The Greatest Play Ever Written

"What was from the beginningwhat we have heardwhat we have seen with our eyeswhat we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life and the life was manifestedand we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life..."  - 1 John 1:1-2
Have you ever wondered why John listed seeing Jesus three times?

I mean, as John was ticking off the sensory perceptions that he and his friends had of Messiah, he mentions hearing Messiah once.  He mentions touching Messiah once. 

But thrice he mentions seeing Messiah.   

Hmm, what's that all about?  Well, let's dig just a bit deeper.

The first occasion of the word "seen" in verse 1, and the word translated "seen" in verse 2, are derived from the Greek horao.   

Horao is used quite flexibly in the New Testament to communicate that a person has seen something (sometimes it's a physical seeing, sometimes it's more like an inner revelation).

So horao basically says "I saw something with my eyes (or maybe with my heart or mind)".

Interestingly though, John throws in another word for "I saw something" in verse 1 that the New American Standard translates as "have looked at".  

It's derived from the Greek theaomai - closely related to theatron.

Anyone care to guess what theatron is all about?  Yep, it's where we get our word "theater".

Theaters are very popular places today - and so they were back in the 1st century Hellenistic world into which the Church was born.

Would you go to the theater, then sit for two hours watching a movie like, say, Braveheart, and then flatly say to your friend the next morning, "Hey, I saw Mel Gibson last night"?

Of course not!

Why?  Because you were far too involved in the spectacle and story line of the movie to describe it so trivially!  

Watching a movie is a much deeper experience than just "seeing something".  Watching Braveheart is much more meaningful than merely seeing a snapshot of Mel Gibson in a celebrity tabloid.

Please forgive the misuse of grammar, but watching a movie is more than horao - it's downright theaomai!

And just as did the 1st century readers of John's letter - when we go to a theater, we see a big story played out in front of us.  We see a drama - complete with character development and lots of emotion.

And most importantly, the very best movies have engaging and developed story lines that draw our hearts and minds into the world of the movie.

Yes, a truly great movie brings us the opportunity to vicariously become a character in the drama itself.  

So I think John is telling us exactly that about his experience with Messiah.  I think he's telling us that he saw "the big picture" spectacle of Jesus's work, and how it fit into the really big picture of God's Story.

That great, overarching Story tells us that God's great purpose in Creation is to have a Kingdom on Earth.  

That great, overarching Story tells us that God's Kingdom has been inaugurated in Messiah, and that we today have a part to play in building it, and that one day Messiah will return to finish the Kingdom work he started back there in the first century.

John later outlines more specifically what our part in the Kingdom Story is today, and what it will be when Jesus returns.  I'm talking of course about John's epic book of Revelation.

Let's read the letters to the churches in Revelation, as well as the rest of that revolutionary apocalypse.

Let's read Revelation as if it is the closing act of The Great Play - with you and I as characters in it.  

Let's read it that way because that's exactly what the book of Revelation is - and that's exactly what the book of Revelation does. 

Let's not reduce the magnificent Judeo-Christian narrative to a mere series of sound bites or to a mere bucket of wise fortune-cookie sayings.  

Let's rather see it like John saw it - the theaomai way - as the grand, connected, theatrical spectacle of Creation and New Creation that promises to one day make all things New.

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