He was sitting under the tree. He could be praying. He could be meditating. Or he could possibly be sitting down idly. Nobody knows. But there he was, under the fig tree, not knowing what (or who) is going to happen to him. Then suddenly, his friend came to him and said, “The one that all of us have been waiting for is here. Interestingly, his dad is a carpenter, and he comes from that little country town.”
“Seriously, can anything good come out from that little country town? I would have thought if the one that we are waiting for has arrived, that would be the last place he would be coming from. Surely, he could have chosen another place,” he thought. “Don’t worry about that detail for now. Just come with me, and see for yourself. No harm checking out anyway. What have you got to lose?,” his friend persuaded. Reluctantly, and perhaps out of respect to his friend, he went anyway. “Nothing to lose, anyway,” he thought.
That man is Nathanael. His friend is Philip. Nathanael is about to meet Jesus for the first time. What is about to unfold is something that you and I might not be able to understand fully. But this is what happened.
Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael said to him, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” – John 1:45-49
How could Nathanael make such a declaration after such a simple conversation by Jesus? There might be much to be said about what has happened. I am not aiming to unpack everything, nor am I claiming to know. However, at the very least, this is what happened. Philip declared to Nathanael the good news of the coming of the One. Nathanael, although sceptic, gave it a go and meet with Jesus. Jesus said something that obviously connected with Nathanael. Nathanael took it as a sign that Jesus was indeed the One that they had been waiting for.
Again, much can be said perhaps. However, two things we should have in mind when we evangelise (point people to Christ). The first is that our job is to proclaim the good news. Like Philip, our job is to declare to others who Jesus is, and how He is the good news to mankind. The next, the second, is up to Jesus. Here, we see that Jesus met Nathanael where he was. Jesus knew Nathanael, He knew what he was going through in life, and Jesus knew how to reveal Himself to Nathanael in a way that is very personal to Nathanael. Whatever Jesus said to Nathanael obviously elicited a faith response by Nathanael the way that perhaps only two of them could understand.
Many times when I asked people how they became a Christian, very rarely they credited it to an intellectual experience or a logical explanation. Not that apologetics does not have its place. In fact, it is very important for every Christian to know what they believe and to know how to defend, or rather, explain what they believe to others. However, we must realise that the decision for people to believe most of the time is influenced more by a personal experience with Jesus. It can be through a healing of a disease, a supernatural comfort through suffering, an act of kindness by His follower, or even the loss of a loved one. Of course, at times, for some people, it can also be through some logical explanations or some reasonable answers to life big questions, which can be argued that it is still a personal experience nonetheless.
We see in the passage above that Jesus knew Nathanael, and Jesus allowed Nathanael to have a personal encounter with Him that might not necessarily ‘work’ with other people. It is very personal.
So, friends, as Christians, it is our duty to point people to Christ. It is our duty to proclaim the fact that Jesus came down, He lived, He died for our sins, and He rose again, and how this is good news to everyone on earth. And then, we must pray and plead that Jesus would meet them where they are, and that Jesus would reveal Himself to them in a personal way that only God knew how.
It is no wonder that Jesus said that the conversion is a born-again experience, a very personal one. It is not an intellectual-accumulation or a performance-oriented experience. God the Father is pleased to reconcile each person by sending the Holy Spirit to awaken his or her spirit through a very personal experience so that he or she will respond to the proclamation of the Gospel of God the Son. We are still commanded to preach the gospel. But we must know that without God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit working in each person’s life, nothing will happen. However, we must also know that God has ordained that He is pleased to use our proclamation of the Gospel to save those whom He wants to save. So, we must proclaim the Gospel, and we must pray for the Holy Spirit to breathe that life-giving breath to an otherwise spiritually dead person, much to the glory of our Triune God.
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