Weekly Blog: He Came Down from Heaven

Dec 9, 2019 316

When it comes to the things that Jesus said, you usually find great truths hidden in strange sayings. When Jesus was talking with Nicodemus, he said a very odd thing:

No one has gone up to heaven except the one who came down from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven (John 3:13, ISV).

In what sense can we say that Jesus had gone up to heaven? Jesus doesn’t mean this literally. He’s actually referring to a poetic and mysterious part of the book of Proverbs called the “sayings of Agur.” The writer challenges the hearer to understand and be wise (Prov 30:1–3), and then he continues:

Who has ascended into heaven and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in His fists?
Who has wrapped the waters in His garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is His name or His son’s name?
Surely you know!
(Prov 30:1–4, NASB).

Jesus is challenging Nicodemus to solve this riddle, because the key that unlocks everything else is in the answer. Who is the one who has ascended into heaven and descended? What is His name or His son’s name.” As the “teacher of Israel” (John 3:10), surely Nicodemus should know!

Jesus tells Nicodemus that he knows the answer to this famous riddle (John 3:11).  In verse 13, Jesus is giving a direct answer to the first question posed by Agur, which Nicodemus would have immediately recognised. Nicodemus would have also immediately recognised that in his answer, Jesus was claiming to be God.

The sequence of ascending and descending, and the apparent present existence of Jesus in heaven has also been puzzling. The answer lies in the fact that Jesus is not principally speaking literally here; instead, his purpose is rather to give a clear identifying mark of his identity. Nicodemus knew that Psalm 115:2-3 says:

Why should the nations say,
“Where, now, is their God?”
But our God is in the heaven.

The point Jesus is making is not primarily wherehe is, but whohe is.

The key point that Jesus is making is that he is God’s Son, and the implications of this. It immediately after his most pointed reference to Agur’s sayings (“ascending” and “descending” in v. 13), that Jesus reveals himselfas the Son to Nicodemus:

Jesus came down to be with you so that you could go up to be with him.

Jesus ends his conversation with Nicodemus with a burning statement:

He who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God(v.18).

Agur’s questions culminate in the name of the Son. Now, Jesus has told Nicodemus that the name of the Son was Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus goes on to tell Nicodemus that all of existence depends on that same Son, and that his own salvation depended on believing in him. Should anyone not believe in his name, indeed, they have been judged already (John 3:14-18).

Jesus is the one who has come down from heaven (John 3:31).   When he did that, Jesus interrupted the history of this world. He wants to interrupt your life, so that one day you may be able to go up to heaven with him.

– Eliezer Gonzalez

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