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tearsReflecting on the text

Before we get to the book of Revelation, I want you to take a look at a story from the life of Jesus.

Read John 20.1-18

Why do you think Mary is crying?

There’s probably not one specific right answer, but it’s definitely a question worth pondering. Was she crying simply because she felt a deep love for Jesus? Was she crying because she thought his body had been stolen? Was she crying because she didn’t know what else to do? Yes, uh-huh, I’m sure, and probably a few other things as well. I don’t pretend to grasp the depth of her sadness, but I think there is one more thing that we sometimes miss.

She was counting on Jesus.

She was counting on him to rescue Israel, to establish God’s kingdom, to bring the entire world – kicking and screaming if necessary – to faithful worship of the One True God. After all, she was an Israelite living in the first century, and that’s what they wanted. Theirs was a story in search of an ending, and Jesus came along announcing that this story had finally found its climax in him.

And now he was dead. What’s worse, someone seemed to have stolen his body, mocking his claim to be the Messiah.

So she did what most of us would do. She cried.

Some might be tempted to say that she cries because she is a woman, and women tend to cry more than men. Then we read Revelation 5 and find John doing the same thing. (I really recommend reading Revelation 5 if you haven’t in the last day or so. 🙂 You don’t have to, but…)

So there you go. John cries. Weeps, in fact.

But why? What in the world does John have to be crying about? After all, he just saw God, for crying out loud (pun intended). And where was God? He was sitting on the throne, where he belongs, where all of his people want him to be.

Living what we learn

But there is a problem. You see, in God’s hand is a scroll containing “the plan of God, the plan of salvation, the divine purpose for recreating the whole cosmos” (N.T. Wright).

Let’s pause for a moment.

All of us have wondered at some point why we’re here. Truth be told, we’ve all wrestled with finding meaning in the hours and minutes of our everyday worlds.

We express this every time we stop to ask ourselves if we still enjoy life, every time we tell ourselves we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, every time we cry because we’re not sure that we’re telling ourselves the truth.

And this is only on a personal level. In the all-too-few times when we look beyond our own stories and notice the rest of the world, our confusion threatens to morph into despair.

We hold strongly to our conviction that God has a plan for it all, but sometimes we get tired. And that is when we wish we could just unroll a scroll that tells us the whole story. Perhaps then we could finally get a good night’s sleep.

That’s what John is so close to seeing and having, not only for himself but also for his tired little churches in Asia Minor, and not only for them but for the whole world!

That’s why he cried—he was so close and yet not close enough, “because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside” (5.4).

We aren’t told how long John had to wait until what happened next. Maybe it was a few seconds; maybe hours went by before he heard the powerful voice of one of the elders, saying:

“Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”

In other words, he’s the one. He is the Lion, the King, the one who defeated evil by being slain, the one who was faithful unto death, the one who is worthy to make sense of human existence.

Did you notice where John says Jesus is standing?

He’s in the center of the throne. Jesus is the centerpiece of God’s plan for the universe. Precisely because he has triumphed over evil, having bought with his blood a family from among all nations, he unlocks the meaning of everything. At the cross the veil is lifted and we see the world for what it is, and, more importantly, what God is doing in, with, and through it.

Sounds kind of out there, doesn’t it?

One of the things Revelation forces us to do is think big thoughts—thoughts that might not at first seem eminently practical. But there is one important truth that stems from our big idea that, if given its proper due, makes all the difference in the world.

We see two of those thoughts here. One is this idea that Jesus is the climax of God’s story with us, and therefore of our story. Jesus is the embodiment of God’s mission in the world, and therefore of our mission. Without these pages, the book is not complete.

A second thought is this: not only is Jesus the centerpiece of God’s plan for the universe, he also stands in the center of God’s very identity. When we look at Jesus, we see what God is like. When we want to know what God is like, we should look at Jesus. (John 1.1-2,18; 14.5-11; Hebrews 1.1-3)

Reflect on this for a minute. If Jesus both reveals and accomplishes God’s ultimate mission in our world, what does that mission involve? And if Jesus is the clearest and truest revelation of God godself, what does that say about who God is?

To catch up on this series through the book of Revelation, click here.