Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward Him, and said of him, “Here is an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no guile nor deceit nor duplicity!” Nathanael said to Jesus, “How do You know [these things about] me?” Jesus answered, “Before Philip called you, when you were still under the fig tree, I saw you.”
There is a common misconception we may have the moment we come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. I recall being convinced of this myself early on in my salvation. I went my own way only until my mid-20s, but even that seemed like an eternity before finding God. When my life changed, or when it actually began, I found it hard to believe that I spent any time at all not pursuing him. There was a moment when I thought, “where have you been all my life?” This was the misconception. I knew that until that point I had my eyes on everything and everyone except for God. He was not an option that I entertained. I thought that all those years we shared the same attitude. I thought that, because I did not have my eyes on God, he did not have his eyes on me. Nathanael learned in an instant that this is not so.
There was something incredible about the statement that Jesus made about seeing Nathanael under the fig tree that made him instantly believe that Jesus is the son of God. Some have posited that Nathanael had been praying or worshiping under that tree, and that Jesus acknowledging that moment was confirmation of hearing his prayer. Others believe that the fig tree was not within physical view of Jesus, and that the only way to explain his knowledge of that moment is by something divine. Whatever the case, what Jesus showed Nathanael was that his eyes had been on him long before that moment. What Nathanael learned in an instant I completely missed at first. However, after learning more about God and surveying my life before knowing him, I began to see the hand of God over much of it. He certainly had his eyes on me before I had my eyes on him.
Scripture tells us that our past transgressions are as far from us as the East is from the West. This means that God cannot see us and them at the same time. What He sees today is a righteous child of his bought with the blood of his Son. I wonder whether God ever sees us as anything other than what we will one day become, which are his children. When He was drawing me near to him during my time in the world, who did He see? Which version of me did He have his eyes on? Does it matter? What matters is that our Father in heaven knew us, spotted us, and chased us long before we even knew He was there to be chased. Father, thank You for seeing and seeking us first and for waiting on us to realize we need to seek You, too.