130414 Revelation 5:6-14

Last Updated on Monday, 15 April 2013 Written by Pastor Pagels

Guest preacher: Pastor Caleb Schoeneck Beautiful Savior, College Station, TX
Text: Revelation 5:6-14
Theme: Jesus Resurrection Is The Peace You Need

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God's power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. (1 Peter 3:1-5)

There is a saying that goes like this: "Communicate in such a way so as to be understood... and not misunderstood." About three weeks ago, the congregation where I serve in College Station, Texas, had a mission team come to help us distribute 7,000 invitations in one weekend to get the word out about our "Easter in the Park," outdoor sunrise service. Now, the weather in Texas is pretty nice at this time of year, but it is always a variable. And, if the weather is poor, we move the service from the open air venue at the park to a pavilion.

So in order to help people know if there is a change of plans on Easter morning, there is a note on the back of the invitation that says: "For weather information, go to www.EasterinthePark.org or call 979-693-4514." A few hours after the first invitations landed on the front doors of our community, the phone rang at the church office. The voice on the other end said, "I received your card and I was wondering if you could tell me what the weather will be like on Easter morning."

There is always uncertainty when it comes to the weather... and everything in life. Wouldn't it be nice if there were a number you could call to know the future? But, have you noticed that when it feels like things are out of your control that's when it is easiest to try and take matters into your own hands? But, the only way to have the peace you need is to leave things in the nail-pierced hands of Jesus who has been resurrected from the dead.

One of Jesus' disciples tried to find peace by taking matters into his own hands. Remember what Thomas said? "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my fingers where the nails were, I will not believe it." But, what did Jesus say? He said that peace comes when matters are left in his hands because he once was slain, but now has risen, and he leaves all fears in the dust.

Jesus gives you the words in Revelation chapter 5 to see this in a striking way. The Book of Revelation has highly picturesque prose and the symbolic descriptions that will make you slow down and ask, "What did he just say?" So, it helps to remember that it is a detailed description of a series of visions that Jesus gave to the Apostle John. The visions are thought provoking and at times perplexing because John is forced to fit scenes from heaven into the language and experience to which people on earth can relate. But, despite the initial difficulty, the message is clear—the resurrected Jesus is the peace you need. Let's take a look beginning with verse 6...

6a Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne, (The lamb had been slain and dead, but now it was standing and alive, yet there was something about this lamb, perhaps some wounds, that you could see it had been slain.) [the Lamb was] encircled by the four living creatures (the four living creatures were described in the previous chapter with animal like heads and eyes covering their bodies. They seem to symbolize all living creatures on earth. And, their eyes... Psalm 145 says, "The eyes of all look to you and you give them their food at the proper time; you open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing.") and [the Lamb was encircled by] the elders. (The previous chapter also describes these 24 elders. This number seems to be accounted for by the 12 children of Israel and the 12 apostles. And, if it is understood in this case that a leader—here an elder—can be one part that represents the group who follows, then this would be a symbol of all believers of all times.)

6b He [the Lamb] had seven horns and seven eyes, (While it is possible for some species of sheep to have horns, seven horns would be unusual—not to mention seven eyes. Thankfully this symbol is defined...) which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. (The horns and eyes are the seven spirits, also known as the sevenfold Spirit, which is a common portrayal of the Holy Spirit, who goes forth from Jesus. Remember what he said on Easter evening... "As the Father sent me, I am sending you... Receive the Holy Spirit.")

7 He [the Lamb] came and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. (In the throne was seated the triune God who was holding a scroll on which the future was written! But, no one could open it. When John saw no one could open it he was sad because he wanted to know what would happen. He was trying to take matters into his own hands. But, then the slain-looking Lamb arrived.) 8 And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. (They fell down because he was able to do what no one else could. Only the wounded hands of the Lamb could open the scroll and see into the future. And, when he did heaven was over-joyed and responded with worship and praise...) Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. (Bowls and harps may sound like a strange way to worship and praise, but they are a symbol of prayers of the saints. Saints are literally "holy people." There is only one way people can be holy—by Jesus, the slain-looking Lamb. Every prayer offered to God is not merely a request from him, but praise to him and a subtle, yet powerful, proclamation of what he has done. But, prayer alone couldn't contain their worship to the Lamb...)

9 And they sang a new song: "You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. 10 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth."

