What Does Jesus Say?
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What Does Jesus Say?

John 1:43–51  (ID: 3619)

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus makes pronouncements that begin with the word “Truly”—but only in the Gospel of John does He use the word in repetition. Alistair Begg reminds us that Jesus’ “Truly, truly” declarations must be understood in view of the overarching purpose of John’s Gospel and in the context of the preceding verses. John’s account of Jesus, which begins with eternity past, gives heaven-sent evidence so that we may believe He truly is the Son of Man, the one who invites us to “come and see” and to trust Him for eternal life.

Series Containing This Sermon

“Truly, Truly, I Say to You…”

Twenty-Five Divine Declarations from John’s Gospel John 1:1–21:25 Series ID: 29001

Sermon Transcript: Print

As we turn to read from the Bible this morning, I want to read just a few short verses from Genesis chapter 28 and then the closing verses of the Gospel of John and chapter 1. Genesis 28. You may not be there by the time I’ve finished reading it. I’ll wait for you for a moment. Genesis 28 and verse 10:

“Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran. And he came to a certain place and stayed there that night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place to sleep. And he dreamed, and behold, there was a ladder set up on the earth, and the top of it reached to heaven. And behold, the angels of God were ascending and descending on it! And behold, the Lord stood above it and said, ‘I am the Lord, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac. The land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring.’”

And then in John’s Gospel and in chapter 1 and from verse 43:

“The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’ Nathanael said to him, ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ Philip said to him, ‘Come and see.’ Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’ 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.’ Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’ 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.’”


Father, again we acknowledge that you are the Lord of the nations—all of those European nations, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, Italy, France, Germany, the whole world under your care. And your Word has gone out to the ends of the earth. And it is to your Word we now turn. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Well, all of us are routinely aware of how important it is to have a balanced diet. It seems to be a prevailing emphasis all the time, a constant struggle, a reminder by sometimes our friends and sometimes our family of what we are supposed to be eating and what we are supposed to be putting aside. That in nutritional, in physical terms is also true in spiritual terms: that as surely as it is important for us to balance our diet physically, so that means that our biblical diet, if you like, needs to be equally balanced.

And I’ve been thinking about that in the weeks that I’ve been gone and recognizing that we spent a long time in 1 and 2 Samuel. That was quite a meal that went on and on and on. Some were glad when it ended. We then went to the 139th Psalm. We spent four weeks with the psalmist. And from there we went to Paul’s letter to Rome and particularly to the second half of Romans 1, 16–32, realizing that it had so much to say about our life and our world and our contemporary culture. And then from there we went to Jude, and we were in Jude for longer than some hoped. And that was it. That was the end. And I went away.

And I realized as well that it had been more than a decade since we had been in any of the Gospels. We have not actually done very much in the Gospels at all. And that, combined with a word that my old boss used to say to me, Derek Prime—he said, “You know, if you’re in doubt about where to go or what to do, make sure that you always take people to Jesus. You can never go wrong if you go to Jesus.” And so I said, “All right, well, I think I can perhaps do that.” And so it is to John that we turn.

However, we’re not going to work through it from verse 1 through to the final verse. We’re not going to go through it systematically, verse by verse. What I want to do—and we’ll see if we can do it—but what I want to do is to expressly look at the twenty-five occasions in the Gospel of John where Jesus makes a pronouncement which begins with the words “Truly, truly”—or, if you are of the King James Version variety, then “Verily, verily.” John actually is the only one of the Gospel writers who has “Truly, truly.” Matthew, Mark, and Luke all have “Trulys,” but none of them have “Truly, trulys.” Matthew has thirty-one “Trulys.” Mark has thirteen “Trulys.” Luke has six “Trulys.” But John has twenty-five “Truly, trulys.”

Now, we’re used to this word truly, because it is the word amen. It’s the word amen. And we are familiar with saying amen at the end of a statement, particularly at the end of a prayer, thereby giving our affirmation, our confirmation, our participation in what has just been said. And Jesus uses it that way, but he uses it particularly this way in order to highlight or to confirm the trustworthiness and the importance of what then follows from that introduction. Jesus, of course, says in Matthew’s Gospel, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”[1] We may be confident that we’re dealing, then, with the words of Jesus, which have been preserved for us in Scripture by the enabling of the Holy Spirit in order that we might pay attention to them.

