God With Us

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John records for us how those first disciples came into contact with Jesus. The episode with Nathanael is particularly interesting. Philip, after meeting Jesus personally, went to find his friend, Nathanael, to tell him that he had found the Messiah. Nathanael was skeptical but went along out of curiosity. When Jesus saw him, the Lord identified him as a “true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false” (John 1:47). That resonated with Nathanael. The conversation provided the tipping point that brought this “true Israelite” into Jesus’ first circle of followers.

‘How do you know me?’ Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, ‘I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.’” (1:48).

It seems obvious that whatever Philip was thinking while under that tree had something to do with why Jesus would identify him as a true Israelite in whom there was no falsehood. Recently I was at an event where the speaker “suggested” that she had some special insight into the needs of certain people in her audience. She went around the room and in vague terms delivered “a prophetic word” to these people. Anyone could have done it, prophet or not. In Nathanael’s case, anyone could be found at some point sitting under a tree since fig trees were common in that part of the world, so Jesus would have been able to make a pretty good guess that Nathanael had been under one sometime in his life. But only One person could have known what Nathanael was thinking when he was under that tree!

The two statements combined convinced Nathanael that Jesus was the Messiah. “Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (1:49).

I got to thinking about Jesus’ statement. Here we have a powerful testimony to the deity of Christ. Just as He knew Nathanael, the Lord sees whatever “fig tree” I’m sitting under. But better than that, He knows what I’m thinking while I’m there. He knows my heart better than I know it myself. Jesus may have limited Himself physically while He wore “skin” for us, but there was nothing limited about His divine ability to see into the hearts and minds of men.

When the angels announced the birth of Christ, they said that His name would be Immanuel, or “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Nathanael recognized that. And, though I know my thoughts and the secrets of my heart are not always pure, Jesus sees and knows.

God with me.

A very good thing.

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