How can we know for ourselves and help others to know with certainty that Jesus is truly the Son of God and Savior of the world? Philip, a new disciple of Jesus, at first failed to convince his friend Nathaniel that he had found the Messiah. Nathaniel was very skeptical. He did not like Nazareth and did not want to have anything to do with people who came from such an out-of-the-way place. How could the Messiah come from such a low-down town? Perhaps we are like Nathaniel. We reject others or at least keep them distant from us because they come from some place or position we do not like or find fault with. Rather than argue with his friend, Philip took the wiser approach of inviting Nathaniel to "come and see" for himself who this Jesus claimed to be. Smart arguments rarely win people to the gospel, but an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ can transform one's life forever. Nathaniel found in Jesus more than he could have hoped or dreamed. Jesus, who knows our hearts better than we do, revealed to Nathaniel the innermost thoughts and desires of his heart. Nathaniel was hungry for the knowledge of God. He really wanted to know God personally. God places in every heart a longing and desire to know the One who created us in love, for love. That is why Augustine of Hippo, who found God only after many years of wandering in disbelief and darkness, said "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You."
What is the significance of Jesus' revelation of seeing Nathaniel under the fig tree? The fig tree was a symbol of God's blessing and peace. It provided shade from the mid-day sun and a cool place to retreat and pray. It is very likely that Nathaniel had meditated "under the fig tree" on the Messianic prophecies and prayed for their fulfillment in his time. He might have dozed off for a mid-day nap and dreamed of God's kingdom like Jacob did when he saw a vision of the ladder which united earth with heaven.
Nathaniel accepted Jesus as the Messiah and Lord because he spoke to the need of his innermost being the desire to know God personally and to be united with him in his glory. Jesus' response to Nathaniel's new faith is the promise that he himself will be the "ladder which unites earth with heaven. God had opened a door for Jacob that brought him and his people into a new relationship with the living God. In Jacob's dream, God revealed his angelic host and showed him the throne of heaven and promised Jacob that he and his descendants would dwell with the living God. Jesus proclaimed to Nathaniel that he himself was the fulfillment of this promise to the Patriarch Jacob. Jesus is the true ladder or stairway to heaven. In Jesus' incarnation, the divine Son of God, taking on human flesh for our sake, we see the union of heaven and earth, God making his dwelling with us and bringing us into the heavenly reality of his kingdom. Jesus' death on the Cross and his Resurrection opens the way for each of us to come into a new relationship with God as his sons and daughters. The Lord Jesus opens the way for each of us to "ascend to heaven" and to bring "heaven to earth" in the daily situation of our lives. God's kingdom is present in those who seek him and who do his will. Do you pray as Jesus taught, "May your kingdom come and your will be done in earth is it is in heaven."