Revelation 1:12-18 “I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands 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. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 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. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 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.”
Have you ever walked around the mall in Washington D.C.– the Washington Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, the Jefferson Memorial, the various war memorials? All these dead heroes performed great services for our country, and it is a privilege to remember them. But they aren’t much use now for repairing the divisions that afflict our country, or fixing our economy, or dealing with war and violence in the Middle East. They won’t be making any more speeches in Congress or formulating any policies or shouldering a rifle and hunting down the Taliban. They are dead, and we are left to deal with these issues ourselves.
In John’s Revelation, Jesus is the One who was dead, but he has left us with more than a memorial, more than a legacy. His very death lit the lamp of the gospel shining from our pulpits and classrooms. “I was dead” means “God has made every sacrifice necessary for your salvation.” “I was dead” means, “There is nothing left for you to pay in order to be reconciled to God.” “I was dead” means, “Every last one of your sins has been forgiven, and you are free.”
Even more, “I was dead” means, “I’m not dead anymore.” He is the Living One, the one who is alive for ever and ever. And the living Jesus who is present with his churches, including the one you attend, and with his pastors, including the one who preaches to you, is not the humble and despised man the Apostle John saw go to the cross. He is the glorified Jesus who rules the world from his throne in heaven. He has taken back his divine power and uses it to support and assist his little churches wherever they may be. See the light and glory that ooze from every pore of his body–everything about him from head to toe is white and shining.
Do you see what his presence means for you? In the Disney movie Aladdin, when Aladdin first meets the Genie, the Genie explains the difference his presence makes in the song “You Aint Never Had A Friend Like Me”: “You got some power in your corner now, some ammunition in your camp. You’ve got some punch, pizzaz, yahoo, and how, all you gotta do is rub that lamp.” What you have, Christian, is not a minor spirit from some mythological world. You have the Lord of glory, the King of heaven and earth, living and moving among you invisibly, using his power and glory on your behalf. You don’t have to rub his lamp. He is the light in yours as he stands among us. We do not serve and witness alone, because Jesus himself stands among his churches.