While in exile and in the Spirit, the author of Revelation writes…

Dear Friend,

While in exile and in the Spirit, the author of Revelation writes, “When I saw him [Jesus], I fell at his feet as though dead.” (Revelation 1:17) John the Seer’s overwhelming encounter with Jesus as “the Son of Man” reveals we have a Friend in heaven who can give us courage during even our most frightening times on earth.

In the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, John sees Jesus as one “like the Son of Man” blazing “like the sun shining with full force.” (Revelation 1:12-16) John’s vision of Jesus as the Son of Man reveals that the friend of sinners fights against the powers of evil. The crucified and risen ruler of the earth says, “Do not be afraid.” The One each of us pierced with our sins seeks us with both the power and desire to save. As Son of Man, Jesus gives grace and strength, even when we experience trials and fear.

When we encounter the title “Son of Man,” we might think first of Jesus’ true humanity, as the counterpart of his true divinity; and that is in part what the title means. But in Revelation, John of Patmos testifies to Jesus as “Son of Man” in terms of Daniel 7. John wants us, like Daniel, to envision the Son of Man overcoming empires when they descend into inhumanity. (Daniel 7:13-14) John wants us to encounter Jesus vindicating his persecuted followers by suffering with them in order to give them “an everlasting kingdom.” (Daniel 7:27)

On Sunday at Willowdale, we will explore further these dynamic biblical teachings about Jesus as Son of Man. For now, I simply pass on testimony to the truth of Jesus bringing saving power to the persecuted. In an essay called “Wading through Many Sorrows,” theologian M. Shawn Copeland studies the testimonies of African American women slaves from the 19th century. Treated with unspeakable cruelty—often in the name of Christianity—these women found in Christ a source of grace and strength. Communing with Christ by singing spirituals, “the enslaved Africans sang because they saw the result of the cross—triumph over the principalities and powers of death, triumph over evil in this world.” By engaging in such worship, “the slaves understood God as the author of freedom, of emancipation.”

Without wanting to claim false solidarity with the truly persecuted, I do want to observe that every member of the human family suffers brokenness and pain in some form, and we all need God’s freedom and emancipation. So I invite you to worship Jesus as the Son of Man who sets us free by his blood and makes us royal priests by his Spirit. (Revelation 1:5-6) The liberating Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the least, and the living one. I was dead, and see I am alive forever and ever; and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:17-18) Today, let Jesus love you fiercely.

Love,
Joel