Climbing Jacob’s Ladder | John 1.50-51
Jesus answered him, “Because I said to you, ‘I saw you under the fig tree,’ do you believe? You will 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 on the Son of Man.” John 1:50-51| ESV
And Jesus wasn’t slow in his response. “Wait a minute, because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree’ you’re ready to buy in, all in? You haven’t seen anything yet, friend.” And then Jesus thoughtfully added, “Put this in ALL CAPS with a double underline: You will see heaven having been opened wide and staying that way, the Great Mystery right before your eyes. You will have Jacob’s dream all over again with angels of God going up and coming down, full access, heaven and earth bridged – only the bridge isn’t some ladder or stairway this time; it’s the Son of Man, the Ultimate Human Being. And this time, it’s not a dream.” MAV
We are climbing Jacob’s ladder…
Every rung goes higher and higher…
Every new rung just, just makes us stronger…
It’s a Bruce Springsteen song. Huey Lewis has his own version, and I’ve heard Bruce Hornsby sing it too. And of course Led Zeppelin sang of the Stairway to Heaven. We’re climbing Jacob’s ladder, doing the best we can, step-by-step, rung by rung. We all hear that song and do our own rung dance to it. But it’s not what Jacob dreamed. I like to think that this is what Nathanael was contemplating under that fig tree when he was alone, but not. If so, this is more of Jesus reading his mail – and in so doing reading ours too. We all see ourselves as Jacobs, filled with our share of flaws and deceit, doing the best we can and hoping as we climb each rung of that ladder that it will all be good enough when our life is through and we run out of rungs. But this isn’t what Jacob dreamed. And it certainly isn’t good news. Jacob is on the run from home, more or less a fugitive from his own family when his own deceit and manipulations landed him in hot water. So he runs. Then he stops for the night, lies down propping his head up with a stone and sleeps and dreams. I imagine not a ladder, but the massive stairway of what we know as a ziggurat – cultural holy places resembling a pyramid with a stairway leading to the “God spot” at the top. Holy men and priestesses would make the climb to the holy, step by exhausting step. It’s what religion does. But this ziggurat has angels ascending and descending in free and open concourse between heaven and earth. And the next thing Jacob knows, God is standing with him, next to him, affirming the same promises and presence to him that had been with his fathers. (You can read about this in Genesis 28.) The key point is that Jacob’s feet never touched the stairway. Jacob didn’t climb anything, nor do we. It’s a stairway of divine incarnation, not of human aspiration. God comes down. And Nathanael is looking right at the Stairway as he looks into the face of Jesus. And he will live to see it opened wide before the eyes of people “from every nation under heaven” on a day called Pentecost. And yes, that’s a major spoiler. But it’s a spoiler Jesus threw at an incredulous Nathanael. I imagine he didn’t get it, any more than the rest of his companions would get anything over the next years with Jesus. The question is, do we? Or are we still trying to build that stairway and to climb it?
To what extent do you feel stuck on Jacob’s ladder climbing day after day, rung by rung, step by step? How can we step out of that nightmare into the reality of Jacob’s dream?
Holy Spirit, open the eyes of my heart to see the holy place where I am right now. Deliver me from the fruitless and futile unending effort of climbing a stairway of our own efforts. Remind me that you are already standing right here with me, and that, even in the midst of whatever mess I face today, I am already reclining with you in heavenly places. Through Christ.
For all of this week’s resources for this new series on Spiritual Disciplines including this week’s DG video, check out the Vineyard website.