Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
“Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.”
Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1.45-51)
One encounter leads to the next... and each one builds off of the last one.
Have you noticed that, too?
Philip, recruited by Jesus in the previous verses, goes and finds Nathanael. This time, the word "find" (according to the commentators) implies that Philip knew who he was looking for and searched diligently until he found him.
Philip immediately grabs his attention, announcing that he'd met the one Moses and the prophets had said would come, His name was Jesus, His earthly father was called Joseph and he was from Nazareth.
Nathanael doubts his friend, apparently because of Jesus' home town. Nazareth was a tiny town, poor, totally off the beaten track, probably only 20-30 families living there... It was one of those places where everyone knew everyone and was pretty sure they knew everything about everyone. On top of that, this tiny village was the despised place in Galilee, which was the despised region of Israel. So, saying Jesus was from Nazareth was not exactly the most effective encouragement to get others to stop and take notice.
Occasionally, God works the way I expect. But only occasionally.
More often, He chooses what I'd choose last... if I would have even, ever considered it as as the merest of possibilities. God does this over and over and over again, all throughout history. And yet we live in a world that repeatedly preaches, "If I can't understand God's purposes, means and methods... if I can't make it make sense in my mind, He must not be real, or powerful, or intimately involved in the day to day life of men... or a thousand other excuses."
Why is it that so many, when they can't make God fit into the box or mold they've designed for Him, choose instead to discount, doubt or even deny His very existence?
Thankfully, Philip doesn't get defensive. He simply, calmly invites his friend to check it out and make his own decision. I can learn from Philip's example. Rather than bristle when a friend or acquaintance doubts that of which I'm convinced, feeling a personal attack on my being and then taking aim to fire back, I can simply, calmly, invite that person to further investigate for themselves.
After all, it isn't my responsibility to convince... only to lovingly invite.
Nathanael doesn't just automatically dismiss Philip's claim, either. He's willing to come and meet Jesus. As Nathanael draws near to the Lord, Jesus makes one of those statements that has, for years, left me scratching my head.
“Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is no guile.”
A bit befuddling. Of all the things Jesus might have said, why did he say that? Nathanael may have been guile-less... but was he gullible? Otherwise, what about that particular statement instantly convinced Nathanael of Jesus' authenticity?
Until just the last week, I just chalked it up to omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence and went on without much further thought. And that still, probably, is part of the reason. But I also read something while researching that really resonates.
In my opinion, the key words in Jesus' statement are true and guile - they are, essentially, opposites. Several translations, in fact, use the word false instead of the word guile. True (demonstrably valid and therefore genuine, reflecting reality) is the polar opposite of guile (deceit or trickery, using bait to allure and "hook" people, especially those already festering in excessive, emotional pain; use of decoys to snare or deceive people, implying treachery to exploit the naive and undiscerning; baiting others through/with/by their own greed).
What could Jesus have meant by a "true" Israelite? Some commentators feel that outside of Jesus, the best representative, in God's eyes, of what He wanted to see in His people was David, the man described as "a man after God's own heart." So it is interesting to go back and see what David had to say about the word guile.
Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD
imputeth not iniquity,
and in whose spirit
there is no guile.
Here's the entire passage, (NLT), for a better idea of the context:
Oh, what joy for those whose disobedience is forgiven, whose sin is put out of sight! Yes, what joy for those whose record the LORD has cleared of guilt, whose lives are lived [completely and totally without guile]. When I refused to confess my sin, my body wasted away, and I groaned all day long. Day and night your hand of discipline was heavy on me. My strength evaporated like water in the summer heat. Finally, I confessed all my sins to you and stopped trying to hide my guilt. I said to myself, “I will confess my rebellion to the LORD.” And you forgave me! All my guilt is gone. Therefore, let all the godly pray to you while there is still time, that they may not drown in the flood waters of judgment. For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. The LORD says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life. I will advise you and watch over you. Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.” Many sorrows come to the wicked, but unfailing love surrounds those who trust the LORD. So rejoice in the LORD and be glad, all you who obey him! Shout for joy, all you whose hearts are pure!
