with him for the three years of his public ministry.  

These verses really don’t, at first glance at least, contain much of theological or spiritual note.  The most memorable portion of this passage is the interactions Nathaniel has, first with Phillip and then with Jesus.  

First, with Phillip, we get to see Nathaniel give voice to the kind of petty local rivalry that, if it played out at Highland, might lead someone to say, ‘Lumberton, how can anything good come from there?’.  If you have ever wondered what that was about – it really is that simple…. Nazareth was a little inconsequential town and Nathaniel made a snide remark about it.  I would love to tell you that there was some hidden meaning or a spiritual dimension here, but there isn’t.

But that brings us to Nathaniel’s second interaction, this time with Jesus.  Here, rather than being the giver of a easy putdown, he is on the receiving end of something of a shock.  Having been prepared by Phillip to expect big things from Jesus, he is greeted by Jesus offering him a high compliment, calling him an honest man.

Understandably, Nathaniel is a bit taken back by this greeting, having never meet – or even seen – Jesus before.  He then asks the obvious question, essentially – how could you know that, Jesus?  Jesus answer – that he saw Nathaniel under the fig tree – has been the source of much debate over the centuries.

I had always taken Jesus’ words literally, that he had seen Nathaniel under a fig tree.  As I studied the gospel of John, I learned that there are other possible explanations.  It seems that ‘under the fig tree’ was something of a short hand for a variety of activities ranging from rabbinic studies of the Torah, to a more general reading of any of the Hebrew scriptures, or as a symbol of God’s Shalom.  

The truth is we will never know whether Jesus really saw Nathaniel under a fig tree, or if he meant something more.  But, without a doubt, the comment had the desired effect.  Immediately Nathaniel recognized Jesus as the Son of God and more than that, he understood that he was seen, known and loved by that same son of God, Jesus Christ.  

And that is the message for all of us from this passage.  No matter where you are, where you are from, what you have done.  God has seen you.  God knows you.  God loves you.  
Sharing God’s Love,

Prayer:   Thank you God, for seeing us, for knowing us, and for loving us.  Amen.

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