Seeing the Lamb
There had been tastes of this before, John realized as the last crescendo of the song crashed to silence throughout the great throne room. Precious moments spent in the presence of the Master had carried with them tiny, almost infinitesimal fragments of this experience. At the time even those tiny drops of glory had pushed John’s young heart and mind nearly to the breaking point, but this unrivaled glimpse into the Presence of the Holy One had his aged mind reeling and his ancient heart pounding beyond its limits.
The elders, many weeping with emotions that John somewhat recognized but not fully so, returned to their seats as the Four Creatures continued to circle the throne, mouthing silently the song they had shouted but moments before. Aside from the humming that seemed to emanate from the very room itself, as if it, too, could somehow not but worship, a great silence fell over the room. Those elders who still wept did so silently. The Four Creatures zipped quietly about, movement muted by the feathery limbs that propelled them.
He who sat on the throne bore a troubled aura as he lifted his right hand from where it rested and held aloft a book for all to see. It was sealed tightly with seven seals and was so filled with writing that even the back was covered with script. From where he stood John could not make out the writing, but he suspected that, even if it was laid clearly before him, it’s language would be beyond his comprehension.
From the teeming mass of beings that swarmed about the throne, one stepped forward. His stature was overwhelming, taller than any man John had ever seen, chest and shoulders like boulders, arms as massive as tree trunks. He stood before the throne and motioned towards the book clutched in the hand of the King.
“Who?” he cried out, his voice thundering across the great hall and, John suspected, throughout all the world. “Who is worthy to open the book and break its seals?”
He repeated his entreaty as he circled the hall, one hand stretched out in petition, the other pointing back to the book.
“Who is worthy?”
The elders began to weep aloud, this time with faces marred by grief as they echoed the angel’s refrain; “who?” they mouthed silently to one another. John knew this sorrow, felt it seep into his soul once again. Even as the Four continued to worship, even as the twenty-four elders began to speak their question aloud, even as the angelic host about the throne also began to join in the strong angel’s chorusing question, John felt his heart grow heavy with grief.
“Who is worthy?”
It was not a mere question now; it was a force in song, pealing from every mouth, save the One and the Fours’. John’s aged knees buckled and he fell, the weight of sorrow building in his soul and driving him down, down to the floor of the great hall. Here emotions and thoughts were just as real as flesh and blood. Spirit equally mingled with flesh in this place. He could not bear the weight.
“Who is worthy?”
In unison now, the elders, the angel, and the host of his brethren called out, searching history, searching the future, searching every moment, every place, even those that were not. The One on the throne continued to hold the book aloft, waiting.
Tears streamed down John’s face, soaking his beard, pooling beneath his face, his wrinkled face contorted with a grief he could not fully explain. But he had felt it before. He knew it like the back of his hand.
It was Golgotha all over again. It was the same grief that wrenched his heart as he watched his Master beaten half-to-death and nailed to cross so He could carry it the rest of the way to His grave. It was the same despair that welled-up as he heard the crowd taunt His death, the same loss that had gripped him when he smelled death wrap itself around his Master and squeeze.
He saw it all in his mind, fresh as the day it happened, back when he had been young. When he had been strong. He was old now. He was no longer strong. He could not bear to see it all again. Could not bear the sight of His blood-matted beard, of his thorn-punctured brow, blood, water, and entrails falling from the jagged opening in His side. He had touched the scarred hands, yes, but John still shuddered at hands freshly pierced, a back torn to ribbons by Roman scourges, and the carnage of it all.
“Who is worthy?”
John remembered asking that same question as his Master cried out from the cross. “If He was not the one,” he had wondered, “then…who? Who is worthy?”
Now, huddled upon the floor of the great room, John wept as he had not since that day. Wept so fiercely he did not realize the great hall had once again fallen into a humming silence.
A hand fell upon his shoulder. Another lifted him to his feet. Only when he heard the silence did John allow himself to be lifted, to be comforted. He raised his bent head and stared into the face of one of the elders. A face that was both familiar and unrecognizable smiled at him as the elder used the hem of his own robe to wipe the tears from John’s face.
“Do not weep any longer, John. He was worthy. He is worthy.”
John looked about the room. Every face, save his own and that of his comforter was turned to the front of the room. The Four hovered in midair, still. The elders had fallen upon their faces, turned towards the entryway. The great angel lay prostrate, his brethren with him.
The elder took John’s face in his hands and kissed him upon both cheeks. “Look,” he whispered fiercely, eyes glistening with shared grief. “Look who stands here before us.”
He stepped aside, one arm wrapping around John’s should, the other outstrectched, hand pointing forward.
“Behold, the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its seven seals.”
John gasped with disbelief at the sight, his knees went weak and, had the elder not borne his weight, he would have fallen again. His right hand clutched at his pounding heart, his left went from his trembling lips, to his head, and back to his lips.
The Lamb stood at the front of the hall, slain, yet living; defeated, yet victorious. His head was still crowned in thorns, his face still stained with blood, his hair and beard matted thick with it. As He wordlessly began to walk towards the throne, blood drained from his body with every step. His left arm was wrapped across his front, the hand, still rent to shreds from the nail, pressed against the gaping wound in his side. The right hand hung by his side, leaving small smears of blood on His leg as He walked.
The angels murmured, the elders wept. The Four hovered still.
Faces lifted from the floor as he passed, leaving pools of blood behind him; a scarlet path across the otherwise pristine floor.
“The Lamb!” they said in whispers. “The Lamb has been slain, and yet He lives! He has returned to claim His inheritance!”
To John’s eyes it was as if the Master had left the cross and entered the throne room unchanged and untouched. This was not the Master he had seen in the upper room, or with whom he had shared a meal on the seaside. This was not as He had appeared at His ascension. This was His torn and beaten body, scarred and marred beyond belief, bearing every scourge and every curse upon and within itself. His breathing was labored, His steps were short and shuffling.
He was still in pain, still in agony.
As He reached the foot of the throne, every eye was fixed on Him. Every mouth was still, every breath held for a moment, for eternity.
He stretched out his bloodied right hand to His Father.
“Father,” He whispered.
“My beloved,” was the return.
The book exchanged hands, the One placing it in the ripped and shredded hand of the Lamb.
“Let it commence,” the Father whispered.
The Lamb gripped the book with both hands and turned to face the room. He slowly raised it above His head, fingers digging into parchment, blood now soaking the pages and sliding down his wrists, his arms, all of him, gathering on the floor beneath. He closed his eyes for a moment and turned His face up, his expression one of great relief mingled with great resolve, with great agony, and with great love.
“With my blood,” He cried. “I have bought you!”
The twenty-four elders cried, “Amen.”
The Four Creatures wept with faces hidden behind their wings.
The angels shouted, “Holy!”
John was on his knees once again, his hand clutching the robe of someone standing next to him, lest he fall to his face once more. This is much too much for such an old man as I, he thought. But he could not look away and would not even had he been able. This was all he had dreamed of; all he had believed to be true, known to be true was happening before his very eyes. Dare he believe it?
“With my body,” the Lamb shouted, “I have redeemed you!”
John wept anew. “Master,” he gasped. “How I have missed you!”
The Lamb lowered the book until it was even with his chest; he laid it flat upon his left hand and seized the first seal with his right. All heaven and earth stood silent.
“Now,” He cried. “Now it begins! The work of redemption is complete! The work of restoration is finally at hand!”