“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
When Jesus was gathering His disciples, He did it using His Word. We read in the gospels that whenever Jesus said to someone, “Follow me,” they did it. Philip, Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all on the receiving end of Jesus’ words and they dropped everything and followed Him. Jesus draws people to Himself using His Word.
Jesus still uses His Word to make disciples. Whenever Holy Scripture is read, whenever a pastor preaches a sermon that proclaims what Jesus accomplished for us, whenever someone is baptized using Jesus words: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” you can be sure that Jesus is using those words to draw people to Himself. But sometimes we don’t think that’s enough. We fallen humans try to find something flashier or more impressive. We want to cling to programs or gimmicks or anything besides than these simple words of Jesus read or preached to us.
But as soon as we start to crave something that we think is more impressive, Jesus stops us in our tracks. He did this with Nathanael. Philip was following Jesus after he heard the words of our Lord invite him. Philip went and told his brother Nathanael that the Messiah had been found. Nathanael doubted, thinking that nothing good—nothing impressive or respectable—could come out of a town like Nazareth, but he went anyway to go and see what his brother was talking about. When Jesus saw Nathanael, He said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.”
Nathanael realized that Jesus was no mere mortal, and he announced that Jesus is the Son of God and King of Israel. But Jesus didn’t want Nathanael to follow simply because of a show of power. Jesus said to Philip, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you now believe? You will see greater things than this.” (John 1:50) Jesus didn’t want to draw believers through things that simply impressed their fallen flesh. He wants to draw them with His Word—the Word of the cross. That’s why Jesus continued, “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) Jesus was talking about His crucifixion, where heaven and earth would be bridged and reunited, where the gates of heaven would swing open to welcome us in. Jesus wanted Nathanael to focus on the cross.
Sometimes we want to focus on things that seem impressive to our fallen nature. But Jesus reminds us that His cross is the greatest good. We follow Him not because of a display of worldly power, but because His Word has made us His disciples by showing us that His cross has opened heaven for us. Our crosses in this life lead us to focus on our Lord’s cross and put our faith in Him rather than what’s impressive to the world.
Heavenly Father, lead me to hear Your Son’s Word and put my faith in Him. Turn my eyes away from the things of this world and focus them only on His cross. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen.