Jesus answered and said unto him [Nathanael], “Because I said unto you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You shall see greater things than these.” John 1:50
There is a chain reaction event going on here. John the Baptist points You out to Andrew and John. They immediately leave him and follow You. Then, Andrew’s excitement hasn’t ceased. He goes to his brother Simon telling him, “We have found the Messias, the Christ!” And of course, Simon goes to see and find out for himself. Then You, Jesus, go to Philip and Philip answers Your call and follows You. It just so happens that he was from the same city as Andrew and Simon Peter. Hmm, wonder if they had any influence? I wonder if he came up in conversations among You and Andrew and Simon Peter? And the chain reaction continues. Philip finds Nathanael and has the same news for him that Andrew had for Simon Peter, “We have found Him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, wrote about, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph!” And even though Nathanael isn’t convinced by that description, Philip urges him, “Come and see.”
The interesting thing here is, in digging into another word I’ll share soon, I find this is a coming and a taking of a casual look, like a look in passing. This isn’t even to see intently or to gaze. It’s more of just happening to see something. So imagine where just a glimpse of something would be enough to get a chain reaction going. Imagine where just a glimpse of something is enough to start a fire. Imagine where just a glimpse of something is enough to begin changing your life.
And even though he doubted, Nathanael came and saw. And Jesus saw him coming and identified his heart straight out. “Well look at you, there’s no ‘guile’ in you, Nathanael.” What in the world does that mean? And as I look into the Greek word for “guile”, “dolos”, I wonder if You, Lord, were saying that Nathanael was free of guile or if You were giving him a taste of his own medicine through sarcasm? So I want to look at what guile is a little more deeply.
Now it’s interesting to note that one commentator said that Nathanael would have been familiar with this word, “dolos” because it meant to “bait the hook,” and he was a fisherman. So “dolos” is to deceive, to deceive knowingly, not by accident. It seems to imply trying to influence someone else by deception. Herbert says it’s “deceiving and hurting someone else for personal gain.” J. Vernon McGee states it is “using cleverness to get even or to try to make a good impression upon someone. Ananias and Sapphira used guile when they tried to represent themselves as being very generous givers to the church.” And he goes on to add this side note, ” That old nature which you and I have is good at that sort of thing. ”
Now I’d like to follow another commentator and take it a step further and follow the verb form “Doloun”. Barclay identifies this as ” used of debasing precious metals and of adulterating wines. ” “Dolos, ” “guile,” describes the quality of a deceitful man. The whole idea of the Trojan horse embodies the idea of this deceit, to give something that looks like one thing but is really someone else’s destruction. And here’s my last point on “dolos,” “guile.” Precept Austin shares “deception has to do primarily with words. When a person wants something, he tries to get it… by flattery, false promises, false tales, suggestive talk, off-colored suggestions, enticing words, outright lying.”
So, was Nathanael truly guile free? Or were You pointing out that he was not guile free? Was there anything in Nathanael’s words that would have influenced people to follow his thinking about things? And I think about the statement that Nathanael made when Philip came to him excitedly. “Can any thing good come out of Nazareth?” I don’t know, but it sounds like a slur to me. It sounds like a statement that is trying to alter how people feel about this place called Nazareth, and maybe even to play down this Messiah coming out of this “cesspool” kind of a place. Sounds like sarcasm to me. And I’m kind of thnking that sarcasm is saying one thing but meaning even worse. Sounds like a form of deception to me. But I’ve heard similar statements about an adjacent town next to mine. And there’s that same idea about the people from it. Now tell me that isn’t meant to influence people. And tell me that it isn’t warping the truth.
So, You, Jesus, see Nathanael and the first thing You do is point a finger at him and say, “Well, aren’t you to the point. You don’t bait the hook at all with what you say to others, huh?” Because it’s kind of interesting the reaction that Nathanael has. “How do You know me?” And I wonder if that shouldn’t be interpreted more as, “How do You know me so well?” “How do You know what I’m thinking in my heart? I mean here I have made fun of You to others and am pretending to go along. And You see that I’ve baited the hook. My words were meant to hurt and turn people away. How did You see?”
