When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. (Rev. 1:17a)
What’s your mental picture of Jesus? Some might think of a painting that once hung in many a church lounge, a portrait of an olive-skinned Jesus with brown hair and beard and a rather dreamy expression on his face. Or there’s another picture I once saw—the laughing Jesus, head thrown back and white teeth flashing from a black beard. Then there are the ethnic portrayals: African Jesus, Asian Jesus, Indian Jesus.
These imaginative efforts are legitimate because Jesus was a real human being who looked like us. In the Orthodox tradition of iconography, it is forbidden to attempt a picture of God the Father. The Father has no body. But to refuse to attempt a picture of Jesus is also forbidden, because it is a denial of the reality of the incarnation.
John’s portrait of Jesus, though, is completely different. He was not trying to show what Jesus looked like back then, during his life on earth. He was showing us what Jesus looks like now. No painter could ever do this figure justice. No video clip, with images flashing fire and a roaring soundtrack of Niagara Falls, could ever convey the awesome glory of the risen Lord. John’s reaction says it best: “When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.” Later, John responded in a similar way to an angel, but he was told to get up; even an angel is just a creature (Rev. 22:8-9). Here, however, his prostrate worship of the glorified Jesus is entirely appropriate. —David Bast
As you pray, glorify Jesus.