Posted by: St. Mark Lutheran Church | April 11, 2010

Sermon on Revelation 1:4-18

Downloadable Version

Jesus Keeps Us in the Loop

In the name of Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh.

 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,  and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet,  which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands,  and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest.  His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire.  His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.  In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance.  When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last.  I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

Some people who play their cards close to the vest, if you know what I mean.  They don’t spend hours talking over decisions, seeking advice, announcing to everyone where they are and what they’re doing.  They keep things to themselves.  You don’t always know what they’re thinking and feeling.  They don’t wear their hearts on their sleeves.  I even know people who don’t just keep their cards close to the vest, but inside their vest.  While it’s not necessarily wrong for someone to behave this way, and in fact, sometimes it’s the best decision to make – discretion being the better part of valor – it’s sometimes possible for this to frustrate other people.  Because people like to be kept in the loop, right?  We like to be aware of situations so that we can be prepared for them.  We like having information, even if it’s only so we’re not caught by surprise.

Imagine if Jesus hadn’t kept us in the loop about the resurrection.  Imagine if all that happened was that the women and the disciples went to the tomb and the body was gone.  That’s it.  No angels.  No appearances.  Nothing.  Just an empty tomb.  What would we be left with then?  Couldn’t Jesus assume we’d all draw connections between the Old Testament prophecies like He will see the light of life, I will not abandon my Holy One to the grave and His fulfillment of them?  Couldn’t Jesus assume that by telling the disciples, “I’m going to die, but then I’ll rise from the dead,” that they’d understand the empty tomb?  Sure.  He could have risen from the dead and ascended into heaven without being seen.  He could have played His cards close to the vest.  But He didn’t.  He kept His disciples in the loop.  Over the course of 40 days He appeared to them.  He walked with them.  He ate with them.  He performed miracles with them.  He taught them.  And, as Paul reports in 1 Corinthians 15, He appeared like this to over 500 different people.  He offered enough evidence of His resurrection to satisfy any jury.  He kept us in the loop.

And He continues to do so.  That’s what Revelation proves today.  Our resurrected Savior keeps us in the loop.  He assures us that His work wasn’t over when He sacrificed Himself for sin, laid in the tomb, and rose from the dead for our justification.  In a sense, His work had just begun.  Though He had paid the price for sin, though He had offered the once-for-all sacrifice that assures you and me that sins are forgiven, He didn’t stop being our Savior.  He took His work to a different level.  And through John we find out about it.

Jesus’ beloved apostle was on Patmos, in the eastern Aegean, just off the coast of Turkey.  He was there because of…the testimony of Jesus. He said things about Jesus that the Romans didn’t like, and they exiled him.  John didn’t whine or cry; He didn’t sink into depression.  Quite the contrary, He kept up His spiritual routines.  And on the Lord’s Day – Sunday – God kept John in the loop, and through John, us.  On this day on this island Jesus revealed what must soon take place. God gave John a glimpse of history from that moment until Judgment.  He was told, Write…what you see. God wanted this preserved.  It was for churches John served in Asia Minor, and, by virtue of its being written down, and by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit saved, it’s for us as well.  Today, Jesus keeps us in the loop.

He keeps us in the loop as He says, “I’m here walking among the Church!”  John turns and sees seven golden lampstands and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man. This Someone’s description, as well as the words He speaks, makes it clear who we’re seeing – Jesus.  And He tells John what this means:  The seven lampstands are the seven churches. Jesus assures John – a man imprisoned for the gospel, a man expecting martyrdom, a man expecting Caesar to try to stamp out the Christian Church once and for all – He wants to assure John that He walks among the Church.  He’s here.  He’s with us.  And if this Son of Man is here, what can pathetic little Caesar do?

This picture can’t help but comfort us in whatever affliction we wrestle with in the Church.  Whether it’s the persecution we deal with, or the failures that take place in ministry; whether it’s the ongoing struggle against false teachings among us, or those attacking us from outside; whether it’s the ever-growing pressure upon us to conform to society that comes from our friends, from our enemies, from our government, or whatever it is, Christ says, “I am here among you.”  Now, of course, we could assume that. Jesus said, I am with you always; wherever two or three gather, there I am.  But Jesus doesn’t leave us with that.  He keeps us in the loop.  He shows us, “I’m here!  With you!  Now!  No matter what!”  And the promise is that nothing can touch us beyond His repair.  The lampstands – the Church and its congregations – can’t be destroyed.  The gates of Hades will not overcome it. To doubt that, to question that, to dispute that, is unchristian.

