Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth.” But Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him.” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, I saw you under the fig tree.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” And he said to him, “Amen, amen, I say to you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:45-51)
Today’s Gospel has one central message but needs the context explained to grasp it.
So, let’s talk about Nathaniel and the fig tree.
Nazareth was at the crossroads of the ancient world where people from different cultures and religions would pass through. It’s very possible that Nathaniel thought that religious teachers from Galilea were not orthodox enough in their understanding and interpretation of the law of Moses.
When Philip brought Nathanael to Jesus, Jesus did something which only God could do! He opened Nathanael’s heart and his innermost thoughts and desires to God’s revelation.
For the people of Israel, the fig tree was a symbol of God’s peace and blessing It provided shade from the midday sun and a cool refreshing place to retreat, pray, and reflect on God’s word. Rabbis often gathered their disciples under the shade of the fig tree to teach them the wisdom and revelation of God’s word in the Scriptures.
It is very likely that Nathanael had been thinking about God’s word while sitting “under his fig tree” and reflecting on God’s promise to send a Messiah King who would free his people from sin and oppression and usher in God’s kingdom of righteousness and peace for the whole world. Through the gift of revelation Nathanael recognized that Jesus was truly the Messiah, the everlasting “Son of God and King of Israel” (John 1:49).
The Lord Jesus offered Nathanael the greatest gift of all – the gift of friendship with God and the offer of free access to God’s throne in heaven.
Jesus’ death on the cross, where he defeated sin and won new life for us through his resurrection, opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his adopted sons and daughters.
This is how much that Jesus loves us. This is the kind of bond that Jesus establishes with us. Jesus does not love us from the outside, stepping into our life now and then to help us with this and that. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who knows us as his own and who lays down his life for us. Jesus loves us from the inside, knowing who we are, remembering how our relationship began and then developed, understanding our every doubt, hope and fear. Jesus loves us from the inside. He knows our heart.
And what this means is that we can turn to Jesus when we cannot turn to anyone else. When, even after years of marriage, your spouse still does not understand why a particular friend means so much to you, Jesus understands. When others wonder why you are not yet over grieving the loss of a person you love, Jesus does not wonder. He knows your soul. When even you cannot explain why you are unable to forgive someone who has hurt you, Jesus knows your pain and is already moving you toward forgiveness.
Jesus loves us from the inside. That kind of love does not promise that every phase of our life will be easy. it does not assure us that every good thing we attempt will be successful. But the love of Jesus promises this: He will hold onto us with a strength that nothing can break and walk with us faithfully, until we reach the other side.
Prayer of The Day
“Heavenly Father, through your Son Jesus Christ, you have opened the way to heaven for each one of us. As you personally revealed yourself to your beloved patriarchs and apostles, so reveal yourself to me that I may recognize your presence with me and know the power of your kingdom at work in my life. May I always find joy and peace in your presence and never lose sight of your everlasting kingdom.”
Christ’s heart is deeply moved by our acts of faith in him, despite any prior reservations or doubts we may have had. He knows whom he chooses, and he longs for intimate friendship with us. When Nathanael acknowledged who Christ was, Jesus showed him where he longed to take him—to be with him in heaven: “You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Everything in our life is just an excuse to draw us closer to God in this life, and ultimately into the next. Nathanael’s life was challenging, and he would lay down his life through a brutal death. But as he looks back on his life from heaven, he knows well that it was worth it to make the choice to follow Jesus that day.