Read Genesis 28:10-17 & John 1:43-51
God often comes to us, shifting our expectations of what He's like. We see this in Nathanael's encounter with the Messiah. We see it in Jacob's encounter with Yahweh. In the New Testament, the dialogue between Nathanael and Jesus bears a pregnant expectation charged with hope. Jesus sees Nathanael and calls Him out as Jesus sees Him, a "true Israelite." This undoubtedly would've spoken to the soul of the devoted Jewish man. I can only imagine the encouragement and seenness Nathanael must have felt at that moment. The fig tree he sat beneath was used to symbolize God's nation throughout the prophets. The picture they paint is of a tree flourishing so much she causes the rest of the world to prosper along with her. But in Nathanael's day, Israel is not flourishing. She is broken, overrun, and in shackles. While there was still hope for God's coming restoration, much of Israel must have felt abandoned and worn thin.
Jacob's state was not much different, leading up to his encounter. Having lied to his dying father, taking all he could from his brother, Jacob flees, in cowardice and fear from his family. For both Nathanael and Jacob, God's arrival and presence were a surprise.
It is in this place of brokenness, abandonment, and I would imagine a significant amount of doubt that God finds each man. Jesus sees Nathanael, and God will later encounter Jacob in a way that lets Jacob know God knows him well. God knows us, the same way he knows these two men. He truly knows us. Not the way an acquaintance or famous person is known, from a distance and shallowly, but profoundly and intimately. "How do you know me?" Nathanael's question echo's my inner voice concerning God's knowledge of me. I understand God "knows everyone," but how can the Eternal One truly, deeply, know me and yet still love me? God sees us in a way that exposes us. John is right; the light shines into the darkness.
We all like Nathaneal and Jacob are found by God carrying limited and skewed expectations of who He is and what He'll do.
Jesus' peculiar reply to Nathanael's question tells us what we need to know about him. Jesus claims Nathanael will watch as angels ascend upon Him. Jesus' assertion is nothing less than a claim of connection. You see because of Jacob's dream, Jacob comes to believe that the place he later calls Bethel (house of God) was an axis between heaven and Earth. A place where heaven rips into Earth and joins it powerfully and mysteriously. This axis, this contact point offers an audience with God. The messengers of God use it to move between heaven and Earth. This is the place where God's will is done on Earth. For Jacob, he was as close to God as a human could get. Jesus' reference to Himself as this axis points to Jesus as the connection between heaven and Earth, between God, and humanity. Eternity once again ripped into the temporal and was now inviting relationship and companionship.
We must understand that Jesus' invitation to us means nothing less than communing with God. Jesus stands as the connection between the Father and us. Being both how we have a connection and the one with whom we have a connection at the same time. When we meet with Him, we realize what Jacob realized all along, "the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it." He shows up in surprising ways, changing our conception of God and ourselves. He joins us to himself in a mysterious union making time spent in His presence so much more than what we think or believe it is. Time with Jesus means time communing with heaven. It is a time when the temporal has an audience with the Eternal. It is essential because it connects us back to the one who made us, who knows us and who loves us. It is indispensable because it is friendship with Love itself. It matters because when we spend time in prayer, we invite eternality into our hearts, and we cannot walk away unchanged.
Take time to spend with Jesus today and tomorrow. He is near you, and he will show up in unexpected and surprising ways. He will change you in unexpected and surprising ways. Make time for this today. You are seen and loved, lean into this Jesus who sees us and loves us.