“But He hasn’t done that for me!  He’s never appeared to me like this!  If only He’d do that, then I’d feel more confident!”  And does it frustrate you when I never encourage you to seek out such an experience?  Especially when you’ve probably got friends, or read books, about all kinds of people who saw God, who heard messages from Him, or were given sights and sounds of heavenly things. And while I’ll never discount the possibility that God could operate this way if He desired, I can’t help but agree with our Lutheran Confessions when they say God does not want to deal with us in any other way than through the spoken Word and Sacraments. And you say, “Oh, here we go again!  Word and Sacrament, Word and Sacrament, Word and Sacrament!  How many times have I heard that!  Enough already!”  But it’s not enough.  It’s never enough.  Because you must see that God’s Word and Sacraments, as weak and unappealing as they sometimes appear, especially next to tongues-speaking, next to visions, next to revelations, next to ecstatic experiences, next to stunning healings, yet this is how Jesus keeps us in the loop.  This is how Jesus says, “I’m here!  Let me show you what you need to see!”  And if that doesn’t satisfy you, it’s time to turn from your sinful ways and humble yourself before God.  And that done, it’s time to see God’s incredible grace in keeping you in the loop.

Jesus said to John, Write…what you see and send it to the seven churches. God wants us to hear and see what He has in store for us.  He could have operated on a system of oral communication.  What He told Adam and Eve they were to tell to their children and so on and so forth until today.  But you’ve played the telephone game enough to know you couldn’t trust what you were being told after so many centuries and millennia.  And you’d have a reason not to.  Even with a definitive Bible, with a sure and certain collection of writings that reveal God’s will, we have tens of thousands of Christian denominations and hundreds of non-Christian religions all claiming to speak for God.  Without His Word, we’d be even more hopelessly confused.

But instead of leaving us with dim recollections of what this guy told that guy and what she heard from them, we have the Word made certain.  We hear this:  Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.  To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood,  and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father….! We have proof of who the true God is and what He’s like, and what He’s done for us – the firstborn from the dead, who loved us, who freed us from our sins by shedding His blood, who made us kings and priests in His kingdom.  Don’t take it from me.  Don’t take it from Mom or Dad, or that guy who told that guy.  Take it from God who said, Write it down so that YOU could read it right now, and tomorrow, and the day after, and be sure of who God is and what God’s done.  So that you could know Jesus.  As John wrote, These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing have life in His name. Look at how Jesus keeps you in the loop!

And then, just in case, He also instituted Baptism and Holy Communion.  He told the disciples to make other disciples by baptizing.  He told the disciples to tell other disciples to eat and drink in remembrance of Him.  So that you can be sure He’s talking to you.  Did Jesus free me from my sins?  Well, He washed me in Baptism.  Did Jesus love me?  Well, He gave me His body and blood to eat and to drink for my forgiveness.  If that’s not in the loop enough, I don’t know what will satisfy you.

And there’s a cherry on top, Jesus has one more way of keeping us in the loop.  He lets us know what He’s doing now.  He says, “I’m here, in my exalted state.  Don’t be afraid.”  This vision is intimidating – blazing eyes, glowing bronze feet, a voice like Niagara Falls, a double-edged sword coming from His mouth, His face shining like the sun.  No wonder John fainted.  But, when John faints, Jesus assures Him with touch and word, “Don’t be afraid. This glory is on your side.”  The almighty God, the First and the Last, the Living One, He who died and rose, He who has total control over death, makes it clear, “I’m here, and I’m in charge.”  He’s running the show.  He rules the Kings of the earth.  He defends the Church, holding His congregations and His pastors and teachers in His hands.  He cuts down all enemies.  He sits at God’s right hand.  He opens prison doors and empowers disciples to speak even when facing the death penalty.  Because He faced it all and won.  Peter’s words are ours:  We must obey God rather than men! The God of our fathers raised Jesus from the dead – whom you had killed by hanging him on a tree. God exalted him to his own right hand as Prince and Savior that he might give repentance and forgiveness of sins to Israel. We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him. Let us rejoice in this resurrection truth:  Jesus keeps us in the loop!  Amen.


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