This morning I preached a sermon at Jubilee. The following are almost exactly the notes I used to preach from. In the meantime you can download the audio or listen to it right here.
Imagine Jesus . . .
Baby Jesus—weakness, stooping down, becoming one of us, close to us. OR, Jesus on the cross; suffering the wrath of God for us. Closest description of Jesus did NOT look like the cross, or a “gentle Galilean peasant,” or the baby Jesus.
Consider the scene . . .
The aging John—an island prisoner who has NOT recanted. He has not said, “We all made it up.” Perhaps they would have let him go. But how could he deny his friend? He was no Judas. ?the only one of Jesus’ disciples left. There had always been speculation that he would not die his gospel denied. Soon he would be with Jesus again. O how he had missed him.
Jesus’ best friend on earth . . .
“The twelve”—the inner circle of three. Only one who leaned his head on Jesus. Others understood most of the time! And Jesus was kind about it. If anyone had known Jesus, he had. NO flaws, perfect. Being with Jesus had been the most amazing experience of his life.
The change in John . . .
Sons of thunder plus wanting position. Now oozed the love of God. People said they could tell he had been with Jesus. It’s still true today—those who have truly been with Jesus are changed. NB Jesus is with us through his Spirit.
Perhaps he thought about possibly the strangest words he had ever heard Jesus say. Back then, must have struggled to believe that Jesus’ leaving would be better for him, BUT he had known the Spirit of Jesus living inside him, working through him, assuring him that he had been saved. These past years he had not been alone. But, there was a part of him that missed being able to see Jesus, to hug Jesus.
Suddenly he was caught up into heaven. He had seen Jesus look a bit like this once before. The risen, ascended glorious Jesus.
READ Revelation 1:9-18
Immediately this Jew who had been schooled in worshipping only the one God fell on his face as though dead in order to worship his best friend. Who could stand before him?
Before he fell John managed to see enough of Jesus to give us this wonderful description. Have you ever thought about this image of Jesus? Have you let it fill your mind? Have you gazed on him? As we gaze on Jesus we will become like him says Paul in 2 Corinthians 3.
“Seeing is becoming.” (John Piper)
No full image, no statues, no worship.
“One like a son of man.” Earth, a few pounds lighter, new creation—a physical body.
God has incorporated human flesh into the divinity. Not only did God become man, a Man was now ruling in heaven as God. Everything about him was glorious.
Even his hair seemed to gleam. Reminds us of Daniel on the ‘ancient of days.’ Jesus who always has been and always will be. Another figure in Daniel—Jesus is mediator between man and God—he is both the Son of Man and the Ancient of Days! White hair could also symbolize his wisdom and judgment.
He was wearing a robe—like Christians in heaven. Jesus was dressed in his own righteousness—that he had also given his people to wear. A golden sash speaks of his authority. Like the high priests’ garments or those of a king.
His eyes flash like fire. One glance of some people’s eyes can make your knees go to jelly—teenage boy when the hottest girl in the school looks at him. Authoritative look of judge, parent. Jesus’ eye is watching you. He can see everything. He can look through walls and into hearts. Those eyes say, “I love you, but you don’t want to mess with me.”
His eyes were confident, authoritative, but also gentle and full of love. Often we are over-familiar with Jesus and see him as a figure as it were in soft-focus—an English gentleman, perhaps Mr. Darcy. We need to see his majesty, glory, authority, power, and wrath against sin. O beloved, just one glance of his eye would be enough for our weak, timid, overly-gentle, soft caricatures of Jesus to disappear in an instant.
Even Jesus’ feet exuded strength and authority. For such an important part of our bodies, our feet can be pretty weak and pretty ugly at times. They are also incredibly vulnerable—e.g. a small stone in your shoe. Jesus’ feet were solid bronze and symbolized God’s glory in OT writings.
But the thing that would probably both terrify you and thrill you most about this figure was his voice. Like thunder, waves, Niagara falls.
When this Jesus speaks the world shakes. “Let there be light!” “A new heaven and a new earth.” When he says “NO!” to Satan, the devil just melts away. What this voice says goes. No one can challenge him. Just be quiet and obey. Do as he tells you before he deafens you.When he says “This one is forgiven,” you are forgiven. When he says, “This one is righteous!” your sins evaporate and righteousness is credited to your account—something really does change inside so you will become what you are. If he says, “Be free!” you will be free indeed. If he says “Be healed” your sickness will go. If he says “It’s not good for them to be alone!” your perfectly designed by God marriage partner will be just around the corner. I hear you say “Where?!?!” Maybe you have met them already! Maybe they are right here in this room. Perhaps you need God to speak: “Open those eyes and look!”
Brothers, it is not for nothing that the ancient hymn says:
“He speaks, and listening to His voice, new life the dead receive.
The mournful, broken hearts rejoice; the humble poor believe.
Hear Him, ye deaf; His praise, ye dumb, your loosened tongues employ.
Ye blind, behold your Saviour come; and leap, ye lame, for joy.”
Out of his mouth came a sword. Some say this is justice. But, even if it is, with what does Jesus judge the world? By his Word – his living, active, sharp Word which pierces us. (Hebrews 4:12) For me, I think the sword here is indeed the Word of God, as we saw when we spoke about Ephesians 6. It is encouraging to realize that Jesus himself is fighting. In fact it’s his battle.
Then there was his face. What a wonderful face. What a shining face. What a gentle, but powerful face. Can’t see his face for intense brightness. But drawn anyway.
What is the appropriate response to this Jesus? That of Jesus’ best friend, the only appropriate one. Shock, reverence, awe—look it was FEAR! Like Isaiah who sai
d, “Woe to me,” he FELL as though DEAD. WE MUST TOO! We were dead in our trespasses and sins, nothing to give, helpless and in need his help. OUR weakness, his superiority. Are you angry with God, saying “When I get to heaven I will have a few questions for him to answer!” You fool! If Jesus was to walk into this room today, you would not be able to remain in your seats. God could not be seen or else death would result. His nuclear-hot holiness burns up every trace of sin.
We are right to fear him. We would be fools not to. And, when the Bible says, Fear him,” it means simply that. FEAR HIM! Sometimes people come to us and say they are afraid of God. We would do well to tell them you are probably not frightened enough.
But the passage doesn’t end there. Instead we see—wonder of wonders—that amazing word BUT. There are few words more welcome than that word in the right place. John is terrified in the presence of the fearsome risen Christ. He is there on his face. He thinks that’s it, I am undone. At that very moment, the passage tells us, “BUT JESUS reached out his hand, his right hand no less, and touches him” O, what is he going to do? Is he going to kill him? Is he going to beat him up a bit? Is he angry with him? Is he going to scold him for not being good enough?
What does he say? Does he say, “Be afraid, be very afraid!” No—he says “Fear Not!” Oddly enough, the Bible is full of commands to fear God. But when God turns up on the scene he always seems to say “Don’t be afraid!” The reason for this is that God both wants us to fear him, and doesn’t want us to be terrified of him!
Why doesn’t John need to, in that sense, fear Jesus? Because of what Jesus has just done for him—he has reached out and touched him. Because of who Jesus is- the great eternal one who never had a beginning and never had an ending. Because his best friend, Jesus, is now revealed for all to see as the eternal God—“The First and Last” Because he is also the one who is the living active one—the God who still delights in doing things. He is the one who died, FOR YOU, John. He is the one who was RAISED for you, John. And he is the one who holds the keys of death and hell in his hands. If he says you are one of mine, then the devil can’t touch you, and the door of hell is locked to you and heaven is open wide!
This is the Jesus we come to today, beloved. The living one. The terrifying one. And yet the loving one, who delights in reaching his hand out and touching you. And when he touches you, amazing things can happen. Do you need Jesus to touch you? Do you need a healing? He is the healer. Do you need your guilt removed? He died so that you could be forgiven. Do you feel dirty because of your own sin or the sin someone else committed against you? His blood cleanses you from all shame and all uncleanness. Do you need a victory in your personal life? Your relationships? Your work? This Jesus is the triumphant one, and nothing, but nothing can stand in his way when he chooses to act on your behalf.
Let’s fall on our faces. Let’s worship him. Let’s feel his touch. Let’s get right with him. Become a Christian, or get so close to Jesus once more that it almost feels as if we are born again again! Then let’s stand up, and go from this place a people who are changed by him. Let’s go full of joy. Full of faith. Full of the boldness that comes from being with Jesus. Let’s invite people to our Christmas event to meet this wonderful Jesus so they, too, can feel his touch. Amen.