"You will see the sky opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (John 1:51).
The first Chapter of the Gospel of John focuses on the call of the disciples. Jesus is the Master they are searching for. Andrew brings Peter, and Philip brings Nathaniel. The first disciples are being assembled around Jesus.
What was it about Jesus that convinced each of them that he was the Christ?
I remember way back in high school that the students had lockers with separate combinations, but there was also a key called the "master" that could open every lock. This image of a Master Key describes Jesus, the pioneer and exemplar of the New Creation. By embracing our nature, Jesus held the key to our transformation. As both divine and human, Jesus revealed the path to liberation from sin and death. He was the Master the disciples were looking for, and when they met him, they encountered the "Son of Man," the perfect human being.
The encounter between Jesus and Nathaniel exemplifies this. Nathaniel is first skeptical when Philip tells him Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" he asks. But when he meets Jesus, he realizes that this man already knows him, and in fact has seen him in an intimate time of prayer under a fig tree. Jesus knows that Nathaniel has been meditating on the story of Jacob's dream of angels ascending and descending over the place where he slept. The story was the first glimpse in the Bible of God's intentions to bring heaven to earth -- to join divinity and humanity.
When Nathaniel encounters Jesus, he realizes that Jesus is that very connection. Heaven has come to earth in this "Son of Man," the new Adam, the Christ. His humanity is the master key to our desire for holiness and perfection. To follow him is to be transformed by the Incarnation. Jesus is the way home, the redemption of our fallen nature as the first step toward our divine destiny.
John's Gospel wants us to know this from the beginning. We are being invited to share in the life of God. This is why Jesus came, to call us to become who we really are before God. We are redeemed by the Incarnation, the mystery we celebrate at Christmas.