I have always been “struck” by the picture of Jesus presented in the first chapter of the Revelation to John. It is not the picture of the “awesome” Jesus – you know, the Jesus with blazing eyes, and feet glowing like bronze – the Jesus with the voice of rushing water and phosphorous-white hair – not that Jesus. I am struck by the other Jesus – the one who we find in Revelation 1:17-18.
If you take a moment to look back at these verses you see that John saw the “awesome” Jesus, and was so scared that he fell to the ground as if he were dead – he was paralyzed by fear – the only reaction he could muster was to fall to his “death”. As I try to put myself in John’s shoes that day, I get the vision of Frodo cowering at Galadriel when he tempted her with the Ring of Power. But wait – remember that I don’t want to talk about the “awesome” Jesus here – I want to talk about the “bent-down” Jesus (as Michael Lodahl puts it in his book When Love Bends Down).
You see, in the middle of Jesus’ grand and important mission (to reveal a message to the churches), Jesus’ love for John compels him to do something amazing. This “awesome” Jesus, in the midst of carrying out his “awesome” mission, bends down to touch John on the shoulder saying “John, it’s alright – it’s me, Jesus – don’t be afraid, my friend – I have done it – I have conquered death – I am alive forever more – don’t be afraid.”
This is the same Jesus that Michael Lodahl writes about. There are few books that I have come across that are truly “ground-breaking” in terms of discovering (or perhaps rediscovering) the wonderful paradox that is presented by Jesus Christ – God “bent-down” and became flesh and bones – to reveal Himself to us. Michael Lodahl does more than just give lip service to these truths. He takes a holistic look at John’s Gospel, taking from it a profound picture of Jesus – of Jesus “bent-down”, meeting us where we are.
Through this inspiring book, Lodahl puts to rest those who would suggest a Gnostic or Docetist undertone to John’s Gospel. Lodahl powerfully demonstrates the intentionally and incredibly human Jesus. This is the Jesus who took on the lowest duty of washing the Disciples’ feet – remember he was not the host of the home – he was not the host’s servant – he was, in the least, their teacher, and at most, the Messiah! Yet, he usurps the usual order of things and takes it upon himself to serve his friends in such a humble way.
Lodahl also reaches to the story of the accused woman who was before Jesus by a hoard of accusers carrying stones intended for her head. He does not stand in between them with strength and power and indignation. Instead he chooses to do something truly amazing – he bends down on the ground – even below her level (she was standing) – and writes on the ground. I wonder what he wrote. Did he, as some have suggested, write down a list of vices that were probably enjoyed by the accusers? Or, maybe he wrote down the names of people who were wronged by these accusers in the past. Maybe he wrote down the names of people who stood in judgment over these accusers at some critical point in their lives. We don’t really know. All we know is that as he wrote, he also asked them to consider their own righteousness. All the while, he was bent-down on the ground.
I won’t spoil the rest of the book, but I will tell you that Lodahl presents even more pictures from John’s Gospel, portraying a “bent-down” Jesus, completely contrary to the world’s expectation of what Messiah would be like. He also leaves us – His Church – with a powerful challenge. Read it.