44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 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.” 46 Nathanael said to him, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” Philip *said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming to Him, and *said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” 48 Nathanael *said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” 49 Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” 51 And He *said to him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
This is an interesting exchange. I believe this is the only place that this is in the bible, since I don’t quite remember it. Of course, I could be wrong. Apparently, Nazareth had a bad reputation at the time, which is the cause for Nathanael’s remark about nothing good coming from there.
I had to read verse 48 twice. At first, I thought of the possibility of Jesus simply seeing him from afar. I mean, the Son of God probably had decent eyesight, right? If we read it a second time, however, we take better note of Nathanael’s question, “how do you KNOW me?” Jesus’ answer does not imply that He simply saw Nathanael, but rather that He has known him since before this meeting. How is that possible? He is God. The rest of this little story explains more the essence of belief in Christ.
I believe that here, Jesus is explaining that belief does not merely come from hearing. “Because I said to you that I saw you under the fig tree, you believe? Jesus here is displaying a reason for caution, that one person telling another person something is not enough cause to instantly believe. Rather it is the things we experience and see throughout our lives that guide us to this point. It is the actions of God that cause us to believe, not merely the words of man.
This tells us two things: 1) it is up to God to create belief in Him, not man. 2) don’t simply believe everything you hear just because you want to believe something.
In talking to others, we must be careful not to think that their belief or faith is our responsibility. As believers, we are to “spread the Gospel,” which is to tell those who have never heard it before: both by saying what it is and living it out. I had a hard time understanding and accepting this myself. Certainly, we want everyone to believe. We must recognize, however, it is not up to us. Our job is to tell others about the Glory of God and give them reason to seek Him out.
We must also be careful to beware of the ideals of man. As I believe we will see in the rest of this book, our following of Christ isn’t about listening to what man says about God, but rather what God says about God. Certainly, we will have role models, mentors, sponsors, etc that help guide us in our walk with Christ and our relationship with God, but our insight should come from Him alone, since he is the Source.
Why do you believe what you believe? Is it because you have asked God for direction in your life and He provided it, or is it because you were told what to believe and you just did it? If we truly want to be God honoring, then we must make sure that what we are doing is of God. Ask Him for direction in your life. As Him for the belief He wants you to believe.
If you do believe, recognize that the belief does not come from us, but Him alone and we are called to expose others to His Kingdom through unconditional love, not convincing words or well articulated arguments.