John 1 - Thru the Bible Commentary
THEME: Prologue—Incarnation; Word is God, Word became flesh, Word revealed God; witness of John the Baptist; witness of Andrew; witness of Philip; witness of Nathanael
WORD IS GOD—WORD BECAME FLESH—WORD REVEALED GOD
1:1 The Gospel of John introduces the Lord Jesus Christ with three tremendous statements:
“In the beginning was the Word,”
“And the Word was with God,”
“And the Word was God.”
“The Word” is one of the highest and most profound titles of the Lord Jesus Christ. To determine the exact meaning is not easy. Obviously the Lord Jesus Christ is not the logos of Greek philosophy; rather He is the memra of the Hebrew Scriptures. Notice how important the Word is in the Old Testament. For instance, the name for Jehovah was never pronounced. It was such a holy word that they never used it at all. But this is the One who is the Word and, gathering up everything that was said of Him in the Old Testament, He is now presented as the One “In the beginning.” This beginning antedates the very first words in the Bible, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” That beginning can be dated, although I do not believe that anyone can date it accurately—it is nonsense to say that it is 4004 B.C., as Ussher’s dating has it. It probably goes back billions and billions of years. You see, you and I are dealing with the God of eternity. When you go back to creation, He is already there, and that is exactly the way this is used—“in the beginning was the Word.” Notice it is not is the Word; it was not in the beginning that the Word started out or was begotten. Was (as Dr. Lenske points out) is known as a durative imperfect, meaning continued action. It means that the Word was in the beginning. What beginning? Just as far back as you want to go. The Bible says, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Does that begin God? No, just keep on going back billions and trillions and “squillions” of years. I can think back to billions of years back of creation—maybe you can go beyond that—but let’s put down a point there, billions of years back of creation. He already was; He comes out of eternity to meet us. He did not begin. “In the beginning was the Word”—He was already there when the beginning was. “Well,” somebody says, “there has to be a beginning somewhere.” All right, wherever you begin, He is there to meet you, He is already past tense. “In the beginning was the Word”—five words in the original language, and there is not a man on topside of this earth who can put a date on it or understand it or fathom it. This first tremendous statement starts us off in space, you see.
The second statement is this, “and the Word was with God.” This makes it abundantly clear that He is separate and distinct from God the Father. You cannot identify Him as God the Father because He is with God. “But,” someone says, “if He is with God, He is not God.” The third statement sets us straight, “and the Word was God.” This is a clear, emphatic declaration that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. In fact, the Greek is more specific than this, because in the Greek language the important word is placed at the beginning of the sentence and it reads, “God was the Word.” That is emphatic; you cannot get it more emphatic than that. Do you want to get rid of the deity of Christ? My friend, you cannot get rid of it. The first three statements in John’s Gospel tie the thing down. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Let’s move on down to verse 14 and notice the three statements there.
1:3 The Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator. Not only did He exist before Bethlehem, but He created the vast universe including the material out of which man constructed Bethlehem. All things were made by Him; He is the instrument of creation. Nothing came into existence without Him.
1:4 Now we are confronted with something else—two of the simplest things in the world: light and life. Zoe and phos are the two words in the original language. From zoe we get zoology, the study of life; and from phos we get photo or anything that is built on it, such as photograph—it is light. These two things are so common that we take them for granted. Life—we see it everywhere. There may be a great deal of life right where you are at this moment. You go out in the woods and you see the same thing—life. It greets you on every hand, but can you explain it? You see in the Sunday pictorials and the sensational magazines that men now have discovered the source of life. But if you read them, you find that they have not found the source at all, though they think they are close to it. They put the microscope down on a green leaf. One moment they see that a little cell is arranged one way and is dead as a doornail. The next moment the thing is rearranged in another way, and it is alive. And then the thing starts growing and doubling, dividing and multiplying itself. Why does it do that? Life.
The other common thing is light. What is light? I listened to Irwin Moon try to explain it (and Irwin gave the best explanation I have heard), but when he got through, I was not sure if light is a real something or if it is just waves because they can cut the thing off and still light will go through. As you know, certain kinds of light will go through objects that would stop waves. What in the world is light?
