Given, Not Grasped
By Anthony Casperson
In The Witcher book series (that I’ve recently picked up) there are a number of antagonists who not only work against the three primary protagonists of the story, but also against each other. One of these groups is called the Scoia’tael, or “Squirrels” as the word is translated.
The Squirrels are a collection of young elven rebels. Their primary goal is to push the humans out of the land that had once belonged to their ancestors. And they consider themselves akin to the elves of old who first fought the humans that took root in the continent. Those original freedom fighters who failed to halt the spread of humanity across the countryside.
But the Squirrels think they can succeed where their ancestors failed. And so they grasp at what seems to be beyond their reach. (I doubt their chances at success based off of several factors, but as I have yet to reach the end of the story, I don’t know for certain.)
It doesn’t matter to them that similar tactics had failed before. Their youthfulness (compared to the possible length of elven lives) blinds them to the fact that their actions have a greater chance of bringing their entire people to ruin. And keeps them focused on the words of a particular prophetess instead of seeking what would be within their actual capabilities.
This fictional group of people, surprisingly, have many similarities to some of the people from Thyatira mentioned in Revelation 2:18-29. The city itself was on the younger side when compared to the other cities of the Roman Empire. And there was a reaching beyond the city’s grasp for prominence, though in the case of Thyatira it was on an economic level. The city contained many thriving businesses, including rare purple dyes.
As well, the comparison between the Squirrels and Thyatira continues in that the words of a prophetess had begun to mislead some of the people. And she’s compared to a failed grasping for power too. But I get ahead of myself in explaining the passage.
Jesus opens his words to this church in the same manner as he does the others, with a piece of his image revealed from Revelation 1. He speaks of himself as the Son of God who has eyes like flames of fire and feet like burnished bronze.
Jesus has authority as the Son. It’s not something out of his grasp. He’s been given all authority, which is also stated later in the end of verse 27. It’s important that Jesus starts here because he’s contrasting himself to others that will come later in the passage.
The eyes like flames of fire remind us of passion and intensity. But the choice of using this image might just be one of those connections to the specific people to whom he speaks. See, Thyatira contained one of the major cults devoted to Apollo, the Greek god related to the sun. You know, the great big fireball in the sky.
Jesus isn’t comparing himself to Apollo, or trying to equate himself with the false god. Rather, Jesus showcases himself as better than Apollo, even while hinting at soon-to-be-seen discussion of other aspects of Apollo’s typical realms of interaction: prophecy, shepherding, and the transition from childhood to adulthood, specifically.
And the image of Jesus as the one with feet like burnished bronze gives the feeling of strength and power. But also purity. When hearing about burnished bronze, I can’t help but think of the smelting process. The manner in which the impurities in the metal come to be removed. Where the useless additions are thrown away.
As we look to verse 19, we see Jesus’ commendation to the church. Essentially, he praises the pure aspects of the metal. The church of Thyatira have joined themselves with the good works of Jesus. They show love, faith, service, and patient endurance. Spiritual growth exudes from them. They’re maturing well. And they’re just getting better. The later works are greater than where they started.
But Jesus turns to a place of correction as we move to verses 20-21. There’s a woman, a prophetess called Jezebel, whom some among the church have permitted to teach falsehood. Her words have been drawing some of the church to join her in her rebellion. Again, notice the connection of idolatry and adultery, like we saw in last week’s blog. Unfaithful worship and sexual impurity stand in correlation.
Likely Jezebel isn’t her real name, as Jesus compares her to the queen from Israel’s history. That historical Jezebel and her husband, King Ahab, led the Northern Kingdom of Israel into the worst of idolatry in the people’s history. Under her authority, the prophets of Baal contested against Elijah on Mt Carmel.
And on the day the original Jezebel died, when she heard that King Ahab’s murderer (named Jehu) drew near, she put on a seductive showing in order to entice Jehu. She grasped for whatever would keep her in power. However, as the prophecy from God had stated, Jezebel was thrown from the window, crushed to nothing, and eaten by the wild dogs.
That fact makes me laugh a little as Jesus shifts to verse 22. He’d given this new Jezebel many chances to repent. But since she hadn’t, he says he’ll throw her onto a sickbed. She wants to attempt to lead God’s people into extreme idolatry and use her sexuality with it, just like the original Jezebel, then she’ll end up being thrown to her death as well. (Don’t look at me. That was Jesus’ wordplay in comparing the two Jezebel’s, not mine.)
On top of that, everyone who continues with her false teaching and unfaithful works, referred to as her children in verse 23, Jesus promises them the same fate.
But he does offer another possibility to repent for them. They must turn away from the works of Jezebel if they desire to live in his truth. Turn from that faithless mother who grasps for power that’s not hers.
And turn toward to the one who judges the heart and mind. The one who doesn’t need to grasp for more because he has all authority. And who actually, from that authority, gives what the works deserve.
But to the rest of the church of Thyatira, those who hadn’t learned the grasping rebellion of Satan, Jesus doesn’t “throw” any other weight. (Yeah, Jesus makes a callback joke too.) His command to them continues that they should grab onto what they actually have. They shouldn’t grasp for more. Though more will come to them once Jesus returns.
To those who stand victorious, those who continue to join themselves with the work of Jesus, authority will be given to them. There’s no need to grasp for more, when true authority will be given. And this is what Jesus, who received authority from the Father, promises us if we continue in his example.
While some might question how verse 27’s “rule with a rod of iron” is a good thing, it’s important to point out that the word translated “rule” is actually the word meaning, “to shepherd.” And the “rod” can mean “shepherd’s staff.” Thus, Jesus offers to us a corrective authority that protects those under our care. But it is also iron, and can smash any predators who seek to destroy the flock. Like Jezebel.
The authority given doesn’t just cover the nations. Jesus promises to give the morning star to those who overcome. Authority over the morning star.
That phrase makes me think about the actual name of the angel, whom we call Satan, who led the rebellion against God. His name, Lucifer, meant “morning star.” He grasped for power that wasn’t his and was thrown from heaven. (Seems to be a pattern here.)
But we who overcome will be given authority over the morning star. Even more power and authority than what he had. It’s not something to be grasped for we who join with the work of Jesus. It’ll be given to us.
So, let’s seek the true authority given from the Father, not the grasping of rebellion, idolatry, and adultery. The purity of our works joined with Jesus grant us something far better than youthful rebellion ever could give.