Now, as I was thinking along these lines, I was reminded, too, of the fact that in the 1990s, it became quite popular, particularly amongst young people, to go around wearing bracelets. And it wasn’t just any bracelet, but it was a bracelet that was stamped with the letters WWJD: “What would Jesus do?” And some people participated in that very excitedly. Some people got themselves off the tracks by conjecture. And I remember thinking variously about it myself. It’s along the lines of the famous book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas à Kempis—the importance of recognizing that Jesus is an example and so on. But on the wrong side of it, it became a kind of form of moralism, whereby we just try and be what we’re actually not, which, of course, is the very antithesis of the gospel, whereby, on the basis of what Christ has done and is doing in us, we become what we are not by his power.

The words of Jesus have been preserved for us in Scripture by the enabling of the Holy Spirit in order that we might pay attention to them.

And various people made all kinds of stabs at it. A friend had sent me a note along those lines when he said he had decided he wanted to be more like Jesus, and he wrote down seven things that would need to take place: number one, hanging out with sinners; number two, upsetting religious people; three, telling stories that made people think; four, choosing unpopular friends; five, being kind, loving, and merciful; and six, taking naps in boats. So that just shows you that there’s a measure of futility in dealing with conjecture. But we’re not doing WWJD. Rather, we are doing WDJS: “What does Jesus say?” And that will essentially be the overarching framework of this series of studies: “What does Jesus say?”

And in order to understand these unisolated statements to which we will come, it is important, it is vitally important, that whenever we consider a verse, that we consider it in the context in which the verse is set both immediately and expansively and, indeed, within the entire framework of the book itself. Failure to do that will lead into all kinds of dangers. For example, you remember the occurrence of the encounter between Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the Victorian Baptist, and a friend of his who was an Anglican clergyman. And they were talking about the nature of baptism itself.

And the clergyman said to Spurgeon, “Why don’t we just choose a verse to explain to each other why we baptize in the way that we baptize?”

And so Spurgeon said, “Fine.” He said, “Go ahead.”

And so the Anglican clergyman said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”[2]

Spurgeon said, “Is that it?”

He said, “Yes.” He said, “Okay, your turn.”

Spurgeon said, “There was a man from Uz whose name was Job.”[3]

The Anglican said, “But that’s got nothing to do with baptism.”

Spurgeon said, “Exactly.” Neither of the two verses had anything to do with baptism. You can take a verse and do all manner of things with it if you wrest it out of its context.

Now, this is vitally important, because look at what our verse is. It’s John 1:51: “And he said to him”—that’s to Nathanael—“‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.’” So, we come to this within the context in which it is set. It is set, actually, in its largest context, within the context of the entire Bible. And that is why, incidentally, that we just read from Genesis chapter 28, which I hope will become apparent as we go.

The Context of the Purpose of John’s Gospel

But first of all, let’s consider this: that it is to be considered in light of the stated purpose of John’s Gospel. The stated purpose of John’s Gospel. In other words: Why is John even writing a Gospel? Now, we don’t need to be in any doubt about that, because the answer to that is found in John 20:31—and if you turn to it, you can confirm that it is actually there: “Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book,” says John, “but”—here we go—“but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.”[4]

So, John is telling his readers that he has recorded these things as an eyewitness, and he has done so with the clear objective of commending to his readers a consideration of the identity of Jesus and making sure they understand the absolute necessity of a correct response to Jesus in order that they then might have life. And that’s why you will not be surprised that—if your Bible is open, you will see—that he immediately goes, then, to the first of the signs. Because his pattern is straightforward: signs, or, if you like, evidence; evidence to command belief; belief, which is to issue in life. And that’s the pattern in which the whole Gospel unfolds.

In 5:39, we realize that people would go to the Scriptures and search the Scriptures for eternal life, because Jesus says to the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and [you’re right about that:] it is they that bear witness about me, [but] you refuse to come to me that you may have life.”

So, simply the awareness that Jesus has presented this evidence—the ability of an individual, you or myself, to read and to understand that—is not the end of the equation. That’s not where it resolves. No, it is evidence giving rise to belief—the kind of believing that issues in life. So, that’s the first thing: that when we consider these “Truly, truly” statements, we need to consider them in light of the stated purpose of the Gospel in which they’re set.

