Exminster Methodist Church
Exminster Methodist Church, Main Road, Exminster EX6 8BT
Email exminstermethodists@yahoo.co.uk, Minister: Rev Ben Haslam, Telephone (01392) 256716

Letter from Revd Ben Haslam

For me one of the most vivid and memorable scenes in the Old Testament is to be found in Genesis 28.10-17. Jacob, seeking a wife while evading the wrath of the brother he has just cheated, stops to rest as darkness has fallen. With a stone for a pillow (no travel lodges then) he drifts into slumber. His dream that night involved a ladder, stretching between earth and heaven with angels treading the rungs both ascending and descending. God was telling Jacob that He was there with Him and that’s why Jacob named that place ‘Bethel’, meaning ‘God’s house’. As a result, Bethel would become a great and revered centre of worship for the ancient Israelites.

Even though he was fleeing from a rightly angry brother, in this uncomfortable place, with a stone for a pillow, Jacob finds himself in the presence of God. Time and again in the gospels, and in John’s s gospel in particular, the point is stressed that Jesus fulfils Old Testament prophecy. Beginning His public ministry and gathering together those who would become His first disciples, Jesus meets a certain amount of skepticism in Nathanael, who can’t believe Phillip’s claim to have found the one ‘about whom Moses in the law and the prophets wrote’. ‘Nathanael is horrified: Joseph’s son, from Nazareth! Nobody who is anybody could ever come from Nazareth!’, he exclaims incredulously. Next thing he knows though, Nathanael finds himself face to face with this very Nazarene, who very quickly reveals exactly who He is. Jesus knows all about Nathanael, though they have never met before. Jesus brushes aside Nathanael’s amazement by telling Him, in effect, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet’. Nathanael will, in fact, see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man’. In John 1.51, when Jesus invokes Jacob’s famous dream therefore, He knows what He is doing.

Now Jesus is telling Nathanael that, before too long, He too will see heaven opened, that He will experience the presence of God. This is an early hint from Jesus of God being with His people in a new way. The old scriptural promises were of salvation and deliverance and, through what He does and what He says, Jesus will point towards Himself as the one who fulfils these promises and reveals God’s presence in His person. John has already told us that the ‘Word became flesh and dwelt among us’. The word ‘dwelt’ means something like ‘God pitched His tent among us’, so it is now clear: you only have to approach Jesus to be in the Divine presence. They are one and the same. Jesus, God with us, is ‘the same yesterday, today and forever’ (Hebrews 13.8). Whether ‘in the squalor of a borrowed stable’, walking alongside His friends and teaching them about God’s ways, dying on a cross and releasing into the world a flood of grace and forgiveness, or rising from the dead and so defeating the power of death, Jesus is the same, yesterday, today, and forever. When so many things seem different, the world seems so much less stable and so much fear hangs in the air, at least we can say with confidence that Jesus is here, His Spirit is with us. And always will be.

God bless, Ben