You see, we are dealing with things that are fundamental, though men today with all their scientific gadgets know so little about them.
“In him was life”—all life is in Jesus Christ. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” You and I live in a universe that is spiritually dark. The fact of the matter is, it is physically dark to a certain degree. But God said, “… Let there be light …” (Gen. 1:3) and these light holders are placed about throughout His universe like street lights in a big city. We are told that when a man gets away from this earth a short distance, he is in total, absolute darkness, and it is frightening to be out where there is nothing from which the sun can be reflected. Our little globe is out in a dark universe, yet that is nothing compared to the spiritual darkness that envelops it. When the sun disappears, there is physical darkness over the land; but twenty–four hours a day there is spiritual darkness here, awful spiritual darkness. Man does not know God; man is in rebellion against God; man is in sin that blinds him to God. In the Lord Jesus Christ there is life, and the life that He gives is the light of men. In fact, His life is the only thing that can kindle light in the heart of an individual. An unregenerate man has no spiritual life within him. This is the reason that when you present to him Jesus Christ, he says, “I don’t get it. I don’t understand that at all.”
I used to go down to the jail in Cleburne, Texas, and speak to the men. It was not a large jail and I could talk to them in a conversational tone. I would start off talking about football (because in Texas football is a religion!), and those hardened men would get enthusiastic about it. I talked also of other things and they were interested. Then I would turn the conversation to something spiritual, and I could see the darkness come over their faces. I might just as well have been talking to corpses. And that is what they were—men dead in trespasses and sins. This world today is in spiritual darkness, and the Lord Jesus Christ has brought the only light there is in the world. He is the light. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.”
1:5 That word “comprehend” is an unfortunate translation. And a wiseacre did not help it by rendering it, “and the darkness was not able to put it out.” That is no translation at all. The word in the Greek is katelaben, meaning actually “to take down.” It is the picture of a secretary to whom the boss is giving dictation, and she stops and says, “I can’t take that down. I am not able to take it down.” The light shines in darkness and the darkness is not able to take it in. That is it exactly. Someone said to him, “Boy, was I in darkness before I received Christ! And I don’t know why I didn’t see.” Well, that is it: you were in darkness and you did not see. The darkness just cannot take it in.
Now this is something quite interesting, and it is not true of physical light. You go into a dark room, and the minute you switch on the light, the darkness leaves, it disappears. Darkness and light cannot exist together physically. The moment you bring light in, darkness is gone. The minute light is taken out, darkness will come right back in. But spiritual light and darkness exist together. Sometimes there is a husband who is saved and a wife who is unsaved—or vice versa. Here is a believer working next to another man who says, “What do you mean when you talk about being a Christian? I do the best I can. Am I not a Christian?” There you have light and darkness side by side and the darkness just cannot take it in. That is exactly what is said here, “The light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.”
1:10 That was the tragedy—the world was in darkness, spiritual darkness, and did not know Him. Even today we are seeing the rise of atheism and unbelief, and we will see it more and more in the days that lie ahead. A great many people do not seem to recognize that unbelief and atheism go naturally with the natural man. Somebody says to me, “Oh, did you read in the paper what Dr. So–and–So of a certain seminary wrote?” Yes, I read it. “Well, isn’t it awful?” No, I do not think so. He would upset my apple cart if he said that he believed the Bible because he is an unbeliever by his own statement. He says that he does not believe in being born again, that he does not believe he has to receive Christ in order to be saved. Now I do not expect that man to say he believes the Bible. That would be absolutely contrary to his statements. The so–called theologians and theological professors who espouse the “God is dead movement” present us with the preposterous, untenable claim that they are Christian atheists! Obviously atheism precludes the possibility of being Christian, yet unbelief has moved into our seminaries and pulpits across the land. The world does not know Him.
1:11 He came into His own universe but His own people did not receive Him.
1:12 “But as many as received him, to them gave he power.” The word power is not dunamis power like dynamite, physical power, but exousian power which is delegated power, authority. “But as many as received him, to them gave he the authority to become the sons of God [children, tekna of God], even to them that believe on his name.”
