Posted by: genelnicholsblog | September 9, 2015

He sees us

Through a series of circumstances which began a week ago Sunday, my days have blurred together.  Between the responsibilities of work and family, and mental and physical fatigue, it would be fair to say I don’t quite know which way is up today!  So I was hoping to find some encouragement or inspiration from my assigned apostle to blog about today.  I am happy to say that Nathanael did not disappoint.

He is called “Bartholomew” in all 4 lists of the apostles in Scripture.  The name Bartholomew clearly identifies him (in Aramaic), in regards to his family.  His name simply means “son of Tomai” from Cana in Galilee. The name Nathanael seems to have been given to him by Jesus – I have always found it fascinating the way Jesus had other names, even nicknames, for the 12 ( Peter, the Sons of Thunder, etc…).  Whichever name you prefer for this man, he is listed only once in all the Gospels and the book of Acts. Only the book of John provides insight into the man, his personality and his heart … and that is where we will look now.

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!”  Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.”
John 1:45-50 (ESV)

We could talk about Nathanael’s rather rude comment about Nazareth; after all, Cana was not much better! But where I got my encouragement from this more obscure apostle was in verse 47.  Can you imagine the first words Jesus says to you being a compliment like that?  (“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!”)

This give us a glimpse of the man. His heart was sincere. Jesus used the word Alethos, meaning truly, genuinely. And how did Jesus know this about Nathanael?  Because he saw him as he sat and studied, prayed and meditated on Scripture under the fig tree in his yard!! Let me give you some background. Houses at this time were very small and mostly consisted of one room.  Therefore, houses were stuffy and smoky, so fig trees were often planted nearby to offer shade.  These trees grew low to the ground with spreading branches; they offered good shade plus fruit.  People would often sit under these trees to escape the stifling heat of the house.  No doubt this is the case with Nathanael.  Jesus saw him (before He met him) and He knew his study, prayer, and yearning for the promised Savior was sincere. Wherever I am, whatever I am dealing with, whatever my desires, burdens, worries are, He sees me.  But here is the kicker … how did Nathanael respond?  He had heard enough, and he proclaimed, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God!” It seems that one apostle, even a lesser noticed one, got it right from the very beginning!

Early church records state that Nathanael ministered in modern-day Iraq, India and Armenia.  There is no definitive account of his murder, only traditional lore.  One story claims he was tied in a sack and cast into the sea, while another talks of his crucifixion.  Whichever way he died, he lived faithful to the end knowing God saw him wherever he was in this world, whatever circumstance he was in.  And knowing that, you and I can face another day and another challenge.

Their story is truly our story.

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