2nd Sunday of Easter (C)
March 24, 2022
Grace, mercy, and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The text that I have chosen for this morning’s sermon is the Epistle from the Revelation to Saint John.
In about the year 95 AD, the Roman Emperor Domitian decided that Christians were a threat to the Empire because they wouldn’t they take part in Roman religious activities or worship him as a god. Some Christians were executed, some sent to Rome to be fed to the lions, while others were exiled to sparsely inhabited islands. It’s to the island of Patmos, off the coast of modern-day Turkey, the last living disciple John finds himself banished as he says, “On account of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” One Sunday morning John received a vision from God that allowed him to peer into Heaven and witness events he was to write down for the benefit of Christians of all times and places. That’s simple, right? See what God wants him to see and then write it down. The writing may have been simple, but understanding what John saw is far from simple. Since Revelation is confusing, I’m going to do something a little bit different this morning. I want to guide you through today’s Epistle so you can see that while John’s vision is confusing at the same time it’s full of promises.
In verse eight, a little way into his vision, John hears God the Father identify Himself: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Alpha is the first word of the Greek alphabet and Omega the last, so the Father is declaring that He is the beginning and end of all things. There has never been, nor will there ever be, a time when He is not involved in His creation. In other words, He’s eternal. As the Father Almighty He sits on His throne as ruler over all things, nothing else is before, after, or over Him. So while John’s revelation will be scary at times, like life is scary at times, God promises He’s in complete control. Nothing can defeat or demoralize Him, for He alone is God. Not Domitian or anyone or anything else that demand we worship them.
As Christians we’re familiar with the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God (remember that kids!), so why does John say, “Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne.” Does that sound right? I thought it was just one Holy Spirit? Well, in Biblical language the number seven symbolizes God and seven represents the Holy Spirit’s eternal presence with us. The Holy Spirit took up residency in you when you were baptized or brought to faith. He is the one who brings you to faith and keeps you in the true faith. He’s ever present to remind you of God’s promises and bring you comfort through those promises. There is only one Holy Spirit, and that’s all you need.
John next says, “And from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” We’re a little clearer on Jesus, aren’t we? But what about these titles John uses? Jesus is the faithful witness because He conveyed the truth about His Father in Heaven and how He was sent to deliver this world from its sins. The word witness in Greek is martyr and Jesus was the perfect martyr because He died speaking the truth, He died while witnessing to God’s love and grace, He died as God’s love and grace.
As you know, as I really hope you know by now, Jesus didn’t stay dead! And since Easter was only a week ago, “The firstborn of the dead” is a very fitting title for Jesus. Jesus is the firstborn of the dead because He’s the first who died and rose again under His own power. As firstborn of the dead, He’ll raise you to eternal life. His resurrection proves that He has authority over life and death, just as He has authority over everything else, that’s His promise.
When John hears the voice like a trumpet, he turns to see Jesus standing the midst of seven lampstands while holding seven stars. The seven lampstands represent all churches of all time, and the seven stars symbolize the pastors that Christ has called to His Church. The churches are lampstands for they are to be the light of Christ to a dark world, and as they shine, Christ stands in the midst of them. He holds the stars in His hand to show that He’ll always hold the Church. Nothing can steal His Church from Him and nothing can destroy it for it is in His holy hands, hands that are stronger than any threat that may come against His Church. I pray you find comfort in that, for while there are many things that threaten Christ’s Church, we will persevere for it is His Church.
So far so good, right? Now it’s going to get a little more confusing because what John sees doesn’t make sense, but if you bear with me, you’ll get it. John writes that he saw one “like a son of man” and since Jesus frequently referred only to Himself as the Son of Man, and no one else, John is seeing Jesus in all His unveiled glory. The name Son of Man emphasizes Jesus’ humanity and divinity as He is still both True God and True Man; even in Heaven Jesus remains human, except that now, in His human nature He always and fully uses His divine powers. Each of the characteristics of the Son of Man John describes seeing reveals Christ’s power and authority.
