Text: Revelation 5
Third Sunday of Easter, Series C
Listen to the sermon here.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Despite what the polls might say, you cannot divide mankind into those who worship and those who do not. Everybody worships; it’s just a matter of what, or whom, we serve. Our careers, relationships, identity, science, sex, or possessions—are just a few things that compete for our worship. We were made to worship, but our taste buds and appetites are skewed and distorted. Yet, Christians were known for exclusively worshiping Jesus of Nazareth. Besides the New Testament, we can find evidence that Christians worshipped Jesus from the earliest days. In the early second century, a young governor named Pliny penned a letter to Emperor Trajan about the early Christian community. He wrote that “they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god.” So, perhaps a good question to ask in the twenty-first century is, “Why should you worship Jesus?” Out of all the things that demand your worship, why should it be Jesus and only Jesus?
Because Jesus Was Slain, Yet Lives
People sometimes think Revelation is about outlandish prophecies and strange visions. Still, in the Epistle reading for today, we see that the book centres on Christ. Jesus is introduced in the vision of God’s heavenly glory as a Lamb. He comes before the heavenly host as the only one who can open up the scroll. Jesus is depicted in our text as a Lamb not because he is literally a woolly little beast but because of what he did. Do you know what lambs do? They get slaughtered and killed, and that’s what happened to Jesus. He was brutally tortured and crucified on a dark Friday afternoon.
But there is something strange about the Lamb in Revelation. The slain Lamb is standing. Dead things don’t stand; they don’t live. Yet the slain Lamb is living. “Slain” speaks of His death. “Standing” speaks of His resurrection. There is a permanence to the resurrection. There was a day when Jesus’ dead body got up and left the tomb, and it will never die again! Jesus of Nazareth stood up in resurrection life at a specific point and time in history. He stands today, and He will stand forever. Jesus died, and yet Jesus lives! You should worship Jesus because he is the slain yet living Lamb of God. He was crucified and yet rose again on the third day.
Crucified, dead, buried, raised, now he assertively lives and reigns forever. He is King. He is Lord. He is the way, the truth, and the life, and he has taken the scroll. “By his death, he has destroyed death, and by his rising to life again, he has won for us everlasting life.” This is the Easter victory that Jesus won for you! And he did it by being the Lamb who was slain. This is how Jesus is ruling in heaven, even as we speak.
Because Jesus Ransomed People For God By His Blood
Lambs not only get slaughtered but they also get slaughtered as sacrificial animals. Jesus is not literally a lamb. But he was slain, and he was a sacrifice. Lambs are common animals of sacrifice in the Old Testament. The most significant Old Testament sacrificial lamb is probably the Passover lamb, which freed the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt. The death of Jesus is the final fulfilment of all those sacrifices. That means Jesus is also worthy of your worship precisely because of what he accomplished by his once-for-all death on Calvary. By his death, he paid the ransom. To “ransom” means to purchase something or someone, such as a slave, for freedom. In the ancient world, enslaved people were sometimes set free through generous people paying the cost.
The purchase price is given: with his blood. By his holy blood, shed on the cross, the Son of God has redeemed us. He has ransomed us from all sins, from death, and the power of the Devil. We have been set free! Our redemption is not aimless; we are bought so that we may belong to God. Sinners are purchased for God. Through his willing sacrifice, Jesus purchased and redeemed individuals so that together they could form God’s people. Jesus’ death delivered us from our slavery to false worship.
These people were ransomed “from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9). This is a multicultural, multi-ethnic people of God with no ethnic group being left out. Jesus has ransomed people from everywhere. The gospel destroys all notions of racial superiority because it declares that all peoples have an identical need for a Savior. We are all equal members of the same family. Every one of us Baptised Christians are siblings – brothers and sisters – all because of the blood of Christ. And He did this for all the people of the world, from every people and language and nation. For Americans and Europeans and Africans and Asians. For Pakistanis and Belgians and all people everywhere–Jesus is your liberator! There is no other! He is the only one worthy of your worship because He is the only one who can save you.
Because Jesus Made Us Royal Priests
A third reason to worship Jesus comes from what he did with those he ransomed: “and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” When God put Adam and Eve in the garden, he urged them to rule over the earth and subdue it, which meant that he wanted them to rule all the land so that it was garden-like. Adam and Eve failed, and they were thrown out of the garden. The same task was later given to the nation of Israel. Like Adam and Eve, Israel failed, and Israel was thrown out of the land just like Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden. But Jesus succeeded where they failed.
Jesus is worthy of your worship because he purchased people for God’s Kingdom through His self-sacrifice. The holy Christian Church is God’s people, drawn from all nations. He has brought us into a relationship with Him, and that includes glorious privileges. As part of God’s Kingdom, we are all citizens of God’s Kingdom. God’s Kingdom is not like earthly kingdoms, a realm with known boundaries, population, etc. It comprises those who have been redeemed from their sins through Christ and who now live to do his service.
But it’s more than that. Christ has made you royal priests, born and anointed in Baptism, to offer yourselves as a living, spiritual sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2). The reign of God’s Kingdom here on earth involves us, God’s people. Our rule as kings isn’t just a future event, but it is present now in the Church. Even now, in Christ, the Church reigns on the earth. Although we are now despised and rejected by the world, we are part of Christ’s rule in the world. Through the ministry of the Church, our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit so that by His grace, we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives. We bring the message of the King to all. We have the privilege of intimate access to God, so we pray for people, even our enemies (2 Tim 2:1-2; Matt. 5:44). We offer the sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving and confess his name (Heb. 13:15). As priests, we enjoy special access to God and the privileges and responsibilities of serving him through worship and witness. It’s our job to bring God’s Kingdom and salvation out to the broader world.
Why should you worship Jesus? Because Jesus is the slain yet standing Lamb of God. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried, He descended into hell. Then on the third day, He rose again from the dead. You should worship Jesus because he has purchased and won you from all sins, from death, and from the power of the Devil with his holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death. He did not just redeem you. He redeemed people from every tribe, language, and nation. He has brought you into his Kingdom, the Holy Christian Church. In this Christian Church, He daily and richly forgives all your sins and the sins of all believers. Trust in him and not in yourself. Trust in him, not in the false gods of your own making. Trust in Jesus, and you will be saved. On the Last Day, He will raise you and all the dead and give eternal life to you and all believers in Christ. You should worship Jesus because you now live under Him in His Kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.
May, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.