THE ANGELS OF GOD ASCENDING AND DESCENDING UPON THE SON OF MAN
(A biblical refection on THE FEAST OF SAINTS MICHAEL, GABRIEL AND RAPHAEL, ARCHANGELS – Saturday, 29 September 2012)
Gospel Reading: John 1:47-51
First Reading: Dan 7:9-10,13-14 (or Rev 12:7-12; Psalms: Ps 138:1-5
The Scripture Text
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.” (Jn 1:47-51)
Nathanael made an amazing profession of faith in Jesus at his first personal encounter with Him: “You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (Jn 1:49). How did he so quickly perceive the true identity of this itinerant preacher from Nazareth who had simply told him that He had seen him under a fig tree?
An honest and guiless Jew, Nathanael was hungry for God. In his day, it was common for rabbis and their students to study Hebrew Scripture (Old Testament) while sitting in the shade of a leafy tree. In fact, in the Jewish tradition, the expression “to sit under the fig tree” meant to be engaged in studying the Scriptures. Perhaps Nathanael had been reading God’s word under the tree when Jesus saw him there. Maybe he had been pondering the prophesies about the Messiah, seeking to understand their meaning.
Jesus rewarded Nathanael’s faith and desire to know God with a promise that he would see “heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of man” (Jn 1:51). Jesus invited Nathanael – and us, too – to move from a faith based on reason and intellect into the heavenly realm. By coming to us in the flesh, Jesus made heaven accessible. He is the point of contact between eternity and time, the ladder joining heaven and earth. Through the incarnation, God reached down to touch us and to raise us up to be united with Him. What greater joy could we possibly know?
Through faith in Christ and baptism into His name, the heavens can be opened to us every day. We can experience the heavenly life as it transforms our lives on earth. Are you weighed down by guilt? Your sins are forgiven in Christ. Have you been hurt by someone who has wronged you? Those wounds can be healed. Do you feel dry and dull in prayer? The Holy Spirit can revitalize your praise and melt your discouragement with the joyful hope of seeing God face to face. Yes, as a new creation in Christ, we can “sit with Him in the heavenly places” (Eph 2:6). Let’s take our place there today!
Short Prayer: Lord Jesus, open the heavens for me today! Let me see the realities of the spiritual realm all around me. Help me fix my eyes on you and my heavenly inheritance. Amen.
Jakarta, 27 September 2012
A Christian Pilgrim