Revelation 1:9-20 is the vision of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John on island of Patmos and to us through the ages. Jesus comes to John as the exalted Christ, the Lord who is also the Ancient of Days, clothed in a long robe and with white hair. He is the Beginning and the End. These images describe God the Father (see Daniel 7:9) but here they are fused with God the Son (the son of man, Daniel 7:13) so that we don’t have any doubt Jesus and the Father are One (John 10:30). Isaiah captured the same idea when he promised the birth of a Son, who is also almighty God and everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6). In revelation 1:14-16, the Exalted God-Son-King Jesus has a voice “like the roar of many waters” and speaks His Word like a “two-edged sword.” His holiness (otherness/wholly different) is captured by eyes of fiery flames (The burning bush comes to mind from Exodus 3:2). His entire face is a reflection of the Glory of God (“like the sun shining in full strength: blinding and illuminating all at the same time). In His Right hand Jesus holds the dispatchers of His message on earth (the “angels” of the Lord in the Old Testament,for ex. Judges 13:3). His feet “like burnished bronze” evoke the great statues as images of so called god-kings: Egyptians did it, the Romans did it and every other empire after that right into the modern world.
However, only the Exalted Christ was able to achieve the dream of every king: securing an eternal dynastic succession. What John sees is no statue, aka idol, that cannot see, hear, speak, let alone care or know anything about us. Instead, Jesus appears to John as the GREAT I AM (“I AM the Beginning and the End” cf. Exodus 3:12-14; John 8:58). He is the “living one.” He died on a Roman Cross but “behold, I am alive forevermore.” He has the “keys of death” and the abode of the dead (“Hades” Revelation 1:17-18). By His death and resurrection Jesus has earned the right to call Himself King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the way to the Father. What John sees is no statue or monument: He is the Living God who is exalted over all things. Right through the book of Revelation the nagging question comes to us too: will we serve the idol of Caesar, aka any monument exalting humanity or the Exalted Jesus? Will we serve this world that’s passing away or will we belong to the Kingdom that has no end?
This vision of the Exalted Christ flattens John to the ground (Revelation 1:17). You would think John (most probably the apostle, according to the most reliable records in the early church) would know Jesus by this time (around 96 BC): He was the disciple Jesus loved (John 13:23), he got a glimpse of the exalted Christ at the mount of Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-29). He also witnessed and saw Jesus as the risen Lord after the resurrection (Matthew 29:9-10). But when the Exalted Jesus, the One seated at the Right hand of the Father appears to him on Patmos, John “falls at his feet as though dead.” He sees Jesus as completely other and different from what he had encountered before. It’s a brand new ball game as the saying goes.
In this moment, Jesus reaches out with His right hand (representing authority, might and power) and touches John and says: “fear not” (Revelation 1:17). What a complete paradox: that which is completely unfamiliar and therefore anxiety-producing reaches out and calms John’s fears. Because the One who is Holy is also the One who is love. God is love and His perfect love casts out all fears! (1 John 4:18).
This juxtaposition of awe-inspiring greatness and tender love is captured in the following true story (from Our Daily Bread, September 13, 2020 written by Glenn Packiam:
“A marine biologist was swimming near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific when a 50,000-pound humpback whale suddenly appeared and tucked her under its fin. The woman thought her life was over. But after swimming slowly in circles, the whale let her go. It’s then that the biologist saw a tiger shark leaving the area. The woman believes the whale had been protecting her–keeping her from danger.”
Reflection questions for this week:
- Fear is an emotion created by the anticipation or awareness of danger and can often be an impediment to faith building. What fear(s) within your heart can be laid at the feet of Jesus? 1 John 4:18 “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love”
- Revelation 1:12-16 gives us a picture of the resurrected Jesus. How does your view of Jesus compare to this description? How will you respond to this awe-inspiring picture of Jesus given to us in the Scriptures?
- Are you willing to go to the next level of deepening your relationship with Jesus? If yes, would you tell the Lord in prayer and ask His help to do so?