It is a long, long time now since He said that goodbye, being taken up into the clouds and bestowing His authority upon us. As I gaze across the restless, hostile sea, I remember His promise that He was going away to prepare a place for us I n His Father’s house, then He would come back and take us to Himself. Once I thought He was talking of waiting for weeks, or months, maybe a year or two, and then it would all be over. How little I understood then what his Kingdom is all about. The prophet said that the young men see visions and the old men dream dreams; but I am an old man and He has given me a vision, only now, of the magnitude and wonder of what He is about. I should have known when Isaiah talked of all the nations ascending the hill of the Lord and bringing in their treasures; did I think that would happen overnight? He is bringing in a Kingdom far mightier than we understood, and there shall come a time when every tongue and tribe and nation shall be there to sing the praises of the Lamb who was slain and who reigns forevermore. And the sweep of history shall move on, and though there may be moments when we lose heart, as the dragon does battle with the saints, He is merely delaying so that men might have time to come to repentance, for all that is, the pride of man, the clash of battle, and this separating sea, are small things, tiny things, held in the hollow of His hand.
He kept His promise, He has not left us as orphans, His Spirit is always with us, and in that wondrous fellowship I have endured much that I never dreamt of as a callow fisherman whose greatest fear was a disappointing catch. But I am a man doubly in exile: firstly, here on Patmos, I am in exile from the church, my children in His love, and secondly, I am here, in this world, in exile from the One who is my Lord, my Love and my Life. My brothers in the toil and pain and glory of His calling have long since departed, and finished with this world. I alone am left.
The memories come crowding in. The first time I ever saw him was down at the River Jordan, when the baptizer declared Him to be “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”. Then there was the day He walked along the lakeshore, and called to my brother and I to leave our nets, follow Him, and become fishers of men. We had no idea what He meant, but in the glad sunshine of that morning He touched our hearts, and we chose to follow Him. It was only three years (how little time is that?) but they were years so heavy with wonder. I saw Him heal all manner of sicknesses, still the raging elements, deliver people from demons and raise the dead. I saw Him deal tenderly with women whom the holy would have shunned, and sternly rebuke the leaders of Israel. I saw Him pray as if praying were the most natural and intimate action in the world, and gather little children in His arms and laugh with them. I saw him transfigured on the mountain, and wondered what it meant. I leant on Him on that last, solemn Passover evening, when He told us what we could not understand – that He Himself was the true Passover Lamb of God, dying in our place to free us from the tyranny of death. I saw Him led like a lamb to the slaughter, I saw him die, I saw his empty tomb. And, in vision, I have seen him as He truly is: Lord of Lords and King of Kings, the Alpha and Omega, very god of very God.
I have seen him and I will see Him, and meanwhile I walk through the clamored silence of my exile, and long for Him to take me home. Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!