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Sermon based on Revelation 1:4-8
The book of Revelation is one of the most difficult books to interpret in the entire Bible. There are many people who believe the events of Revelation have already taken place, others who believe these events will become part of history, others who believe all these events will take place at the end times. I would describe myself as an idealist when it comes to interpreting Revelation. Ideally, I view the Book of Revelation as symbolic descriptions of such timeless truths as good over evil. I have described this book in the Bible as one that offers words of encouragement in code. The book of Revelation was written when Christians were entering a time of persecution. Roman authorities were beginning to enforce emperor worship. Many Christians who held that Christ and not Caesar was their Lord faced increasing hostility. The author who many believe was John wrote these words to encourage the faithful to resist the demands of emperor worship. John was inspired to use highly symbolic language in Revelation to announce publicly the identity and intention of Jesus.
A distinctive feature of Revelation is the frequent use of the number seven. Symbolically, the number seven represents completeness. John probably chose seven churches to write to because they each had a special place of influence and authority in the Roman province of Asia. John wrote to these seven churches because the people knew and loved him, and in return he cared for them as well. Through these seven churches, other congregations also heard this message. In fact it could be argued that every church in every generation has heard this message. The message is simple. Jesus Christ is Lord and on this day we recognize he is the King of Kings. His identity reveals that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God who through his death and sacrifice upon the cross offers us the promise of eternal life.
When thinking of the identity and intention of Jesus I recall a story from the late Lloyd C. Douglas. Douglas was a minister who later in life became an author writing such books as, The Robe and The Big Fishermen. When he was a university student, he lived in a boarding house. Downstairs on the first floor was a retired music teacher whose dementia was starting to get worse. Douglas said that every morning they had a ritual they would go through together. He would come down the steps, open his door, and ask, “Well, what’s the good news?” The teacher would pick up his fork from his breakfast; tap it on the side of his wheelchair, and say, “That’s Middle C!” It was middle C yesterday; it will be middle C tomorrow; it will be middle C a thousand years from now. The tenor upstairs sings flat, the piano across the hall is out of tune, but my friend, that is middle C!” This person had discovered one thing that he could depend upon in his life that was changing constantly due to his state of dementia.
For us as Christians, the one absolute, the one constant reality is that Jesus is indeed the King of Kings. The Bottom Line is that Jesus is our loving Lord, from beginning (alpha) to end (omega). How do we understand and apply this truth in our lives? One person who applied this truth to the point of their death was Maria Dyer. She was born in 1837 on the mission field in China where her parents were pioneer missionaries. Both her parents died when Maria was a little girl, and she was sent back to England to be raised by an uncle. The loss of her parents, however, did not deter her young heart from the importance of sharing the gospel. At age sixteen she, along with her sister, returned to China to work in a girl’s school as a missionary herself. At the age of 21 she married Hudson Taylor, a person well known among missionaries for his life of ministry, faith, and sacrifice. Maria herself died of cholera when she was just forty-three. But she believed the cause was worthy of the sacrifice. On her grave marker these words were inscribed: “For her to live was Christ, and to die was gain.”
In a time when many people are self-absorbed and care more about what they can get rather than what they can give, we need a renewal of sacrificial love. It was God’s love for us that sent Jesus into the world to die for our sins, and it is that kind of giving love that our world needs so greatly today. As we enter into the season of Advent next week, we should remember that by seeking God’s forgiveness our sins are forgiven.
As we speak about the subject of sin do we regret any sins we have committed? Do memories of our life haunt us? A woman once shared with me how her granddaughter had made a wonderful observation that forever changed her life. At this time in her life she was experiencing a great deal of pain, physically and emotionally. She had lost her will to live but out of the blue came a letter from her son telling her this story about her granddaughter. One day they were up in the Pocono Mountains and they observed an airplane doing fancy skywriting, suddenly the words began to disappear. The daughter asked her father how the words disappeared. As the father tried to find a way to answer that in a way that would completely satisfy his daughter, her face brightened and she exclaimed, “Maybe God has an eraser?” The day this woman received this letter from her son describing this story had been an awful day for her. She had become extremely discouraged and depressed because she was grieving over past mistakes. She once shared with me, “No matter how much we mature as people, no matter how much we grow as Christians, as we try desperately to compensate, memories of our own failures rise up to haunt us and they sting.” Yet this small child in her innocence and wisdom helped her realize that like writing in the sky that disappears, God has wiped away all things that we regret through the life of Jesus. Jesus is here to love us from alpha to omega. His highest expression of love for us was his sacrifice upon the cross. That experience freed us from sin. Jesus’ unconditional love for us led him to the cross. Jesus is our loving Lord, and we receive grace and peace through our faith.
Today is the last Sunday of the Christian church year that we call the Reign of Christ. How might we communicate the majesty of our Lord to others who do not know Him? As I think of the image of Christ as King, there is a sixteenth century portrait a Russian image of Christ that comes to my mind. This portrait shows just the head and upper torso of the Christ. A traditional and simple outer garment drapes over his shoulders, yet underneath is a gold tunic, representing his royal status. His right hand gestures in benediction and inclines towards an open Bible. The text in Greek, is from Matthew 11:28-30 and reads in English:
Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Christ the King is represented very well in this image as a distinctly royal figure, yet with this gesture of blessing and words of invitation looking closer at this portrait we see the compassion of Christ is revealed. The eyes in this portrait are most striking they are the eyes of a watchful judge. Yet they are also big and round and tender. You see sadness in the eyes for they seem to hold all the world’s suffering in their gaze.
I think that royalty is losing a lot of mystique in today’s world. Yet from our lesson from Revelation we see that a new image of king is presented. We see through the use of metaphors and words of encouragement to a church suffering persecution that Christ stands tall as the great liberator of his followers. In a different sense, Jesus never had His coronation. Instead of being crowned as King, He was crucified; but we believe some day in the future He will return and be acknowledged as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.The book of Revelation assures us of an eternal victory in life. We are indeed followers of the Christ the King. In all those things we will face in life ahead, we will never face them alone for the bottom line is that Jesus is our loving Lord from beginning (alpha) to end (omega).
The Rev. Dr. David A. Marcus, Jr.
November 25, 2018