Scripture: John 1:43-51
43 The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. And he found Philip and said to him, “Follow me.” 44 Now Philip was from Beth-sa’ida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathan’a-el, and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” 46 Nathan’a-el said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathan’a-el coming to him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” 48 Nathan’a-el said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathan’a-el answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” 51 And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man.”
Meditation: How can one know for certain that Jesus is truly the Son of God and Savior of the world? Philip, a new disciple of Jesus, at first failed to convince his friend Nathaniel that he had found the Messiah. Nathanial was very skeptical. He didn’t like Nazareth and didn’t want to have anything to do with people who came from such a place. How could the Messiah come from a town at the crossroads with gentiles and people of other religions? Perhaps we are like Nathanial. We reject others out of rivalry or prejudice, or we keep them at a distance because we find fault with something about them, whether it be their manners, dress, customs, associations, or whatever we dislike about them and their kind. Rather than argue with his friend, Philip took the wiser strategy of inviting Nathaniel to “come and see” for himself who this Jesus claimed to be. Clever arguments rarely win people to the gospel, but a genuine encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can transform one’s life forever.
Nathaniel was amazed that Jesus already knew him and called him “an Israelite in whom is no guile” (Psalm 32:2). How could Jesus know his heart and his deepest thoughts and desires? Jesus spoke a word to Nathaniel and it set his heart ablaze with wonder! Nathaniel was hungry for knowledge of God. He really wanted to know God personally. God places in every heart a longing and desire to know the One who created us in love for love. That is why Saint Augustine of Hippo, who found God only after many years of wandering in disbelief and darkness, exclaimed in his autobiographical Confessions: “You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”
What is the significance of Jesus’ revelation of seeing Nathanial under the fig tree? For the Israelites, the fig tree was a symbol of God’s blessing and peace. It provided shade from the midday sun and a cool place to retreat and pray. It is very likely that Nathanial had meditated “under the fig tree” on the Messianic prophecies and prayed for their fulfillment in his time. Perhaps he dozed off for a midday nap and dreamed of God’s kindgom like Jacob did when he saw a vision of the ladder which united earth with heaven (see Genesis 28:12-17). Nathaniel accepted Jesus as Messiah and Lord because Jesus spoke to the need of his innermost being – the desire to know God personally and to be united with him in his glory. Jesus’ response to Nathanial’s new faith is the promise that he himself will be the “ladder which unites earth with heaven”. God had opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God. In Jacob’s dream God revealed his angelic host and showed him the throne of heaven and promised Jacob that he and descendants would dwell with the living God.
Jesus proclaims to Nathanial that he himself is the fulfillment of this promise to the Patriarch Jacob. Jesus is the true ladder or stairway to heaven. In Jesus’ incarnation, the divine Son of God taking on human flesh for our sake, we see the union of heaven and earth – God making his dwelling with us and bringing us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom. Jesus’ death on the Cross and his Resurrection opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his sons and daughters. The Lord Jesus opens the way for each of us to “ascend to heaven” and to bring “heaven to earth” in the daily circumstances of our lives. God’s kingdom is present in those who seek him and who do his will. Do you pray as Jesus taught, May your kingdom come and your will be done in earth as it is in heaven?
“Heavenly Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, you have opened the way to heaven for us. As you revealed yourself to your beloved Patriarchs and Apostles, so reveal yourself to me that I may glorify you in my daily life. May I always find joy in your presence and never lose sight of the kingdom of heaven.”
1 Make a joyful noise to the LORD, all the lands!
2 Serve the LORD with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!
3 Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him, bless his name!
5 For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures for ever, and his faithfulness to all generations.