What is so remarkable about seeing someone sitting under a tree? When I was in Nazareth a few years ago, I saw a fig tree that made a story from John’s Gospel come to life. When Jesus is gathering disciples, he is brought to Nathanael by Philip:
As they approached, Jesus said, “Now here is a genuine son of Israel—a man of complete integrity.” “How do you know about me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus replied, “I could see you under the fig tree before Philip found you.” John 1:47-48
The tree I saw in Nazareth was covered with enormous leaves attached to branches that extended low to the ground. To snatch a few moments of peace and quiet, all you had to do was sit quietly beneath the tree. Even people passing within inches of the tree would not know you were there. That’s what Nathanael must have been doing.
Notice that Jesus saw Nathanael sitting beneath the tree, but he also saw further than that—into the secret places of his heart, pronouncing him an honest man. Nathanael’s encounter with Jesus reminds me of a story in the Hebrew Scriptures in which a homeless woman encounters God and names him “the God who sees me.” It’s a wonderful story of how the Lord cared for Hagar and her child in the midst of a brutal wilderness. To find out more about this story, take a look at Genesis 16 and Genesis 21:8-21.
Jesus’ encounter with Nathanael assures us that nothing is hidden from the Lord’s penetrating gaze. Not our struggles or our joys, not our fears or our dreams. He knows us as no one else does. Take time today to worship Christ and decide, as Nathanael did, to follow where he leads.