There was a little Jewish boy born many years ago and circumcised on the 8th day in accordance with the Law. Such a small way to begin the biggest thing of all. But that boy, as well all know, did not stay a boy, and His circumcision and keeping of the Law was only the beginning of His obedience to the Father. Out of that small beginning comes the Lord we meet today in Revelation.
Do you remember the vision of Jesus that St. John had in the beginning of his revelation? It was of a Jesus whose eyes were like a flame of fire and feet like fine brass refined in a furnace; His head and hair were white as wool and snow; His voice was as the sound of many waters; and His countenance was like the sun shining in its strength.
What was the response of St. John to this vision? “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead.” This is the Jesus Christ who St. John has revealed to us all through his Revelation. The voice of many waters is heard again in Revelation 19, only this time we learn that even though it is associated with the presence of Jesus Christ, it is actually the voice of an angel. In Revelation when this voice is heard, St. John falls at his feet to worship, so loud and awesome is the voice. But the voice which makes John fall at its feet, as great as it is, is only that of an angel. How much louder and awesome and terrible must be the voice of the One who is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords and will judge the world?
This is the Jesus Christ that we meet in Revelation 19, and He is the Jesus Christ of our lives. But I think that we think we’ve tamed Jesus. Judging by the pictures of Jesus in Western art, especially the ones of the last two centuries, you’d think He was some kind of hippie peacenik who wouldn’t harm the hair on a fly’s leg.
But NO! Jesus Christ, as He is revealed in the Revelation, in the last book of the Bible, rides a white horse and goes out to make holy war on His enemies: He judges and makes war (verse 11) – two things we’re taught the Jesus I know would never ever do. God the Father is the judgmental and war-like one who kills His enemies, but the New Testament Son is nice and pure, peaceful and non-judgmental.
NOT! On His white horse He leads the very armies of heaven, and out of His mouth goes a sharp sword that with it He should strike the nations (verse 15), and not just heavenly enemies. He is the promised Messiah of Psalm 2 who will rule the nations with a rod of iron and dash them a potter’s vessel. He is the one who Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God! (verse 15).
Apparently the editors of the 1928 Prayer Book lectionary didn’t like all this martial language about Jesus, even though the Bible is full of it, for they cut out verses 17 and following. They embarrass us, that Jesus Christ would be at the head of an army that leaves corpses for the birds of the air to eat, the flesh of mighty men and of horses.
But this war is not just any war: it is truly the War to End All Wars. It is a war against all of God’s enemies, who deserve nothing but death. He must be the conqueror, and the world, the flesh, and the devil must be conquered if we are to made free.
Warfare and bloodshed are terrible images for God’s salvation, but they are true and righteous ones. Perhaps you prefer the language of divorce, for what God has done is to divorce His unfaithful wife Israel, as He proclaimed He would do through all of the Old Testament prophets (and the New Testament ones), so that He may marry His true and righteous Bride, the Church.
For the defeat of God’s enemies and His divorce from unfaithful Israel means His eternal marriage to His Church, from whom He will never divorce. The Church is the heavenly Jerusalem and Bride of Revelation 21 and Revelation 19. It’s just like all the old stories of chivalry in which the knight must perform a heroic feat before He can marry the pure lady.
Like King David before Him, the King of Kings is not only a Warrior but also a Lover, a Lover unlike any seen since the world was formed. He is the source of love and definition of love and the example of love, and this Perfect Lover has chosen us, His Church, to be His Beloved Bride.
“Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!” After the war, after the glory has been won and the kingdom established by the power of the King of Kings, comes His marriage. Western literature is animated by its stories of glory in battle and the heroic deeds of the righteous: its very skeleton is the battle between good and evil, and romance is its blood. We have therefore been incarnated as characters into the quintessential Story of mankind, which is His-story. This Great Story inhabits our every time: the past, the present, and the future, and the book of Revelation proclaims a Christ Was, and Is, and Is to Come. We respond, therefore, both to the warfare and victory, and to the romance and marriage, with every bit of our time.
With our past, we remember and rehearse the narrative of slavery and sin and of cosmic battle, and we remember the victory of the King of Kings on the Cross and out of the Tomb. We remember the fact that we are already married to the Lamb and have the closest union with Him so that, by His Spirit, we are made one.
With our present, we continue to fight the Holy War against God’s enemies, both from within and without, and rejoice for every victory that He wins through us. We also rejoice and party because we are the giddy bride who was chosen by Mr. Right and because being in union with the Lamb brings joy and ecstasy and delight.
With our future, we work, hope, and pray for the completion of His victories, knowing that He shall prevail and make all right. We anticipate the completion and glorification of all things, especially as we celebrate the Holy Communion which weds all three time perspectives into one time, which is God’s time.
So choose your weapon for worship today: it may be to remember, to participate, or to anticipate; it may be to look at the War and victories of the King of kings or the romance and marriage and feast of the Lamb.
Whatever you do, “Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory” (verse 7).
Come, all has been made ready! Such great things from such small beginnings.
Prayer: Pray the Lord’s Prayer with the Victory of the King of Kings and the Marriage Feast of the Lamb in mind.
Point for Meditation:
If you believed that every day, and especially the Lord’s Day, and most especially on Holy Communion days you are called to the Marriage Feast of the Lamb, how should you prepare? Consider the white robes, which are the righteous acts of the saints, and consider what preparation would entail on a daily and weekly basis.
Resolution: The next time you participate in the Holy Communion, see it as the Marriage Feast of the Lamb to His Bride. Prepare yourself adequately as part of His Bride.
© 2013 Fr. Charles Erlandson