The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, ‘Look, here is the Lamb of God!’ The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’ They said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which translated means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said, ‘You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas’ (which is translated Peter)The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ When Jesus saw Nathanael coming towards him, he said of him, ‘Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!’ Nathanael asked him, ‘Where did you come to know me?’ Jesus answered, ‘I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.’ Nathanael replied, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ Jesus answered, ‘Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.’ And he said to him, ‘Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.’
For did Nathaniel respond so enthusiastically to Jesus just because Jesus was a good observer? Or what was it that Nathaniel was doing under the fig tree that prompted Jesus to call him? Mark Cazalet chooses to depict Nathaniel as asleep, although the text does not say that. However, is Mark Cazalet pointing us to a deeper sense of the passage. The fig tree is a great symbol in the Bible. Adam and Eve make clothes out of the fig leaf, the promised land was a land of abundant figs, and the prophets spoke of people living and owning their own fig tree as the promise of restoration and stability. Was Nathaniel pondering his own perception of sinfulness or longing for stability or trying to puzzle out how the land could once again be a place of abundance. This coupled with Nathaniel’s dismissive retort of ‘can anything good come out of Nazareth’ and Jesus’ reply suggest that somehow Nathaniel’s eyes were opened and he saw in Jesus ‘the Son of God The King of the Jews’. This echoes Jesus’s call to Andrew and the other disciple – and then repeated by Philip – ‘Come and see’.
That is the call of Jesus in John’s gospel, ‘to come and see’. That is an invitation in our own discipleship journey, not only to ‘come and see’, discovering Jesus, but ‘to go and do’ and follow his way in our life and living.
Gracious God, You invite us to come and see, may we have open eyes to see and to discern your call to us. You invite us on a journey of discovery may we have open minds to understand your call to us. You invite us to follow you may we have open hearts to see you in those we meet along the way. And may we seek to do your will in all of our living. For Jesus Christ sake Amen
The Rev’d Hilary Collinson is the Minister of Tees and Swale Pastorate in North Yorkshire.