Notice that this is for “them that believe on his name.” And always with the word “believe” there is a preposition. You see, faith, as the Bible uses it, is not just head knowledge. Many people ask, “You mean all that I have to do is to say I believe?” Yes, that is all you have to do, but let’s see what that implies. With the verb “to believe” there is always a preposition—sometimes en (in), sometimes eis (into), or sometimes epi (upon). You must believe into, in, or upon Jesus Christ. Let me illustrate with a chair. I am standing beside a chair and I believe it will hold me up, but it is not holding me up. Why? Because I have only a head knowledge. I just say, “Yes, it will hold me up.” Now suppose I believe into the chair by sitting in it. See what I mean? I am committing my entire weight to it and it is holding me up. Is Christ holding you up? Is He your Savior? It is not a question of standing to the side and saying, “Oh, yes, I believe Jesus is the Son of God.” The question is have you trusted Him, have you believed into Him, are you resting in Him? This chair is holding me up completely. And at this moment Christ is my complete Savior. I am depending on Him; I am resting in Him.
WITNESS OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
“And the Word was made flesh,”
“And the Word dwelt among us,”
“He was full of grace and truth.”
The Greek philosopher probably would have stayed with us through verse one, but he leaves us here. He would never agree that the Word was made flesh. The Greek language allows us to put it more specifically and, I think, more accurately: “The Word was born flesh.” Turn this over in your mind for a moment. Here comes God out of eternity, already the Ancient of Days; but He also came to Bethlehem, a little baby thing that made a woman cry. And notice that John’s Gospel does not even mention His birth in Bethlehem. Do you know why? He is talking about One who is too big for Bethlehem. Out of eternity, the Word became flesh.
“And [the Word] dwelt among us” is the second statement in verse 14. “Dwelt” is from skenoo; it means “He pitched His tent among us.” Our human bodies are merely little tents in which we live. The apostle Paul used the same imagery: “… we know that if … this tabernacle were dissolved …” (2 Cor. 5:1). This house in which we live is a tabernacle, a tent, that can be blown over in a night; it can be snuffed out in an instant. Because you and I live in these little tents, the God of eternity took upon Himself a human body and thus pitched His tent down here among us. Such is the second tremendous statement.
Notice the third, “(and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” Now John is saying something else. The question I would naturally ask at this point is, “If He was made flesh, He certainly limited himself.” John says, “Wait a minute—He was full of grace and truth.” The word “full” means that you just could not have any more. He brought all the deity with Him, and He was full of grace and full of truth when He came down here.
Now we move to verse 18 to find three statements again.
“No man hath seen God at any time;”
“The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father,”
“He hath declared him.”
Notice the first: “No man hath seen God at any time.” Why? He will explain it in this Gospel; the Lord Jesus will tell the woman at the well, “God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24)—for God is spirit. No man has seen God at any time. What about the appearances in the Old Testament? God never revealed Himself in the Old Testament to the eyes of man. What, then, did they see? Well, go back and read the record. For instance, Jacob said that he saw God, but what he saw was the angel of the Lord who wrestled with him. That was a manifestation, but he did not see God because God is a spirit. “No man hath seen God at any time.”
The second statement is, “the only begotten Son.” The best Greek text is that of Nestle, the German scholar. He has come to the definite conclusion that it is not the only begotten Son, but the only begotten God. I prefer that also. “Which is in the bosom of the Father” tells us a great deal. He did not come from the head of God to reveal the wisdom of God; He did not come from the foot of God to be a servant of man. (Have you ever noticed that although we speak of the fact He was a servant, whose shoes did He ever shine? Did He ever run an errand for anybody? He did not. He said, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” [John 6:38]. He was God’s servant—He came to serve Him, and as He served the Father, He served men.) He did not come from the feet; He did not come from the head; it was from the bosom of the Father that He came. He came to reveal the heart of God: He was “the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father.”
The third statement completes verse eighteen: “he hath declared him.” The Greek word here is exegesato. Ago is “to lead” and ex is “out.” It means that what Jesus Christ did was to lead God out into the open. Do you know anything bigger than that? A little trip to the moon is nothing in comparison. Here He comes out of eternity past, the God of this universe, the Creator of everything, taking upon Himself human flesh, and bringing God out into the open so that men can know Him. My friend, the only way in the world you can know God is through this One, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came to reveal God because He is God.
