How can Jesus wake us up when we’re dead? How can Jesus expect us to stay alert when we feel sleepy and maybe even a little drunk?
These searching questions J come to me as I ponder Jesus’ letter to the church in Sardis. (Revelation 3:1-6, Willowdale’s passage for August 26) In his letter to that congregation, Jesus speaks in a seemingly harsh manner. He writes, “You have the name of being alive, and you are dead.” (Rev. 3:1) He says: if you do not wake up, “I will come to you like a thief.” (Rev. 3:3) As a Pastor commissioned to preach good news, I find myself seeking help from Jesus’ even more harsh letter to the church in Laodicea. (Rev. 3:14-22) Our Lord tells that poor group that he finds them lukewarm and unless they heat up he will vomit them out of his mouth. (Rev. 3:16) And then Jesus explains, “When people are my friends, I tell them when they’re in the wrong.” (Rev. 19, N.T. Wright’s translation)
In his sharp and friendly wakeup call to the congregation in Sardis, Jesus uses the same verb he used in Gethsemane when he asked his disciples to “keep awake” or “keep watch” (Mark 14:34; cf. Mark 13:37) Infamously, as their Master felt “very sorrowful, even to death,” (Mark 14:34), his closest followers fell asleep. Their spirits were willing but their flesh was weak. (Mark 14:38)
Willing spirit but weak flesh describes me pretty much every morning, so as I pondered Jesus’ wakeup call in his letter to Sardis; I received a strange picture in my mind. I will leave it to you to discern its spiritual quality:
I pictured Jesus coming into my room and waking me up with a song. The song comes from Ephesians 5:14, and the Greek verb is a little different but close enough; it goes:
“Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead,
And Christ shall give you light.”
In my picture (vision?), I complain: “Lord, I want to sleep in for a while yet. Why do you sing me awake?” And Jesus responds with a variation on John 10:10. “I sing you awake so you may have life and have it abundantly.”
As a Friend like no other, Jesus can wake us from the dead because he died once himself and now lives forever. Jesus can expect us to stay alert because he comes to us with “the seven spirits of God.” (Rev. 3:1) The seven spirits represent all the inspiring spirits of God, and they prompt us to pray for the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. So let’s share together in God’s Life today. Let’s wake up and walk with our Master and our Friend.