The question rings in my mind: “What difference would it make if I saw the manifest presence of the Lord?” If I’m thinking rightly, the answer is obvious. All of my man-pleasing motivations and all of my self-focused pleasures would vaporize. The fear of certain men—whose faces have danced in my head over the years—would melt. Filling my heart and soul would be goodness, kindness, innocence, joy, winsomeness, devotion, endurance, courage, perseverance. All of that, flourishing in this life, would be the precise manifestation of the filling of the Lord’s Holy Spirit. And yet, I am stuck in this physical body in the world of men. Even the best of them, when compared to Christ, are pathetically sinful at their core. The difference between individual men is that their sinful core is in various gradations of large and small.
I’ve heard it said that if Christ came to the Earth today to live as a man, we would kill him, just as we did 2,000 years ago. And I’m convinced it would be so. He would be insufferably, annoyingly good and honest and true. And men would hate Him for it. The labels good and honest and true are not terribly troubling. It’s what those labels look like when they’re demonstrated in daily life.
That life looks like this: There’s an unspoken understanding that this man cannot be manipulated. He cannot be bought, sold, frightened, beguiled or seduced. He has nothing to hide, and men have nothing that he must have. He’s just too good for us. Everything he does is motivated by his relationship with his Father, and he does what the Father desires. He knows that men are furious that he is not in the game. But that does not move him. The game is about my power, my accomplishments, my position, my house, my money, my stuff . . . my display of me so that you will know that I am better than you. I win, you lose. Look at me . . . pretty bird in the tiny mirror.
And so they gnash their teeth at him because he’s not in the game. They hunt for a weakness to exploit or a fact to distort. They look for a statement to twist. But he is maddeningly free of the petty traits of men. And so they would kill him. And where would I be on that day? Would I be as the rich, young ruler who turned away from the challenge of Jesus, or would I be as the cowardly Pharisee who believed in Jesus but did not speak? Or maybe Pilate, the political hack of Rome who knew Jesus was innocent yet killed him anyway. Or maybe I’d join the fickle mob, who adored Jesus one day and demanded his blood on the next. Or maybe I’d be paralyzed by fear like Peter or scattered like sheep as were the other disciples.
Do I really want the Lord to shape me into the likeness of Jesus so that my heart is always about pleasing him? Do I want that, even in the face of the fury of men? Well . . . no . . . not unless I’ve seen the manifest presence of the Lord.
I need more of Revelation 1:12-18. I need the awesome picture of the Logos of the Triune God. That picture is not often seen in today’s churches. Jesus is often portrayed as soft and mild, a very nice guy. He’s the one who rarely raises his voice. Even when he cleared the temple of money-changers, a Bible teacher once told my Sunday School class, Jesus certainly didn’t hit anyone. In my naiveté, I said, “How do you know that? The text doesn’t say that. Seems like he could have have hit someone with that whip he was swinging.” (Things did not go well for me that day.)
The Scriptures tell us that the Lord’s gentleness is a large part of his nature. But, at his core, he is dangerously holy. And his forbearance toward each of us is simply irresistible. I need more of the fear that the apostle John knew in Revelation 1:17. And I need his touch in verses 17 and 18: 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.
With that touch, I will fear no man. And then I will move in the Lord’s ways.