John on Patmos
I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet. Revelation 1:9-10
It makes you stop and think when you move from being the youngest to being the oldest. My dad was the littlest brother in a large family. I can still remember his rueful surprise one day when he realized that not only had he outlived all of his siblings: He was also the last one left among his entire generation of first cousins.
Perhaps you have experienced this fateful transition — in a family, in a circle of friends, in some other group. John the Beloved Disciple experienced it two thousand years ago. Ancient tradition tells us that John was the youngest of the Apostles; when he and Peter raced to the empty tomb, young John easily forged ahead, but in the uncertainty of youth he held back and let Peter go in first (John 20:3-7). Equally strong tradition tells us that John outlived all the rest, surviving to a great age as the only one of the Twelve to escape a martyr’s death. He did, however, suffer banishment on the barren Mediterranean Isle of Patmos.
What must it have felt like to be the last leaf on the tree? No doubt John cherished many memories. No doubt he yearned to join his Master, his brother, his brother-Apostles, and all their friends in heaven.
The verses quoted above indicate that even in his long exile the lonely old man still kept count of the days so he could observe a special time of worship on the Lord’s Day. The Bible-based poetic meditation that follows is an imaginative reconstruction of what might have been going through old John’s mind on a certain never-to-be-forgotten Sunday two thousand years ago.
I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day.
I remember still a different Lord’s Day:
racing to the tomb with Simon Peter
early in the morning on that first day.
Every first day since, has been the Lord’s Day;
thus we keep the sabbath in our own way.
Ever since the coming of the Spirit,
I’ve been listening: What will he, my Lord, say?
Week by week I’ve kept the Lord’s Day holy.
Year by year my feet have moved more slowly.
How I’ve yearned to see and hear my Master!
Then . . . he came — my Lord who owns me wholly.
Never have I heard his voice so clearly,
never felt his presence come so near me,
as in exile on the isle of Patmos:
There he stood, the One who loves me dearly.
This is what I’ve learned (though still I’m learning):
Keep the Lord’s Day. Keep your passion burning.
Keep on living in his Holy Spirit.
He will come to those whose hearts are yearning!
Help me, O God, to stay as faithful as John was, “through life’s long path . . . from youth to age” [Edward H. Plumptre, “Rejoice, Ye Pure in Heart”; in the public domain]. Help me remember to keep the Lord’s Day holy and to keep on living in Your Spirit’s power. Amen.
Copyright © 2015 by Perry Thomas