December 4, 2023
Picture: Jacob's Ladder
Genesis 28:12-17; John 1:47-51
It was late, the sun was setting and the desert air was cooling under the twilight sky. There were miles between him and his brother, and yet he could feel his deception, the grief of his father and the wrath of his brother like hot breath on his neck. He was on his way to start a new life. Soon he would be in Paddan-Aram with his uncle Laban where he would find a wife and start a family. But that night his home was the desert and his pillow a rock as his exhausted body drifted to sleep. It is in this space after his mercenary deception that God finds Jacob.
Then he dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set up on the earth, and its top reached to heaven; and there the angels of God were ascending and descending on it.
And behold, the Lord stood above it and said: “I am the Lord God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and your descendants. Also your descendants shall be as the dust of the earth; you shall spread abroad to the west and the east, to the north and the south; and in you and in your seed all the families of the earth shall be blessed. Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have spoken to you.”
Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I did not know it.” And he was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven!”
Genesis 28:12-17 (NKJV)
Even after Jacob had usurped his brother and strongarmed an inevitable blessing, God was near to Jacob. To prove this God used the imagery of a ladder. Through this dream God showed Jacob that there was access to heaven and a relationship with the God of his fathers.
Hundreds of years later, Jesus of Nazareth was beginning his ministry. He had been baptized and was inviting people to follow him. When Nathaniel received the invitation through his friend Philip, he was skeptical. His initial response was, “How can anything good come out of Nazareth” but he wanted to see for himself. As Jesus saw Nathaniel coming, he said to him,
“Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no deceit!”
Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Nathanael answered and said to Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
John 1:47-49 (NKJV)
Like Jacob, Nathaniel was resting in a place oblivious to the fact that God was near. The creator of heaven and earth amid the action of the universe had his eye on Nathaniel. At this point, Nathaniel was overwhelmed with what he heard and he believed Jesus was the son of God. But Jesus wasn’t done. He hints at His purpose by painting a picture that every Jewish boy had etched into the framework of their minds.
Jesus answered and said to him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will see greater things than these.” And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”
John 1:50-51 (NKJV)
Jesus recounts the story of Jacob's ladder but this time HE is the means to heaven. Jesus is the ladder. He would go on to provide access to heaven for all mankind. Generations of Jewish people were not waiting for a baby, they were waiting for the one who would overcome the unassailable gap sin had created between God and man. In Jesus, we have the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the father unless they go through him.