Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.
Verse: Luke 19: 2-8, John 1:48, John 12
Do you remember this incident? Jesus had just arrived in town. Philip went looking for Nathanael and told him, “We found Jesus who might be the Christ. He’s from Galilee.” Nathanael’s response was a sarcastic “Can anything good come out of Galilee?”
A little background here. During Jesus’ lifetime there were four large religious parties: the Sadducees who were rational intellectuals and did not believe in spirits, angels, and the resurrection; the legalistic Pharisees who honored Scripture, the Law and the Prophets; the Zealots who had a militaristic spirituality, and the Essenes (also called The Way) who honored the Scriptures, hoped for the Messiah, and longed for the outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit as had occurred in the days of Elias and the school of the prophets. The first believers in Jesus came from these four branches and many were probably Essenes because Jesus not only called Himself The Way but the early Christians called their religion The Way.
We don’t know what “branch” Philip belonged to. Nor do we know what school of thought Nathanael was aligned with. But we do know that all the people sensed that they lived in prophetic times. It did not help matters that many false Messiahs had cropped up and had betrayed many hopes. The only good prospect of a possible Messiah was John the Baptist and John was saying that he wasn’t the Messiah. (Even now, there is still a small sect which believes that John was the Messiah.)
As he stood under the fig tree, Nathanael was probably as keen to listen to a new Messiah as anyone else in Cana. But this “Galilee” business would have surely made him raise his eyebrow. Galilee was such a non-Jewish kind of place. It had way too many Gentiles. It was cosmopolitan in the worse sense. And now he was being asked to listen to a supposed prophet who had a Galilean accent. He could hardly contain his disbelief.
It says a lot about Philip that Nathanael actually took him seriously. We all know people like Philip, people we respect much more than we respect the intellectuals among us, friendly types who are outgoing yet who seem to have a genuine love of their fellow men. Philip called quite a few people. (No wonder his daughters were also active in the early church.) In addition to calling Nathanael, Philip also called Andrew who called Peter. Philip may or may not have been one of the “super-apostles” but his outgoing personality was a ministry in and of itself.
When Nathanael meets Jesus, Jesus gives him an unasked for sign. The Savior and Creator of the world tells Nathanael that He had seen him long before Philip called him. Before Nathanael had claimed Jesus, Jesus had claimed him as his own.
Moral: God has called many. Yet although He wills that people come to Him, He has also appointed people to call those destined to be His. Here is a paradox: Would Peter have come to Christ if Philip had not called him? Who knows? Maybe Philip would have called another. Or maybe Peter would have been called to Christ by another. We do not know. What we do know, though, is that more people need to know Jesus. These are people under the fig tree, people Jesus has already seen at a distant.
Prayer: Dear Lord, there are so many people out there. You watch them in their daily life. You know that as they go about their daily lives they are looking for you. They don’t know that you have been watching them as they stand under the fig tree. They don’t know that you have appointed them to be part of your kingdom. But how can they know except someone preach to them? The harvest is white ready to harvest. Send laborers who will bring these Nathanaels to you, Lord. Help me to bring people to you, or --at least-- help me to bring them to someone who will bring them to you. Bless all the seeds you have given me to plant for you, Lord. Bless all the laborers. Bless all the harvest. Amen
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