Philip was pretty sure Jesus was Messiah. Nathanael? Not so much. Philip had met Jesus and encountered Him. Nathanael hadn’t. Understandably then, he was somewhat skeptical–his skepticism fueled by a couple of things. First, he could not recall anything in Scripture indicating that Messiah would be from Nazareth. Secondly, as far as cities go, Nazareth wasn’t anything to write home about–it was definitely the other side of the tracks. Thus his objection, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” And thus Philip’s charge to Nathanael, “Come and see” . . . check Him out . . . judge for yourself.
But who had really checked out who?
As Nathanael nears the Carpenter from Nazareth, Jesus gets pretty familiar pretty fast, “There’s a real Israelite, not a false bone in his body” (MSG). And I’m thinking it isn’t just what Jesus said but how He said it that set Nathanael back on his heels a bit. There was an authority. Something that conveyed that Jesus wasn’t guessing this to be true but really knew it to be true. A sense that not only did Jesus know this to be true, but that He knew a lot more about Nathanael than He was revealing at the moment. So Nathanael asks, “How do You know me?” And Jesus responds:
“Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
(John 1:48b ESV)
And that sealed the deal for Nathanael. Jesus of Nazareth had seen him when no one but God could. Jesus the son of Joseph had spoken words that indicated that He knew Nathanael from the inside out. And this skeptic’s response?
Nathanael answered him, Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!
(John 1:49 ESV)
And the three words that capture my thoughts this morning are Messiah’s declaration, “I saw you.”
Seen by the Son. Known by the Father. Searched through by the Spirit. No place to hide . . . no secrets that can be buried. “I saw you.”
And while I think this can be a pretty frightening concept to grasp–total transparency before a holy, holy, holy God–yet I find a measure of comfort in that these words true of Nathaniel are also true of me. Comfort, not because I’m squeaky clean and my house is all in order. The encouragement is not found in me thinking that there’s nothing I would rather He didn’t see, because there is stuff I wish wasn’t there. But it’s in the fact that it is Jesus who’s doing the seeing.
The Author of my salvation is the One who knows where I am and how I’m doing. The only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:14), is the One who knows those things that I wish weren’t there to be known. He whose blood was shed to cover all my sin knows my failures. It is God’s blessed Servant, He who “will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle” (Isa. 42:3 NLT), who knows my compromised state and the things I would just as soon keep hidden.
And there’s a sense in which I marvel that He would even want to see me “under the fig tree.” That He would care enough to know my goings and comings. That He would be interested in my walk . . . would take note of my talk . . . and would search and know the motives behind both. For, in so doing, it is not to judge and condemn, but that it would direct His on-going work of sanctification within me. It’s part of His divinely initiated transformation process. That Jesus would see us . . . and know us . . . and, as a Potter, uniquely shape us based on what He has determined for us to become.
The words of the Psalmist come to mind . . .
O LORD, You have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. . . . How precious to me are Your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! . . . Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!
(Psalm 139:1-3, 17, 23-24 ESV)
To know that Jesus sees us . . . how incredible is that? Pretty!
By His grace. For His glory.