(Good News Series – Part 1)
By Lauren M.
“Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ 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.'” (John 1:47-48, ESV)
“Nobody understands me!” is such a popular phrase that it should have its own Facebook fan page. Potential fans would be children who feel frustrated because no one takes them seriously, teenagers who feel angsty because their parents don’t understand the changes they are going through, adults who feel overworked and underappreciated by their family and co-workers, and (tech-savvy) senior citizens who feel neglected or taken for granted by the people around them.
Even as we journey back to ancient Israel, we can encounter people who feel misunderstood. Nathanael is one of them. He seemed flabbergasted when he realized that Jesus truly knew him and understood him. Why? Perhaps it’s because most of the people in his community did not. Maybe his villagemates considered him as an oddball because he was so different from them. Instead of joining the other males when they went fishing or when they chatted with cute Jewish maidens, introspective Nathanael preferred to sit under a fig tree and think. And since he was the first person his friend Philip hunted down after he found Jesus, we can safely guess that a good number of Nathanael’s thoughts were about the coming Messiah.
Jesus penetrated to the core of Nathanael’s being. He saw beyond the weirdness and quirks of this daydreamer. He didn’t even scold Nathanael for doubting if anything good could come out of Nazareth (John 1:46), which was Jesus’ hometown, because He knew the true intention of his heart. Jesus knew that the man under the fig tree was not perfect but He understood that he sincerely sought after God and that he was waiting for the true Messiah of Israel. That’s probably why, in spite of Nathanael’s imperfections, Jesus declared him to be a true Israelite.
Because of this, Nathanael knew for certain that Jesus was the Son of God and he wasted no time in following Him (it is traditionally believed that Nathanael is the same person as Bartholomew, one of Jesus’ twelve apostles).
When the people around you don’t always seem to understand you even if they do genuinely care for you (and even if, like me, you don’t even understand yourself sometimes!), it’s reassuring to know that at least one Person does. Jesus sees you and He knows you, perhaps even better than you know yourself.