Saturday, December 27, 2008

The Jesus we need to see

The book of Revelation provides us an insight on the various challenges faced by churches undergoing persecution and the godly instructions given to them by the Head of the Church Himself – Jesus Christ. Indeed, it is important to recognize that the book was written in a particular setting to a specific group of churches (Rev. 1-3) to encourage those going through tribulation and persecution in the later part of the first century with a revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev. 1:1).

Applying its contents to contemporary Christianity, Revelation calls us to be sensitive to the voice of God. It encourages us to accept His evaluation, welcome His counsel, and respond to His reproofs. At the time of the book’s writing, things were changing for Christians in the Roman Empire. While the Church had initially enjoyed a measure of tolerance by the Roman authorities, this was no longer guaranteed. And what started earlier as attacks by religiously motivated mobs had begun to escalate to a state-supported persecution.

When John received this revelation of Jesus, he was being punished for being a religious and political rebel. He had been deported to the island of Patmos “on account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (1:9). As he languished in exile, he also knew that the churches in Asia Minor for which he had oversight, were also undergoing great trials. His heart went out to them.

So did Jesus’ heart and consequently John receives a revelation from and of his Lord, written to provide him and the churches of Asia Minor with what they most needed: a revelation of who Jesus Christ is. As we see it throughout the Scriptures, God’s priority is not so much to answer the questions that His people may have as to why they suffer as it is to give them a revelation of Himself during these times. In this final book of the Bible, Jesus is revealed as the One who is in the midst of the churches, and as the One in control of history who will soon bring it to conclusion by ushering the complete reconciliation of creation with its Creator. Foundational to this is the revelation of Jesus given in chapter 5. Weeping as he recognizes that no one in this fallen world is worthy to open a scroll, John is told to stop weeping and to behold the Lion of Judah who is worthy. Expecting to see a mighty lion who has conquered sin through strength and power, John looks and instead of a lion he sees a lamb, bloody, bruised, and wounded, looking as if it had been slain. And John understands that this is the One whom the persecuted need to see. Victory is not achieved through strength or power, but through suffering and sacrifice, even until death. It is not the Lion that the persecuted need to see; it is the Lamb.

God’s victories are still won in today’s world not through strength, power, and brute force; they are seen in the lives of those who follow the Lamb, even to the point of death.


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