The long robe and golden sash around His chest announce that Jesus is Heavenly royalty, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. No one will ever be able to seize His throne. Many have tried and all have failed. The robe and sash also identify Jesus as the High Priest who intercedes for the people by offering the sacrifice on behalf of sinners. He presents the sacrifice, Himself, and then declares that through His death your sins are forgiven. As John describes it: “He loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood.” Blood brings life, His blood brings forgiveness and eternal life, and not just in general, specifically to you! You have been freed from your sin!
John goes on to describe Jesus as having white hair, eyes like flames of fire, feet like burnished bronze, and the voice of many waters. That’s pretty descriptive, isn’t it? The white hair shows that Jesus is due all honor for He has all wisdom. Is there anything Jesus doesn’t know? Of course not, and this is good. Jesus knows your struggles, your hurts, your sin, and He offers help for all of them. He knows you better than you know yourself and He knows what you need before you even ask for it. For even if you don’t can’t find the words, He knows! What a fantastic promise!
A sad fact is that most people don’t believe Jesus is the Son of God, nor do they recognize that He’s Savior. It is to them that the Son of Man turns His eyes. In Hebrews 4 we hear: “And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.” The flaming eyes are Christ’s piercing gaze which penetrates the hatred and lies, which exposes sin, and which reveal His divine wrath. Unrepentant sinners and unbelievers will receive His wrath. Christ sees our sins as well, but where the majority rejects Christ’s love and forgiveness, you haven’t. His eyes look at you as well but they’re not eyes of fire, they’re eyes of compassion. When He looks at you, He doesn’t see your sins, He sees His blood covering them. He sees an object of His love, not His wrath. He sees you wrapped in your baptismal grace.
When Jesus was crucified, His feet were bloody, battered, and pierced. They ached from the strain of carrying the heavy cross. They were not the feet of the Savior. Or were they? The feet that carried Him from village to village, to lepers, to widows, to lost sinners, only looked bad. In reality, He has feet of bronze! The feet with holes are the perfect display of strength, power, and victory. As Paul says in I Corinthians, “God has put all things in subjection under His feet.” He has put His foot down on sin, death, disease, hardship, the list goes on. There’s nothing He hasn’t conquered, nothing that has rendered Him powerless, nothing that will keep Him from loving and caring for you. The feet that took Him to the cross and out of the tomb, bring Him to you.
And when He comes to you, whenever He comes to anyone, He speaks with the voice was like the roar of many waters and with a sharp two-edged sword in His mouth. His Word is active and busy. It leaves His mouth, and it does things. Jesus speaks and crushes people with the Law. You’ve heard this voice, haven’t you? When your conscience tells you that you sinned, when you hear a Bible verse and know that it’s condemning an action you’ve taken. This is the cutting of the His Word. Like John, you might fall on your face, afraid of God’s anger over your sins and overwhelmed by His voice. His Word though doesn’t just crush you in your sin or cut you down, it also builds you up. When He speaks, His Word does things, it doesn’t just speak of the possibility of forgiveness, it gives forgiveness. It doesn’t just inform you about peace, it bestows peace. When Jesus told John, “Fear not!” He meant that John didn’t need to be afraid of Him. You are reconciled to God, so your fear has been banished. Hear these words and know that He is speaking tenderly to you.
Jesus lived an itinerant life, constantly on the move from town to town, followed and loved by some, hated by more. He died a beaten, bloody criminal, a sinner, mocked by His enemies and rejected by His friends. He rose the resurrected Savior, demonstrating once and for all His power over everything! As Jesus says, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” The world is His creation, the Church is His, you are His, and one day you’ll see His almighty power when He comes on the clouds. That’s His promise! And unlike the somewhat confusing images in Revelation, His promises are crystal clear.
Now the peace which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen