Text: Revelation 5
Date: Easter III + 4/10/16
Peace be to you and grace from Him who freed us from our sins.
Today we hear of the Lord Jesus physically appearing to seven disciples by the Sea of Tiberias or Galilee after His resurrection. They were stunned and afraid. In our first reading we’re told of the risen Lord Jesus not having been seen but heard by the former persecutor of the Church Saul. He was changed. And again on this Sunday we continue to have our hearts and minds lifted to the revelation the Lord gave to and through John of the coronation and enthronement of the Lamb, the risen Lord Jesus upon His ascension to the right hand of the Majesty on high. What is this to mean for us?
John writes of seeing God sitting on His throne holding a scroll in His right hand of mercy of which he says mysteriously, “it had something written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals.” This introduces the main part of the book as we discover the scroll contains the rest of the Revelation John is to pen. But there’s only one problem. It’s rolled up and sealed with seven seals. John says no one in heaven or on the earth of under the earth was able to open the scroll nor to look into it. So he began to weep greatly. But an elder, an elevated human saint, tells John to “Stop weeping. Behold, the Lion who is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has won the victory so as to open the scroll and its seven seals.” The Lion of Judah, the Root of David is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ who now, by His crucifixion and resurrection has won the victory over sin, death and the devil for the whole world. In this way alone He earned the right to be the only one worthy to open the scroll, that is, to proclaim the victory and grace of God. The key to understanding all the scriptures, Old and New Testaments, is Jesus Christ.
In apocalyptic imagery John tells of the risen, ascended and now enthroned and exalted Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb who had been slain, now standing and taking the scroll from the hand of God. With this action I can’t help but think of the diplomas, academic degrees and letters of achievement people receive having earned the honor or the degree in high school or college. But this scroll is more like a pastor’s call document for the Revelation outlines Jesus’ rule over the earth from then on to the end of time. Jesus is in charge as King over all creation and every individual, friend or foe.
John then describes a celebration, an eternal celebration, a new song that has never before been sung, a Te Deum. The first thing that happens and continues to happen through the ages is worship, the worship and adoration of the Lamb. For it is in Christ that the Father receives His highest glory from His saints. The old song is the battle hymn of the Church under the cross in deadly conflict with the enemy, the devil, who continues to stalk and wreak as much havoc as he can throughout all our days on earth until he is ultimately thrown into the eternal fire. But we who have become the children of God already in our conflict join our voices with this heavenly new song as the incense held by the elders in golden censer-like bowls symbolize the prayers of the saints, God’s people, the saints in heaven and on earth. We really mean it, after all, when we say every Sunday and especially in this Easter season, “Therefore with Mary Magdalene, Peter and John, and with all the witnesses of the resurrection, with angels and archangels and all the company of heaven” (this is where you remember and are closest to your departed father, mother, husband, wife, child!) “we laud and magnify Your glorious name, evermore praising You and saying: Sanctus, Holy, holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth, power and might: Heaven and earth are full of Your glory.”
John describes this new song as if the twenty-four elders, that is the twelve patriarchs and twelve apostles, the foundation of the Church, keep chanting “holy, holy, holy” behind the Church singing the various stanzas of the new song.
The song first glorifies Jesus in His exaltation of being the only one worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals. Why is only He worthy? Because He was slain, and by His blood He ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. That includes you! He ransomed and made them a kingdom and priests to our God who shall reign on the earth. That’s what makes the new heavens and earth better than merely Eden restored. Jesus wears a crown of glory and He gives to each of us royal crowns, inheriting a place in His royal court. It is because of His shed blood for you and your cleansing in it by your baptism that you have become a member and fellow heir of the kingdom of God. You have become a kingdom also of priests who pray and witness in order that God may catch others by His Word and your witness, by repentance and faith just like you.
The voice of the whole Church sings loudly, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power.” Jesus said, “All authority has been given to me.” Worthy is He to receive wealth, that is all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and to receive wisdom to make us wise; might to strengthen us in our weakness; honor in the face of all the dishonor of His cross that He and we endure; and glory and blessing, the glory of God and the blessing of God.
It is with this blinding light of His glory that Jesus reached out in power to call Saul to be His mighty apostle, joining the others whose words are the very foundation of the Church. It is through the apostle Paul’s words in Romans that the same glorious light revealed to the young monk Martin Luther, revealed the essence of the true Gospel, “the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe” (Rom 3:22). And this is the light by which “the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, [gives] you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you” (Eph 1:17-18). The hope of faith and eternal life is, ultimately, what gives you strength even in the midst of troubles, illness, seemingly impossible circumstances, even death itself.
This hope says that when our last hour shall come we shall be carried gently into the glorious presence of our Savior. In our worship even now we sing this hope as a prayer in the hymn:
And then from death awaken me
That these mine eyes with joy may see,
O Son of God, Thy glorious face,
My Savior and my fount of grace.
Lord Jesus Christ,
my prayer attend, my prayer attend,
And I will praise Thee without end. (LSB 708:3)