The twelve apostles included "Bartholomew [Nathanael]" (Matt. 10:3).
Despite Nathanael's prejudice, Jesus knew he was an honest, sincere, Jewish believer in whom there was no religious hypocrisy or deceit (John 1:47). He truly sought after God and looked forward to the Messiah's coming.
Most of the Jewish people of Jesus' day believed that every circumcised descendent of Abraham was a true Jew and a beneficiary of the Abrahamic covenant. But in Romans 2:28- 29 Paul explains that salvation is an issue of the heart, not of national origin: "He is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart." Nathanael was such a man.
He was shocked when Jesus described him as "an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile" (John 1:47) because they had never met before. He was equally shocked when Jesus said He saw him under a fig tree because Jesus was nowhere near that tree. Nathanael immediately realized that Jesus was omniscient--He knew everything! That's why he exclaimed, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel" (v. 49). He had found the Messiah for whom he had searched so long!
The Lord's mention of the fig tree is significant. In that region, fig trees were commonly used as a source of shade and outdoor shelter. Many of the houses in Palestine had only one room, so fig trees became a place to be alone for prayer and meditation on the Scriptures. Quite possibly Nathanael was under the fig tree searching the Scriptures and communing with God when Jesus saw his open heart and his desire to find the Messiah. Jesus personally answered Nathanael's prayer.
When Jesus looks into your heart, does He see a true believer in whom there is no hypocrisy? Nathanael wasn't perfect, but he loved God and was a diligent student of the Word. The Lord did great things through him. I pray that is true of you as well.
Suggestions for Prayer:
For Further Study:
- Ask the Spirit to reveal and deal with any hypocrisy you might be harboring.
- Ask God to increase your desire and capacity to know and love Him.
Memorize Romans 12:1-2 as a defense against hypocrisy.
From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.