“Oh, when I was walking along, even before Philip called you, I happened to see a glimpse of you under the fig tree.” Now, I’m not sure if Nathanael was praying or resting under this fig tree. I don’t know if he was grumbling or confessing or being honest with God or napping. But I do know that it only took a glimpse from Jesus to know him.
And I think it means more to us when we see the depths of our hearts that Jesus sees, when we see the deep down hidden parts, the dirty parts that we’ve tried to paint in a more pretty fashion. Because when people point out the beauty in us, well, we tend to say something more like, “Well, thank you, that’s so sweet of you.” But I think this was something deeper. Because when are we amazed at what we already know about ourselves? I think Nathanael saw something he hadn’t seen before. And it brought him to acknowledge You as the Son of God; the King of Israel; Rabbi.
But You didn’t want the chain reaction to stop here. This seeing into the heart isn’t the end. It’s only the beginning. This is amazing when we realize the depths You see in us. But You have greater things in store for us to see. And this word “see” here is different. It is “optomai, optanomai,” to gaze. But let me explain what this gaze looks like. According to Strong’s Concordance this means to gaze, “with wide open eyes, as at something remarkable.” It’s not just voluntary observation, or where you just happen to see something along the way like a man under a tree, nor a continued inspection, or watching from a distance. This is the “wow” factor.
Now, I wonder Lord, if there are things in our words, as believers, where we are baiting the hook. Are there things in our words that actually deceive others from trusting in You and lead us or them away from true faith? I wonder if our own ambitions and our own twisted ideas that have been established by adjusting so much to the world and it’s ideas, have twisted our real response to You. And I wonder if we haven’t become more deceived than we realize? And I wonder, if we ourselves have become deceived, if we are deceiving others?
What if Christianity hasn’t changed from Biblical times? What if it still really looks like forsaking everything for You? What if it still looks like REALLY denying ourselves continually, taking up our cross, and REALLY following You? What if it looks like going to the ends of the earth? What if it looks like being willing to leave our family and our houses and our income and our comfort and follow You no matter the cost, no matter the loss? What if it really looks like Paul said, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain”? What if it looks like setting all my preconceived notions aside and absolutely following and delighting in You instead? What if it looked like tearing down and burning up my Trojan horse, and confronting my enemies in love, even if it meant my death? But what if my honest response of love in the Lord would change their world too? What if that’s the chain reaction You started, Lord? And what if some of us have broken that chain reaction somewhere along the way because we let deceit slip into our hearts?
Lord, I want to see You perform eye opening deed after eye opening deed. I don’t want to live doling out deceit. I don’t care what the world says, I believe You. I believe Your Word. Everything You say is true and I will follow and I will teach it. I want to be part of Your chain reaction, not the world’s. Your chain reaction leads to life, not just for me, but for those I touch through You. The world’s chain reaction is a lie that leads to death and separation from You. And I am so grateful, because the more I join in with You, I am seeing the chain reaction effects. You are placing amazing brothers and sisters in my life that I never could have met without You. You are deepening our relationships together in a way with You like I have never known before. You are providing answers to prayer for the good of others that I could never do on my own. Things like $50,000 worth of hearing aids for our mission team. Bringing together team members that have no reason to respond to my FB message, to the message of a stranger, other than by Your telling them to respond. You’ve sent unexpected encouragement when I was most deeply hurt. And when I tell the truth and feel like a failure because of what I have to share in front of people and I’d rather run out of the room, You had already known that the speaker to follow would show me I wasn’t alone in that struggle, and You gave me a new soul sister in You. Yes, Lord, when we let go of the deceit, we find that You are drop down eye popping amazing every moment. May I always live honestly before You through You and in You. Thank You for examining Nathanael’s heart and thank You for examining mine. And thank You even more that You don’t just stop at the examination, but You start a chain reaction of changing me to be like You. And that is my happy thought. That You are making me like You. Thank You, Lord.