Revelation 1:4-18 (Second Sunday of Easter—Series C)
“The Risen and Glorified Christ”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
April 3, 2016
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text is the Second Reading recorded in Revelation 1:
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, 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. 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. “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 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. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet 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.” Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 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. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. 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. 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, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
What must it have been like in the Upper Room on the first Easter evening when Jesus came and stood among His followers and said to them, “Peace be with you”? What must it have been like to be in that same Upper Room a week later when Thomas first saw the risen Lord and put his fingers into the marks of the nails and his hand in Jesus’ side? Surely it would have been incredible, with such gladness and joy at seeing the Risen Christ! But let’s go one better, if that’s possible. John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, was exiled from Ephesus where He was serving the Lord, because of the word of God and the witness of Jesus. He was on the Island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea, about 65 miles southwest of Ephesus. What must it have been like for John to see the Risen Christ in power and glory like he had never seen Jesus before? To be sure, John had a prelude to this event when he and James and Peter were on the Mount of Transfiguration. But that was just a sneak peak, a toned down event. At worship one Sunday morning two thousand years ago, there was a revelatory unveiling of the Lord Jesus that was almost beyond words.
John is completely overwhelmed by the sight. He’s knocked down and out as dead. Here, before the exalted Lord, John is struck by a full blast of Jesus’ majestic glory, and as a result, John is knocked down like a corpse. John could no more stand before the heavenly Christ than he could approach the solar sun and touch it. He could no more stand before the glorified Jesus than Moses could stand before God and see His face on Mt. Sinai. It is similar to what Isaiah said when he saw Yahweh on His throne in chapter 6:5, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, [Yahweh] of hosts!” (Isa. 6:5 ESV).
No human person can stand before the exalted Son of Man because of the corruption of sin and God’s own holiness. The prophet Nahum wrote by the power of the Holy Spirit, “The Lord is slow to anger and great in power, and the Lord will by no means clear the guilty. His way is in whirlwind and storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet. He rebukes the sea and makes it dry; he dries up all the rivers; Bashan and Carmel wither; the bloom of Lebanon withers. The mountains quake before him; the hills melt; the earth heaves before him, the world and all who dwell in it. Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him” (Nah. 1:3-6 ESV). Malachi says similarly, “But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears?” (Mal. 3:2 ESV).
No one can stand before the Lord of glory, the Holy One, without fear, because of our sinful condition. The original sin with which we are all conceived and born is a total corruption of our whole human nature. There isn’t a spark of good in anyone. We confess with Scripture that “since the fall of Adam (Romans 5:12), all who are naturally born are born with sin (Psalm 51:5), that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with the inclination to sin. . . .” (AC II) “We believe, teach, and confess that original sin is not a minor corruption. It is so deep a corruption of human nature that nothing healthy or uncorrupt remains in man’s body or soul, in his inward or outward powers” (FC: Ep. I.8). We read in Romans 3:10-12, “As it is written: ‘None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one’” (Rom. 3:10-12 ESV).
The result of this corruption, this original sin, and all the actual sins that it leads to, is eternal death and hell. Ezekiel 18:20, “The soul who sins shall die.” And Romans 6:23, “The wages of sin is death.” So it is completely appropriate that John fall at the feet of Jesus like a corpse, for that is what his sins have merited for him. As the psalmist asks, “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (Ps. 130:3 ESV). The answer is no one, not even John! The sinner’s encounter with the holy God is a death sentence—unless given special grace and permission.
Jesus gave John the grace and permission to stand up in His presence. Jesus put His right hand on John, saying, “Stop being afraid.” Those are Gospel Words and not words of condemnation and death!
John can stop being afraid in the presence of the risen, glorified, and holy Lord and King because Jesus is “the First and the Last, the Living One; I was dead and behold! I am alive forever. I have the keys of death and Hades.” Because of His death and resurrection Jesus Christ now has the keys of death and Hades, the grave. As the conqueror of death and the grave the Lord demonstrates that there is only one true God, the God who reaches out to all through Jesus Christ in order to bring life! Jesus, therefore, assures John that, as the Eternal One, He is the Savior. John should stop being afraid.
That is the Gospel Word of Jesus Christ. That is the message of the Gospel to John and to us all—Stop being afraid! Consider all the times God speaks these Gospel words to people in the New Testament. Here’s a sampling. “And the angel said to [Mary], “Stop being afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Lk. 1:30 ESV). To shepherds, out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night, “Stop being afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Lk. 2:10-11 ESV). Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount to those who worry and are afraid, “Stop being afraid, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31 ESV). Again Jesus proclaimed, “Stop being afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Lk. 12:32 ESV). Finally, at the empty tomb of Easter, “The angel said to the women, ‘Stop being afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay’” (Matt. 28:5-6 ESV). Luther said, “The resurrection is comfort against the devil, sin, death, and hell. The first commandment not only to the women but to all baptized and believing Christians is: Stop being afraid!”
Christ has died for you, paying in full your punishment for your sins. Christ is risen, the victor over sin, death, and hell. He alone has conquered these with His suffering, death, and resurrection. Forgiveness of all sins—original and actual—is yours. Eternal life is yours. Resurrection from death is yours. There is no need to be afraid of the risen and glorified Jesus. Through faith in Him given to you as a gift of His grace in Baptism, you have received Jesus as your Lord and Savior. By grace through faith, be the means of His Gospel Word and Sacraments, you have received the fruits of Jesus’ cross and resurrection—forgiveness, eternal life, new life, resurrection life! His Word to you, “Stop being afraid. Your sins are forgiven,” is a word of gracious comfort that empowers you to stand before Him holy and righteous, wearing the garments of righteousness which Jesus Himself has given you by His grace.
One day, you will stand before this very Jesus, risen and glorified. He will show you His hands and His feet and His side. He will put His right hand of grace upon you and bring you into His eternal kingdom, a new creation made for you and all the people who ever have and ever will trust in Jesus as their Savior from sin. He is your Savior. Don’t be afraid. You have received His grace and blessing and permission to stand before your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, into the ages of ages—forever and ever—Amen!