The Context of the Beginning of John’s Gospel

Secondly, we need to understand this statement, verse 51, in light of the preceding fifty verses. And that is an immediate challenge, because these are rich verses. And the reason that I want to delay on this a little bit is because this is important not only for the first of these “Truly, trulys,” but it is important for all of the “Truly, trulys.” And you would not want me to do this every time that we come to another one, because we’ll be in another one, God willing, next Sunday. So we need to have some, at least, overarching grasp of what is being said in these first fifty verses.

Incidentally, I do hope that these studies will actually stimulate a genuine interest in John’s Gospel on our individual parts—that we will find that the gaps that are left by moving in this way we will want to fill in because we’re just those kind of people, and we want to make sure that Begg is doing his homework and so on. So I understand that.

If you’re new to the Bible (and you may be new to the Bible) you may be surprised—you should be surprised—that if you have had any knowledge of Christianity, if you have ever been invited to a Christmas service and so on, you’re familiar with the story of Bethlehem, the story of angels, the shepherds, the wise men; and so you would imagine that anybody that is going to start writing a gospel record, a historical identification of Jesus of Nazareth—goodness, why wouldn’t they start just there?

Well, you’ll be surprised. Because John doesn’t start there. He starts beyond there. He introduces Jesus in an entirely different way: “In the beginning was the Word.”[5] “In the beginning”—before the beginning, before creation, before time. “In the beginning was the Word.” That’s what he’s saying. So he’s not starting in Bethlehem. He’s starting in eternity.

And I said that we’re not working through this verse by verse, and therefore, you must hold me to that. But just allow your eye to scan the opening four or five verses, and look at what he says: The Word is eternal. The Word is God. The Word is a person—notice: “He was in the beginning with God.”[6] “All things were made through him”;[7] the Word made absolutely everything. That’s what he’s saying. And “in him was life.” Remember? Evidence, belief, life—not life found in a religion, not life found in a strategy; life found in a person, life found in the Life-Giver. “In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”[8] That light shines out into the darkness, he says, and the darkness has never been able to put it out.[9] It hasn’t. Throughout the world today, despite the demise of religion as reported in contemporary press in the Western world, there are more believers in the world today than have ever been in the world. The light has gone out into the world, and the darkness can’t put it out.

Now, then we are introduced to the setup man, the warmup act, John the Baptist. We can’t take time with him. Fascinating character. He was the kind of fellow that ate at Whole Foods before there was a Whole Foods. You would never see him saying, “Does anyone have a Snickers?” you know. No, not John the Baptist—not a chance. No, he was an interesting duck by any standards. And “he was not the light, but [he] came to bear witness [to] the light.”[10]

There are more believers in the world today than have ever been in the world. The light has gone out into the world, and the darkness can’t put it out.

As I was sitting thinking about this, even just yesterday in the earlier part of the day, it made me think of a book called Pour Your Heart into It by Howard Schultz. It’s the story—it’s an old book now, I think, ’cause I read it a long time ago (and I hope I’m not making this up, because I didn’t go to check)—but I think Schultz wrote that book, Pour Your Heart into It, to tell the story of the development of Starbucks. But Schultz’s job before he did that—an early job—was as a salesman for Xerox. And his job was not to go into the offices with the machinery and try and sell them; his job was to go into the office and try and sell the people in the office on the idea of another guy that was going to come next week with the machine to sell it to them. He was the warmup act. And that is exactly the role that John the Baptist plays. He’s the setup guy.

And so, he points to Jesus. But, as you will notice in the text—verse 10—Jesus is unrecognized. “He was in the world.” We’ve been singing about it: “You stepped down into darkness.”[11] “He was in the world.” Historic reality: Jesus of Nazareth. Look at the coins in your pocket. Look at what date is on them. Despite the attempts of humanism to clean that up, the reality is the reality. “He was in the world”; the world didn’t recognize him. And in fact, the people that would have been most likely to receive him, they actually rejected him. But he says there are exceptions. There are exceptions: “But those who believed in him, he gave them the right to become the children of God.”[12] We’ll learn more about that as we go on.

But verse 14 is in some ways the fulcrum of this opening statement, and it is quite staggering: “And the Word”—“the Word”—“became flesh and dwelt among us.” Now, this is foundational Christianity. God, the creator of the universe, became human and moved into the neighborhood. God, the creator of the universe, became human and moved into our time-space capsule. And, says John, we have seen something of his glory, and we have learned something of his grace.[13]

He’s immediately making the point that would be understood by people who were fastidious in their religious observations: that this was not about a list of rules and regulations. This coming of Jesus into the world was about grace—that is, undeserved favor—and it was about truth: the answer to the riddle of life, the answer to the longings of the human heart, met in a person—met in the person whom we meet here. And so he says, “I have seen and [bear] witness that [he] is the Son of God.”[14] That takes you all the way to verse 34, which should be a great encouragement to you. There you have it. There’s his summary statement. There’s John: “And I have seen and [I’m telling you that I] have borne witness that [he] is the Son of God.”

