A question I’ve been particularly interested in recently is why the apostle John was chosen to receive the vision described in the book of Revelations.
This might seem like somewhat of an inconsequential question, but when you consider that John was the only one of the twelve disciples to die a natural death, it becomes plausible to speculate that maybe a specific kind of favor rested on him. And when I see someone who has favor on their life, I want to know how they gained it.
As we read scripture we see why John is thought to have been the one called “the disciple whom Jesus loved”. He lived life with a dedication to Jesus that was such that Jesus even trusted him to look after his own mother upon his death. After the resurrection John was one of the first disciples to run towards the tomb, and he was the first to believe that Jesus had truly risen from the dead. Clearly he was a true believer, and it is easy to see why his attitude pleased the Lord’s heart.
However the point could easily be made that many of the other disciples also demonstrated faith. So the question becomes: what distinguished John from the rest?
I feel obliged at this point to state that the following is largely personal conjecture.
I think that maybe the reason that John was chosen to receive the revelation vision is related to the fact that he was the only disciple that remained near Jesus at the crucifixion.
Have you ever wondered how much pain Jesus went through on the cross? I don’t mean so much the physical pain – though none of us could even start to fathom that level of physical anguish. I mean more the emotional pain that came as a result of having His Heavenly Father forsake Him, His community mock and reject Him, and the emotional pain and guilt of every person to ever live put upon Him.
Can you imagine how painful it must have been for his loved ones to witness such torture? It is little wonder that the other disciples were nowhere to be seen.
The reality is that most of us will do everything we can to avoid emotional pain. We’ve been trained by our culture to fear it, to do whatever it takes to avoid it. I believe that this is in large part because our culture has become so shallow, and so focused on immediate gratification, that many of us have never learned the value of embracing grief. As a result we have a tendency to shun those that are emotionally crushed. Our self-preservative instincts kick in and we find ourselves casting off the brokenhearted with platitudes and insincere reassurances that we’ll pray for them. We’ve learned that it’s a lot easier to drop a casserole off than it is to actually sit with the suffering person and personally share in their grief.
But John did exactly that. In Jesus moment of deepest need he was there, and remained there, sharing in his pain, until the very end. In that awful moment John did the only good thing he could: he offered Jesus his friendship by voluntarily submitting himself to his pain. Unlike the others, he didn’t run away. And for that, I believe, he acquired a special place of trust with God.
So how does this apply to us? Well, the truth is that God’s emotional pain has not ended. Every day He bares the pain of seeing the ones He loves torn apart by sin. Every day He suffers the pain of being rejected and ignored. Every day He experiences the grief of watching a new wave of His children being consigned to hell as their earthly lives end without reconciliation to Him.
When we consider all this we realize that a significant part of God’s existence involves pain, grief, and indescribable sadness. For many of us this isn’t convenient. It’s not the God that we like to sing about on a Sunday morning.
However I believe that those who are willing to share in God’s suffering, those who are willing to “mourn with those that mourn” (Romans 12:5), are those who He will entrust with the greatest levels of revelation.
Pragmatically this involves us inviting God to open our eyes to see His children as He sees them. For it is only when we truly embrace the pain Christ feels about his estrangement to them that we will become effective advocates of His love. When we allow ourselves to feel such desperation God hears the cry of our hungry hearts, and He responds.
As we join God in His place of pain and offer Him our friendship we build the kind of trust that allows Him to speak to us about matters that are close to His heart. He is able to trust us with revelation because He will know that we will not run away.
I want to be the kind of person that God can trust with powerful visions and revelations of things to come. I realize that “from everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48). But I’m up for the challenge.
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