Saturday, February 11, 2012


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!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Slain Lamb

When I was a child, I always became excited when I knew Passover was coming. From the time I was a little girl I would help my mother with the preparations, the special ingredients that had to be bought, the special foods which had to be prepared. There was the ritual game of searching the house for any overlooked leaven (as if anything would ever be overlooked in a house my mother ran!) and then my father would officially declare the house to be free of leaven, and ready for the feast. And the meal? That was the climax. We were not a rich family, so roast meat was a luxury, as was wine, and these things were even less available to children. But most of all, it was the ritual that entranced me: the ancient prayers, and the moment when my youngest brother, usually with a little nudge to prompt him, would ask the question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?”, and my father would begin to tell the great story of deliverance. Of course we knew the story already, all Jewish children in faithful households were taught these things, but on Passover night I was always struck afresh by the holy mystery of God’s redeeming love.

There was only one part of Passover I hated – the killing of the lamb. We would take the lamb into our household, and you can imagine how we children loved it – young and playful, clean and faultless. But then my father would take it to the temple to be killed for the Passover feast. Of course, being a girl child, I couldn’t go, but I knew exactly what was involved, and I shuddered at the thought.

Years passed. I grew to adulthood and went through misery and torment until a young rabbi called Jesus set me free from my demons. I marveled at his authority, but it was because of his love and mercy that I followed him, for in him I saw the beauty of God, and the holiness that had so moved me as a young child, but now I knew that the mystery at the heart of holiness is unimaginable love.

And so we came to that year, the third year of his ministry, and as we approached Passover he set his face towards Jerusalem, even though he had been warned it would be his death. And it was, for one of his own betrayed him to the temple crowd who hated him, and they put him through a mockery of a trial, the form but not the substance of the law. Then they took him to Pilate, the Roman governor, and pressured him until he consented to the crucifixion of Jesus.

And so they took him forth, on the day of Passover, not to be killed inside the temple precincts, where only Jewish men could see the sacrifice, but out on a barren hilltop, for all the world to gaze at. The Passover lambs had an easy death, as deaths go, though still gruesome enough, a quick movement of the knife and it was done, for him there was no such ease. Hours he took to die, moment by throbbing moment, and this time I was there and watched through the whole ordeal. I could do nothing for his comfort, but how could I turn away when he had not turned his face away from my darkness, but called me forth into the light? And at the ninth hour, when the Passover lambs were sacrificed in the Temple, he died.

It was only later that I learned that his own cousin John had named him “The Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world”; but even then, still unaware of the glorious victory which was to follow, and that the one who was slain is the one who is alive for evermore, I dimly sensed that the Passover itself had been fulfilled, and an even greater deliverance was taking place