Who is Jesus Christ?
There are many ways in which He has revealed Himself to us, and all of these are important. Sometimes I think the dominant way contemporary Christians see Jesus is as a good friend. He’s kinda just one of the guys, though definitely the leader of the pack. We can almost picture Him in blue jeans, and we’re sure He would never be caught dead wearing vestments! At other times, particularly in contemporary praise choruses, it’s almost as if He’s our lover, and we sing passionately about our feelings for Him.
But I like St. John’s way of seeing Him. Now before we see Jesus as John saw Him, we should remember a few things about John. This is the same John who Jesus saw fishing with his brother James and father Zebedee when He called John to Himself. This is the John who spent 3 years of his life following Jesus as His disciple and the same John who saw the many miracle of Jesus and heard His teaching. He is the John who saw Jesus transfigured in all His glory on the mountain, the John who witnessed His Crucifixion, and the John who took Jesus’ own mother in with him to his home. He is the disciple whom Jesus loved and who reclined intimately on the breast of Jesus at the Last Supper.
Because John hung out with Jesus for 3 years, and was one of the 3 closest friends of Jesus, we might expect John to see Jesus as He appeared to him when He was still on earth. We might expect him to see Him as the one who now called Him “friend” and no longer a slave or servant.
But how Jesus Christ actually reveals Himself to John is so glorious, so awesome, so terrifying, that John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, when he sees Him falls at His feet as if dead. This is not a conscious act of prostration before Jesus that John commits: it’s an unconscious, involuntary reaction that St. John has when he sees Jesus Christ in His glory. It is a reaction of fear, the kind of fear that makes a grown man who has seen persecution and has been exiled to Patmos quake in his knees and lose control of his bodily functions.
What was it that John saw? Why would he have this reaction to one he loved so much and was so intimate with?
What John saw was Jesus Christ as He is. What he saw was one like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band. What John saw was One whose head and hair were white as wool, as white as snow and whose eyes were like a flame of fire. He saw One whose feet were like fine brass as if refined in a fiery furnace, and what he heard was One whose voice is the sound of many waters. He saw the One who had seven stars in His hand and a sharp two-edged sword that is living and powerful and can pierce, even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and can discern the thoughts and intents of the heart.
John saw all this and One whose countenance was like the sun shining in its strength. So he fell at His feet as if dead.
Is this the way we see Jesus Christ? Is this the way we come into His presence? I don’t think it is most of the time, or, for some of us, ever.
It’s important to realize that John was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and, as other parts of Revelation make clear, he is partaking of a heavenly worship service. John is seeing a vision of Jesus Christ as He is when He comes to us in our worship on the Lord’s Day.
“Come, sit casually, and listen to a lecture about how to lead the good life or an inspirational talk about how you can solve life’s problems. Come be entertained by our light rock band and preacher who knows a lot of good jokes and anecdotes.”
The Jesus that John came to – the Resurrected, Ascended Christ who sits enthroned on the right hand of God and is the King of kings, surrounded in glory by the 4 Living Creatures and 24 elders and a rainbow and lightnings, thunderings, and voices – is the same terrifying God that the Old Testament prophets saw. This Jesus Christ is the God of Glory who Moses saw on Mt. Sinai, when He saw the God of Israel, under whose feet was a pavement of sapphire (Exodus 24:10), and who made the top of the mountain a consuming fire (Exodus 24:17), and made Moses’ face shine. The Jesus Christ that John saw was the One who holy Isaiah saw, surrounded by cherubim and seraphim, the sight of which made Isaiah cry out: “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips. For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (6:5.)
This is the Lord of Glory who Ezekiel saw, the One sitting on the throne, surrounded by angels and the living creatures, lightning and the noise of many waters, and fire all around. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. When Ezekiel saw it, he fell on his face (1:28.)
This Jesus Christ who John saw, and whose presence made John fall at His feet, this Jesus Christ is the Resurrected and Ascended Lord whom we worship. Let us come into His presence seeing Him for who He is.
This is the Lord who has revealed Himself to us. Mercifully, He is also the same Lord who laid His right hand on John and said to him: “Do not be afraid.” And so, knowing that we come before a Terrible, Consuming Fire who makes us want to fall down dead, we also come boldly before the Throne. This same Jesus who is the Shekinah Glory and is Heaven itself, is also the One who was born a baby and made man for us.
Let us come before Him today and every day with both fear and trembling, with praise and thanksgiving, and with quiet confidence in His mercy and goodness to us.
Prayer: O God, who on the mountain revealed to chosen witnesses Your only-begotten Son, wonderfully transfigured in dazzling clothes and burning fire; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the distractions of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in His beauty, who with You, O Father, and You, O Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, world without end. Amen.
Resolution and Point for Meditation: I resolve to spend some time today meditating on who Jesus Christ is, especially as He has revealed Himself in glory. As I do this, I will listen for His voice and what He is telling me today is pleasing in His sight.
© 2015 Fr. Charles Erlandson