Summary: Jesus is Heaven’s Elevator 1) In Jesus God descends to us 2) In Jesus we ascend to God
One of the thrills of growing up in a big city like Tokyo was riding skyscraper elevators. In just seconds you would be whisked far above the noise of city traffic and be given a view that is out of this world. On clear days you could even see Mt. Fuji from these skyscrapers. Without elevators, however, those sweeping views and peace and quiet of observation decks would not be possible for most people. At least I don’t think that, as a boy, I could have climbed 50 + flights of stairs to get to the top floor of those buildings.
Likewise without an elevator of sorts, reaching heaven is impossible for sinful mortals like us. Thankfully our text today describes Jesus as heaven’s elevator. In Jesus, God descends to us and we ascend to God.
Everyone who has ridden an elevator before knows that you usually have to wait a bit after you push the button to summon the lift to your floor. For children eager to get down to use the hotel pool, or for a tired businessman who just wants to get up and into his room to sleep, the wait for the elevator sometimes seems like an eternity. Jews who were waiting for the arrival of the promised Messiah felt the same way. Immediately after the fall into sin God promised to send a savior but it wasn’t until thousands of years later that the Savior came. It’s no wonder Philip was so excited about Jesus. He went to his friend Nathanael and said: “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph” (John 1:45).
In his excitement Philip stretched the truth a bit. He had not found Jesus. Jesus had found him (John 1:43). Jesus had sought Philip out for the purpose of calling him as a disciple. What was true about Philip is true about us. Religion is not our search for God; it’s God’s search for us.
How did Philip know that God had descended to him in the person of Jesus? Was it a feeling Philip had? No. Philip was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah based on what the Old Testament prophets had written. And so our faith too is not based on feelings but on God’s promises. When Satan gets us to doubt the truth about Jesus - that he is our Savior from sin, that he is the Son of God, that he controls all things, we dare not look for some emotion inside of us to convince us of those truths. Instead look to God’s Word. Just as you would demand identification from a man claiming to be a detective and wanting to come in to ask you a few questions, check the identification “papers” of Jesus and you will be convinced that he is heaven’s elevator, that in him God has descended to us!
Although Philip was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah, his friend Nathanael was not. “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked” (John 1:46). Philip did not argue with his friend. He just told Nathanael to come and see Jesus for himself before he drew any conclusions. Philip’s outreach strategy is one that we want to copy. We often think that telling others about Jesus means proving to them through clever arguments that Jesus is their Savior. Philip knew that’s not what he had to do. He only wanted to expose his friend to Jesus and he was convinced that Nathanael would see for himself that Jesus was the Messiah. So too our goal for outreach is not to convert but to expose our friends and family to Jesus through God’s Word. The best way to do this is through a Bible study. Why not consider hosting a Bible study at your home this year? Invite your family and friends to “come and see” this Jesus that you worship and believe is the Son of God. Assure your friends that you won’t pressure them to convert but will ask them to commit to at least four sessions of Bible study. What we’re doing is simply giving the Holy Spirit the opportunity to convince them of what we know to be true: Jesus is the Son of God and the Savior of the world.
Did the strategy work for Philip? As Nathanael approached Jesus the Savior said: “Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.” 48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked. Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” 49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel” (John 1:47b-49).
Jesus convinced Nathanael of his deity by demonstrating his omniscience. Before Nathanael knew anything about Jesus, Jesus knew all about Nathanael. So is this why God has descended to us in the person of Jesus, to tell us that he’s been spying on us and knows what we’re up to? The thought sends shivers down our spine doesn’t it? Even though no one else may know about the websites we visit, even though no one else may know about the people we email and why, even though no one else may know how we really spend our money, even though others may not know what we really think about them, God does.