THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER – APRIL 14, 2013
TEXT – JOHN 21:1-19/REV 5:1-14/ACTS 9:1-22
THE RISEN CHRIST REVEALS HIMSELF!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting
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 (that is from the Holy Spirit) and from Jesus Christ…the firstborn of the dead…Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:
We live in a time when glowing personal testimonies are often regarded as God’s sure action. People may yawn at Scripture texts but get goose bumps over something that has no sure promise from God. Perhaps it’s an experience (near death/change of fortune/strange event in nature) or an inward feeling or a sign they imagine has occurred. One example that pops up in old sermon books is the rural boy – poor of speech – who was sure he should be a pastor. When asked why he said it was because one day while in the field the clouds seemed to form the letters PC. He was sure that meant he should “Preach Christ.” A wise, older friend said – or perhaps “Plant Corn.” Another example is the person who said – I know God was with me today because a car ran a light and narrowly missed plowing into my car. A wise friend quietly said – then I guess God was with me even more because nothing bad even came close to me and my car as I travelled today. You see, until the day we die, our hearts will be looking for signs from God in this and that and the other thing. This alertness to uncertainties will persist! So will our dullness by nature to joyfully living, generously giving, sacrificially serving, never complaining, constantly praying while firmly believing the certainties that the Holy Spirit reveals to us in Christ and His Word.
In this vein, yesterday’s appointed reading from Luke 6 made me redirect the focus of this sermon quite a bit. Therein Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people hate you and revile you and spurn your name as evil, on account of the Son of Man! Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for so their fathers did to the prophets.
In light of these words of Jesus and the increasing hostility in our society toward Christians as they seek to confess the full counsel of God, consider the Apostle Paul giving a testimonial. Consider him, later in life, saying - Let me tell you what Jesus did for me! He hurt my reputation among my people. He halted my advancement and upward mobility in Jewish society and in my religious profession. He shattered my financial security. Let me tell you what Jesus did for me! He compromised my personal safety. He brought me persecution. He caused my arrest and imprisonment several times. He visited me with a thorn in the flesh – a painful ailment that was not healed and not relieved. He revealed my personal ongoing sin so clearly that He made me cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) He changed my name from Saul – taken from Old Testament kings to Paul meaning “small”. Let me tell you what Jesus did for me! How unlike many modern testimonials!
Paul had been a burner – a mover and a shaker! He was advancing in the strict sect of the Pharisees beyond his contemporaries. He received orders directly from the Chief Priest and the council of the elders. He was busily at work pursuing and imprisoning Christians. When given the opportunity he cast his vote for the death sentence. He was energetic and fully committed to his cause. As we heard from Acts chapter nine, he was hot on the trail of Christians who had fled from Jerusalem to the city of Damascus. He had undertaken this lengthy trip (150 miles) for the very purpose of hunting them down like criminals. He sincerely thought He was serving God with his actions. He was so confident that he was right! (Gal 1:12-17; Phil 3:4-7; 1 Tim 1:12-16; Acts 22:3-26; Acts 26:4-28; 1 Cor. 9:1; 1 Cor. 15:8).
Then came the intervention of the risen Christ in the life of Saul! It is the Lord! Jesus turned his life around! St. Paul did not decide to follow Jesus. St. Paul did not seek and find Jesus. St. Paul did not open his heart to Jesus. Rather, the risen Christ struck him down, blinded him, instructed him, called him, baptized him, and sent him out as a missionary to build up the Church rather than destroy it – to prove from Scripture that Jesus was the Christ.
Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” Jesus asked him. The question was not – why are you persecuting My Church, but why are you Persecuting me? You see, It is the Lord! The risen Christ cannot be separated from His Church. What occurred on the road to Damascus was therefore a moment of judgment for Saul. The eternal judge of heaven and earth addressed him with his guilt washed his sins away in Baptism (Acts 22:16) and sent him another way – the way of the Gospel of Christ.
