Third Sunday of Easter: Revelation 5:6-14; John 20:19-29
Every Easter you can count on seeing “Jesus” movies and series on television. My personal favorite is “The Robe,” a 1953 Biblical epic starring Richard Burton. He plays a Centurion who was assigned to the detail to crucify Jesus, and wins the Robe Jesus was wearing playing dice at the feet of the one he crucified. Newer offerings are series that tell the story of the public ministry of Jesus through the eyes of several of his followers. I recently watched a moving episode on Mary Magdalene, showing her view of the crucifixion. She was at the foot of the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, along with other women and John. She touched his swollen, bloody feet and told the guards he was thirsty. She looked up at his beaten, bloodied face and saw his compassion for her. As Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross, she saw the gruesome removal of the nails and his mother holding his torn body before they wrapped him in linen burial cloth. These depictions of the Biblical story help stir my own imagination as I try to visualize being at the scene of Jesus’ sacrifice.
The visions of the book of Revelations have always been a challenge for me with all its imagery, symbols, and creatures and difficult to apply to daily life as well. But honestly, these few weeks of reading have opened my imagination to “see” the Divine in new ways. John’s vision of the Lamb at the throne of God in chapter 5 is like stepping into an overwhelming exaltation of praise of Jesus as the slain Lamb of God:
And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain… the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb…And they sang a new song, saying,“Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation…
What an amazing scene at the throne room of God. The Lamb with seven horns and seven eyes, stands in the center of the room among creatures, elders, and angels worshipping with their harps, incense, and songs.
With all that is going on, what jumps out is the Lamb standing “as though it had been slain.” v. 6. Although in heaven at the throne of God, Jesus still bears the marks, the wounds of the gruesome death he bore as sacrifice for sin. John describes Jesus as the “slain lamb” 29 times; the same word used in Jeremiah 11:19 “But I was like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter.”
Standing. Front and center. Jesus. His wounds are still seen, just as he had also presented them to Thomas after the resurrection: “Put your finger here, and see my hands, and put out your hand, and place it in my side.” On touching the wounds of the Master, Thomas professed: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28). If Jesus resurrected unmarked, with no scars of his wounds, he would have left his humanity behind. Instead his wounds are ours to touch and see and believe. And our wounds are his to touch and see and heal.
This week I met a friend and asked about his mother who had been sick for many months. He said his mother had died two weeks ago. I was thinking about what to say, and even thought it might be a relief in some way. But then he said, “Now comes the aftermath.” The pain, the wound of loss was mixed with the reality of the many estate details. Another friend’s father has Alzheimers, which has taken away all memory of his children’s names. When the whole family got together recently, I mistakenly asked if the time together had been “precious.” “Far from it,” my friend said, recounting the pain and difficulty of daily care. Another single friend called and shared his anger towards God and a former love interest that wounded him with rejection. These encounters moved me with compassion to see the wounds we all carry as human beings and bring them to Jesus who experienced brokenness for our salvation.
Practice. Experience the Divine Presence by using your imagination. Start with putting yourself in the room with the disciples in John 20:19 as Jesus comes through locked doors in the glory of his resurrection. Hear him say to you: “Peace.” “Receive the Holy Spirit.” Sit with that feeling. Then move to seeing yourself as Thomas. Touch the healed wounds in Jesus’ hands. Put your finger in his pierced side. Look into his eyes of compassion. What is your pain? Your wound? Name it. Feel it. Then. Stand with it for Jesus to see it. Let him touch and heal. What is your desire? Name it. Pray on it. Go with the Spirit of Peace he has given.
Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice: Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”
What a powerful acclamation of Christ’s worthiness: seven terms of praise including glory, honor, power, wealth, wisdom, might, and blessing. The worship ends with Amen! So be it! As the Elders fell down and worshipped the slain Lamb of God.
Practice. Again experience the Divine Presence by joining John in his vision of the throne room of God. Use your personal creativity to be part of the scene. Draw it. Sing the song. Fall down in worship.