Summary: The vision the Apostle John received on Patmos reminds us that Jesus is standing in our midst and reigning on our behalf.
Today is the last day of regular season games in the NHL. That means the Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us. Of course Oiler fans won’t have anything to cheer about this year. Nor did they have much to cheer about the year before that. 2006 was their last good year in recent memory. That’s when they came within a game of winning the whole thing. Oh, for the glory days of the Oilers when the team won five Stanley Cups from 1983-1990!
Christians around the world today may feel a bit like Oiler fans. As we see the world get more evil we may wish for the “glory days” when Jesus walked this earth performing miracles and driving out demons. Thankfully our text today illustrates how Jesus’ glory days are (still) here. Because of this we don’t have to be afraid of anything.
The Apostle John too must have longed for the glory days of Jesus, especially after he was exiled to the island of Patmos when he was about 80 years old. 60 years had passed since Jesus’ resurrection and all the other original disciples had been martyred for their faith. John’s brother, James, had been the first to go. He was beheaded by Herod Agrippa just ten years after Jesus’ resurrection. Twenty years later the spokesman of the disciples, Peter, was crucified upside down by the emperor Nero. Congregations John had left behind on the mainland of present day Turkey were suffering too. The pastor at the church in Pergamum, Antipas, had reportedly died when attackers threw him in a red-hot bronze ox. Didn’t Jesus care what was happening to his church? Of course Jesus cared. Jesus made that clear to John by appearing to him one Sunday. John reports the encounter like this: “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 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” (Revelation 1:12-16).
This vision should have erased all thoughts that Jesus didn’t care what was happening to his church or that he wasn’t able to do anything to help. For starters, Jesus’ face was shining like the sun in all its power, not feebly glowing like a weakening, setting sun as if Jesus was some “has-been.” Jesus was also wearing a white robe with a golden sash – not the bloodied strips of rags he had been crucified in. Nor was he sitting in a deck chair, poolside at heaven’s Hyatt unconcerned what was happening to his churches. He was standing among seven golden lampstands and holding seven stars in his right hand. At the end of the chapter Jesus explains that the lampstands represent the seven churches to whom John was to write and the seven stars were the angels, probably pastors, of those congregations (Revelation 1:20). Do you see what this means? It means that even now Jesus is standing in our midst!
But doesn’t that make you feel a bit uncomfortable? It should. While we can hide our sins from one another we can’t hide them from Jesus. His blazing eyes (Revelation 1:14b) see everything. Jesus knows what websites you check out when no one is looking. He knows how you act when you’re with your friends, even if your parents don’t. He knows that you spoke those kind words this morning to flatter not to encourage. Jesus knew all about John’s sins too. It’s no wonder John fell at Jesus’ feet like a dead man when he saw him.
But Jesus had not appeared to John to frighten him but to encourage him. So he reached out his right hand, touched John’s shoulder, and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades” (Revelation 1:17b, 18). If John had stopped to analyze the scene a bit longer, he would have known that Jesus meant him no harm. After all the right hand that reached out to comfort John was the same one that had been holding the seven stars. Jesus wants church leaders to know that he is supporting them in their work with his powerful right hand. Not only that, the lampstands that Jesus was walking among were made out of gold, not plastic. In other words, Christian congregations are precious to Jesus.