Have you ever been in a conversation with someone and they say something that makes you cringe? They’ll say “I saw you the other day at _______ and….” sometimes that “and” isn’t followed by something positive. If you know you weren’t supposed to be there and you were doing something you weren’t supposed to do that can be a very awkward conversation. Jesus had an opportunity to have that conversation with one of his disciples, yet he chose to go a different route.
John 1: 45-49 says: 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!”
If Jesus saw Nathanael under the fig tree (whenever and wherever that was), he surely knew what Nathanael had said about Nazareth. Yet, instead of getting defensive or demanding an apology, Jesus focused on the good thing: Nathanael’s honesty. I wonder if Philip and Nathanael were expecting an “and” from Jesus. “I saw you under the fig tree and you were doing _________” you fill in the blank. He could’ve been taking a nap when he was supposed to be working. He could’ve been rehearsing the harsh words he was going to say to someone who was rude to him. He could’ve been worshipping God. We don’t know what he was doing and whether good or bad, that didn’t matter to Jesus. This was a way to show grace and his omnipotence to Nathanael, which caused him to acknowledge him as the Messiah, the King of Israel.
This is both comforting and challenging to me. The challenge is to let people off the hook and extend grace to them because it’s easy for us to use those things a person has done wrong to feel better about yourself (talk about insecurity!). The other part, the more healthy part of me is comforted by the fact that no matter what wrong I do God still welcomes me in. That’s not a reason to stay doing the same sin, but when I mess up he is there without condemnation, ready to pick me up, dust me off, and keep moving forward. Though he knows everything we do, both good and bad, that doesn’t sway his perception of us. No matter what we do he won’t love us more or less. That’s a freeing concept: I don’t have to work for his love, but I work to become more like him and less like how I used to be because he loves me. What would the world look like if we all walked in the freedom of knowing that we are loved deeply, fiercely and immensely by God?