"Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."
In the days of the Master, Galilee was a center for Torah learning where many rabbis taught their disciples in Yeshivas (Religious schools). It was the dream of every parent for their child, especially the oldest boy, to be given the favor of being accepted as the disciple of a rabbi. Yeshua broke with the traditional way of local rabbis in those days; instead of waiting for potential disciples to pop the question, He himself did the choosing and proposed with the words: “follow me” (John 1:43). It seems that Yeshua did not want the type of disciple who was already learned in the local teachings. He wanted folks who came straight from the ‘streets’, people who had never really learned at the feet of other rabbis so He could teach from scrap without having to undo a lot of teachings; that’s why some wondered at the religious ethics of some of Yeshua’s disciples (Matthew 9:14-17). It is the problem with many of us today; we have so much to unlearn, so many ‘rocks’ of false teachings to rid the ground of before the truth can take root in our hearts!
When in Judea, Andrew left John the Immerser to follow the Master. Andrew then ‘fished’ his brother, Peter. When the Master returned to Galilee to establish His roaming Yeshivah of disciples, He found Philip who then found Nathanael. These were all local friends who roamed the streets of Bethsaida as young boys.
Yeshua chose all sorts. A hated Roman collaborator tax collectors; main stream working folks like fishermen, zealots who were political activists involved in resistance against Roman occupation, and even religious fellows. When He saw Nathanael, Yeshua had a very particular comment for him, He said, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit (John 1:47)"!
Whatever He was referring to, it was a great compliment to receive from He who was the Messiah! It seems that Nathanael was a religious man, a ‘just’ or ‘righteous’ man like Yeshua’s own earthly father (Matthew 1:19), which in Judaism referred to what would be called today an ‘Orthodox Jew’.
When Yeshua saw Nathanael, He told Him what he was doing. Some suggest that perhaps Nathanael was studying the Torah, which people would often do in the shade of a tree. Some even said that he was reading the section about Jacob’s Ladder, and that it is why Yeshua referred to that prophecy about Himself in His comment to Nathanael (John 1:51).
Whatever it was that Nathanael was doing by the fig tree, he received a very nice compliment from the Master. Whereas we may not all be given that sort of accolade of being found without deceit or guile, may we all be told at the end of this age, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master (Matthew 25:21)”.