“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if I were dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look—I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.”
Revelation 1:17-18 NLT
If we ourselves suddenly came face to face with Jesus, in the way John did, would we too fall at His feet as though dead? You see, with the limitations of our human minds and imaginations we would be totally unable to grasp and discern an other-worldly vision of the Son of God. John lived with Jesus for a few years and that was enough for him to know who the Person amongst the lampstands was. But we have never known a physical Jesus, as He was all those years ago in His mission to His people, the Jews. I think in reality, we would know Him, because we know Him through our prayers and encounters in times of worship. We would know Him through the love He has for us. So I’m sure I would fall at His feet. What else could I do, coming into such an encounter with my God? There would be that moment of total vulnerability. Perhaps a feeling within me that everything was suddenly exposed under His gaze. And fear would be a dominant emotion within me somewhere I’m sure.
John was prostrated before Jesus, as though dead. But the first words Jesus said to him were “Don’t be afraid”. There’s something about an encounter with God that induces fear. Remember the occasion when Jesus was walking on water? The disciples in the boat were not shrinking violets, scared of their own shadows. They were mainly fishermen, afraid of little in their lives, but when they saw Jesus the first thing He said to them was “Don’t be afraid”. There were other times recorded in the Gospels, when Jesus had to tell those around Him to not be afraid. And it wasn’t just Jesus’ presence that could make people afraid. The Roman soldiers sent to guard the tomb became as dead men, when the angel turned up, rolled away the stone and then sat on it. Human beings are reasonably secure and unafraid in their own time-space world, but when something unexplained happens, a natural emotional reaction is to feel afraid. So John would have connected with Jesus telling him not to be afraid – he would have remembered the times when Jesus had said that before – and he would have been reassured.
We also read in the verse that Jesus laid His right hand on John. Oh, what a great place to be, to feel the physical touch of our Saviour. The hand that was so compassionate, even to the point of touching someone with the dreaded disease, leprosy. How John would have been enthralled by that touch. It was also interesting that John recorded that Jesus touched him with his right hand. There are several Scriptures that record the significance of God’s right hand. For example, we read in Psalm 44:3, “They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory. It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them“. In the Bible, when we see a reference to God’s right hand, we immediately know that the Scripture is telling us how great and strong God is.
After telling John not to be afraid, Jesus then went on to assure him of His status. He said that He had been around for ever, and that he was alive, even though He had once died, and would be with us, alive for all eternity. Jesus finally told John, in this verse, that He held the keys of death and the grave (other translations say Hades). In other words, Jesus was saying He had the power to control when death would happen, and when it could be reversed. Jesus had the power over His own life and death, as we read His words in John 10:17-18, “The Father loves me because I sacrifice my life so I may take it back again. No one can take my life from me. I sacrifice it voluntarily. For I have the authority to lay it down when I want to and also to take it up again. For this is what my Father has commanded“. And He also has the power to release us from death as well. We saw Him doing just that when He called Lazarus out of the tomb (John 11:43).
There’s a lot in these verses today. And we can only marvel about this wonderful God we serve. The God who created the universe and all in it, but also cares intimately about you and me.
Dear Lord Jesus. Thank You for this glimpse in Your word, of the meeting that John had with You all those years ago. We thank You that You are alive and waiting to set us free from death when the time comes. We praise and worship You today. Amen.