Nathanael 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."John 1:48(NASB)
Each of the four Gospels introduces the Lord Jesus in their own particular way, laying peculiar emphasises on different aspects of His Person and work; His character and ministry; His life, and His death. The Gospel of John places priority on the divinity of Christ Who is co-equal with the Father; co-eternal, consubstantial, co-essential, omniscient, and omnipotent.
Throughout his Gospel, John brings attention to the deity of Christ Who is the Light of life through Whom the world was made and in Whom are the words of eternal life. John wanted his audience to understand that the essence and nature of Deity inhabited the Lord Jesus Christ in bodily form.
As God the Son, He formed us together in our mother's womb, scheduled every day of our lives, and knows the thoughts of our hearts and meditation of our minds. As the Son of Man, the Word made flesh, His deity is not diminished although He set aside His glory to live as God intended all humanity to live - in total dependence on the Father.
In many of Christ's encounters in the Gospel of John, we see little glimpses of the deity of Christ shining through and His meeting with Nathanael was no exception. At the start of His ministry, Jesus called His disciples to follow Him. Philip, who had been called by Jesus, went to look for his friend, Nathanael, and found him sitting under the fig tree and told him excitedly about Jesus: "We have found the One about Whom Moses and the prophets wrote - Jesus the son of Joseph, from Nazareth!"
Nathanael showed some serious skepticism and jibed, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" But Philip insisted that his friend come with him to see Jesus. We read that as the Lord saw Nathanael coming toward Him, He said about him, "AH! Here is a true Israelite. There no deceit is in this man."
No doubt, Nathanael was a man who desired to follow God and wanted to live a life that was dedicated to Him. He was surprised that Jesus had understood the desire of his heart and asked Him how it was that He knew him: "How do You know me?" Nathanael asked Him, and Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."
Christ's reply amazed Nathanael because he must have recalled that Philip had, indeed, found him sitting under a fig tree. It was not any old fig tree but THE Fig Tree. Maybe this was a favourite place for Nathanael to contemplate the Law and express devotion to God. Maybe this fig tree had a special significance to honest men of god character or those that are pure in heart... or maybe it was one of many fig trees in Israel under which this servant of God was seated that day.
We do not know what was passing through Nathanael's mind the day that he meditated in the shade of that particular fig leaves, but this simple display of Christ's divinity caused him to respond to the Lord Jesus in faith, with the words, "Rabbi, thou art the Son of God. Thou art the King of Israel."
Earlier, Nathanael had responded to Philip with a somewhat scornful retort, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" However, when he addressed Jesus as 'Rabbi' and identified Him as 'The Son of God' and 'King of Israel' his words showed great respect and a heart of faith and hope in the truth of Scripture. Others may have called Jesus, 'King of the Jews' in a derisory manner or to sneer at His Messianic claims, but Nathanael's heart was open to the truth and he was rewarded by being a man who walked with Jesus for the three and a half years of His earthly ministry.
We do not hear much about Nathanael in the Gospels or the early Church, but he was recognised, by God, as a man in whom there was no guile and we recognise him as a man who was ready and willing to learn of Christ and place His trust in the Son of God Who is co-equal with the Father; co-eternal, consubstantial, co-essential, omniscient, and omnipotent.
May we be man and women of faith in whom there is no guile. May we have ears that are ready and willing to go and see Jesus and develop an eternal relationship with the Son of Man Who is equally God the Son.
Heavenly Father, thank You for a peep into the lives of Philip and Nathanael who were men of faith in whom there was no guile, but who were ready and willing to respond to the call of Jesus in their lives and recognise that He is not only the Son of Man Who died on the Cross to pay the price for our sin, but God the Son Who rose from the dead so that by faith in Him we might not perish but have everlasting life. Help me never to diminish the deity of Christ. Help me never to forget that He became my Kinsman-Redeemer, and help me to grow more and more like Jesus in the days that lie ahead. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.