I am not through with these statements; there is something else here. Let’s put together the first verse in each of these three groups and see what we come up with:
“In the beginning was the Word,”
“And the Word was made flesh,”
“No man hath seen God at any time.”
You could not see God—God is spirit. He had to become flesh; He had to become one of us in order for us to know Him. We could not go up there to understand Him; He had to come down here and bring God down where we are.
Now let’s put the second statements together from each of the three groups:
“The Word was with God,”
“And dwelt among us,”
“The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father.”
Consider this One for a moment—the angels bowed before Him, He was with God, on an equality with God. The apostle Paul wrote of Him, He “… thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil. 2:6). That is, He did not go to school to become God; it was not something He worked overtime to attain. It was not a degree that He earned. He did not try to be God; He was God. I do not mean to be irreverent, but He did not say to the Father when He came to this earth, “Keep your eye on Gabriel; he is after My job; watch him while I’m gone.” He did not have to do that—nobody could take His place. He was God. Here He comes: born in Bethlehem, a few little shepherds there, not many; He goes up to Nazareth, thirty years hidden away in Nazareth. God, out of eternity coming down and going to Nazareth, working in a carpenter shop. Why? So you can know God. The only way you will ever know Him, my friend, is to know this One. “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father” is the only One who can reveal God to us.
Now notice the third statement in each group:
“The Word was God,”
“And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth,”
“He hath declared him.”
When He was down here, He was still God, full of grace and truth. And He declared Him; He is the only one who can lead Him out in the open where we can get acquainted with Him.
We are not through with this. I want you to see something else. How do you divide up this universe? I sat with a man who designed the shield that has been on all these space crafts to make their re–entry. He is a scientist who is an authority on heat. As we had lunch together in New Jersey, he said, “You know, this universe is made up of just three things. I believe that God has put His fingerprints on everything—the Trinity is everywhere.” Then he explained what he meant. The universe is divided up into time, space, and matter. Can you think of a fourth? The very interesting thing is that time, space, and matter include everything that is in this universe as you and I know it. Then time can be divided into just three parts: past, present, and future. Can you think of a fourth? And what about space? Length, breadth, and height. Is there another direction? Also there is in matter energy, motion, and phenomena. Those are the three divisions of the three divisions. The universe in which we live bears the mark of the Trinity.
Now notice the way in which the Incarnation is geared into this observation. Verse 1:
Time: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.”
Space: “The Word was made flesh”—became flesh, came down into space. Where? To Bethlehem, a little geographical spot—and even this earth was a pretty small spot for Him to come to—and He pitched His tent here among us. We beheld His glory, full of grace and truth.
Matter: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.” Because He became matter, became a man, took upon Himself humanity, men could see and know God. This is the time, space, and matter of the Incarnation. Let’s divide each of these into three.
Past: “In the beginning was the Word.”
Present: “The Word was made [became] flesh” (in our day).
Future: “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son … hath declared him.” The apostle Paul, at the end of his life, said, “That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection …” (Phil. 3:10). That will be for the future—to really know Him; today we actually know so little because we are finite.
Then look at space, divided into length, breadth and height.
Length: “In the beginning was the Word.”
Breadth: He came down to this earth and was made flesh.
Height: No man has seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father—He has come from the heights to set Him before us.
Consider the divisions of matter: energy, motion, and phenomena.
Energy: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God—that’s energy. How did this universe come into existence? God spoke. Every rational person has to confront this problem of how this universe began. That is the reason evolution has been popular—it offers to the natural man an explanation for the origin of the universe. You must have an explanation for it if you do any thinking at all. Where did it come from? Well, here is the answer: “In the beginning was the Word.” God spoke. That is the first thing that happened. When God speaks, when the Word speaks, energy is translated into matter. What is atomic fission? It is matter translated back into energy—poof! it disappears. Creation began with energy. In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God.
Motion: The Word was made flesh. He came out of heaven’s glory and He came to this earth.