Any Israelite, any student of the Old Testament, would have been intimately familiar with those words penned by David after his sin with Bathsheba and the resulting chain of deceitful and dark events. Is it possible that these were the words that immediately popped into Nathanael's mind when he heard Jesus' welcoming description?
Nathanael immediately asks - perhaps not rudely, but without using any title or term of respect, "How do you know me?" In the Greek, however, the sense of that question is more accurately, "From where do you know me?" That makes sense - Nathanael's doubts about Jesus' identity, as far as is revealed in the Biblical text, center on the fact that Jesus is a Nazarene. So he's curious and wants to know in what locale Jesus might be familiar with him... as based off of the comments exchanged so far, Nathanael knows they've not met in or around Nazareth.
Jesus replies "I saw you under the fig tree..." In the Greek, that word clearly incorporates the idea of "attending to..." Jesus could have actually said to Nathanael: "I waited on, assisted and served you when you were under the fig tree."
When I look at that in conjunction with words that quite probably would have immediately sprung to Nathanael's mind when Jesus described him as true and without guile, I have to wonder if Jesus wasn't saying to Nathanel:
"I know you. We just spent time together under the fig tree. You sought my presence there. You desired and asked forgiveness for your sins, wanting a clean, pure heart in the Almighty's eyes. I have that power and I did. Your sins were forgiven then and there. You know that. You just don't recognize me as the One Who attended to your need there, in that intimate moment, that holy place."
I like to think this was what Nathanael understood, for he immediately changed his tune. His acceptance of Jesus was immediate and complete and unquestioning, identifying Him as the Son of God and the King of Israel.
|(image retrieved from http://www.storypoint.info/eph4one/?p=708)|
There is no way for me to know if the scene described above it what actually happened, but wouldn't that be just like Jesus? Gently, reminding Nathanael of a moment to which no one else was privy, the infinitely freeing and wonderful moment when the burden of sin and guilt, of deceitful keeping of appearances to remain respected in community, of wishing he could be someone on his own he knew he could never be? Nathanael had already encountered Jesus in his heart and in his spirit.
Now was the moment when he encountered Him, for the very first time, face to face.
As I've rested in that thought throughout the week, a chorus keeps playing and replaying in my mind:
Oh, what a moment, when we see Jesus;
When we stand face to face in His embrace;
And thank Him for amazing grace,
Oh! what a moment, when we see Him.
Could this have been how it happened? What do you think?
Share about a time when you suddenly "saw" Jesus
and His Presence wasn't what you'd imagined it would be like,
but you knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that
it was Him.
this week's gratitude list:
(#'s 3374 - 3395)
seeing Jesus in ways I never dreamed, in places I never expected
18 years today
remembering our Christmas wedding
celebrating our amazing 8 year old's special day...
....and remembering, once again this year, what an awesome anniversary gift that little Jon-man is
school's out for a month
watching people enjoy our contagiously happy and affectionate Elsie Mae when she's in her element
movies and ice cream socials
successfully returning excess to get money back
a brand new to me bright pink and purple plaid flannel shirt that is perfectly cozy to wear in the somewhat cooler "winter" weather
dreaming about an anniversary get-away this week, even if we can't make it happen
a meeting that could have been bad, but ended up beautiful
Kenny Rogers Christmas albums playing from Itunes
watching old stop-animation Christmas specials I remember from my childhood - and seeing my kids enjoy them just as I did
sappy, silly but fun for the kids Christmas movies playing at the Rec Center
clearing up a nasty skin infection without having to resort to antibiotics (hot salt water soaks and honey worked wonders!)
time to blog and write for the next few weeks without feeling even the least bit guilty or sleepy
Posts in this series: