Where Heaven and Earth Meet (2012)
by Matthew Rosebrock
permission for use granted by artist

Epiphany 2, John 1:43-51

Historical Description:  Matthew Rosebrock, a graduate of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis (MDiv) is a visual artist and theologian pursuing graduate study in Theology and Visual Arts at Fuller Theological Seminary under William Dyrness.  He has a wonderful blog entitled “Eyes of Faith” where he offers visual art and theological reflections for the lectionary readings.  We are appreciative that in the midst of his own work he was able to offer this contribution to this site.

Devotional Reflection:  This text is one of those moments early in John’s Gospel account where Jesus’ identity as the Son of God is being foregrounded for the hearers of this text. Indeed, these things are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God (John 20:31). As Nathanael is amazed at Jesus’ knowledge of his presence under the fig tree, Jesus redirects him beyond this foreknowledge to a much greater substance for faith. Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

This last verse of our pericope is the focus of this drawing. Jesus’ words immediately remind us of Jacob’s dream in Genesis 28:10-31 where he saw a ladder (or staircase) coming down from heaven with angels ascending and descending upon it. He comes to name this place Bethel, which means, “house of God.” It was a place where heaven touches earth, where God presence is among His people. Therefore, when Jesus now speaks of the Son of Man being this ladder or staircase, he is equating himself with the place where heaven and earth meet. However, as the story of salvation unfolds, it will not happen in a way that anyone expected. It will happen when he is lifted up, not on a great royal throne, but on a cross (cf. 3:13-15).

This drawing is meant to bring these two images Jacob’s ladder and Jesus’ cross together by way of perspective. So as to show the heavens being opened up, the Son of God on the cross seen from below is the locus where heaven and earth meet. Only by given eyes to see by His Word, can we see this moment on the cross as the place where God comes to visit his people and offer to them life and salvation. It is not the way that the world or Nathanael would have expected, but it is the only way to the Father. An unexpected result of this drawing was the imposing way in which the cross takes over the scene. In this way, there is no room for a way to the Father except by way of the Son and His cross. In this way, an important caveat can be made: A disembodied escape into heaven and fantastical thoughts of foreknowledge run the risk of missing the point of this reading. So we are directed once again to see that Jesus is the place where heaven and earth meet, the Word made flesh.

<·· Previous
Next ··>