We all want to be seen, noticed, and really, truly acknowledged. It starts with raising our hands in school, eager to be called upon by our teachers, and turns into butterfly-inducing awkward eye contact with our middle school crush, until before we know it we are pining after “likes” on social media and racing to the top of the corporate ladder.
With eternity set in our hearts, we ache to be known and loved by our Creator. We live our lives looking at God and saying “Hello? Do you see me down here? Am I doing a good job?” If only He would give us a wink or a thumbs up or something. And when He doesn’t give us the attention we think we deserve, we throw our own version of a temper tantrum and go on spitefully rebelling in sin. Accustomed to instant gratification and lots of positive reinforcement, we are often impatient and flat-out needy.
In John chapter 1, Jesus calls his disciples and we get a glimpse of the God-given personal attention we all long for. In Galilee, Jesus finds Phillip, who then proceeds to tell his friend, Nathanael, about the Christ.
John 1:45-46 Philip found Nathanael 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.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.”
It sounds like Phillip and Nathanael were good friends, and they probably studied the Scriptures together based on Phillip’s mention of the Law of Moses and writings of the prophets. He implies that Jesus is the One they have been anxiously waiting for, the Messiah. And so, Nathanael is skeptical, but he trusts Phillip enough to go check out whoever this Jesus guy is.
John 1:47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Wow! Jesus looks at Nathanael and calls him an honest, righteous man. The One who knew no sin calls him ” a genuine son of Israel–a man of complete integrity,” as another translation reads. I wonder if Nathanael was so flattered and red-faced with embarrassment that he couldn’t help but ask the following question.
John 1:48 Nathanael 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.”
I have echoed Nathanael’s same words in prayer many times. “How do you know me?” It’s hard to believe that a God so big could care about an individual so small. But, nevertheless, He does. He numbers the hairs on our heads and He sees us in our most private moments, struggles, and fears. The phrase “under the fig tree” was a euphemism for studying Scripture, however some scholars believe that Nathanael was literally meditating and reading God’s Word under the fig tree mentioned in this passage. This figure of speech likely originated because many Jewish families would plant fig trees near their homes. It was customary to live in a multi-generational environment, so the shadow of a fig tree was a common place of solitude, an escape from the heat, and the source of a sweet snack! The significance of all this really lies in the following verse, where Nathanael immediately responds by proclaiming Jesus to be the Son of God.
John 1:49-51 Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And he said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.
Divine insight was enough for Nathanael to marvel at Jesus and yet He promises that we will see greater things than this! By the Lord’s design, we are known and loved so that others may come to know and love Him. For those who are not Christians, I pray that if you feel the Lord tugging at your heart or whispering in your ear, you would respond in prayer or study, allowing the Spirit to move. Just like any earthly relationship, because God loves us, He wants to communicate with us, often through His written Word. Make your requests known to Him and take comfort in knowing that He sees all of you and is still jealous for your affection.
1 Corinthians 8:3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.