Bible Society of South Africa

What did Nathanael know about the Messiah? - 18 October 2023

By Imogen Campbell

Bible text(s)

47When Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, he said about him, “Here is a real Israelite; there is nothing false in him!”

48Nathanael asked him, “How do you know me?”

Jesus answered, “I saw you when you were under the fig tree before Philip called you.”

49“Teacher,” answered Nathanael, “you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”

John 1:47-49GNBOpen in Bible reader

Years ago, after struggling to understand basic passages that men of old seemed to have a good handle on, I decided to dig much deeper into the Word of God. John 1:47-49 was case in point.

I wondered how Nathanael knew who Jesus was simply on account of his statement about the fig tree. This led me to a journey into Jewish customs and the Old Testament. I was determined to understand what this Jewish man understood without hesitation – something that seemed like Greek to me to be honest.

Over time, I learnt that Jewish people of old, especially, managed to memorise the Holy Scriptures in great detail with special emphasis on themes, patterns and motifs. Thus when something like the fig tree was mentioned, all the relevant Scriptures would be brought to mind as one body of knowledge and considered in entirety.

This also is a huge plug for memorising Scripture because how can one recall it if one does not know it to start with. It is when I started classes learning about the inductive method of Bible study, and time and again, would be told to read and familiarise myself with the customs and culture of that time.

Anyhow, I started to look for New Testament phrases as first presented in the Old Testament, and was my mind blown. The Bible started to come alive to me in a new way. My faith became so much deeper and the entire process of unearthing nuggets of gold meant that I was spending so much time in the Word, and believe me, it enriched my soul.

May I implore you to read your Bible, perhaps, not quite cover to cover if that is not going prove to be useful to do so, but rather dig through it bit by bit and have an exploration into the greatest book ever written. Perhaps, like the Scriptures became illuminated for Nathanael and he was reminded of this verse in Zechariah 3:10 before understanding that he had met the Branch in Jesus: “In that day each of you will invite your neighbour to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” While, Isaiah 11:1 revealed: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.”

From the convergence of prophecy, the insights of other learned men and commentaries; it becomes clear why Nathanael understood that he was in the presence of God Almighty. How incredibly awesome is that. It is not called Good News for nothing.

Prayer: Thank you for the richness of your Word, Lord, and the revelation that we can have as a result, even today. Amen

Bible Society of South Africav.4.16.16
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