Summary: John's response to his vision of Jesus pictures how we are to respond to Jesus with awe, assurance and action.
Last week we had the privilege of seeing a wonderful portrait of Jesus that reveals to us what He is doing right now – walking among His churches for the purposes of reconciling, interceding, purifying, guiding, protecting and shining. And we determined that as His followers, we are to be about doing many of those same works as we serve Jesus.
But as we come to the last part of chapter 1, we’re going to see that there is an obvious and significant change in the perspective of the writing. Beginning with the second part of verse 17 and continuing through the end of chapter 3, we find a single, uninterrupted speech of the risen Jesus. No longer is John narrating what he sees in his vision; instead he is merely recording the words of Jesus.
We’re only going to cover four verses in our study this morning, but this short passage certainly isn’t lacking in the richness of its application to our lives.
17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. 19 Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this. 20 As for the mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands, the seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.
One of the most important purposes of any piece of art is to evoke a response from those who look upon it and the portrait of Jesus that is revealed to John is no exception. And John’s reaction to what he sees and Jesus’ instructions to John in light of what he sees are quite instructive to us as well. Since we have now also seen this portrait of Jesus, we have a responsibility to respond to it as well and this passage provides us with some practical guidance on how we should do that.
HOW AM I TO RESPOND TO THE REVELATION OF JESUS?
• WITH AWE
As soon as John saw this portrait of Jesus, he fell at His feet, as though he were dead. In a sense, this is kind of surprising considering that John had spent at least three years of His life in the presence of Jesus, and with one important exception, which we’ll look at in a moment, we never see John responding to Jesus like this.
But here’s the difference. When Jesus took on a body of flesh and walked here upon the earth, his flesh was like a veil that obscured the full glory of His deity. Paul refers to that in Philippians 2 when he reveals that Jesus “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6). Had Jesus not done that, no human could have gazed upon His glory. That is evident all throughout the Bible. Every time that someone is privileged to see even a glimpse of the glory of God, their response is almost always similar to John’s:
• When God reveals a vision of Himself to Daniel in Daniel 10, Daniel lost all strength and fell with his face to the ground.
• At least 4 times, Ezekiel is exposed to the glory of God and each time he falls on his face (Ezekiel 1:28, 3:23, 43:3, 44:4)
• When Isaiah is transported in a vision into the presence of God, he responds in a similar manner and proclaims “Woe is me.” (Isaiah 6:5)
• When Paul meets Jesus on the road to Damascus, he also falls to the ground. (Acts 9:4)
There is one other time in the Scripture where John had been exposed to the glory of Jesus and had responded in a similar manner.
And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified.