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.
The Apostle John had seen Jesus on many, many occasions,having been with him as his close disciple throughout the extent of his ministry. In the days and months and years since, images would have constantly filled his mind from those days. Images of Jesus, coming to the Jordan, announced by John the Baptist as “The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” Jesus, turning water to wine. Jesus, looking to heaven, then breaking bread and fish and distributing it all to the masses. Jesus, breaking bread again, but now, so memorably, at that last Passover. Jesus, dying on the cross. Jesus, breathing his last. Jesus, standing alive in the centre of the Upper Room, creating stunned surprise and revitalized joy!
Of course, he was also there, with Peter and James, on that Mount of Transfiguration, seeing Jesus transformed before them, fairly glowing with divine glory, his face like the sun, his very clothes radiating light. Interestingly, of all the Gospel writers, John was the only one who was actually there on that mountainside. Yet he is the only one who neglects to record the incident. Ironically, although lacking this detail, his Gospel is absolutely anchored in Jesus’ glory (John 1:14). I think he is so intent on us seeing the glory of the cross above all else, that he chooses not to obscure that sighting with the wonder of the Transfiguration.
But here in Revelation, John fully pulls back the curtain – indeed with gusto. He wants us to have unobstructed vision of the Risen, Ascended, Exalted Jesus, just as he himself did on that Island of Patmos. His description strains our capacity to comprehend, seeking to capture in words what is ultimately beyond description. As one commentator says: “A symbolic picture is given here that was never meant to be painted!”
Yet what we glimpse is “Glory” writ large. The initial description of Jesus as one “like a son of man” draws us into the imagery of Daniel’s vision of a “son of man” coming on the clouds with great glory, approaching God’s throne and being given all authority, glory, sovereign power and worship (Daniel 7:13-14). His hair, “white like wool, as white as snow,” comes from that same vision, being a description of the enthroned Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9-10). Here, in John’s writing, the exalted Jesus bears that characteristic himself. What would have been so recognizable to John – the eyes and face of the Master – are here suffused in splendour, the eyes blazing and the face shining.
His voice, equally overwhelming, was like a trumpet or the sound of rushing waters. Yet when John fell at his feet as though dead, familiar words came from that voice, saying, “Do not be afraid,” the very phrase Jesus had spoken to Peter and James and John at his Transfiguration, when the cloud of God’s glory had overwhelmed them and the voice of the Father had spoken, “This is my Son, whom I love,” and they had fallen on their faces in terror. The same comforting words came from their Master then as now, “Do not be afraid” (Matthew 17:7).
John knows him. It’s Jesus. The One who called him Friend. The One he’d served all these years since. The One he loved. Yet, now revealed as Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, the Living One who was dead and is alive again – forever and ever!
Jesus. Yes. All eyes on him.
Lord Jesus, I praise you as the Exalted One. May you be in my sights all this day. May I hear your voice. May I honour you in everything I do.
Consider your own setting. Where, in your own experience, do you most need to know Jesus as the Exalted, Sovereign Lord? Invite his glorified presence. Submit to his Lordship.
Photos (overlaid) by Robert Nyman and Casey Horner on Unsplash