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03 March 2020

True House of God - Jesus

SYNOPSIS - The Gospel of John presents Jesus as the true way of access to God and the Greater Bethel, the “House of God” – John 1:47-50.

Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
Photo by Andrew Seaman on Unsplash
In his gospel, John presents Jesus as the True and Greater House of God, the final and open means of access to His presence. After his baptism, he met Nathanael and declared to him, “Behold, an Israelite in whom is no deceit!” He claimed to have seen Nathanael sitting under a fig tree before the two even met. The latter responded, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are King of Israel!”:
  • (John 1:47-50) – “Jesus saw Nathanael coming unto him and saith concerning him — See! Truly, an Israelite in whom is no guile.  Nathanael saith unto him — Whence dost thou know me? Jesus answered and said unto him — Before Philip called thee,— when thou wast under the fig-tree I saw thee. Nathanael answered him — Rabbi! thou art the Son of God: Thou art King, of Israel. Jesus answered, and said unto him — Because I said unto thee, I saw thee under the fig-tree, believest thou? A greater thing than these shalt thou see!” - (The Emphasized Bible).
Philip had said to Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses wrote in the law and the prophets.” He did not call Jesus “messiah” but, instead, described him as the one attested by the Law and the Prophets.  This is a key theme of John’s gospel: Jesus is the fulfillment of the earlier promises of God (e.g., John 5:39-40).

The description of Nathanael by Jesus was more than a brief on his character (“an Israelite in whom is no deceit”); it anticipated the application of an event from the life of Jacob to Christ (Genesis 28:10-19).

Upon hearing Jesus associated with the town of Nazareth, Nathanael stated, and rather sarcastically, “What good can come out of Nazareth?” Nevertheless, he did go to see what this man was all about.  In popular etymology, ‘Jacob’ meant one who “supplants” or “deceives.” The Greek noun for “deceit” in John 1:47 or dolos (Strong’s - #1388) is the same one used in the Greek Septuagint version of Genesis 27:35 (“Your brother came with deceit and has taken away your blessing”).
Prior to his vision, “deceiver” was an apt label for the character of Jacob until it was transformed by his encounter with an angelic figure. One result was a name change from ‘Jacob” to ‘Israel,’ as well as a vision of a ladder to heaven. During his journey to Haran, Jacob slept one-night using stones for a pillow. In a dream, he saw angels ascending and descending on a ladder from the earth to the heavens. 

Yahweh promised to give the land on which Jacob slept to his descendants and changed his name to ‘Israel.’  Jacob made an altar out of the same stones he used for his pillow, poured out an offering, and called the place ‘Bethel’ or “house of God.”

In contrast, Nathanael was a true Israelite without deceit.  He was so impressed with Jesus that he ascribed to him two messianic titles:  Son of God and King of Israel.  But Nathanael would see far greater things (“You will see heaven set open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man”).

The declaration of Jesus was prefaced with the formula, “Amen, amen,” a transliteration of a Hebrew word that denotes the sense “truly.” This is the first of twenty-five times this formula occurs on his lips in the Gospel of John. In this passage, the term stresses the importance of this declaration by Jesus.
Christ made no mention of a “ladder”; instead, from this time forward, angels will ascend and descend “upon” the Son of Man HIMSELF. Jesus is the true and only way of access to the presence of Yahweh.
According to Jewish traditions, the original ‘Bethel’ was located on the same site where the Temple was built. In contrast, ever since his death and resurrection, Jesus has been the true mediator between God and the earth.  Calvary threw open the way to Heaven for all to access by faith in Jesus (John 8:28 - “When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will know that I am he").

Jesus claimed to be the true and final means of access to God, not the Temple in Jerusalem.  Jacob’s altar or ‘Bethel’ was temporary, provisional, and foreshadowed the Greater “House of God” that has been established in Jesus Christ. The presence of Yahweh is now accessible wherever Jesus is found; men and women no longer must journey to Jerusalem and its Temple to find the Divine presence. The way is open to all.

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