Ascending and descending
Then Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said about him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
“How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
“Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you,” Jesus answered.
“Rabbi,” Nathanael replied, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!”
Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.” Then he said, “Truly I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” (John 1:47-51)
Jesus found Philip (Jn 1:43). Philip found Nathanael (Jn 1:45). Nathanael found Jesus. Jesus, as it happens, found Nathanael before Philip ever told him, “Come and see. We have found the one Moses wrote about in the law (and so did the prophets)” (Jn 1:46).
We find the Savior because he first found us.
The omniscience of Christ surprises Nathanael, and his surprise quickly gives way to faithful reverence. “Rabbi,” he says to Jesus, “You are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:49).
Though none of these earliest disciples yet grasp the fullness of who Jesus is and what he will accomplish, Nathanael immediately and intuitively knows he is the Son of God and King of Israel (Jn 1:49). Perhaps both references allude to the prophecy of Psalm 2, which says: “I have installed my king on Zion, my holy mountain.” I will declare the LORD’s decree. He said to me, “You are my Son; today I have become your Father” (Ps 2:6, 7).
“Oh, yes,” Christ replies, “but this is only the beginning. You will see greater things than this” (Jn 1:50). Namely, Nathanael, Philip, and every other believer up to the present day has seen heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man (Jn 1:51).
If you are a Christian now curious how angels coming and going from heaven ever escaped your notice, let me explain.
Long before Jesus met Nathanael in Galilee, Jacob had the following dream:
A stairway was set on the ground with its top reaching the sky, and God’s angels were going up and down on it. The LORD was standing there beside him, saying, “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your offspring the land on which you are lying. Your offspring will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out toward the west, the east, the north, and the south. All the peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring. Look, I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go. I will bring you back to this land, for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (Genesis 28:12-15)
When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he said, “Surely the LORD is in this place, and I did not know it,” and he named that spot Bethel, or the house of God (Ge 28:16).
According to Jesus’s version of the imagery, the angels are ascending and descending on him, the Son of Man (Jn 1:51). In other words, he is making the first of many profound, albeit somewhat cryptic statements about himself. He is claiming to be Bethel. He is the house of God. He is the link between heaven and earth. In short, he is the one mediator between God and mankind (1Ti 2:5).
Despite the baseless, vain assertions of many so-call spiritual teachers past and present, no one comes to God the Father except through Christ his Son (Jn 14:6).