John 1:47 - 50
NIV - 47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, "Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit. 48 "How do you know me?" Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, "I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you."
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Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile! [An Israelite indeed.] Compare it with Isaiah 63:8. "I saw thee (saith Christ) when thou wert under the fig tree." What doing there? Doubtless not sleeping, or idling away his time, much less doing any ill thing. This would not have deserved so remarkable an encomium as Christ gave him. We may therefore suppose him, in that recess under the fig tree, as having sequestered himself from the view of men, either for prayer, meditation, reading, or some such religious performance; and so indeed from the view of men, that he must needs acknowledge Jesus for the Messiah for that very reason, that, when no mortal eye could see, he saw and knew that he was there. Our Saviour, therefore, calls him an "Israelite indeed, in whom there was no guile," because he sought out that retirement to pray, so different from the usual craft and hypocrisy of that nation, that were wont to pray publicly, and in the streets, that they might be seen of men.
This passage takes the focus of the human aspect of the situation at hand and places it solely on the Lord Himself. This passage is a very early evidence of the Deity of Christ in 2 ways; 1) the supernatural/divine act of Jesus seeing Nathaniel and telling him about what he was doing and the Lord was not in his (Nathaniel) physical presence imports that Jesus is more than just a human being and 2) the fact that Nathaniel was engaging in an act of worship to God clearly shows that Jesus in God for only He could know and be truely receptive to a TRUE WORSHIPER, as the Lord clearing denotes in His remarks to (and about) Nathaniel. The lessons here to note is simply these; JESUS is God in the FLESH and He knows who His TRUE followers are. Not all religious people are true worshipers and Jesus knows who is and who is not by how we live out our day to day life. Whatever the activity Nathaniel was engaged in under the fig tree it got Jesus (GOD's) attention even as the two (the Lord and Nathaniel) were not in the same physical location together. Jesus/God KNOWS!
As with the others I can only speculate why Jesus made mention of Nathanuel under the fig tree. I offer this. During those times the women would go out into the fields and gather the harvest and they would bring their little ones with them and would place them under the large leaves of the fig tree to protect them from the sun. So in essence what Jesus was saying to Nathanuel was that He had known him since he was baby. Nathanuel recognized this fact and it touched him deeply. Again this is purely a speculation that I read somewhere.
Have you ever heard the saying ripe for the picking? Nathaniel didn’t need to witness Jesus healing the blind, raising the dead, feeding the 5000 plus men, women and children all of those acts were just icing on the cake for him. He was ready to receive any word Jesus had to say as the Gospel truth. He didn’t need any prodding or priming he was just ready. On another note perhaps no one was around when Nathaniel was the fig tree, or perhaps Jesus saw Nathaniel doing something under the fig tree before Phillip came. At any rate Nathaniel was ready to receive the engrafted words of Jesus. Nathaniel was ripe for the picking as the old folks use to say.
Based on the preceding verses 45 and 46, Phillip had informed Nathanael he and others had. Met the Christ, Jesus. Later when Jesus recognizes Nathanael as he approached, Jesus' statement "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit" (John 1:47 NASB) could have been Jesus announcing His acknowledgement that Nathanael is honest and "tells it like he see it". Nathanael would recognize a person who had never met him before could not have know this about him. Jesus stating he saw him under the fig tree was probably a confirmation of this knowledge.
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