So, he is fulfilling his calling. He is pointing to Jesus as the Lamb of God. Jesus will die for the sins of the world, he says, and he will do this in order to make us right with God.[15] He says it on two separate occasions. He is fulfilling his role as the setup man, pointing away from himself, pointing to Jesus.

You see, when we tell other people about Jesus, we’re supposed to be telling other people about Jesus, not telling other people about ourselves. Because the reality is that what happened to us is not the same as what happened to the person sitting next to you. The way that you came to faith will not be the same way that your mother came to faith or whatever it might be. You came to the same place.

So, what we want to do is tell people about Jesus. Who is Jesus? He’s the creator of the universe. He stepped down into time. He’s the Lamb of God. He bears sins. He grants forgiveness to those who come to him. There is life in his name. We’re telling them about Jesus. We’re not telling them about our own personal story. It’s not wrong to do that, but people can dismiss that: “Well, that never happened to me.” That’s what people would have said if that had been Paul’s approach—simply to explain that he was struck blind, and then this happened, and then that happened: “Well, good on that, but that’s not my story.”

I used to wish, since I became a Christian in my infancy, that it could have been different—that I could have been like a Hells Angel, and I fell off a bicycle, and I would have an amazing story to tell, you know: “I was… You should have seen my tattoos! What a wreck I was!” and so on. But I’ve got no story like that to tell. But I’ve got a story to tell about Jesus. And so do you, if you’re in Jesus.

Now, you will notice, then, what happens in the transition. We’re still in the second context part, for those of you who have already started to move into the first stages of anesthesia. We’re saying that the “Truly, truly” statements have to be understood in light of the stated purpose of the Gospel, and they have to be understood in light of what precedes the statement in these first fifty verses. And the transition is there seen, where “Goodbye, John,” if you like, and “Hello, Jesus.” Verse 43: “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.”

The day before that—verse 35—when John was standing with two of his disciples (they were John’s followers), he points away from himself to Jesus. And the two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus says, “What are you looking for?”[16] They said, “Where are you staying?” He said, “Come and you will see.” And “so they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour,”[17] four o’clock in the afternoon. You see, when people invent things, they don’t put in details like this. My friends used to tell me, “That Gospel stuff is all made up. The people put it in. They invented it. It didn’t happen in the real time. They put it together two hundred years later—tried to clean it up and so on.” Oh, really? Have you ever read it? Chances are, not.

Andrew: What an amazing story! I remember when Andrew—young Andrew James—left to go down to Uruguay, and in commissioning him to the charge, we looked at this verse: “[And] one of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew …. [And] he first found his own brother Simon and [he] said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah.’” And, notice: “He brought him to Jesus.”[18] He found him, he told him, he brought him.

Now, let’s just pause here for a moment and recognize this. Having just come back from Europe, I spent a lot of time in Italy. You move around these cathedrals, and you understand the vastness of them all—the way that it inevitably lifts your eyes up into the heavens. You see the artwork. You understand the depth of interest and commitment that is represented in all of that. But simultaneously I found myself saying, “How in the world did we get here from here? How did we manage over this long period of time to institutionalize Christianity in such a way that people are having to peel back layers of history and layers of religiosity to come to find out Jesus when he says, ‘Truly, truly’?”

And as I was sitting pondering this, I had a line in my mind I just remembered. And the line was this: “Just a carpenter and some fishermen.” Now, depending on your vintage, you will know where that comes from. I couldn’t remember it all, but I found it. It was a song written by John Walvoord, who was a longtime president of Dallas Theological Seminary. I don’t think he was known for writing songs. But one day he sat down and he wrote this song. And I want to read it to you, just in case we miss the chance. It’s not particularly good poetry, I don’t think, but you get the punch. And this is what he wrote: [reads the lyrics to “Love Was When God Became a Man” by John E. Walvoord].

