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We are not alone: Things unseen: John 1:43-51 (Gen. 28:10-22)

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  • We are not alone: Things unseen: John 1:43-51 (Gen. 28:10-22)

    We are not alone:
    .........................considering things unseen.

    One of our clergy preached a splendid sermon on this passage from John 1, and on its OT basis -- Jacob's ladder (Gen. 28) -- in Church this morning.
    Philip found Nathanael, and said to him, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph." Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

    Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and said of him, "Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!" Nathanael said to him, "How do you know me?" Jesus answered him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Nathanael answered him, "Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!"

    Jesus answered him, "Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig tree, do you believe? You shall see greater things than these." And he said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man."

    ..........John 1:45-51

    I'm writing about it here, though, because I want to preach to myself about it. I'm struggling a bit, with discouragement, and keeping myself going on track. These passages, as we were taught about them this morning, are hopeful ones, which help us see how very near and present God is, and how His unseen help is very tangibly around us all the time. Because of Jesus, who has come to help us, we can, in fact, call on God at any time, and in any difficulty. Of course, we all know that. But I'm writing on it here because I need encouragement, renewal of active hope, so that I don't muddle on in a lackluster and half-hearted way. I'm trying to write about the truth of God's presence and help to focus my mind on these life-giving truths. But I'd sure appreciate input along the same lines from others, too!
    Jacob ... came to a certain place, and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep.

    And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven; and behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the LORD stood above it and said, "I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your seed; and your descendants shall be like the dust of the earth, ... and by you and your seed shall all the families of the earth bless themselves.

    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 that of which 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." ... (He called the name of that place "Beth-el")

    ..........Genesis 28:10-17, 19
    We are not alone, for God's presence around us is powerful and active, although usually invisible to us!

  • #2
    The Incident

    Nathanael comes to Jesus to see if He is the Messiah.

    Jesus surprises Nathanel by commenting on his character before he has even met him (a comment, BTW, which may already be referencing "Jacob", who was a man of guile, a "grasper", before he was renamed "Israel" -- he who strives with God -- after using his strength to not let go of God).
    In fact, Jesus' words "Behold a true Israelite in whom in no guile" are words about seeing Nathanael, and seeing who he truly is.

    Nathanael says "How do you know me" -- logically enough, for Jesus has (this perhaps is what Nathanael means) never seen him before.

    Jesus replies: "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you."

    Nathanael is blown away, and thinks Jesus is the Messiah, and says so.

    Jesus says "You shall see greater things than this"

    and "You will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man."

    Jesus' last remark is a reference, as Nathanael would have known, of course, to Jacob's ladder. When Jacob lies down and God shows him that the place where he lies is one where unseen by him angels are coming and going, between heaven and earth. And at the top of the ladder is God himself. Thus the place where he has come is the portal of heaven, the gate or doorway of heaven, and indeed the place where God dwells, the house of God (which is what "Bethel" means). Jacob is astonished, blown away, at the sudden revelation of the presence of God, and the unseen realm, with angels coming and going between earth and heaven.

    Jesus, similarly, shows by his opening reply to Nathanael that He sees things that are ordinarily unseen. By his final remark, Jesus shows that it is He who is the portal of heaven, the house of God, and that through him God's angels are descending to earth, and ascending back to heaven. (The reference to descending and ascending is tied back to Jesus' incarnation and re-ascension in his discussion with Nicodemus at 3:13, and his claim that he will ascend to God at 6:62, as well as his reference to ascending after the resurrection, at 20:17)

    We are not alone

    Ordinarily, I do not conceive of myself as surrounded by angels. I see myself as wrestling with problems more or less by myself, although directing occasional prayers to God, which I know He does hear, but whose results I generally don't see quickly, if at all. Or so it seems to me.

    In fact, I get discouraged, not just because of various problems or circumstances, but because in fact I do not see myself as part of a team, part of a working group, working together for a good goal -- especially, God's kingdom, but also, laboring on my concerns and my life. (This is abominable: I don't think this is right at all. It's a kind of punyness of faith, at the least, to put it as kindly as possible. I know this is wrong in my daily life, but it's generally the case and there's no point disguising this sad truth.)

    In fact, I tend to act as if -- and to think as if -- I live in the world which I see, only, and that that is almost all that there is. But the world of our senses is only part of the world that surrounds us: there is an unseen world which is filled with spiritual forces, it seems. Elisha, certainly, in a sudden moment showed his servant angels all around them. (II Kings 6:17) I guess it's possible that the Scripture is not saying that -- that the Scripture is merely indicating that at some unusual times there are angels around, but on the whole I think it is saying that angels are frequent visitors to our lives. Certainly the text at Matt 28:10, and Acts 12:15 seem to indicate that we have guardian angels, and the text at Luke 15:10 that there are a lot of angels concerned with even a single sinner. Psalm 91:11, though its primary reference is probably to Jesus may also apply to all believers; and Ps. 34:7 -- "the angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear him" certainly seems to refer to all of us. So I think that we are told that we live in a world in which only part of what is around us is seen, and that we live constantly in the presence of messengers from God -- angels -- who care for us at God's command, and present our requests also to God (Rev. 8:3-4).

    This was the message of the sermon today: we are not alone.

    Though we do not see God's work, and His angels, about us, they are there.