Short Meditations in John 1: 50. Promise of Revelation
Jn 1:50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You shall see greater things than that.” He then added, “I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”
If John was a modern thriller-writer he would probably win prizes for this roller-coaster of a chapter that ends with a tantalizing promise. Nathaniel has had this encounter with Jesus, that ends with him proclaiming that, “you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel,” so John leaves us at the end of the chapter with Jesus’ response, and what a response it is!
You come to that conclusion simply because I said I saw you under the fig tree? That’s how Jesus starts out. i.e. that word of knowledge impressed you? If you want to be impressed, I tell you, “You shall see greater things than that.” That is the first part of his promise.
In Jesus’ ministry words of knowledge will be common but they will almost be overshadowed by much greater things happening, people getting healed, and miracles taking place on a daily basis. Yes, that was what Jesus was like and amazingly it is what he offers to us later in this Gospel: “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these.” (Jn 14:12)
But Jesus doesn’t leave it there, he adds to the strength of what he has just said: “He then added, “I tell you the truth…..” (v.51) The original here is very strong and might also be rendered, “In all solemnity I tell you….” He is saying, “I am not exaggerating, I really do mean this, this is how it will be.” It’s his way of saying to Nathaniel, “I really do mean what I am saying to you.”
Then comes the second part of his promise to Nathaniel: “you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.” Immediately we think, “Did that happen?” Well first realise that this is exactly the picture that Jacob had (Gen 28:12) and it’s meaning was that he was at the place of great accessibility to heaven. Jesus had come to bring heaven to earth and those who traveled with him, may not have had the eyes to see the angelic comings and goings but they would certainly see the ‘Son of Man’ (the prophetic term for the Messiah) bringing the blessings of heaven to the earth. That was the privilege of the disciples of that day.