Now, in these encounters, all of this is interwoven. These fellows begin to follow Jesus first of all on the say-so of John the Baptist. He is the finger pointing to Jesus. He says, “Listen, if you see this person, he is the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.”[19] And on the strength of that say-so… (And some of you have good friends who’ve been saying this to you, and you may never have gone to check. Maybe today’s a good day.) On the strength of his say-so, they then become the followers of Jesus.

The Context of Nathanael’s Meeting with Philip and Jesus

And that whole paragraph you can study on your own, because we must get now to the closing section, where we have to understand 51 in the context of Nathanael’s meeting with Philip and with Jesus. Apologies to those of you who think we should have started here, but it’s too late now. Verse 43. Verse 43: “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.” How did that work out? I hope you’re not one of these people in the Bible study group that stops on this and wants to spend an hour explaining why you think he did this. It’s such a futility. We don’t know why he decided to go to Galilee. Perhaps he had it in mind to meet Philip. We’re not told. We do know that he decided to go to Galilee. And he did find Philip.

We become the friends of Jesus as a result of the initiative of Jesus. That’s what grace is. That’s a seeking God.

And notice, again, in passing—let me reinforce this—the pathway to Jesus in each of these cases is different. Andrew, Philip, Nathanael, Simon: it’s all different. Different pathway, but it’s all to the same Jesus. It’s all to the discovery of the same truth. They’re not coming up with their own ideas. No, they have a story to tell about how they ended up at the feet of Jesus. And all of us will, eventually. And so, Jesus “found Philip.” Look there, verse 43: Jesus “found Philip and [he] said to him, ‘Follow me.’ Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter”—tying it in geographically. “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote.’” Jesus found Philip, and Philip says to Nathanael, “We have found Jesus.” Yeah, exactly! They would never have found Jesus if Jesus hadn’t found them.

We become the friends of Jesus as a result of the initiative of Jesus. That’s what grace is. That’s a seeking God. Love was when God stepped down into time—stepped down into time with the express purpose of putting together a people that are his very own. And it is the utterly undeserved privilege of all who are included in that company to be able to join together in praise and in adoration.

Jesus essentially, if you like, went out of his way to add Philip to the team. We could spend a while talking about Philip. He’s not the brightest in the bunch of the disciple band, you will remember. If you check, you will see. I love Philip, because he asks the question that I always wasn’t brave enough to ask in the class. And so he’s perfect for the ordinary student. He’s perfect for the sort of baseline member. He’s super. And it’s a reminder that Jesus is not in the business of just putting his entire team together with Simon Peters, but he includes Philips and Philippas as well.

So, it is he who tells him about Nazareth: “Jesus of Nazareth.” Nathanael, who’s a pretty straightforward kind of character, as we see, pushes back on the idea of Nazareth. Why does he do this? Nazareth was a northern town. It was a racially mixed place. It was a religiously mixed place. And therefore, it’d be the last place that you would expect the Messiah of God to come out of. Jewish purity demanded purity, demanded exceptionalism. “You’re telling me that he is Jesus of Nazareth? Of Nazareth?” “Yeah, yeah, exactly.”

But notice: he doesn’t argue the point. He doesn’t argue the point: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?”; Philip said to him, “Well, let’s think about that for a minute.” No. What did he do? “Come and see.” “Come and see.” That actually is Jesus’ phrase when they said, “Where are you staying?”—Andrew and Peter—and he said, “Come and see.”

Don’t let’s complicate this, folks. The privilege of the disciple is not to have all the answers to every intellectual question that our friends and accomplices can pose in relationship to the veracity of the Bible, to the implications of scientific rationalism, and so on. No, our job is to say, “Well, I invite you just to come and see.” Jesus will take care of it if you bring the person to Jesus. He’s more than able. Look at what he’s done here already—and we’re not even out of chapter 1! No attempt to argue.

And so Jesus sees Nathanael, gives his assessment of him. Strange assessment, isn’t it? I think—and this is conjecture; it’s not main, it’s not plain—but I think there’s some value in this thought: that Jesus is saying, “This is an Israelite unlike Jacob. Unlike Jacob.” Now, you say, “Well…” You’ve got to read Genesis 27 before Genesis 28, because in Genesis 27 you know that Jacob was deceitful. Jesus is now about to make an allusion to Jacob’s ladder. So perhaps in his mind he says, “You know, he’s not a Jacob. He’s a Nathanael.” I don’t know. Maybe he was part of the group like Anna and Simeon in the temple. Maybe that’s his background. He’s a straightforward person. He’s not a sinless person; he’s a sincere person.

