A reflection on St John’s vision of Jesus in Revelation Chapter 1.
“I saw him again,
50 years or more since I last saw him face to face as we stood on the mountain top and watched him go –
ascend is the wrong word as he didn’t exactly go up, more “away”
50 years of seeing him with the eyes of faith and then suddenly to see him again – this man that I love so deeply
And to see him here – in my pain and exile – to see him here on this island
For this place of torment and distress to be the very doorway of heaven
Is this my “Stephen” moment – where I see heaven opened just as they take my life as they took his, the first of our witnesses to give their life for Jesus’ name?
But no – I have a chance to write this down – to share what I saw
I have stern words to share with the Church – His Words not mine – encouraging words too.
The weight of those words echoes in my ears
The importance of those words will echo throughout all generations
I need to write them down – to capture what he told me to say
Before I try to unpack the visions – some terrifying, some mysterious, some beautiful
I cry every time I see the New Jerusalem descending to earth
More real than anything I see around me – its as if this world is but smoke and shadows compared to what is to come.
But I saw him.
It was him
My beloved friend and master
But he wasn’t broken and bleeding as I’d seen him on the Cross
He wasn’t eating fish on the beach when he brought Peter back from the brink
He was as we saw him that day on the mountain
Glorious in White that shone
But a thousand times brighter, his hair was shining white,
His eyes – those eyes that shone with compassion and love and mercy and grace
Now shone like a blazing fire
Not the blazing fire of God’s wrath
But the blazing fire of God’s Grace
Even his feet were glowing
And his voice – like the sea
I love the sea – I used to be a fisherman you know
Only on Galilee so more of an unruly pond than an ocean
But his voice was like the waves rolling onto the shore
Like the gulls crying as they soar into the heavens
Like the deep boom of the storm crashing into rocks
It was my friend, yes, but My Lord and my God and I dropped to the ground.
I was in the presence of the Lord of all Creation
Surrounded by the Glory that comes from the very heart of heaven
And I fell to the ground.
“Don’t be afraid” he said and suddenly I was back in the upper room that night
That first glorious and dreadful night he appeared when he had risen from the dead.
That’s how I knew this vision was him
“Don’t be afraid”
And the smile was in his voice as he reminded me it was him – my friend – my beloved friend –
now revealed as the Lord of Glory
The First and Last he said – Alpha and Omega
The Living One who was dead and is now alive for ever and ever
And in his hand were they keys of death and hell
that He tore from the grasp of Satan as He leapt out of the grave and up into the resurrection life
No. More. Death.
For an old man that’s even more like Good News.
And then he said “Write” – “Write what you have seen, what is now, and what will take place later”
And so I’ll start to write – letters to his Church and then to tell of the climax of the story of salvation
Of the great trials that lie ahead
Of the Saints who will witness, like Stephen, with their lives and with their deaths,
Of the coming of Heaven to Earth.
But after 50 years I saw my friend
Face to Face
And I am not afraid any more.”