Nathaniel Under a Fig Tree

Nathaniel Under a Fig Tree

Nathaniel Under a Fig Tree.

“The next day, after Jesus had decided to leave for Galilee, He met Philip and said, ‘Follow me.’ Philip came from the same town, Bethsaida, as Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathaniel and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses said in the Law and the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth!’ Nathaniel said to him, ‘From Nazareth? Can anything good come from that place?’ Philip replied, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathaniel coming, He said of him, ‘There, truly, is an Israelite in whom there is no deception.’ Nathaniel asked, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus replied, ‘Before Philip came to call you, I saw you under the fig tree.’ Nathaniel answered, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God, you are the king of Israel!’ Jesus replied, ‘You believe that just because I said I saw you under the fig tree. You are going to see greater things than that.’ And then Jesus added, ‘In all truth I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending over the Son of Man.'” (John 1:43-51).

Nathaniel, also known as the apostle Bartholomew, was sitting under the shade of a fig tree one day in the region of Galilee. He was someone earnestly expecting and looking for the Messiah as prophesied in the Scripture. Nathaniel may have been in his special place of prayer under that tree. He may have been studying Scripture and meditating on the coming of Messiah. Sitting under a fig tree was an expression from the Hebrew prophets that was connected to waiting for the Messiah, as mentioned in Micah 4:4 and Zechariah 3:10. “Gathering figs” was also an expression that meant the act of studying Scripture. So we can only speculate what Nathaniel was doing under the fig tree, but that tree was no doubt his private place where he could be alone in his thoughts and meditations. We know Nathaniel was anxiously looking for Messiah, or else why would his friend Philip rush to tell him about Jesus? Philip knew that this would be welcome news to Nathaniel. And sure enough, after Philip told Nathaniel to come and see for himself, Nathaniel did just that. Nathaniel had no hesitation to meet Jesus and find out if this man might be who he is looking for.

Nathaniel gladly accepted the truth about Jesus seemingly immediately. He did not hesitate to call Jesus “the Son of God and the king of Israel.” We are not sure why Nathaniel was so ready to welcome Jesus into his life. Was it because Jesus told Nathaniel a piece of supernatural knowledge, that Jesus had somehow seen Nathaniel studying and praying under a fig tree? Was it because Jesus seemed to know Nathaniel before they ever met, that Jesus read his heart and said that Nathaniel was a fellow Jew in whom there is no guile, no hidden motive, honest and sincere. Jesus saw Nathniel and instantly knew he had no falsehood within him. Jesus seemed to overlook Nathaniel’s straightforward comment about Nazareth, that nothing much good can come out of that place. Nathaniel betrayed a bit of prejudice if not outright bias, and was skeptical that someone worthy of notice could come out of Nazareth. Jesus ignored that comment and perhaps saw it as something that can easily be changed.

Jesus seemed surprised that a simple miracle like seeing Nathaniel in a distant place under a fig tree would impress him so much. Do you think that’s a big deal, asks Jesus. You haven’t seen anything yet! You will soon be given the spiritual sight to see an open heaven, and I will join heaven and earth as the Son of Man. I will be just like Jacob’s ladder, Jesus is saying, when I am lifted up. You will see angels going up and down on this stairway, Nathaniel! You will see me join two worlds, heaven where God resides and earth where man dwells! I will turn Jacob’s ladder into my ladder, Nathaniel! Imagine that!

Nathaniel’s head must have been swimming with this word of prophecy from Jesus. Jesus is the Son of Man as prophesied in Daniel? I will see angel going up and down to heaven and back on Jesus as He joins heaven and earth? What could that possible mean? There is no doubt though, that the Holy Spirit reminded Nathaniel of this vision after the Cross and Resurrection and Ascension. Nathaniel finally knew just what Jesus was talking about all those years earlier when they first met. Nataniel saw Jesus lifted up from the earth on the Cross, and he knew that Jesus’ early revelation to him had been fulfilled.