Thursday, February 09, 2017
Remember the “Fig Tree”
By Rick Blumenberg
Skeptical of Jesus
When first Phillip and then Jesus called Nathanael to be a disciple Nathanael was a skeptic. The experience of which I write is found in the first chapter of John’s Gospel. Phillip went to Nathanael and said, “We have found him…Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” And Nathanael answered with an attitude of doubt and firm skepticism; “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” But in spite of his skepticism, Nathanael went with Phillip to meet Jesus and his skepticism was met with a greeting by Jesus that thoroughly baffled Nathanael but would beautifully change his life so he would never be the same.
Jesus said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.”
Nathanael responded by asking Jesus, “How do you know me?”
I’m not sure what Nathanael’s response meant. Was he saying ‘You don’t even know me. How could you know whether or not I’m a deceitful person?’ Or, perhaps Nathanael knew that he really was a truly honest man and he wondered how Jesus, whom he had never met, could possibly know this about him. Then Jesus answered Nathanael’s question with a statement that has never made sense to me. He said,
“Before Phillip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
I never understood the “fig tree”
My question has always been, “What could Jesus possibly mean by this statement?”
This morning in my prayer time I read the first chapter of the Gospel of John and I believe God’s Holy Spirit revealed the meaning to me. At least it works for me. Read on and see what you think about it.
Have you ever had an experience with God where you received a spiritual insight but you weren’t sure what it meant? And then later, when something happened, or you heard a comment, a sermon, or a song, it reminded you of that former spiritual insight when you were at a certain place or time of life and you understood what had heretofore been totally incomprehensible? That’s what I now call
“Remembering the Fig Tree”.
Possibly Nathanael had a place under his fig tree where he liked to go and relax, or maybe to spend time in prayer, scripture reading and meditation. Sometimes the fig tree experiences of our lives are planned by us and at other times they are total serendipity. Possibly in one of those “fig tree” times God revealed to Nathanael that he was going to experience something special. Or maybe he even told Nathanael in his heart and mind, that he would personally meet the long-predicted Messiah. Perhaps when it did not happen quickly Nathanael totally forgot the experience.
But when Jesus said, “I saw you under the fig tree….” God’s Spirit reminded Nathanael of that experience and suddenly he “knew” with an assurance that was certain, what that experience was about. So he said excitedly and without hesitation,
“Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus is the Messiah!
We can’t know for sure, but perhaps somehow God had prepared Nathanael for Jesus’ appearance. And when Jesus spoke those (to us incomprehensible words) they sparked a memory and a longing in Nathanael’s heart to receive the coming Messiah. He remembered that fig tree experience and suddenly he knew with no doubt that Jesus was that long-awaited Messiah.
Our own “Fig Tree experiences”
I believe all of us have “Fig Tree Experiences”. Moments when God speaks in the quiet place of the heart in a way we don’t fully understand. Or we may have no idea what it means or where it came from. But God is preparing us for a time when he will speak more clearly and we will know without doubt it is God and know with inexplicable certainty that God is speaking to us about something very important.
Those “Fig Tree Experiences” prepare us to meet Jesus in a new or special way and are God’s way to assure us they are valid. Often skeptics think believers accept God’s leadership with blind faith, but in truth we are all skeptics and God understands. He gives those fig tree experiences so when he is ready to work in our lives we can “Remember the Fig Tree” experience and be assured He is speaking.
God still speaks
God is alive. He constantly communicates with us, but often we don’t listen. Or perhaps we don’t understand. So we brush it off and go on with our lives.
I challenge everyone who reads this to (and pray that all those billions who will never read anything I write, will) understand that God is ready to reveal himself to you. That you will remember the fig tree experience(s) of your life and know God is real and speaks truth to you just as surely as he spoke truth to Nathanael on that long ago day when God walked the earth in skin and bones, as Jesus.
I’m Rick Blumenberg and that’s “My View from Tanner Creek.”