There’s a lady who’s sure all that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows, if the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Ooh, ooh, and she’s buying a stairway to heaven
One thing even the most…ahem…simple of us can discover in John 1.43-51 is that Jesus would beg to differ with our friends from the rock group Led Zepplin [Yes. I am that old] in regards to whether or not one can “buy” a stairway to heaven. John gives us three demonstrations that Jesus was not an ordinary man here: His supernatural knowledge, Nathanel’s confession, and Jesus’ own confession about himself.
Jesus’ Supernatural Knowledge – Nathanael said to him, “How do you know me?” Jesus answered him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you” (1.48). Obviously, no mere human would be able to meet a man for the first time and tell him where he was earlier that morning off the top of his head. This is clearly knowledge beyond ordinary mortals. However, that is not the truly amazing thing, no sir! The truly amazing thing is that Jesus’ knowledge of Nathanael goes beyond the physical to his character and heart. As Nathanael is approaching him, Jesus says: “Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!” (1.47) Jesus knew Nathanael’s heart! [Parenthetical side note: My wife would be deliriously happy if I had the slightest inkling/hint/glimmer of hope understanding her heart, so yeah, I’m a little behind most mortals, not to mention Jesus, but I digress]. Jesus’ knowledge is beyond the natural, we might be able to guess about someone’s heart, Jesus knew, and Nathanael understood that he knew.
Nathanael’s Confession – Nathanael answered him, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” (1.49). If we actually needed any proof that Nathanael was without deceit, we find it here. Nathanael understands instantly that Philip was correct. This was no ordinary man. This was the one that they had been waiting for. This was the Messiah. As Tom Constable points out: “In calling Jesus, ‘King of Israel’ he is acknowledging Jesus to be his own King: he is submitting to him.”
Jesus Own Confession – Notice that Jesus doesn’t tell Nathanael, “Oh please, I’m just a humble carpenter,” which when you think about it is startling. Either at this point (and throughout the rest of John for that matter), Jesus is an egomaniac to a proportion never before nor after seen in history, or Nathanael realizes and speaks the truth. Let’s see what Jesus does say: 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 (1.51-52).
Nathanael understands what Jesus is alluding to here. This is a reference to Jacob’s experience in Genesis 28.10-13. He has a vision of heaven opening and a stairway coming down from heaven and angels ascending and descending on it. What is the point? Jesus is saying, “I am the stairway to heaven!” [Sorry Led Zepplin, no one can buy a stairway to heaven because it’s free], or in his exact words: Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14.6).
It’s for you to decide, there is one stairway to heaven, Jesus said it was him.