Phenomena: The greatest phenomenon in this world is Jesus Christ. The wonders of the ancient world, the wonders to see in our day are nothing in comparison to the wonder of the Incarnation—God became man!
These statements are bigger than any of us, and yet they are so simple. We have read them, probably memorized them, yet no man can plumb the depths of them. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth…. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (vv. 1, 14, 18).
These three verses are the great building blocks; now let us consider some of the cement that holds them together.
1:19 This is the first incident in the life of John the Baptist which John gives us in his Gospel record. He does not give us the story of the beginning of this man. We find out about his birth in the Gospel of Luke, but here the record of John the Baptist begins when a delegation from Jerusalem comes to question him. They come out to ask him, “Who art thou?”
In this question there is a subtle temptation because this offered John an opportunity to make something of himself. In John 3:30 we find his response when his disciples wanted him to make something of himself. He said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” What a statement that is! That is a statement that every believer should make. But every believer should live it too. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” Friend, both can’t be on top. Either Christ is primary in your life and occupies first place, or you (that is, the selfish “I”) will be on top. You can’t have both. He must increase and I must decrease, or else it will be the other way around.
Now note the answer that he gives to the religious rulers:
1:20 You see, they cleverly suggest that he might be the Messiah—they have a messianic hope. But he makes it very clear that he is not the Christ; he is not the Messiah. They are looking to the wrong man. So, if he is not the Christ, what great person is he?
1:21 You notice how brief and matter–of–fact John is here. His answers are terse, and they get briefer as the religious rulers continue to question him. If he’s not the Christ, he must be Elijah. If he’s not Elijah, he must be “that prophet.” They are referring to a prophet “like unto Moses” who had been promised back in Deuteronomy 18:15. John gives an emphatic “No!” He is not the predicted prophet of Deuteronomy.
1:22 They insist that he must tell them who he is. They can’t take back a report of just a string of negatives. So John does identify himself.
1:23 Notice that he is a voice. You see, Christ is the Word! John is the voice! A voice is all John wants to be. He has a grand message to give, a message much greater than he is. Frankly, we should be satisfied to be only a voice because certainly the message we have to give is greater than the individual. And that voice should, of course, declare the glories of Christ.
Notice the grand message that he gives, “Make straight the way of the Lord.” In other words, “Get ready for the coming of the Lord.” I take it that he means the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand. It was at hand in the person of the King, you see. And he tells them to “Make straight the way.” This would be the same as telling them to get the crooked things out of their lives, to deal with the things that are wrong. This we need to do also. When we do that, there is opened for us fellowship with God. “If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). We need to get our lives straight, and we can get them straight by confession, as we are taught in 1 John 1:8–9.
You will notice that he says he is quoting the prophet Isaiah. “… Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3).
1:24-25 They are now presenting him with a technical point. “If you are none of these, then why do you baptize?”
1:26-27 Today, we call this man John the Baptist. But he said that he merely used water. There was One coming after him who would baptize with fire and with the Holy Spirit. That fire is the baptism of judgment which is to come upon the earth. The baptism of the Holy Spirit took place at Pentecost. One wonders whether Christ was in the crowd that day. We don’t know. But He might have been.
“He … coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” A servant must do every task of his master. A disciple, however, must do every task except take the thong out of the teacher’s shoes. That was the rule of that day. John is saying that he is a servant. He is not even a disciple; he is merely a servant. And he is not even worthy to be that servant, although that is what he is.
1:28 I called attention in the Introduction to the fact that the apostle John gears us into the geography and to the calendar. Here we have a geographical location given to us. And then notice that the following verse begins, “The next day.” John is showing to us that the One who came from out of eternity, the Word made flesh, is now geared into geography and into our calendar down here.
1:29 John marks Him out here. He is the Savior. He is not only the Messiah; He is also the Savior. He is a very great Savior for He is the Lamb of God. He is the complete Savior because He takes away sin. He is the almighty Savior because He takes away the sin of the world. He is the perpetual Savior because He “taketh” away—present tense. Anyone can come to Him at any time.
