24 November 2010

John 1:43-51

"And he said to him, 'Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.'" (v. 51)


Hebrew Scripture is full of appearances of God and God's angels (theophanies). In Genesis 28, Jacob was on his way to his mother's homeland to find a wife when he dreamt of the angels of God ascending and descending from heaven. Jacob then named the place Bethel, or "house of God" because he recognised that God had been present.

It's this story that Jesus is talking about when he calls Nathaniel and the others to be his disciples. Heaven and earth met at Bethel long ago and, right now in the person of Jesus, heaven and earth are meeting in front of the disciples' eyes.

John suggests earlier in the text that some of the men called to be Jesus' closest disciples had been out looking for the Messiah (John 1:38). And while they were out looking for the Messiah, the Messiah found them. Imagine what that must have felt like!

But Jesus didn't reveal himself to be the Messiah and then announce that he was going to usher in the kingdom of God by some great supernatural act. The kingdom of God could not be born through force, otherwise it would be no different than any earthly government.

Instead, Jesus called this ragtag group of men to follow him and to be his disciples. He called them to learn from him and to participate with him in the building of God's kingdom. Evidently, there is something about the kingdom of God that requires God's children to cooperate closely with God in its building.

The call to be Jesus' disciple is for us too. Contemporary followers of Jesus are not only co-builders of the kingdom with him but with all of the disciples who went before us and with all who will come after us. Jesus is King of Kings and he calls us to be witnesses to the divine so that God's kingdom will come "on earth as it is in heaven".

To Ponder

If you have ever had an experience that felt like being found by God, can you describe what it was like?

Why do you think Nathaniel asked "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" (verse 46) and how would you have answered him?

If contemporary followers of Jesus are cobuilders with him of God's kingdom, how in your estimation is the project progressing?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pam Garrud

Pam is an ordained minister in the Methodist Church in Britain. In August 2009, Pam and her London-born husband Trevor moved to Pam's native United States for family reasons.