Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Re-amaze the Amazement

Sometimes I am amazed at my lack of amazement.

Let me explain.

As a pastor I find myself talking about spiritual things a lot. I mean a lot. Like sometimes all day. Now--don't get me wrong. This is a calling. I'm grateful. I believe it's a gift. But sometimes I can be sharing something of eternal significance and feel very casual about the matter. Not at the level of faking it--just not overwhelmed by the reality. If you can imagine a tour guide at the Grand Canyon who can get more excited about the lunch hour pudding cup--then you get the dilemma.

There is an old phrase that goes like this..

Familiarity breeds contempt. 

I think my familiarity with Jesus sometimes breeds contempt. The other morning I read these words.  

 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. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
(Revelation 1:14-16 ESV)

I don't know about you, but I don't normally think of Jesus this way. Oh...I have plenty of pictures in my mind. Ask me to describe Jesus and I might talk about a child being held by a teenage girl, a boy teaching adults in a temple, a Rabbi preaching from a boat, a miracle worker distributing bread, a Savior weeping in a garden, a Lamb dying in our place, or a Victor leaving an empty tomb. I might even talk about the ascension of Jesus that left his disciples gazing up--and how he poured his Spirit out on the church and lives to give grace to his disciples. All these scenes are glorious. I may even be able to give you some chapters and verses to win your confidence. But I don't think the first place I would go is the last place the Bible leaves us with.  I don't think I would quickly reflect about a face shining like the noon day sun in full strength. When I tell my kids about Jesus, I've never thought we should probably go outside and stare at the sun for a while--or until Mom gets mad.

 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. 

You have got to love this honesty. John was the one who laid his head against the chest of Jesus. He's the one who had the nerve to ask Jesus if he could sit at the head of the table when he established his kingdom. Now he sees the King and he goes down like a sack of potatoes. No high fives. No requests. No concern about being top dog. He just lays there at the feet of Jesus--waiting for Jesus to make the next move. Moreover, the scene doesn't surprise us. It's not like we read this and want to whisper, "pssst...John...bro....get up. seriously...this is embarrassing." Rather we're saying, "good call. I totally get it. Let me join you."

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. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are and those that are to take place after this.
(Revelation 1:17-19 ESV)

 It's right here that we get good news. Where the blazing holiness of Jesus makes John fall down, his perfect love picks him back up. Jesus places his right hand on John and speaks familiar words to his disciple, "fear not." Peace could not arrive any quicker than through hearing those two words. Why? Not because there's nothing to be terrified of--but because John is his friend. Jesus reminds his friend that he is the first and the last--the living one--and that his transcendent glory is not bigger than his immanent grace. Notice he's not one of many--but the definitive living one who actually died--not "as though dead" but truly dead--and never to be dead again.

And then he says "look at me" or "behold I am alive forevermore (v. 18)" as if to say "take this in, John--this is the extent of my love and glory. I've got the keys of Death! Death can't lock me up because I locked it up. Hell can't conquer me because I stormed the gates and won."

A.W. Tozer once said, "What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us." If that's true--I need this image of Jesus--this final revelation of Christ--to be bigger in my life. I need his shining face to melt through my casualness. I need those five words, "behold I am alive forevermore" to re-amaze the amazement.