Here we find the fulfillment of the answer that Abraham had given to Isaac those many years ago. Isaac had said, “… Behold the fire and the wood: but where is the lamb for a burnt offering? And Abraham said, My son, God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering …” (Gen. 22:7–8). John tells us that Jesus is the Lamb.
This proves that Cain was wrong and Abel was right. Abel brought a little lamb. All the lambs that were slain on Jewish altars down through the ages now find their fulfillment in Him. John marks Him out. “Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”
1:30-31 John is saying that Jesus is the real Baptizer. We might call Him Jesus the Baptizer. He is the One who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire.
1:32-36 Before it was the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world. That is the work of Christ. Now it is “Behold the Lamb of God!” He is the Lamb in His person. We see that John baptized Jesus and that Jesus was identified by the Holy Spirit. So, looking upon Jesus as He walked, John says, “Behold the Lamb of God!”
WITNESS OF ANDREW
1:37-39 He extends the same invitation to you today, “Come and see.” Taste of the Lord and see whether or not He is good (see Ps. 34:8).
Notice again how specifically John gears this into time—it was late in the evening.
One of these two who had been disciples of John the Baptist was Andrew, and the very first thing that he does is to go after his own brother, Simon.
1:40-42 This man, Simon, was as weak as water. Our Lord told him that he would be a stone man. I think everybody laughed there that day because nobody believed he could become the rock man, the man who would stand up on the Day of Pentecost and give the first sermon, which would be used to sweep three thousand persons into the church (see Acts 2:40–41).
WITNESS OF PHILIP
1:43-44 Again we are dealing with geography. Bethsaida is up on the Sea of Galilee. We know that Peter and Andrew and Philip lived up there. They were fishermen.
WITNESS OF NATHANAEL
This Nathanael is a wiseacre, and he makes a wisecrack here. Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? And I think he laughed at his own joke, by the way. But Philip didn’t laugh. He just said, “Come and see.” That is the really important thing—come and see.
1:47 Here is an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob. You see, although this man is a wisecracker, he is not deceitful or cunning. There is nothing of the old Jacob in him. He is an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob.
1:48-49 The Lord Jesus had two doubters among His apostles. The one at the beginning was Nathanael; the one at the end was Thomas. This man, this skeptic, this one who wonders whether any good can come out of Nazareth, confesses before the interview is over that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel.
When Nathanael confessed that the Lord Jesus is the Son of God and the King of Israel, it reveals that something very important did come out of Nazareth.
1:50 The Lord more or less rebuked him and asked whether it was just because He saw him under the fig tree that he believed. Jesus promises him that he will see greater things. Indeed during the next three years, Nathanael did see much greater things than these.
1:51 Our Lord had said to this man, “Behold, an Israelite in whom there is no Jacob.” Now He follows up on this by referring to the incident in the life of the patriarch Jacob when, as a young man, he had run away from home. In fact, he had to leave home because his brother Esau was after him to murder him. His first night away from home was at Bethel, and there the Lord appeared to him. A ladder was let down from heaven, and on that ladder the angels were ascending and descending. The meaning for Jacob was that God had not lost contact with him. He had thought that when he left home, he had left God back there. He had a limited view of God, of course. At Bethel he learned that God would be with him.
Our Lord picks that up here and says that the ladder was Himself. You’ll see now the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. The angels ministered to Him, and the angels were subject to Him. Here He was given charge over the angels. He could send them as messengers to heaven, and they would return also. So Jesus says that Nathanael will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man. He is going to see that the Father from the top of that ladder will speak of this One, saying, “… This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17).
The ladder is Christ, and only by Him can you and I make contact with God. The Lord Jesus said, “… I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). He is the ladder—not one that you climb, but One that you trust, One that you rest upon and believe in. That is the important thing to see here.
This first chapter of John’s Gospel has been lengthy and extremely important. The prologue presents the incarnation of the Word—He is God, He became flesh, He reveals the Father. Then He is introduced by witnesses. John the Baptist testifies that Jesus is the revealer of God. Andrew testifies that Jesus is the Messiah. Philip testifies that Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Nathanael witnesses that Jesus is the Son of God, the King of Israel.