Sermon – Easter 3 – May 5, 2019
Revelation 5:8-14 ‘At The Centre’
CT: Jesus is revealed as the centre of God’s plan of salvation and its completion for us.
Intro: Most readings from Revelation can seem farfetched, even disconnected from our other readings that are more familiar to our ears. Part of the reason for this is that Revelation is often used to weave a tale of apocalyptic terrors and secret messages far from anything about grace; what Pastor Klaus from the Lutheran Hour would call, ‘Baloney’. In the movie, ‘Beautiful Mind’, Russell Crow played the part of John Nash, a brilliant mathematician. When his illness is at his worst, he’s living and seeing a world that doesn’t exist, caught up in conspiracy theories. His garage is full of newspaper clippings, like a giant crossword puzzle, with pins and strings connecting different incidents and ideas together. Many would do that with the book of Revelation, claiming to have a hidden code connecting world events to passages of Scripture predicting the end of the world is near or there or here. And instead of the Easter proclamation, “He is risen!” all we hear is, “The sky is falling!” Instead of hearing how Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection has conquered all and made complete God’s plan of salvation for us, we hear messages of human will pitted against evil in great battles that you and I must win or all is lost. The book of Revelation is a book of hope and joy because its primary message is the revelation of Jesus Christ, assuring us of what He has done for us.
Lamb Revealed: Revelation, chapter 5, hinges on a great mystery; a scroll held in God’s hand, written not just on one side but both sides, and sealed with not one seal, but seven seals; the number of divine completeness. This is God’s book, His plan of salvation, but no one is strong enough or worthy to break the seals and open the book. This mystery is going to take more than the brilliant minds and skills of Murdock or Sherlock Holmes to unlock it, for the opening of this book sets in motion and brings to completion all of God’s plans from the Day of Pentecost to the very Last Day. In fact, the rest of the book of Revelation depends on finding someone who is able to open this book.
So John cried, because it would seem that God’s plan of salvation would never come to fruition. Is anyone worthy to bring it to completion? Yes! There is the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, He has conquered. These are names that imply great strength, daring, and capable of dealing a death blow to the enemy. At 1st reading, none of us would be ready for the appearance of the One who is worthy; John sees a Lamb standing as if it had been slain. Jesus is risen and glorified, endued with God’s perfect power and Spirit, but the wounds of the Lamb remain for our sake that there would be no mistaking what completed our salvation. The marks of His death are also the marks of His victory for us.
Sacrifice: How often have you thought that if you just added a little more pressure and you could fix something … just before it breaks! Our world looks to power and domination to control things, but over and over again power is corrupted with scandals, wars, genocide. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!” (Lord Acton, 1887) Revelation has much to teach us here; the victory comes through sacrifice; not through controlling or having power over, but through giving of self. The Christian Church is not victorious through a display of wealth and worldly influence, or a beautiful glass building filled with high energy, feel-good music. The Church is victorious wherever the Gospel is preached with all it’s purity and truth, and the sacraments are rightly administered for our salvation; when God’s people humbly respond with acts of kindness and mercy toward others. Jesus didn’t say, “Take up a comfortable chair on a Sunday and follow me.” He said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24) It’s in our grieving over our sins and in our hunger of righteousness and in our joy of being forgiven that we are opened up to the need of the world to see who is at the centre of our lives. God’s plan of salvation is revealed and made perfect in you and me when it becomes clear that it’s not about me, but about the sacrifice of the Lamb, who rose victorious and now works in your lives, providing for you and transforming your living.
Transformed and Served: Saul was transformed from persecutor of the Church to planter of the Church to a people he once despised as being outside of God’s blessings. Saul went from a life of forced power and control to one of sacrifice; living for Jesus (“It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me!” Galatians 2:20), trusting in Jesus’ sacrifice and continual service to meet his every need in every circumstance (“His grace is sufficient for me!” 2 Corinthians 12:9).
The disciples, Peter, Thomas, and others went out fishing. Lacking direction they came up with their own plan, and these seasoned fishermen didn’t even catch enough for breakfast. But Jesus revealed Himself to them. He provided all they needed and so much more that someone stopped to count the catch (153 big ones!). But it was Jesus who served them and there was no longer any need to ask who He is, and there was no need to see the marks of the nails or stick a hand into His side. They knew and believed; God’s plan is complete through Jesus’ sacrifice, and has been made known to us because of the witness they bore to Jesus’ sacrifice for us, even at the cost of their lives.
Praise: Believing in Jesus; coming face to face with His sacrifice; the laying down of His life for mine; the shedding of His blood that my sin and guilt would be forever removed transforms our thinking beyond John’s vision of the throne room and how great God is to what it reveals; ‘Jesus is my Lord’. The Lamb is praised for His work of redemption, for bailing me out of the bankruptcy of my sin, and making people from every corner of the earth to be His kingdom and priests to our God. He transforms us in the waters of our Baptism, strengthens us through His Word and Supper, giving us sheer joy of knowing our names and lives will roll out as part of that Scroll opened by the Lamb. The forces of nature, the wickedness of people, Satan, or the power of death cannot change that! That’s the certainty that allows Paul to say that nothing can “separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)