Revelation: Chapter 1, Verses 13 to 20
God and humanity in Jesus
Note: I’m following N.T. Wright’s Revelation: 22 Studies for Individuals and Groups and his newest book 20th Anniversary Edition with Study Guide, Revelation for Everyone. See my post Prepare for Revelation for suggested materials.
N.T. Wright asks 12 questions in all for the first 20 verses of chapter 1. I’ll answer questions 8, 10, and 12 to round out this section.
Question 8 on Verse
Question 8: Why is it significant for us that the one who represents humanity and the God who rules above all come together in the person of Jesus?
Jesus as Human
Wright explains that in Daniel 7, the “son of man” is the one who represents all of humanity to the Ancient of Days. In Revelation, John is referencing that image when he describes Jesus. Jesus is a human being who represents all of humanity to God, has learnt what being a human being is like, and has thus become our voice to our Creator.
Jesus as God
The Gospel of John begins with the idea that Jesus is the word, the voice of God, sent by God to tell humanity about God. John the Seer, the writer of Revelation relates how God shows their purpose to Jesus, who passes on the message to the angel who tells John what to write down in a book he is to send out to the seven churches existent at that time. Those seven churches represent all of the church.
So Jesus is both human and God.
Jesus can truthfully relate to God what humans are feeling and experiencing, from the mundane daily activities of living to starvation gnawing at our stomach to feeling the seering pain of another felled by illness to feasting together to experiencing all the hatred and resentments of the jealous and envious to suffering the effects of mob psychology expertly wielded by the power hungry.
Jesus, before he was born, understood what it’s like to be the voice of God to exist outside of space and time to share in God’s care and affection for humanity, each of us a deliberately created child of God.
Only one person has the capacity to see, feel, think, and act on both points of view simultaneously. That’s Jesus.
We yearn as humans to have someone “on our side.” Job cries out in chapter 31 for such a one to hear him. Such a person can advocate for us when we cannot. Who better to advocate for us than someone who already knows intimately the other side’s argument and all the ways they can rationalize, express, and act on it? How effective that advocate would be — since they could and would devise counter-arguments before the other side presented them!
The Right Hand of God
Jesus also sits on the right hand of God. Or is considered the right hand of God. That means Jesus, who represents all of humanity, has effectively seated all humans next to God. Our advocate sits in the best place to advocate for us. And we, through Jesus, are the right hand of God. That brings to mind how Zoroastrianism teaches that we walk hand in hand with God, carrying out God’s purpose in the world, using the talents and skills each of us was granted to fulfill our part of God’s plans.
The right hand is a place of responsibility.
Being on the right hand of God isn’t some lofty status place, like many think. Instead, it’s a place of responsibility. Isn’t the phrase “my right hand” mean someone who helps you carry out your responsibilities? Jesus said occupying that place meant serving others, not having others serve us. If humanity sits on the right hand of God, through Jesus, who is also our advocate, then that turns “loving our neighbour” into our collective and individual responsibility, which drives our action to help God help our neighbours.
Humans Are Made to Be Social
We’re social beings after all. We thrive when we lift others up, empathize, work collaboratively (not hierarchically), help out, make life better for people we know and for the collective community as well. It’s only the ideology of individualism, the fear of illness and disability, the terror of death, that make us fight our social biology and enact policies counter to loving our neighbour, counter to serving others, counter to our responsibility to walk hand in hand with God.
Question 10 on Verses 17 to 18
Question 10: Why does Jesus emphasize that he is the ‘living one’ who holds ‘the keys of death and Hades’?
Jesus wants us to know, right down to our inmost being, that we should not fear illness and disability nor feed the terror of death. Death brings life after life (first heaven, then the resurrection). Living with illness and disability is a really big topic. Let’s just bring it down to if we loved our ill and disabled neighbour and didn’t abandon or avoid them, we’d eliminate fear. Avoiding catastrophes that happen to our loved ones only feeds fear and progresses avoidance to the point of complete abandonment. Yet, if we stuck by them, we’d experience the feel-good hormones our social biology gives us when we help others out and remain in proximity to loved ones.
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Question 12 on Verse
Question 12. How does it bring comfort to us today?
Jesus stands in our midst — John sees Jesus standing among the lampstands that represent the churches — it means we’re not alone.
We’re not alone when all humans leave us, isolate us.
It sure feels like we’re alone when others forsake us. It’s like walking a stony path in bare feet to try remembering Jesus remains with us. We need others humans to help us when we cannot cook for ourselves or advocate for better health care.
How will Jesus feed us in practical terms when humans have scattered beyond our reach and government policies that individualism praises leave us so impoverished that death becomes preferable?
Our advocate fed the hungry when he lived on Earth; Jesus will advocate for our food needs to God. The pandemic separated us, yet brought us mass food delivery for those of us who find shopping in person treacherous. Yes, but…what about money? There is no delivery without money! Those who understand loving our neighbour created a delivery service, neighbourhood fridges, restaurant meal tickets, volunteers to help the disabled poor receive the food they need to live. It’s a hodge podge, true. But like Stephen who fed widows back in the 1st century, this hodge podge feeds many outcasts today.
The Right Hand of God Is Withdrawing
That is just one example of being the right hand of God for the isolated and impoverished. Yet in so many other areas, the right hand of God is withdrawing. Ontarians still elect governments who continue to delist doctor and community services and require people to have private insurance or deep pockets to remain healthy or recover from illness or brain injury. And they elect Canadian governments who, despite being responsible for enforcing the Canada Health Act, drag their feet in doing so. The media barely cover it, even though they claim to hold governments accountable and represent the public and our right to know.
If Jesus no longer holds a place in our thoughts, does that mean we are no longer the right hand of God, collectively and individually responsible for all our wellbeing?
Act relates how Hellenistic widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. (Such a practice disappeared a long time ago; government food benefits don’t meet nutritional needs either.) “They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit….He performed great wonders and signs among the people. Opposition arose.” Act 6: 5 to 9.
When people act out Jesus’s instructions and God’s plan to care for all of humanity, don’t we always hear opposition in the form of we can’t afford it?
How do you push back against this falsehood?