Jesus asked questions while he was here on earth. Many of the questions he asked go largely unexamined. Maybe we don’t think the questions he asked were important, or at least important to us personally. I assure you however, that as you examine his questions, many of them are penetrating and pinpointed to us today. We simply need to look at them a little bit differently.
The question we are looking at here for this post is when Jesus asks Nathanael in John 1:50; “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?”
Jesus is in the midst of calling his disciples to follow him and he had just called Philip to follow him. Philip follows Jesus and is so excited about the prospect that he invites his friend Nathanael to follow Jesus as well. Nathanael was skeptical about Jesus because Philip stated he was from Nazareth. Nazareth was not a “high class” town, in fact many would consider it a town that was “on the wrong side of the tracks”. It is an honest question then that Nathanael asks of Philip when he asks: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth”? (vs. 46). He wasn’t as eager to throw his lot in with a Nazarene as Philip seemed to be, so he asks a harsh but honest question. Jesus was not there physically with the two men during this exchange, but he knew what transpired. His knowledge of this conversation then prompts him to say of Nathanael when he comes near: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”
Nathanael knew he had never met Jesus before, so he’s put off by this statement. He probably was thinking along the lines of: “This Nazarene is pretending to know me…I knew this was whack. Philip, why’d you bring me to this crazy weird guy?!?” He doesn’t however declare these thoughts, but he asks Jesus: “How do you know me?”. Jesus then declares he saw him under the fig tree before Philip called him. In essence he told Nathanael that he saw the whole exchange he had with Philip and was there, not physically but yet he still saw it.
This miraculous display shocked Nathanael. Nathanael knew he was skeptical of Jesus because of Jesus’ origin, and he was then confronted with the fact that Jesus knew of his skepticism as well. He saw the power of Jesus and was amazed. We know this because he declared: “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”. He recognized Jesus’ true identity because of Jesus ability to know what transpired.
Jesus then asked the question: “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe?” In other words: “That’s why you believed?”. Jesus could have pulled a parlor trick to get that that information. He could’ve followed Philip, or asked Philip to share what happened so he could catch Nathanael off guard. He didn’t but, that was nothing compared to what Jesus would show them. In fact Jesus continues: “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.”
Jesus in this passage basically states: “You haven’t seen anything yet!”. There is also a hint of rebuke in this little portion of scripture that I think many of us miss when we simply just read quickly through it. The rebuke to Nathanael is to not be content with a small miracle, but to continuously expect more. Jesus desired that Nathanael, as he followed Him, would embrace a higher expectancy. What Jesus just displayed was miraculous, but he wanted to challenge Nathanael not to grow content with just that small instance because God is capable of more and will do more.
I think this rebuke is for us as well. I feel for too long, many Christians have grown content and comfortable with small miracles, when God desperately desires to do more in our midst. We too should embrace a higher expectancy. God declares in His Word the things he is going to do, so we should expect Him to do them! Expecting God to do what he says is not “testing” God, it is simply having faith and believing God to do what he says he will! Why have we embraced contentment so deeply in our walk with the Lord rather than looking at His promises and expectantly waiting for them to happen?
We must be challenged with this question to Nathanael…because it is a question directed to us as well.