Can Anything Good Come From?
A View From Under a Fig Tree
42 And he brought him to Jesus, Now when Jesus looked at him, He said, “You are Simon the Son of Jonah, You shall be called Cephas (which translated, A stone). 43 Now the following day Jesus wanted to go to Galilee, and He found Philip and said to Him, “Follow Me.” 44 Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. 45 Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found Him whom Moses in the law, and also the prophets, wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Joseph.” 46 and Nathanael said to him, Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philips said to him, “Come and see.” 47 Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom 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 and said to Him, Rabi, You are the Son of God? You are the King of Israel!” 50 Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
Simon Peter, was the oldest of the disciples, appears to have had a fishing business with John, James, along with his brother Andrew. Yet, John and Andrew had recently been disciples of John and Andrew went and presented to his older brother the good news of Jesus and invited him to follow Jesus.
Now Jesus desired to go to Galilee and on the way, He found Philip and said, “Follow Me.” Then Philip followed Jesus. Then Philip found Nathanael and said to him, we have found the Messiah who is Jesus of Nazareth. Nathanael’s response was classic for he stated as fact more than asking a question by way of a statement, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?”
Nazareth had quite the reputation as a bad town, a tough place to live. The city was far enough away from Jerusalem that it didn’t receive much attention from the religious leaders. This left Nazareth to do pretty much as it pleased. Nazareth was also the location of a Roman Garrison which added to the rather wild atmosphere. The location of Nazareth had been part of the decision as to why Joseph moved his family back after being exiled in Egypt waiting the death of Herod, who in a fit of jealous rage had ordered all male children in and around Bethlehem to be killed.
This is why Nathanael, spoke more out of astonishment than a question stating, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?!” It was surprising to Nathanael that the messiah would come from such a place as Nazareth, which he believed to be a steaming caldron of sin run amuck.
Let’s look at where Nathanael was found, for he was found praying under a fig tree. Two other times in Christ’s ministry he used the symbol of a fig tree to make a point regarding the condition of the Jewish nation. So isn’t it interesting that at the beginning of his ministry on earth, Christ finds a young man praying under the fig tree and Nathanael is described as having no deceit about him.
In the other two instances, Christ had come upon a fig trees that were producing no fruit. In the one instance He left the fate of the tree to the keeper of the orchard. But in the second instance He pronounced a curse upon the tree which caused the tree that look good on the outside, to wither and die from the root up.
Therefore, it is interesting that Jesus finds Nathanael under a fig tree praying. Nowhere does it indicate that this tree was bearing fruit, only that Nathanael was under the tree praying.
There was an understanding through the Law of Moses and the other prophets of the coming Messiah, but they failed to fully comprehend the nature of the prophecies, and although Nathanael was praying under the fig tree and within his heart there was no deceit, he too failed to fully comprehend the nature of Christ’s mission and the role of Israel, and the Jewish nation was to play in this very important event of the Messiah’s coming.
The Jewish nation had long awaited the coming Messiah, but they failed, just as the fig trees in Christ’s two parables in being fruitful. Instead, they like the fig tree used up the available resources designed to help spread the good news of the gospel message to the rest of the world.
Christ and God can read the hearts of all mankind, and today as they look into the hearts of Christians I wonder if they once again see a people praying under the fig tree, longing for the second coming of the messiah, yet squandering the resources that have been liberally given to his followers to spread the Good News of the Gospel. Again, I wonder if the fig tree is barren of fruit and has become a burden to the keeper of the orchard. A tree that fails to bring forth fruit is worthless and therefore should be cut down and burnt up, or as useless as the chaff that falls from the wheat and is blown away by the wind.
Can anything good come from Nazareth? Christ came from the wild west town of his day and look what He accomplished. Each of us comes from that wild west town of the universe called planet earth and the other worlds ask, can anything good come from that planet. To each that call this planet home Christ asks the question, “Will you follow Me.”
Christ has promised to each of us the same power and opportunities He had as He ministered to the world. So the question remains, “Will you follow Him who is like God and One with God, who is also the Light of the world. Then the question can be answered, is that fig tree we are praying under, yielding fruit, or is it fruitless as the two were in Christ’s parables. Is that fig tree using up precious resources or producing fruit through the power available to all those that come to Jesus without deceit in their hearts.
This is the question we all must answer as we unfold the life and character of God, as shown to us through Jesus Christ who modeled before us the true character of God.