Recently I was able to preach on Jesus calling Nathanael and others to follow Him. Nathanael is obviously impacted by a simple statement like “I saw you when you were under the fig tree…”. It’s a personal moment that we may wonder about, but it remains known wholly only to Jesus and Nathanael. Then Jesus says, “..you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
We hear this, and the words of Jacob’s dream at Bethel in Genesis 28 comes to mind. Angels coming and going on a ladder. Jacob was in awe, here was a time and place where the realities of Heaven and Earth have come together! Bethel continues to play an important role throughout the story of God’s people.
Jesus was hinting that He was literally becoming the living embodiment of such a place. This is the “good news” being proclaimed everywhere He went – “the Kingdom of God has come near!” To a broken people, waiting for the New Kingdom to be established in a way they were familiar with – Jesus was announcing something completely new to their ears. God was not just setting up a throne of this world that “out-throned” all the others. God was completely subverting the ways of this world, by establishing His reality within (or overtop, or foundationally under/through?) the one we were familiar with. (Note here: His reality is the one that calls forth light from darkness, and ontological being from nothingness. Which is to say – His reality is more swirling with “being” than the ground we walk on.)
One thing we are spoiled with here, are visual reminders of such a reality. Large, ornate, beautifully sculpted artwork adorns giant church buildings, temples, sanctuaries, and holy places. They stand constantly proclaiming and inviting the humanity of Europe to recognize such a place is where Heaven and Earth have been brought together. To sit within one of these churches, even as workers renovate a section behind a well-positioned curtain on your left, is a blessing. I love to quietly enter, and just sit in silence. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I listen. Sometimes my eyes just soak in the beauty, sweeping from one side to the other.
But something even more awe-inspiring? The reality that was being proclaimed by Jesus. Such temples are great, but they are only whispers and sign-posts of the real intention of God’s heart being literally “fleshed out” by Jesus Christ. He becomes that “living ladder”, that “living temple/location/Holy Place” where God has brought Heaven and Earth together, transforming both. Jesus is then crucified, resurrected, and enters Heaven in order to send us His Spirit.
By His Spirit – we are now able to live “in Christ”. This is not just an encouraging statement, enthusiastically allowing us to “root for the home team” of Heaven. This is a theological proclamation of a new reality – where you and I literally become, in the life of Jesus, a “living temple/location/Holy Place” where God is bringing Heaven and Earth together, transforming both.
The beauty of all the ornate, stunning, awe-inspiring structures and stained glass windows were all meant to direct our attention to the foundational beauty found in this new reality – JESUS IN US. The Kingdom of God comes near, and proclaims a sweeping new reality that we are caught up in and joining as we live in Jesus Christ.
How will we respond to such an invitation? May you join in worship and prayer with others around you this week. In your homes, marriages, families, friendships – across internet connections, and wherever/however you’re able. Certainly there are other issues, concerns, and things to pay attention to – but we are not to allow those realities to proclaim themselves as more deserving of our time and attention. Wherever life is happening in Christ, wherever Jesus is proclaimed & worshiped, and wherever the Holy Spirit is invited to empower New Creation living and community – THERE is a time and place the realities of Heaven and Earth are brought together in a foretaste of the coming New Creation.
It’s beautiful. It’s stunning. It’s awe-inspiring.