“Worthy Is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:1-14)

Third Sunday of Easter
April 18, 2010

“Worthy Is the Lamb” (Revelation 5:1-14)

Sometimes it may seem that this old world is spinning out of control. Chaos seems to have the upper hand over order. Terrorism and turmoil trump tranquility and peace. Major earthquakes are occurring around the world every other week, it seems. A volcano in Iceland right now has shut down air travel across Europe under gigantic clouds of ash. The nation of Poland just lost dozens of its top leaders in a plane crash. Mexico is a madhouse, Iran is a nuthouse. Great Britain is not so great anymore. Here at home, economic uncertainties show no signs of letting up. Government spending is spiraling wildly to unprecedented levels, saddling our children and grandchildren with tons of taxes and mountains of debt for decades to come.

Then there’s what’s happened to the church. Germany and Scandinavia have pretty much lost the faith handed down from their fathers. Those nations have become almost completely secularized. The church has hit hard times here in the States, also. Hardly anybody has any interest in the true gospel. Not many people feel a need for Christ and the forgiveness of sins. Even the vacuous, man-centered mega-churches–some of them are not drawing as well as they once did. In those corners of the world where the church is growing, in Africa and Asia right now–in those places, the church is facing terrible persecution, and Christians are being murdered, modern-day martyrs for the faith.

When we are faced with these situations–unless we have our heads buried comfortably in the sand, blithely unaware of what is going on in the world around us–when we look around and see what is happening, we may be tempted to despair, to lose all hope. We look at this world and we say: What is going on here? Is there anybody in charge? Is there any hope for the future? I don’t see any sense or order here. Is this world going anywhere? Is there any point to human history? Is there an outcome, a goal, to all of this? Who’s in charge here?

Dear friends, today I can tell you, I can assure you and encourage you: Yes, there is a point to all of this. There is a goal that we’re heading toward. There is someone in charge. History does have a destination, and it’s a good one. You see, I’ve read the end of the book. What I mean is, the history of the future has already been written. It’s like a scroll to be unrolled. And the good news is, someone has been found who is able to unroll that scroll and thus reveal the course of events and their final outcome–someone who not only reveals them but is in charge of them, ruling all things for the good of his church and the ministry of the gospel. We meet that someone in Revelation 5 today, as we hear the words, “Worthy Is the Lamb.”

Here’s the deal. The apostle John has been given a glimpse into heaven. He’s told he will be shown what must take place in the future. He’s taken into the throne room of God. He sees and hears the company of heaven worshiping the Lord God Almighty, the Creator of all things. That’s what’s going on in chapter 4 of Revelation. Then as we move into chapter 5, John sees in God’s right hand a scroll. Apparently, this scroll contains the comprehensive record of those things John had been told he would be shown, what must take place after this. But this scroll is rolled up, and on top of that it is sealed, sealed with seven seals. The history of the future may be written, but it is hidden, hidden and sealed. And no one can be found who is able to unlock that mystery.

This is distressing to John, and he begins to weep. John knows the suffering and the persecution that the church is experiencing. He himself is an exile on the isle of Patmos when he receives this vision. So he wants to know if there is going to be any end to this suffering and chaos. Are things ever going to get better? Does God care about what is happening on earth? The scroll would tell us, the scroll in God’s right hand, but that scroll is closed and sealed securely. And there’s been a search across heaven and earth, and it turns out no one is worthy to open it, no one is up to the task or worthy of the honor.

Until now. Now someone is found who is able, who is worthy. John is told, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” In other words, it’s the Messiah. The Davidic Messiah of Israel–the long-promised Christ has come and conquered, won the victory over the enemies of God’s people. Therefore he is able to unseal the scroll and unroll it.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah–that is where John is told to look. And so he does, and what does he see? A Lamb! The Lion is a Lamb! The Lion–that is the image we would expect for a mighty conqueror. And Christ is that. He has won the victory. But the way he has done that–that is the surprise. Christ has conquered by being the Lamb. Lambs do not strike terror into people. And not just a lamb, but a Lamb that has been slain. This is saying “sacrifice,” sacrificial victim, like the lambs that were slain in the sacrifices in the temple. As sacrifices for sin. That is who the Christ is. The Lamb that has been slain. Only now he is standing, standing at the throne of God in heaven.

Dear friends, this is where we are to look also. Look to Christ–Jesus, the Lamb that was slain, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He died on the cross as the perfect sacrifice for your sin, all of it. And now he is risen and exalted and at the right hand of God, victorious in the fight. He has defeated all your enemies, all the enemies of God’s people around the world–sin, death, chaos, evil, suffering, wicked rulers, the grave and the bleak unknown future. Christ Jesus has defeated all our foes by his sacrificial death and his victorious resurrection. Weep no more.

“And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne.” Jesus holds the future in his hands. There is someone in charge, and it is our Savior. The Lamb takes the scroll, and this prompts a joyous outburst in heaven. Everyone around the throne sings a new song to the Lamb: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.”

Worthy are you, O Christ! Yes, you have every right to open this scroll, to reveal the history of the future and to rule over those events. For you have been given all authority in heaven and on earth, by virtue of the victory you have won. Listen, Christian, listen, church–listen to the song they are singing in heaven! By his blood, his holy precious blood, as the Lamb who was slain, Christ Jesus has ransomed and redeemed, purchased and liberated, a people belonging to God from every nation on earth. They’re speaking every sort of language—Swedish and Swahili, German and Japanese, even some English, I suppose, even English with a Missouri twang.

Yes, God has a stake in what is going on in earth, big time! God has people, a people called the church, consisting of redeemed sinners in every corner, every nook and cranny of this world. God is committed to his people. They are precious to him. He has not forgotten you, despite all the suffering and the chaos and the madness going on in this dying world. Be encouraged today! Weep no more. The history of the future has been written, and Christ is holding it in his hand. As events unfold, you can be sure that there is an end in sight, that the risen and exalted Christ is ruling all things now for the sake of his church, for the sake of the gospel.

It doesn’t always look like it, does it, from our perspective here on earth. But that is why John was given this revelation, so that we would have another perspective, a new perspective, to see how things look from heaven’s vantage point. That’s the point, that’s the message of this Book of Revelation, as we’ll hear in the readings over the next few weeks. Look to Christ, behold him, behold him as the Lamb who was slain, now risen and ruling and revealing to us that our future is indeed bright, giving us the encouragement we need when things are dark and gloomy.

And so we join in the worship and adoration of our mighty Savior. Today as we sing our feeble praises, know that we are joining with the whole company of worshipers in heaven and on earth, in the loudest and most joyous song there is: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” And with that, what more is there to say than “Amen!”

Published in: on April 18, 2010 at 12:40 pm  Leave a Comment  
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