Sunday, February 10, 2008

Portraits of Jesus: Alpha & Omega Introduction

The last post highlighted a variety of views on Jesus that would elicit a variety of responses. While some might seem a bit familiar to many of us, the truth is, there’s some warrant for our chumminess with Jesus in Scripture. He was truly man and surely built strong friendships with His disciples. In John’s gospel Jesus calls the disciples His friends, and us too. So there’s something to this familiarity that’s good and true.

But there’s a tension here – more tension than many of us recognize or practice, particularly when we talk about the culture at large. Jesus is our friend, but He’s fully God and fully man. There’s room for familiarity, but there needs to be some awe, too. John the Apostle was called the beloved disciple. If anyone was close to Jesus, it was John. He’s the one sitting next to Jesus in the Last Supper painting – unless, like the DaVinci Code, you think it’s Mary (Not sure if the confusion is more embarrassing for John or Mary). John knew Jesus well. He was Jesus’ friend. For our time in the Scripture today we’re going to Revelation – the end of your Bibles. Now John was in exile on this island called Patmos for His faithfulness to Jesus. And now He’s going to receive a vision.

On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: "Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea." 12 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 1.10-16
Revelation uses a lot of imagery-laden language, but we’re looking at the Messianic “son of man” from Daniel, wearing the robe of a judge or a priest with blazing eyes that pierce to the core of our person and bronze feet show the glory and solid power of Jesus. His voice sounds like the waves crashing on the beach at Patmos, and He’s got a sword coming from His mouth! And then His radiant face reflects His glory! What a sight!

Now what does John do with His friend, Jesus? Give Him a noogie? Slap on the back? No. He falls on His face with fear. (When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” – Revelation 1.17).
One of Jesus’ dearest friends is terrified of Him.

Jesus is our friend, but make no mistake. We need to keep room for awe in our friendship with Jesus. Some of you recognize the subtitle as the words of Lucy, the little girl, as she is first told about Aslan, the Christ-figure lion in the Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe. She asks if Aslan is safe. She’s rebuked; He’s a lion. Not safe, but good. We love safe in our world, though, don’t we? We’re all too eager to make Jesus look a lot like us, perhaps because we like to make Him safe (from our view), rather than letting Him challenge us with who He says and having to deal with it.

We may not like confronting this terrifying self-portrait of Jesus with a sword coming out of His mouth, but we won’t worship Him rightly if we don’t look at all of who Jesus is. We don’t know Him well if our knees don’t knock a little from time to time – even if our friend.

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