Marriage is a revelation; or, better said, a series of revelations. And a Christ-Follower, whether married or single, is greatly helped when they discover how much our spiritual union with Christ is like a good marriage. As a matter of fact, Paul the apostle encouraged his readers to make the connection and to ponder it when he said that the “object lesson” of marriage is “a profound mystery (Eph. 5:32a).” Let’s consider the mystery.
When love captures two hearts they both find out soon that there is much to discover.
Usually the relationship begins with the first date or two. The revelations begin immediately; the intensities and time-tables of disclosure vary depending upon the couple.
All in all, a good marriage occurs when a man and a woman learn how to bare their souls to one another. The union is strengthened when they are able to become melded together into a commitment of ideals shared amidst a challenging world of realities. When that happens, intimacy occurs. In like manner, a relationship with God is built upon this process of revelation.
When Jesus promised to “show himself” to the person who walked in true obedience to him, the word used for “show” was emphanizo. This strong word meant he would “exhibit himself in person”, “disclose his heart through his words,” “plainly declare his purpose,” and “openly appear” to his obedient follower.
When Jesus made this promise during his most intimate of discourses it was at the same time shocking and profound. To the person who embraced his commands and actually chose to aim their life towards obeying the same, Jesus promised to reveal himself. The word used in the King James Version is “manifest” himself. Note that the promise was not simply to reveal his truth, or to reveal his will, not even to reveal more about himself, but to reveal himself. His promise was not universal, but personal; not inclusive, but exclusive. As A.T. Robertson wrote: “The Unseen and Risen Christ will be a real and spiritual Presence to the obedient and loving believer.”
To the listener who considers these words only in the light of Jesus as a man, the promise may seem quite ordinary indeed. To the person who receives them in the light of Jesus as God incarnate in a human dwelling, the promise is astounding. “I will show myself to him.” It is an exhibition of Christ himself, an unfolding, a disclosure, a declaration and an appearance.
The significance of John the Beloved being the lone pen who recorded these words of Christ in John 14:21 is found in the fact that of all the potential candidates he was the one chosen by God to be shown the entire Book of Revelation in vision and experiential form. John not only wrote, but he saw the revelation of Jesus Christ. How significant that fact is when you again consider these words of Christ spoken years before to writing of Revelation:
“Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (John 14:21, emphasis mine)
The book of Revelation is first and foremost presented as a revealing of Jesus Christ, not merely a prophetic forecast of end-time events. It begins with John actually seeing the Resurrected Christ:
“I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned. . .I saw. . . someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.” (1:12-16)
Surely in that moment, in John’s experience at least, the promise came true. John had, in fact, received the “commands” of Christ and shown his love for Christ by “obeying them”. He had felt what it meant to be “loved” by Jesus and by his Father, too. And now, Jesus was keeping his part of the promise by “showing” himself, “manifesting” himself, and “revealing” himself to John powerfully and personally.
How we respond to God’s commands is fully dependent upon the condition of our hearts. As a matter of fact the commandments themselves test the condition of our hearts. Do we believe these commandments exist just to make our lives more difficult? Or are we convinced that God has his high purposes and our ultimate good in mind? Do we trust God and the heart of God?
Listen to the positive trust in God’s heart expressed in the Psalmist’s attitude towards God’s commands:
“Do good to your servant according to your word, O Lord. Teach me knowledge and good judgment, for I believe in your commands. Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your word. You are good, and what you do is good; teach me your decrees. . . .The law from your mouth is more precious to me than thousands of pieces of silver and gold” (Ps. 119:65-78, 72)
Jesus taught that obedience to God is born out of relationship with God. The desire and ability to obey God flows out of a personal relationship with him and is motivated by love for him. In a real sense, the litmus test of the authenticity of one’s relationship with God is shown by our obedience to him. “Faith without works is dead. . .” (James 2:17)
John practiced this principle throughout his life. Again and again in his writings, John asserted that the best evidence of a person’s close walk with Christ is a life of obedience. He put it this way:
“We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.”
(1 John 2:3)
Obedience actually strengthened John’s prayer life:
“. . .we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we obey his commands and do what pleases him. . . .Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them.” (1 John 3:21b-22, 24a)
The power to obey clearly flows from a passion to embrace Jesus in our lives. John did so in such a manner that it was as if Jesus wore his life like a hand wears a glove – “live in him, and he in them.”
Somehow John captured a manner of living that made obedience a joy and not a drudgery. Doing the will of God was not viewed as a chore, but as privilege and joy:
“This is love for God: to obey his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)