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  • Writer's pictureAnush A. John

December 1

Reflection

The Easter season seems to be about the adult Jesus at the end of his life, while the Christmas season is about the beginning of his earthly life. Many times, it is tempting to think of Jesus as a baby in a manger. But John the Apostle paints a completely different picture than the baby Jesus one is accustomed to at Christmas.


The apostle John finds himself on an island called Patmos. It was a barren, rocky little island ten miles long by five miles wide, belonging to a group of islands called the Sporades. Its crescent shape makes it a good natural harbour especially because it was the last haven on the voyage from Rome to Ephesus and the first in the reverse direction.


At the time John was on Patmos, Caesar-worship was the one religion that covered the whole Roman Empire, and Christians were persecuted and killed because they refused to conform to its demands. Of the several Roman Caesars of the first century AD, many of them were indifferent to being worshiped. However, Domitian (AD 81–96) was the worst of the emperors of that century. He took the claim of his divinity seriously and demanded that he be worshiped as God. As a result, once a year, everyone in the Roman Empire had to show themselves before the local magistrates, burn a pinch of incense to the godhead of Caesar, and say: ‘Caesar is Lord.’ Those who refused could lose their lives. As a result, around AD 94 John found himself banished to Patmos during the reign of Domitian and lived there until Domitian died in AD 96.


Banishment to a remote island was a common type of punishment at that time, usually for political prisoners. It involved the loss of all property and civil rights. genuine political prisoners were given freedom to move about the island. But John was not a political prisoner, he was the leader of the Christians and therefore considered a criminal. Banishment for John would have involved hard labor in the quarries. According to the archaeologist and New Testament scholar Sir William Ramsay, his banishment would have been ‘preceded by scourging, marked by perpetual fetters, scanty clothing, insufficient food, sleep on the bare ground, a dark prison, work under the lash of the military overseer’. John was aged, battered, and alone. In the midst of his suffering, he gets to see a view of Jesus that he had never seen before - a vision of the ascended and glorified Lord.

Scripture Reading

Revelation 1:12-18

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “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.

Every Christmas as one remembers the birth of Jesus and the infant that was born 2000 years ago, we must constantly remind ourselves that that baby was also the Creator of the universe into which He inserted himself. He was cradled in swaddling clothes and needed to be rocked to sleep. At the same time, He is the Lord before whom one can do nothing else but bow down in worship. The baby elicits our affection and compassion, the Lord elicits our awe and wonder.




Notes

Song: Is He Worthy, Chris Tomlin

Scripture quotations are from the ESV®Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright© 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Picture: Jan Massys, The Apocalypse of St John the Evangelist on the Island of Patmos

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