Reading: John 1:43-51
Here is another extracts from The Glory of the Story, my father’s devotional introduction to biblical theology in the form of 366 daily readings which show how the Old Testament story is fulfilled in Christ. The Glory of the Story is available as a Kindle book for $2.99 from amazon.com and £1.99 from amazon.co.uk. I’m posting extracts from the chaper on the story of Jacob, usually on the first Monday of the month.
The proud builders of Babel planned a tower that reaches to the heavens (Gen. 11:4); the same wording used to describe the stairway of Jacob’s dream (Gen. 28:12). Of course they couldn’t bridge the gap, and God came in judgement upon them. Now we have God’s answer to Babel. Heaven comes to earth. God comes in mercy to needy Jacob and promises, ‘I will never leave you.’ It is a promise repeated to the whole community called Jacob in the desperate place of exile (Is. 43:1-2). At a personal level, the deepest yearnings for God’s presence are kept alive in, for example, Psalms 23 and 121. Let us now press the FF button.
1. The story fast-forwarded to Jesus (43-50)
Jesus is calling his disciples. Seeing Nathaniel he says, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.’ (47 ESV) In the light of what follows this is an obvious contrast with deceitful Jacob, the first Israelite. Jesus’ miraculous knowledge of Nathaniel evokes the confession, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.’ (49) Jesus assures Nathaniel there is a much stronger basis for faith soon to be disclosed (50).
2. The story finally-fulfilled through Jesus (51)
What Jacob’s dream symbolizes is being re-enacted before their eyes (‘you’ in verse 51 is plural). God is tearing heaven open again and coming to earth – in the baptism of Jesus (heaven … torn open – Mark 1:10); in the signs and sayings of Jesus; in his death, resurrection and exaltation to heaven.
Jesus, as the Word-of-God-become-flesh, now tabernacles on earth (John 1:14). He is the new intersection point between heaven and earth. He is Immanuel, God with us (Matt 1:23). He is the new Bethel, meaning house of God; the place where we can meet God and hear his word. As the LORD said to Jacob, ‘I will never leave you’, so the Lord Jesus tells his disciples: ‘I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.’ (Matt. 28:20)
His presence is now a reality for every Christian through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (John 14: 16-18; Rom. 8:9-10; Eph. 3:16-17). Each new day a Christian can say, ‘the LORD is in this place … this is the gate of heaven!’ (Gen. 28:16-17)
Seek to live each part of today aware of the presence of Jesus and the nearness of heaven (cf. Heb. 12:22).