But the thing we are specially needing to-day is a sight of Christ as He is now. It seems a bit strange that we don't get this more. One historic Church has Him fastened to a cross, never freed from the old fastenings. Another has Him set in picture frame, behind glass. And the multitudes prostrate themselves and reverently kiss the glass.
In widely differing Churches He seems quite covered up out of sight by classical ritual, beautiful music, and impressive stately service. The crowds gather and listen and bow low in hushed stillness. But, apparently, Him they see not, else how different their conduct as they come out, and their lives.
And yet as I have mingled with the worshippers in Catholic Churches in the south of Europe, in Greek Churches in Russia, and in congregations of the Church of England classed as "high," I have been caught by faces here and there in the crowd that clearly were reaching out hungrily for Him, and were having some sort, some real sort, of touch with Him, too. Yet it seemed to be in spite of surroundings. The insistence of their hunger pierces through these to Him. He seems hidden from the crowd by them.
Scholarly orthodox theologians talk learnedly about Him, but Himself as He walked among us and as He is now, Him it would seem that they see not, at least not enough to burn through and burn out and burn up and send men out aflame with the Jesus-passion. Philosophies about Him that are classed as "liberal" and put attractively, yet have nothing of the burn in them that reveals Himself.
The more modern Church of the more western world seems to have gotten a new lease of aggressiveness in service, a new intensity in activities so numerous as to be a bit bewildering sometimes. The wheels whir busily and noisily. You feel them. But Him, the unseen presence that makes you reverently wrap your face up out of sight, and stand with awed heart to listen, Him we seem not to see.
The wondrous quiet Voice that makes your heart burn within you with a burning that cleanses and mellows and melts down, that we seem to hear only by getting away from the noise of the whirring wheels into some quiet corner.
There are in every Church and nation those who seem to have the close personal touch with Himself. Their faces and daily lives show the marks. Their lips may not say so much, for they who see most can say least of what they see. But the marks in the life are unmistakable.
Yet even here the sight of Christ emphasizes chiefly the personal side, what He is personally to them. And what a blessed side that is only they who know it know. They think of Him as a personal Saviour, and the heart glows. They see Him at the Father's right hand interceding, and gratefully remember that He will forget no name where there is a trusting heart. They think of the Holy Spirit, the other Jesus, Jesus' other self, always "alongside to help," alongside inside. And they practise letting Him work out the Christ-likeness within themselves.
And all this is blessed, only blessed. They see Him in His personal relation to themselves. But there's something more than this. No one knew more of this blessed personal part than John. But John saw more than this on Patmos. He saw Christ as He is now.
This is clearly a new sight of Christ. It was new to John. It would seem to be new to us. It is new in the pages of this book. It is something different from any sight seen before. In the Gospels we see Jesus the Man. In carpenter shop and little whitewashed stone cottage, in the ministering life clear from the Jordan bottoms to the healing touch at Gethsemane's gate, and in the suffering clear up to the ninth hour of that fateful day He is the Man, one of ourselves, though clearly more even in His humanity than the humanity we are.
On the Transfiguration Mount the favoured inner three, the leaders, see the glory within shining out through the Man. So bewildered are they that the chief impression that remains is of a blinding brightness. Yet this is up on a high mountain far away from the crowd, and from the haunts of men.
As Stephen is being stoned his eyes are opened to see the Son of Man standing in glory up at the Father's right hand. The Damascus traveller sees an overpowering burst of glory out of the blue and hears a voice speaking. In the epistles Paul pictures Him seated at the Father's right hand with an authority greater than any other. All the power He has is placed at the disposal of His followers on the earth. He Himself is above in the glory. [Note: Notably Eph_1:20-23.]
But in this very end of the Book John is given a new sight of Christ. He sees Him as He is now. That is to say, this is the sight of Christ as He is now characteristically. It is the distinctive sight that stands out above all these others.
He is at one's right hand in closest personal relation, through His Holy Spirit. He is at the Father's right hand in glory waiting expectantly till the time is ripe for the next direct move on the earth. But there's more than these. There's a sight of Him that overshadows these. It is the characteristic sight that lets us see Him as He is peculiarly now in His relation to affairs on the earth.