Why, then were the living creatures and saints in heaven bursting forth in worship and praise? Because, all their fears and uncertainties of the future were left in the dust. Who was worthy to do this? They sang in verse 9, "YOU." But, they were not talking about you. They were talking about the slain, yet throne standing, Lamb, the resurrected Jesus, who is the only one who can take matters into his own hands, and in so doing brings the peace that is so desperately needed.

Put yourself into young parent mode for a moment... What would you say if you walked into the living room on Saturday morning only to see little Caleb in his superhero pajamas standing on the coffee table watching cartoons? Of course you are going to tell him to get down. And, in the moment of urgency, you might even blurt out, "So you don't scratch the table." Actually you are probably more concerned about his inappropriate behavior and that he could hurt himself. Friends, that doesn't even begin to compare to what it is like when you try to stand on the throne of heaven and hold the scroll that has the future written on it. But, that's what you do when you take the uncertain matters and fears of the future into your own hands. And, simply put, you aren't worthy of that. When Adam and Eve tried to stand on that throne—not a chair, but a tree—God cursed them because of their sinful rebellion and sentenced them to hard labor in life and even harder time in hell after this life. And, that is where you will find yourself standing whenever you take matters into your own hands. You simply can't control the future.

But, the resurrected Jesus can. He is worthy to hold the future in his hands because he was slain and with his precious blood he paid the purchase price of your soul for the only God in heaven. Jesus kept the wounds on his hands, feet, and side since by them he gave to God the perfect life he demands from you, and by them he received the just punishment God demands for you. He leaves your fears, as well as your sins, on the dust of the ground where he cursed the devil, that crafty serpent, to crawl; and he leaves them in the dust of the empty grave. No longer dust you are dust you will be forever, but on the last day the resurrected Jesus will raise you too. There is nothing more splendid to see than the resurrected Jesus whose glory is permanently scarred with the signs that he once was slain, but now stands alive and in his hands he holds the future so you can move forward with confidence.

And, there is a need for his peace for that too, because the future that the slain-looking Lamb has in mind for you might be slightly different than what you have in your mind. The living creatures in heaven and the saints sang in verse 10 that he has made people from every tribe, language, people, and nation—in other words, all believers— to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and reign on earth. You are a citizen of heaven, whose king is enthroned with power, and he points you to the future by authorizing you to be a priest who serves here on earth.

Can't you hear Jesus' words, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me, therefore I am sending you..." And, regarding this sending, the Apostle Paul said, "You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light."

Let me tell you a little more about the mission team of students from Martin Luther College who came to College Station, Texas, for Easter. As I was briefing them on their mission, the first thing I asked was a series of questions... Say the books of the Bible, what are the Ten Commandments, recite Luke 2 (the Christmas story), and complete several Bible passages. You see, you know those things too. (And, if you don't you are learning them better in your home devotions, by being here for worship, and in St. Matt's grade school, and Bible study).

And, just like most anyone can hand out an invitation to a special service, Jesus has taken his matters and put them into your hands and he lets it be known he has made everyone of you his priests—ministers of the good news of the gospel that Jesus forgives sin. And, in that sense, you are all on a mission team. In order to move forward with confidence it's more important for you to know what you have in your hands than where you are going with it.

When we handed out the last invitation we had no idea what would happen on Easter morning. And, more important that than the 200 visitors that came were the 47 families we followed up with after the service. It can be a little unsettling to walk up to a stranger's door, can't it? But, you have the peace you need to step forward with confidence because the message of Jesus' nail-pierced hands are in yours. And, if that makes you feel good, then just listen to how it made the angels in heaven feel...

11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they sang: "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!"

Your confidence does not come from being surrounded by millions of angels as much as it comes from the Lamb whom they are gathered around, and whom you gather around too. He is worthy of praise because he did what you could not do, and then he lets you do what seems like something only he should do. And, if that feels a little overwhelming, it is. Enough to make you fall over, which is exactly what saints in heaven did too...

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, singing: "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!" 14 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped.

Friends, don't fall down in fear, fall down with confidence because Jesus is at the center of everything in your life. You could even say fall forward, or fail forward, because you are forgiven, and Jesus' resurrection gives you the peace you need. Amen.

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Compelled by the love of Christ, St. Matthew’s Evangelical Lutheran Church and School seek to reach out to our families, community and world, using Law and Gospel to make disciples, growing and nurturing them in their Christian faith and life.

 

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