Philip told Nathanael he had discovered the Messiah, the fulfillment of God’s promises through Moses and the prophets (John 1:41). The skeptical Nathanael approaches the Christ and hears the Master call him “guileless,” a true descendant of Jacob ( Israel ). Taken by surprise, the young man wants to know how Jesus got inside him (1:48), and Jesus told him he knew what was going on within him when he (Nathanael) was under the fig tree doing what Jews often did—reflecting. At this, Nathanael is thunderstruck and confesses Jesus to be the Son of God and King of Israel (1:49).
What was there in Jesus’ remark that struck Nathanael so hard? He realized Jesus had read his thoughts. He had been reflecting on Jacob ( Israel ), a man of guile, and when Jesus mentioned “Israelite” and “guile,” it struck Nathanael. But when Christ told him he knew what he had been thinking under the tree, the young man’s suspicion was confirmed, and the confession followed. But imagine how it must have smitten Nathanael when Christ went on to say, “You think that astonishing? What will you think when you discover that I was the one you were thinking about? That I am the fulfillment of all the longings Jacob’s dream embraces? That I am the assurance that God is with the wanderers and homeless even when they have created their own troubles? That I am the ladder by which messages go up to God, and I am the means by which the word of God comes to man?”
Later, Christ will say that Abraham saw His day and was glad (John 8), and here we’re being told that Jacob saw His day and didn’t know it. When Nathanael approached Jesus with his skeptical, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth ?” he too was ignorant. Jesus is always doing that, isn’t he? He’s always surprising people with joy, always making them glad they get to know Him, and always fulfilling our dreams even when we don’t know he’s doing it. We think he’s fine now, but what will we think when we see Him in all His glory, and He makes us share in it?
-Ty Nichol, Kemp church of Christ, Kemp, IL; Kemp; via THE SOWER, a weekly publication of the Arthur church of Christ, Arthur, IL. Ron Bartanen, who serves as minister and editor, may be contacted through the congregation's website: http://www.arthurchurchofchrist.com