posted on Apr, 24 2015 @ 05:07 PM
“Truly, truly, I say to you; you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”- John ch1 v51
Jesus was fond of using the phrase “Truly I say to you”, but this “double” version, with the repeated AMEN, is found only in John’s
He seems to use it to mark the statements which he wants people to remember.
In this case, Jesus is addressing Nathanael.
The background of the conversation is that Jesus “found” and summoned Philip, who then “found” Nathanael and told him about Jesus.
He assured him that Jesus was the one foretold in the law and the prophets. The implication is that they had talked about this question before. Philip
now thought he had found the answer.
Nathanael doesn’t take this very seriously. He asks “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”
I think he means that Nazareth is too local and well-known. He is unconsciously expecting a great spiritual figure to come from somewhere more exotic.
The people of Nazareth themselves had exactly the same difficulty; how could they believe in someone they had known since childhood?
Philip doesn’t try to argue the point. A meeting with Jesus himself will be more convincing than anything he can say.
As Nathanael approaches, Jesus hails him as an Israelite in the true sense (ALETHOS), one “in whom is no guile”.
In other words, he is a better representative of God’s people Israel than Jacob, whose life was built upon guile at the expense of others.
Perhaps we can see another contrast; according to the story, Jacob won the name Israel (“prince of God”) after a night of “wrestling with
Nathanael’s name means “gift of God”.
So Nathanael is willing (this implies) to accept whatever comes from God, instead of seeking to control him.
This, too, is a better foundation for establishing an Israel.
But where did Jesus get his knowledge of Nathanael?
His answer was that he had seen Nathanael “before Philip called you, when you were under the fig-tree”.
This must refer to some incident which only Nathanael could have known about.
That was enough to convince him that Jesus must have special knowledge, which could only be available to “the Son of God, the king of Israel”.
It’s worth noting, incidentally, that Philip’s calling of Nathanael also echoes one of the Old Testament prophecies;
“In that day, says the Lord of Hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbour under his vine and under his fig-tree”- Zechariah ch3 v10
Then Jesus makes the promise which I’ve already quoted;
“You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”.
This continues the comparison with Jacob.
When Jacob was in flight from Esau’s wrath, he stopped for the night at the place which later became Bethel.
There he had a night-vision, in which he saw a ladder (or perhaps a staircase) between earth and heaven.
The angels of God were ascending and descending upon that ladder, going about his business in the world.
And that was one of the signs of the presence of God.
The vision which Nathanael has been promised has one vital difference.
The angels will be ascending and descending “upon the Son of Man”, that is upon Jesus himself.
He takes the place of the staircase between heaven and earth.
Therefore the message is that the Son of Man has become the point of contact between heaven and earth, between God and man.
He has become the channel of God’s work in the world (which the angels represent).
The recollection of Jacob’s vision also implies the climax of Jacob’s vision, namely the Lord’s promise that “I will be with you and will keep
you wherever you go”.
Nathanael represents those who will be able to recognise the Son of Man as the channel between heaven and earth, and God’s representative in the
That qualifies him to replace Jacob as the symbolic founder of a new Israel, a more “truthful” Israel.
And this function of the Son of Man is evidently one of the first things that Jesus wants his disciples to remember.