For me, the encounter of the Lord Jesus and Nathaniel was one of the most fascinating ones in Scripture. This man was able to get from the Savior a surprising declaration of approval about his faith and character. Although his participation as a disciple was short, in the verses where he is mentioned, he reveals himself to us.
When the Master saw Nathaniel, he gave him a compliment because, although he interacted with a lot of people, it was rare to find something of his value.
Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (John 1:47)
There, before the Lord, was a man who belonged to a selected group of sincere people, for in him there were no bad intentions, double mindedness, half promises and least of all a “showoff”.
He was not perfect, but he lived what he learned about faith. He did not boast holiness, but he sincerely showed daily in his life, his character, behaviour and words.
Perplexed with the statement of our Master, he asked where the Lord Jesus knew him from. Surprising him once more He said:
Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” (John 1:48)
You may ask yourself, “Why a fig tree?” or “What did he do that was so special?”
Fig trees are common in Israel, and people easily had one in their patio. Its shade expands wide and that’s why some would use it to pray, read and meditate on the Scriptures there. However, the religious activism in Israel had infected almost everyone. Men sought to pray in plazas, in a loud voice and really energized; they were moved to the front places in the synagogues; they would exaggerate in their clothes and religious accessories; they liked to show off how much they knew of the Law. In other words, they did all these things with the wrong intention, the Almighty was not the center of their love and fear. Actually, they were hungry for privileges, human glory and popularity.
By appearance they were saints, but deep down they were frauds.
While all this was taking place profusely, Nathanael kept himself devoted to seeking the Lord as in the beginning of his faith. He was one of the few who delighted in discreet prayer, privately, and under the fig tree.
Perhaps you are reading this while facing days of affliction, contempt and humiliation. Like Nathanael, you want to uphold your faith and principles, and because of this, you are groaning.
Know something, under the fig tree, although it ise a solitary place, not easy, where you have no people clapping, no confetti, is the safest place in the world, that’s where the Lord Jesus sees, approves and rewards you!
Even if today you’re going against the tide, for many around you have left the fig tree to be in that “plazas” of human exhibition, you have the company of the One that does not make mistakes in distinguishing the true from the false. Men make mistakes, many times they think the hypocrite is true and that the truthful one is false.
So many deceits and pains would be avoided if we understood that true spirituality is not associated with our exterior “blah, blah, blah” but with a deep and intimate communion with God.
To finalize, it’s impossible for sincerity and hypocrisy to dwell within the same person. There is no middle ground with the Almighty, you’re either spiritual or fleshly, true or fake. Think about it!