Have you ever waited? Perhaps at a specific location? We probably all have. But what if what we are waiting for is not immediate? What if it takes time to arrive? What then? Well, we wait.
In John 1:43-51 a man named Nathanael is pictured sitting under a fig tree. We do not specifically know why he was under a fig tree, shade? study? but there are some lessons to learn from his sitting, and his apparent wait.
As this scene opens, Yeshua/Jesus is calling disciples. One of those called, Philip, turns and finds Nathanael. He brings a message, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote—Yeshua/Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (Jn. 1:45).
This is where, perhaps, Nathanael’s wait becomes more clear: messianic hope.
Philip brings news that the Messiah has come, and come from Nazareth! “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Nathanael asks. “Come and see.” (Jn. 1:46). Such wisdom in those three little words: come and see.
Yeshua saw Nathanael, not just as he approached, but, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (Jn. 1:48). John beautifully connects this moment to the many previous moments when אֵל רֳאִי, El Roi, as one rabbi translates this name, “God saw me.”
“How do you know me?” (Jn. 1:48). Yeshua says, “I saw you … When you were waiting, I saw you there, beneath the fig tree, watching, waiting, hoping.”
Jesus refers to Nathanael in a rather unusual fashion, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!” (Jn. 1:47). By this time, the noun Israelite was rather antiquated, not in common usage; as it referred to the former kingdom. Yet, Yeshua is harkening back to the conversion of Jacob when He says, “in whom there is no deceit.”
There is no lying, no trickery, no sneaking or conniving. He is honestly waiting beneath the fig tree, in messianic hope.
In Micah we read of this hope, “But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; For the mouth of the Lord of hosts has spoken” (Mic. 4:4; cf. 4:3).
Perhaps Nathanael was anticipating this hope; after all, the first century was filled with messianic expectation, as the Jewish people lived under Roman oppression. The hope described by Micah concerns peace, specifically a peace when the coming one, described by Moses, had arrived.
Vines take time to grow and produce fruit. Fig trees also take time to grow and produce. Micah is saying, there will be time to grow, fruit to harvest, and even time to rest in the shade of hope realized.
Yeshua concludes this dialog by again referencing Jacob, and the ladder vision. He is telling Nathanael that he has been changed by faith, from a Jacob to an Israel, but there is a time of lingering exile before him, but fear not, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man” (Jn. 1:51).
Just before Jacob enter his first exile, the Lord appears to him, and assured him of His presence in that exile, in his wait.
For Nathanael, the One he was waiting for arrived, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
How was he able to make such a declaration? אֵל רֳאִי, El Roi, “God saw me.” And when God sees you, greater things are yet to be seen (Jn. 1:50).
Nathanael, by sitting under the fig tree was seated beneath the promise of Micah. In effect, he took hold of the promise of God, and was waiting. As I’ve said in messages before: hope takes hold, and faith holds on.
What is your fig tree? What are you waiting for? Or more precisely, Who are you waiting for? Be assured that He sees you, and He will be your peace, even in the waiting, even in the midst of turmoil.
Be well. Shalom.