2nd Sunday of Easter

April 24, 2022

Summary

4 John to the seven churches that are in Asia:

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, 5 and from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.

To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. 7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.

8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

9 I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 11 saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

12 Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, 15 his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. (Revelation 1:4-18 ESV)

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! (Hallelujah!)

We know the words! The Christian Church has been saying them for nearly 2,000 years. That means the world has been hearing them for that long and despite scepticism and scoffing, arguing and blind refusal to listen or consider, these words have not died away or been silenced as each new generation hears the message of Jesus and discovers that they are encountering Jesus and that he does reach out to us personally and the history of 2,000 years ago becomes a personal reality today. Sins are forgiven – and the believer says, ‘Those are my sins that are forgiven’. New life is given – and the believer says, ‘I’m born again, I’m a new creation in Christ’. Blessings are given and the believer says, ‘Thank you, Jesus, for being with me always’. And so emerges a lifestyle of being with Jesus – discipleship in a pattern of ‘Resurrection worship’ – meeting Jesus on Sunday who comes to us through words, water, bread wine – and listening to him and talking with him as we go about our living Monday to Saturday. And this is true whether one is an adult when they begin to follow Jesus or whether one has grown up knowing that Jesus has always ‘been there’.

Now after 2,000 years of the world not snuffing out the Church, Christians are used to people giving them a wide berth or simply rejecting Jesus or God and we are used to versions of the two main reasons given to us – that the Christian Church has too much evil on its historical hands, too much hypocrisy – and that the Church essentially is unnecessary today unless you are afraid of hell and people prefer to live their lives their own way. And that is markedly different to the situation of the Church in its first hundred years which didn’t have the historical baggage of today and found itself living on the fringes of society, sometimes attacked, sometimes ridiculed for both the message of the resurrection and that the one who was raised to life, who saved the world, who is God, was the man Jesus who was crucified!

The first Christians were also regarded as ‘weird’ because their lifestyle cut across Jew-Gentile lines, family-men-women lines and the usual social groupings and they became known for helping fellow followers of Jesus. It wasn’t their tribe, their occupation, their social standing that seemed to count but whether or not a person followed Jesus which united them – even as one family.

And we can imagine what the first Christians might have wondered about the world that refused to listen to their message about Jesus – and you’ve got to be inspired and enthusiastic when your message is about God making peace with you and eternal life – life after death! The fact that the world opposed them testified to the imprisonment and blindness sin, death, and the demonic caused. This meant that they were going to get picked on, attacked, suffer but the only message that would set the world free was about Jesus – his cross and empty tomb. But it’s not easy when the world is against you. It’s lonely, hard, painful, tough – c’mon, Jesus reappear and set this world right!

And such is the context of the last book of the New Testament – Revelation (not Revelations) – it is one revelation from Jesus to John – a message for seven churches in modern day Turkey which Christians held on to because of the promise of blessing contained in it and because later Christians could see themselves in those seven churches and receive guidance and comfort about living when things are against you. That is why Revelation is read again and again when there are tough times around, when evil or persecution seem to be in the ascendancy because we all need to be reminded that Jesus never leaves his people, is never absent from his churches, is still present through words, water, bread and wine – and he is in final control of all things and evil will not win in the end – yes, it can thrash its tail and destroy things but Jesus has the power – the keys of Death and Hades.

So today in this Easter season we hear from the Book of Revelation in which John has followed Jesus’ instruction and acted as scribe – a stenographer writing Jesus’ messages to the seven churches and later a recorder / reporter of what he saw and heard afterwards. If we believe the text, John is not Shakespeare creatively writing a message of comfort but a secretary and travelogue writer recording what he is told and shown. The author of the revelation is thus Jesus. He is speaking to his Church, to his people.

John’s moment with Jesus is in worship on the island of Patmos where he has been exiled for the Christian Faith. His vision of the spectacular Jesus among the lampstands, glowing, fiery, with sword is a far cry from the non glowing Jesus on the cross or in the locked room or on the beach or on the mountain as Jesus’ ascended and it overwhelms the senses. We tend to forget how much God emptied himself to come safely among us!

But this moment – vision – Was John alone or with others in the Divine Service? We don’t know. – Was this in an instant or did it take hours? We don’t know. But what we do know is that in worship people meet Jesus. That is true whether we have an experience or not. I think it very unlikely people will be transported to the heavenly realm in our service but in faith we trust that what is happening in the Divine Service is the intersection of Heaven and Earth and if faith gave way to sight we would see the angels and archangels, the holy ones and the heavenly creatures, and the wonderful Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – and like John, be overwhelmed. Instead through words, water, bread and wine Jesus meets us ordinarily – in our personal lives – our past week lives – our joy and sorrow lives, our shameful lives, our questioning and struggling lives. Jesus meets us with all our relationships, our attitudes, our perspectives. He already knows the sins with which we are struggling. He is totally aware of which part of our lives we have said is ‘no go’ to him. He knows what we want for our lives and for others and what we fear.

How will we respond to this encounter? Are we going to be honest with ourselves and admit to Jesus that we still want to be in control – you can help me, change me with this part of my life but I’m still wanting to do my thing in that part of my life. Often this comes down to our relationships and behaviour – who I live with and how – how I behave in certain situations and often when no one is watching – because we all know where we struggle with discipleship. Yes, it can be lonely, tough, and hard to follow Jesus – sometimes we want to and other times we don’t. By the way, if you’re ever unsure what part of discipleship you struggle with, ask those around you for their views on you!

What often happens in worship is that we don’t expect the encounter with Jesus but we go through the liturgy – it’s all so ordinary and familiar – and boring? – and we still keep Jesus at a ‘heart and mind’ distance or sit with him at a long table – and forget that we are deluding ourselves. We do not expect to receive anything from him.

Christian worship is the most powerful – and at times unsettling – moment on Earth because we come into the presence of Jesus who will do what he wishes to us – constantly revealing himself through words, water, bread and wine – to which we can resist or put up barriers – all because of sin and fear –

and we forget that Jesus is here to serve us, love us, forgive us, guide us, feed us, and bless us so that we might live life to the full. Can we trust him so that we follow him in our relationships, in our behaviour – not generally speaking but specifically with specific people – spouse, family, partner, work colleague, and so on – all the while following Jesus in our behaviour and relationships? Can our behaviour actually change when we get home today or next week?

‘Can I trust Jesus?’ is the question the world also asks.

What is the answer? Go to the cross and empty tomb which is what happens at each Divine Service or in reading of Scripture and discover that Jesus is already with you – for you and not against you – and he serves you so that you can live better than before. Yes, Jesus can be trusted – he has revealed himself – and that means we can change our behaviour each day more and more to be like him – to be obedient to him. What happens when you encounter Jesus is a reassurance of his grace and a challenge to change – grow – in some aspect in your life – specifically! – practically! This happens each service – we are in constant change and growth.

It is all quite a revelation!

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! (Hallelujah!)

Bible References

  • Revelation 1:4 - 18