Volume 13, No. 11 (November 2018)
And Jacob dreamed, and behold, 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! 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 28:12,16-17)
And Jesus said to Nathanael, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on THE SON OF MAN.” (John 1:51)
It seems likely that when Jesus saw Nathanael “under the fig tree” (John 1:48), the future disciple was meditating on Genesis 28. This would best explain Jesus’ otherwise cryptic words in v. 51: the wording is almost identical to Genesis 28:12, with the crucial substitution of “the Son of Man” for “a ladder.” Jesus seems to be saying that HE is the Jacob’s Ladder, the greater fulfillment of Jacob’s dream, the ultimate conduit between heaven and earth.
Another hint that this is in fact what is going on: at the time of Jacob’s dream, he is running for his life, after having cheated his brother out of his birthright and his father’s blessing through deceit. When Jesus first sees Nathanael, He claims, “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit.” Or, as William Temple put it, “An Israelite in whom there is no Jacob.”
Jesus identifies Himself as the fulfillment of Jacob’s vision. “What Jacob had dreamt was in Christ realized.”(W. Robertson Nicholl)
the incarnate One,
fully God and fully man,
Emmanuel, God with us,
IS the true ladder between Heaven and earth,
“the bridge across the great divide,”
the connection between deity and humanity,
the one Mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5),
the House of God (John 1:14),
and the Gate of heaven (John 10:7-9).
Throughout the Gospel of John,
Jesus will be seen as the One sent by the Father
AND as the One who leads us to the Father.
“The foundation of Christian worship is our Lord Himself, as the One who is both the divine Word and man’s perfect response to that Word. . . . He is the Jacob’s Ladder upon which passes all that traffic of God to man and man to God which is the meaning of our worship. . . . Christ Himself is the essence of worship, bringing down the love of God to men, and taking man’s response to His love back to the throne of God.”(William Nicholls)