Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters…When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying,“Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. Revelation 1:12-15, 17-18
Ever have a really good friend and, somewhere along the way in the relationship, you see him/her in his/her “natural environment” and you come to realize you didn’t know him/her nearly as well as you thought you did? You’ve been through hard times together, you’ve travelled together, you’ve met family and know each other’s triumphs and fears, and you have logged lots and lots of hours just hanging out together. But, by some twist of circumstances, you happen to catch him/her in a situation where the real “natural” self comes out and you think, “Wow. Did not see that coming.” And then it hits you…this is who he/she really is!
I believe John (the apostle and writer of Revelation) and Jesus were best friends. Best. Friends. I believe that is a perfectly reasonable interpretation of the gospels. John was clearly in Jesus’ “inner circle” (along with Peter and John’s brother, James). He was atop the Mount of Transfiguration to see things reserved for this inner circle. He would refer to himself (in his own gospel) as “the one whom Jesus loved”. So, clearly, at least he thought they were best friends. His gospel reveals insights and understandings of Jesus that are unique to him and to his perspective. Time and again in God’s story, John demonstrates a genuine “knowledge” of Jesus, the man.
Nevertheless, even his glimpse of Jesus “in his glory” on the Mount of Transfiguration did not prepare him for what he would describe in the Revelation. He did not see that coming…at all. Jesus, in his “natural” state, the state he had held from before time began and will hold forever more, was a complete surprise to Jesus’ close friend. Calling it a shock does not begin to capture the feeling. I suspect words failed John in the writing of the Revelation. “I fell at his feet as though dead” was as close as he could come to describing the feeling. God’s glory is like that…it is always a revelation, always a bit of a surprise.
Very soon now, I will be traveling to South Africa to renew friendships with several churches and pastors and denominational entities in that country. This will be our ministry’s 9th annual trip to South Africa…my 8th. I can still remember my thought process 9 years ago as I prepared to go for my first time. I thought I would go and share what I know about God and His church with the churches in South Africa. I had all this critical knowledge to share, and I would go and share it and then come home and I would feel so much better having given of my vast wealth of knowledge. But when I got there that first time, God met me there and revealed Himself to me in new ways and completely surprised me. And that has been his agenda every year since. I go, He meets me there through the warmth of His people, through the beauty of His creation and through the sheer weight of His presence on that continent for thousands of years. I thought (again) I knew Him. I always think I know Him. And then He meets me there in totally unexpected ways and reveals new, unexplored facets of Himself every time.
That is what will happen this time as well. I look forward to it. I am anticipating the “hugs” from God through some of the most beautiful people in the world. I am expecting new insights and new understandings of His Word. I am looking forward to bearing witness to new and exciting works of his among the people of Johannesburg and of Cape Town. There will be surprises. There always are.
I always go thinking I know Him, thinking I understand Him and can comprehend Him. I always go thinking that way. And, praise God, I always get surprised.
You think you know someone…
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