Philip finds Nathanael, and said to him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth…
Jesus praises Nathanael both in what he says to others concerning him, and what he says directly to himself. Whatever Jesus may have found praiseworthy in the other four disciples, he said nothing. Nathanael stands out very distinctly as having in him elements of character needing to be published to all disciples. Jesus meant to say to others, "Be ye as this man. Be ye also Israelites indeed, in whom there is no guile. Be ye those who have peculiar individual experiences under the fig tree." And so we must try to discover what it is to be "an Israelite indeed," and what it was Jesus specially observed when Nathanael was under the fig tree.
I. Begin with the most definite word, AN ISRAELITE INDEED. Some are Israelites only in appearance - Israelites according to the flesh, perhaps, yet not therefore Israelites indeed. An Israelite indeed is one like Israel. Israel is the man of two names - Jacob to begin with, Israel afterwards. We must look at him in all the scenes of his life. Jacob at Bethel must be specially considered, also that later wrestling till the breaking of the day. On that occasion Jacob was resolved. With him it was now or never. He had a blessing to get that meant salvation and prosperity, and therefore, as a drowning man grasps the rope, he grasped the only Being who could give that blessing. That was how Israel got his name, entered into his privilege, and became an example to us. An Israelite indeed is one who wrestles with the Giver of spiritual blessings; one who has known long agonies of the heart; one who has toiled with strong crying and tears, if only he might get the blessing of a conscience undefiled, and a heart perfectly subjected to the will of God.
II. THE LIGHT THUS CAST ON THE CHARACTER OF NATHANAEL. He was an Israelite indeed. Therefore he had known intense spiritual struggles. His bosom had been the seat of some great searching influence akin to that which Israel passed through when he wrestled to the breaking of the day. Nathanael must have had his time of wrestling under the fig tree. Something was resolved, something attained. What the something was we know not, for Jesus perfectly respects Nathanael's secret, even while he makes Nathanael feel that he knows it.
III. WE ALL SHOULD HAVE OUR TIME UNDER THE FIG TREE. Seek a season wherein the underlying realities of life shall meet us face to face. Struggles like those of Nathanael are indicated again and again in the Book of Psalms. If yea would understand Psalm 139., you must have had your time under the fig tree. Till you have had such a time you are without a key to the deepest, most precious utterances of Scripture. The thought of Nathanael should stir us up to that struggle which makes a spiritual man so rich and strong, and, above all, so satisfying a sight to the Lord Jesus Christ.
IV. WHEN WE ARE UNDER THE FIG TREE JESUS KNOWS ABOUT IT. Nathanael knows that Jesus has gazed upon his heart and seen its most hidden thoughts. He is not dependent upon the exactness of our recollections, or the fulness of our descriptions. He sees the fulness of the inward life just as it is. Nathanael knew that henceforth to one Being in the universe at least secrets were not secrets. Not merely that Nathanael was seen, but seen by the eye of Jesus, that made the discovery so important. "I saw thee." Put all the fulness of meaning you can into that "I." - Y.
Parallel VersesKJV: Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.