With a Touch and a Word

Spiritual anemia plagues many today.  I think that one of the causes of this condition can be traced to our perception of God.  Think about how you would describe God.  Usually the first characteristics that come to mind are these: God is loving, God is merciful, God is gracious, God is forgiving, etc.  In all of these characteristics we are describing what God does for us.  He loves us.  He is merciful towards us.  He is gracious towards us.  He forgives our sins.  But when is the last time that you heard a message or teaching on the holiness of God?  As I started thinking about this topic, I realized the immensity of God’s holiness.  So for my purposes here I want to think about the distinctiveness of God in relationship to man and what happens when that holiness of God comes into contact with man.

The loss of an understanding of God’s holiness or distinctiveness from us has bred an unhealthy familiarity with God.  For some God has become their “Great Daddy-o in the Sky” and Jesus is their “Good Buddy.”  It is very true to talk about our new relationship before God through Christ’s work on the cross.  In John 15:15, Jesus says that we are no longer servants, but that now he calls us friends.  In Romans 8, Paul says that the Spirit that has been given to us testifies that we are children of God and by that same Spirit we cry out to God, “Abba Father.”  There is a new intimacy that we have with God because of our acceptance of his Son, Jesus.

Indeed our relationship to God has been altered forever.  Our status has change, but the nature and reality of God has not changed.  God is still holy and wholly God.

What will be our posture when we stand before our Lord?  I think some feel that they will run up to Jesus and give him a high five and say, “It’s great to see you Jesus.  How’s it going?” Or maybe they will run up to Jesus and give him a big bear hug.  I have never stood before the physical presence our risen Lord, but I have read in the New Testament about those who have.  Let us consider the Apostle John’s experience as he records it in the first chapter of Revelation:

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hairs on 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 the 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.

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

(Revelation 1:12-18)

Right off, we must acknowledge the difficult task that John was given.  He must communicate the infinite glory of Christ in our finite language.  In these 7 verses John employees the word “like” 7 times to try to communicate how it was to be in the presence of Christ.

The part of this picture of Christ that always connects with me is, “His eyes were like a flame of fire…”  Those blazing eyes of Christ.  Those eyes which penetrate to the very core of our being.  Those eyes which burn with the holiness of Christ.  Those eyes which gaze at us not in anger or condemnation but rather with the purifying fire of his holiness.  Who can possibly gaze at them?

What I say next some will say is vulgar and unnecessary but I will say it just the same.  We wonder what will be our posture when we find ourselves in the presence of the Lord.  Frankly, out of sheer terror, I think I will wet myself.  I think every physical faculty I possess will fail me.  My tongue will be like a lead brick in my mouth.  My eyes will go blind and ears will be stopped up.  Every nerve impulse in my body will flat-line and I will fall to the ground and be like a dead man.  I do not have to wonder though.  This is the very response that John had.  “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.  I am positive that my response will be very similar to John’s.

It is interesting to note that the prophet Daniel had a similar experience as recorded in chapter 10 of the book that bears his name.  In verses 8-11, Daniel is left with no strength and he falls face down on the ground as though he is asleep.  John and Daniel are similarly raised up with a physical touch and a word to encourage.

There John lies like a dead man at the feet of Christ, but that is not where our Lord leaves him.  With a touch and a word Jesus assures John.  The touch of our Lord here is a rich symbol.  Why did Jesus touch him?  Are not the very words of our Lord life?  I think Jesus touches John to show him that he has been made clean.  Now the physical presence of Christ and the physical presence of man can meet and death is no longer the end result.

Not only does Jesus touch John, he also gives him a word.  “Fear not.”  This is the common phrase spoken when the holiness and glory of God meets the brokenness of man.  Fear is the first response of man.  Why should John not fear?  John’s fear is vanquished with 2 declarations that Jesus makes.  Jesus says, “I am the first and the last, the living one.”  This is a statement of Chris’s divinity.  He has existed before time began, he will exist when time is no more, and he exist today.  Jesus is the God who encapsulates all of time.  Jesus makes a second declaration.  He says, “I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.”  Jesus lived as a man and died as all flesh dies, but he did not stay dead.  He conquered death.  Now he is alive and will never taste death again.  Now his victory over death has given him the keys to Death and Hades.  Man need not fear death any longer for our Lord has the key to release us.

John was slain by the glory and holiness of our risen Lord.  I would be lying there with him at the feet of Christ if I were afforded the same opportunity.  Indeed I will one day be afford the opportunity to stand before my Lord and on that day I will fall as a dead man at his feet.  With a touch and a word, he will assure me of my new status before him and I will be with him forever.

I leave you with this thought.  We will one day stand in the presence of our holy Lord and that is something to be reckoned with, but do we not also walk each step of our life before that same holy Lord.  If this be so, how should that alter the way we live.

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