Short Meditations in John 1: 48. Rising to the Bait
Jn 1:48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
In the previous meditation we used the analogy of a fishermen in respect of Jesus when we spoke of him ‘hooking’ people. He says or does things to catch their attention. This is the same principle as the Lord used to catch Moses with the burning bush (Ex 3). It happens with every person when the Lord starts to draw them to himself. He knows the ones who will respond and so he starts what is often such a gentle process we don’t even realise it is happening. We starting having thoughts we hadn’t had before, we find questions arising we hadn’t thought before, we find a growing interest in spiritual things, or perhaps we simply start becoming aware of our spiritual need. One way or another the Lord is drawing us to himself. It may be through a crisis, it may just be through circumstances or it may, like here, be through a relationship.
Nathaniel is hooked: “How do you know me?” The question flows of his lips almost without thought. Jesus has just said something very positive about him. That was enough for him to drop his guard and open up. So often the Lord says something encouraging to an unbeliever but it is just the hook to draw them on. So without realising it Nathaniel is being drawn into a conversation.
But he doesn’t realise who he is talking to. This man before him is God and he knows everything there is to know about Nathaniel, but he’s not going to throw that knowledge around carelessly, he’s just going to drop one further bit of bait to draw him yet further in. Nathaniel had obviously been in some walled garden out of public view before Philip had called him to come and meet Jesus, and so Jesus simply puts a little piece of knowledge in front of Nathaniel that Nathaniel knows no one else would have known: “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
That’s all it needed for this man and we’ll see his response in the next study. But the truth is that God does know us. The psalmist knew this when he wrote, “O LORD, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways.” (Psa 139:1-3) I wonder if Nathaniel had been reading or meditating on that Scripture when he was called?