If you weren’t there you wouldn’t have believed it! Who could have? Nothing like this had ever happened.
As the news spread from village to village it didn’t take long for the whole region of Galilee to be swept up in the fervor. By the time it spread to the village of Capernaham, even the busy fishermen around the sea had become aware of the supernatural event. Galilee was aflame with news that the promised Messiah of Israel had been found and was heading their way.
The news was sensational! A miraculous event had taken place. An audible voice had been heard from the sky above, and a great light in the bodily form of a dove, had descended upon Jesus of Nazareth. What did it mean?
This was astonishing information, and it spread like wild fire throughout the region. But unless you had been there to experience the event firsthand, it would have been hard to accept wholeheartedly.
Supernatural experiences are far removed from the day to day humdrum effects of the present world. This is why human beings are normally unable to warm to the idea of a world beyond the physical. The bias of the present negates the consideration of something beyond. Even the “suggestion” of a world beyond is far to foreign. After all the hear and now is home base. It is a fact of life, therfore, that there is a natural default and reset to the temporal. Even when there is a modicum of interest, the physical mortal existence swallows up the spiritual.
Furthermore, once a person is tapped with any experiential knowledge of the dimension beyond, relating the spiritual realm to another person is a difficult chore; a stressful circumstance. The spiritual dimension and the physical world are simply incompatable. They do not co-exist peacefully. When they encounter each other it is as though two planets are in collision. It can be a bitter pill, a difficult interaction to say the least. The sensational news, that came to Galilee was beyond the scope of normal experience, and to those of the region was earth shaking. And yet it was somewhat entreatable because for hundreds of years it had been foretold by their prophets. The people had been set up and prepared.
It wasn’t just John, though. Other witnesses were saying the same thing, and testifying that they too had heard a powerful voice and had seen the “amazing light” come down. Was this the news that all Israel had been waiting for?
The Hebrew people had long heard of the prophesies about a Messiah who would come and restore the Kingdom of David. They were cautiously optimistic, but after centuries of waiting slightly hopeful but not sure what to expect.
Would they too see “confirming signs” that this was He? They wanted proof. They needed to see. Nonetheless, with guarded hope they were primed.
It was common knowledge the prophecies had foretold “a star” would rise out of Jacob and He would come to restore the Kingdom of David. It was because of the prophecies that there was a hope and expectancy attending the minds of the people.
It appeared this was a possibility, perhaps the very “reality” they had been waiting for. After hearing the news and John speak, the people were anxious, but had no clue as to the superntural intrusion which was about to break on them.
It wasn’t difficult, though, to convince Andrew and his brother Simon this Jesus was He. They didn’t need signs and wonders; they immediately began to follow Him. Then there was the third, Nathanael!
Perhaps it was his mannerism or his countenance. Nathanael had a nature about him that Jesus could see into as He observed him standing under the fig tree. What a perfect location in which to be discovered, under a “fig tree.”
From the onset little thought is given to the significance of the “fig tree.” It was just a another tree. There were many fig trees but the significance of the fig tree would take on tremendous physical, metaphorical and symbolic meaning.
After his introduction, Nathanael disappeared from any prominence in the story. He was brought forward, but soon thereafter disappears from sight. There are few superstars in God’s economy, and Nathanael becomes conspicuously absent. He blends in and is just a periferal character. He was just an average normal guy same as most people. Everyone can relate with Nathanael and he represents the bystander. We are all, in a figure of speech, observers, but nonetheless waiting to be discovered under that “fig tree.” We are all Nathanael in the story.
Jesus had an extraordinary ability. He possessed a kind of spiritually penetrating vision. His supernatural gifting manifested continuously, over and over again. He could see into the “spirit” realm, whether into time, space, matter, angels, demons, people, or events. He could see with far reaching spirtual clarity. Jesus had far away eyes. When He spoke, He spoke from the perspective of His gifting. There was a depth of perception, and when He spoke He seemed to be speaking from another dimension. A “spiritual word” would come forth from Him. It was continuous and it was evident throughout His presence on the earth. No doubt the source of the gifting was from the light that had come down upon Him. Christ could see well beyond the human condition of the frozen physical realm. In fact he could see into infinity. He could see into the “fluid spiritual dimension.”
At first Nathanael was seen at a distance, standing under the “fig tree.” The fact that he was seen under a “fig tree” appears at first inconsequential and insignifcant. Nevertheless, Nathanael’s calling along with the introduction of the “fig tree” had deep symbolic, and most importantly spiritual importance. It would represent the context for a powerful message.
As far as Nathanael’s outer appearance was concerned, he could hardly be distinguished from the other simple fishermen who frequented the docks. There was something about Nathanael that was unique, and Jesus standing at a distance with his spiritual depth of vision saw it. When the face to face encounter finally took place, Jesus characterized Nathanael as, “an Israelite in whom there was no guile.”
Nathanael and the people from the north were far different then the pretentious and aloof city dwellers of Jerusalem. They were especially far removed from the know it all intellectuals of the priestly class who also dwelt in the big city. Jesus sought out the simple teachable and trainable people of Galilee, and Nathanael was one who stood out to Him. There was a simplicity, yet uprightness, a straight forwardness, an honesty in Nathanael. Nathanael was a teachable man. He could be trained. These traits made him a candidate to be one of the select group of the twelve disciples.
When Nathanael inquired how Jesus had already known him, he was told that He had seen him under the “fig tree.”
The fact that he was being observed by Jesus, the present hope of the promised Messiah, was an overwhelming thought to the simple fisherman.
His exclamation, “Rabbi thou art the “Son of God” thou are the King of Israel,” in light of how little he knew of Christ was extraordinary.
Nevertheless, Nathanael was completely taken by the possibility that He was being singled out. The idea that he might be a candidate for some divine purpose by the Messiah of Israel was beyond belief. His emotions took over.
Christ responded, “because I said I saw you under the “fig tree” you believe?” “You shall see greater things then these.”
What a loaded statement! Only time would tell the extraordinary reality of the promise. It was at the very beginning when Jesus would disclose to him something which had never been promised before, not to any man. He was promised that he would see “heaven open” and the angels of God ascending and descending on the “son of man.” What? What exactly did this mean? It was a shocking promise. The idea of the promise would haunt him from time to time. It was a promise of something beyond this world, a transcendental revelation, a life changing potential.
But the “spiritual realm” is out of reach from human cognition. This is why it is so lightly regarded by human beings. The spiritual dimension for mortals is far removed from human credulity. Men and women are focused on the material here and now world, not the realm of the “spirit.”
The human mind is profoundly conditioned by the present physical world. Something, such as the promise made to Nathanael, was so “far out. ” His preoccupation with the present material realm made the promise seem surreal. It was impossible to grasp. Such is the spiritually impoverished state of the human race. It is unfortunate because the present physical world is transitory while the spiritual realm is eternal. And yet to transition from the physical to spiritual reality, there is need of change; a transformation must take place. In the short term for Nathanael, what was to happen over the preceeding three years would prepare him for the “heavenly promise.” There was need for a change, an arch of change. The existential promise would have to take a back seat to the more immediate need.
For him to encounter and reach “the promise,” it would require a process. Nathanael had to be prepared for the ultimate reality. He would have to undergo a transformation and reversal of his earthly mind’s programming. What was in store over the next three years would, out of necessity, transform his thinking.
For the time being, the ultimate promise for the supernatural revelation of angels ascending and descending would be pushed to the back of his mind. He would have to wait, and undergo a spiritual surgery.