“Rabbi,” Nathanael answered, “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!”
Jesus said to him, “Do you believe just because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than these.” Then He declared, “Truly, truly, I tell you, you will see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” John 1:49-51
It seems like I’ve been praying like never before this week. So many of my friends are going through really tough challenges — marriage difficulties, the death of a family member, a crisis regarding a loved one, impossible situations at work.
I have a little prayer box, and I keep putting more things in it.
Today’s passage speaks to this. It describes how Nathanael reacted when Jesus told him that he was a true Israelite. Nathanael could see the divine power behind this statement, and he declared that he believed that Jesus was the Son of God.
What’s really encouraging about this is Jesus’s response. He told Nathanael that he would see heaven open and the angels going up and coming down.
Well, before we go on, we have to look at this mystifying image of the angels. What did Jesus mean? We don’t know. We don’t have any record of Nathanael actually seeing this in the future.
But we do know that it’s probably a reference to Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28.
He (Jacob) had a dream in which he saw a stairway resting on the earth, with its top reaching to heaven, and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. There above it stood the LORD, and he said: “I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and the God of Isaac. I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth, and you will spread out to the west and east and north and south. All the families of the earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.” (Genesis 28:12)
The outcome of this story of Jacob was that God was going to bless everyone on earth through Jacob’s descendants. This is a continuation of the promise God gave to Jacob’s grandfather, Abraham. I believe that this promise is being fulfilled today as the gospel is being made known throughout the world. Galatians 3 says, “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (Galatians 3:7-8)
Thus, it very well could be that Jesus was telling Nathanael that he would see the miracle of the gospel being spread to all nations.
It could also be a reference to Nathanael’s entrance to heaven when he died. When Stephen was stoned in Acts 7 and about to perish, he said, “Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” (Acts 7:56) Jesus could be telling Nathanael that, as one of the first to have faith in the Son of God, he would have a similar vision when he passed away.
We don’t know. But we do know that Jesus said that Nathanael would see something great and wonderful. And I think the principle here is that because Nathanael was able to have faith in a small situation, he was going to see the glory of Christ.
And that is something that can encourage us. If we can just have faith in the small things, we will be able to see glorious things.
It may be that we will see this glory as we see the gospel being spread in miraculous ways. We will certainly see it when we get to heaven.
But maybe we will see the glory because faith allows us to live a glorious life. Jesus said, “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) I John 5:4 says, “This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.” And I love this verse, “But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere.” (II Cor 2:14)
Just being able to have faith in the small things makes such a difference. It helps us learn to have faith in the big things. And then God works in big ways. And we see the world in a different way, that we’re not perpetually defeated, but, instead, part of something dynamic and thrilling and hopeful.
Earlier this week, a friend called me to unload about a difficult situation. After we discussed it, we decided, rather than try and figure out a solution to the problem, to surrender it to God in prayer. I put it in my “prayer box.”
The next day, she texted me and said that the situation had worked out. It was a small miracle.
A day later, I heard about something that totally discouraged me. I got a lump in my throat that was like a huge ugly ball, too big to swallow, too big to fit in my prayer box.
And I had to tell myself, “I believe Jesus is the Son of God. This belief is my very core. So I must surrender the unsurrenderable to him.” And I’m trying to do that.
You know, as I reflect on this now, I realize that God works when we give things to him. But we expect him to work while we’re still holding onto our concerns! We have to have the faith to hand it over.
Nathanael took a step of faith. And Jesus said that he would see glory.
We need to take that step of faith, and then the next, and the next, even though they seem huge. When we do, we will live a glorious life.
As I look over my gratitude journal this week, I see how true this is. God did some wonderful things this week! One friend had an amazing breakthrough. I started studying the Bible with another friend, and it went so well! God taught me truths that I was able to pass on to others to help them. I could go on and on.
Jesus is the Son of God. Our belief in that makes such a difference.