And when he says, “Well, how do you know me?” Jesus explains. He’s been aware of him, even when he was under the fig tree. Again, Bible study note: don’t start all that “fig tree” stuff! Okay? The point is “When you weren’t thinking about me, I was thinking about you. When you didn’t know me, I knew you.” That’s the staggering thought: “How do you know me?”

You see, when you read the Bible, you discover that the Bible knows you. You suddenly realize, “It’s as if this book was written to me! Here I am, uncovered, invited, encouraged,” whatever it might be. “How do you know me?” He says, “Well, listen: since the fig tree comment shook faith out of you”—you will notice he says, “You are the Son of God! You[’re] the King of Israel!”—he says, “There’s more of that to come.” “You…” And it’s plural, incidentally: “Truly, truly, I say to you,” plural, “you,” plural, “will see heaven opened.” And here we are at our verse. So we’ll regard this as just one of the longer introductions for some time. You get out of the way of things, you know, when you’re gone.

What is Jesus saying here? Well, the original readers would have the advantage that doesn’t immediately fall to us. I tried to help us by reading Genesis 28. Because in the minds of Jesus and the listeners there was such a knowledge and an understanding of the way that God had worked throughout history. And there were certain key moments in history, and one of them was there in Genesis 28, when, you remember, he falls asleep. He dreams; the deceitful one dreams. There’s a stairway leading to heaven. There’s movement between heaven and the earth. And Jesus says, “You know, as you continue on your journey, you are going to see the reality of the communion between heaven and earth.”

Now, some people say this can only be understood in terms of the second coming of Jesus. I don’t think so. Some people think it’s because of the transfiguration. I don’t think so. The only time we actually read in the Gospels of heaven being opened apart from this is in the baptism of Jesus. I think it is fair to say that he is promising his disciples heaven-sent confirmation that the one that they have acknowledged to be the Messiah is in fact the Son of Man. He’s the Son of Man.

In Jesus the realities of divinity are made known to humanity.

Now, again, they would understand that. Daniel chapter 7: “And there came one like as unto the Son of Man.”[20] It’s Jesus’ favorite self-designation. He refers to himself as the Son of Man. He is a son of man, but he is the Son of Man. He is man as man was supposed to be. He is the “second Adam to the fight.”[21] He is the one in whom there is life and there is light.

In other words, Jesus is declaring himself as the way to heaven—the long-promised Messiah, the one who bridges the gap, the one who opens up the way. In him the realities of divinity are made known to humanity. And we won’t be very long into the Gospel before we read the words in chapter 3: Jesus said, “No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man.” (Notice again: “The Son of Man.”) “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness…” (There’s another Old Testament picture: “Look and live.”[22]) “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that”—listen!—“whoever believes in him”—“whoever believes in him”—“may have eternal life.”[23] Truly, truly.

Just a moment of silence.

It just occurs to me that you may like to take a copy of John’s Gospel if you don’t have one. They’re out in the vestibule, and they’re nice little copies of the Gospel. They just seem very accessible, and you might like to take one, slip it in your purse or in your valise, whatever it might be.

Lord, we imagine that somehow or another, we could have Andrew and Simon, Philip and Nathanael come up here and lead us in the singing of our last song as such a testimony to all that they have discovered in the Lord Jesus. And we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[1] Matthew 24:35 (ESV).

[2] Matthew 19:14 (paraphrased).

[3] Job 1:1 (paraphrased).

[4] John 20:30–31 (ESV).

[5] John 1:1 (ESV).

[6] John 1:2 (ESV).

[7] John 1:3 (ESV).

[8] John 1:4 (ESV).

[9] See John 1:5.

[10] John 1:8 (ESV).

[11] Tim Hughes, “Here I Am to Worship” (2001).

[12] John 1:12 (paraphrased).

[13] See John 1:14, 16

[14] John 1:34 (ESV).

[15] See John 1:29, 36.

[16] John 1:38 (paraphrased).

[17] John 1:38–39 (ESV).

[18] John 1:40–42 (ESV).

[19] John 1:29 (paraphrased).

[20] Daniel 7:13 (paraphrased).

[21] John Henry Newman, “Praise to the Holiest in the Height” (1865).

[22] See Numbers 21:8.

[23] John 3:13–15 (ESV).

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.