John writes the Book of Revelation from the Isle of Patmos. This was a small island about 40-50 miles off the coast in the Aegean Sea. It is now considered to be one of the most charming and idyllic of places to live, but this hasn’t always been the case. In John’s time, Patmos was considered a barren place because of its rocky terrain. The Roman government used it as a place to banish criminals, who were often forced to work the mines there.
John was not there on vacation. This was not his retirement home. He was separated from everyone he loved. He could not participate in the work to which he had given his life.
Think of John. He had devoted his entire life to following Jesus. He had been there when Jesus came walking on the water. He had watched Jesus feed thousands. He saw Jesus cry at the death of his friend Lazarus. He stood stunned as Jesus called Lazarus out of the tomb! He had been there at the cross — the only one of Jesus’ friends who was there. It was to John that Jesus said, “Take care of my mother for me.”
John had been there on the Day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon him and his compadres. He saw thousands of people baptized. He took that gospel message to folks near and far. He had done everything he knew to do, and where had it gotten him?
Exiled on a rock in the sea — sentenced to hard labor — cut off from the people and work he loved.
Patmos is the place of despair and disappointment. And every person I know who follows Jesus ends up spending some time on Patmos.
Maybe it will be a divorce. Or your health. Or a strained relationship with your children or your parents. Maybe it will be unemployment. Or depression. Or loneliness. Or anxiety.
There will be something — some way in which you begin to feel desperate and disappointed — cut off from everything you love. If you follow Jesus long enough, you’ll eventually end up in Patmos.
And what is it that you need in those seasons? What do you really need most when you find yourself exiled to a desolate place in the middle of the sea?
You don’t need more information. You don’t need platitudes. You don’t even need answers to the legion of questions swirling around in your brain.
No, you need what John needed — which, thankfully, is precisely what he received. You need a bigger picture of Jesus.