Thursday, September 08, 2005

Under the Fig Tree

A rather striking, and almost incomprehensible, thing happened when Jesus met Nathanael and told him that He saw him under the fig tree. Nathanael, who had just manifested his skepticism about anything good coming from Nazareth, suddenly exclaimed to Jesus: "You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" (John 1:49).

What had happened under the fig tree? We aren't told in the Gospel, and we will probably never know for sure in this life, but it must have been something quite profound. Perhaps God had given Nathanael some sort of revelation when he was under the fig tree ("Nathanael" means "God has given"), something which Nathanael was able to connect to the person of Jesus when he saw Him. Whatever it was, it was something known only to Nathanael and God, and since Jesus knew about it, He must be the Son of God!

Do you perhaps have your own "fig tree" under which the Lord has seen you? Our "fig tree" might very well be simply the "place of the heart," our own inner sanctuary that is known only to ourselves and to God. Surely He sees us there, but we have to be willing to be seen -- whether in our naked shame or in our grace-filled contemplation. Our encounters with God are not only pleasant or exhilarating experiences. Sometimes we have to come to Him as the repentant harlot, with our sins and our tears. But that is OK. God wants us wholly; He's not interested in us merely trying to show Him our good side. We go under the fig tree, the place of divine revelation and of our self-disclosure, the place of enlightenment, healing, and mercy. We meet the Lord there, and in the experience of his grace and loving-kindness -- knowing full well that He has already seen not only our best side but our worst -- we exclaim: "You are the Son of God!" And He is our Savior.

The Lord is pleased when we open our intimate depths to Him under the fig tree. But there is still more. Even after having met Him there, we are told: "You will see greater things... You will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man" (1:50-51). Once we become transparent to God, heaven begins to become transparent to us. The whole of our spiritual life, in one sense, is our gradual awakening and enlightenment toward seeing heaven opened. The Lord has much in store for us, more than we can ask or imagine.

So what are you waiting for? Go under the fig tree, so that Jesus will see you there and you will know the Lord. Angels are waiting to descend...