On the Sea of Galilee the risen Christ also intervened in the life of Peter and the disciples. They were once again fishing for fish! At the break of day the Word of Jesus caused an overflowing catch of fish. John said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When they had finished the breakfast that Jesus prepared, He reinstated Peter in the apostolic office. Three times He said, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” “Feed my sheep,” He also foretold suffering for this one He sent out with His Word. He said to Peter, “When you were young, you used to dress yourself and walk wherever you wanted, but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and another will dress you and carry you where you do not want to go.” (This he said to show by what kind of death he was to glorify God.) In the early church, “stretching forth of hands” expressed death by crucifixion. As Jesus showed Peter the suffering and death he would face for the sake of the Gospel, so in like manner He showed Paul. Among the other things Christ revealed to Ananias concerning Paul, He said, “I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”
Fellow-redeemed, the risen and exalted Christ is alive and well and present in His Church. In the book of Revelation, the entirety of His person and work is flashed before our eyes. The Greek perfect tense verbs show the coronation of the Lamb at His Ascension as ongoing. The celebration continues and we are joined in! The slaughtered but now standing lamb (that is the true man sacrificed for the sins of the world) with seven horns and seven eyes (that is, this man, is true God who is omnipotent (7 horns) and omniscient (7 eyes) that is - all powerful and all knowing. He alone can open the scroll written within and on the back (that is God’s comprehensive and complete plan of salvation). It is the Lord! His resurrection has changed all things! His resurrection makes lives as empty as the disciples’ nets to be new and full of hope. The exalted Christ moves history into the last days and to its fulfillment.
Then why do disappointment and depression and despair and destruction and death continue on and on? Why is it that we all know more bad news will come and more senseless tragedies will happen? Why is it that we sometimes grow numb with our own struggles in daily life? Perhaps Jesus really hasn’t won the victory! Perhaps the tragedies and disasters of life mean that no one is in charge.
The throne room scene from the fourth and fifth chapters is decisive in understanding everything else in the book of Revelation. It is the coronation of the ascended Christ. Some things are not as clear amid the symbols of this book. But this is crystal clear – God and the Lamb are reigning in victory! Here God reveals to us what our five senses do not reveal to us! The victory is won! It is finished! The result of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection is cosmic. The Lamb is worshipped equally as the one enthroned God and Creator. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power and wealth* and wisdom* and might* and honor and glory and blessing*. Indeed, additional words of praise are given to the Son of God because in His flesh He earned them as the sacrificial Lamb.
It is the Lord! It is the Lord born of Mary, hung on Calvary’s cross and placed in the tomb. Yet, this is now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. The risen Christ is alive and well! It is the Lord who called from shore just as day was breaking. On this side of His open tomb the exalted Christ was forthright in acknowledging some depressing realities. Even for the Lord’s chosen servants Peter and Paul life in this troubled world would not reflect the hidden reality that the Lamb has begun his reign.
What would reflect His victory is the word of peace and absolution that they spoke in His name even as they suffered and died in His service. Our perception of His presence and what His provision for us should be do not always coincide with God’s own plans. He intervenes in our lives in His way – in amazing and miraculous ways that He has chosen. His intervention does not mean an end to troubles and a relief from all suffering. Rather His intervention means life in the midst of a dying world.
Beloved of God, It is the Lord who has intervened in your life in no less a miraculous way then he did in the life of Peter and Paul. Let me tell you what Jesus has done for you! He has not called you to be an apostle, but He has redirected your life whether you are a child or in college or working away or busy in retirement. In an amazing intervention he washed away your sins in your baptism.
The deepest meaning of His presence is proclaimed by John in our reading from revelation. “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…And they sang a new song, saying, “worthy are you to take the scroll and 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.”
The victory the risen Christ gives to you in this life is by means of His blood! In Revelation John wrote of Jesus, “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood (Rev. 1:5). He described those coming out of the great tribulation …they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb (Rev. 7:14). He said of those who conquer the accuser, they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and the word of their testimony (Rev. 12:11). His blood sets you free to be people of God. His blood is the ground of all your hope. Nothing else will avail before the throne of God – not success – not sincerity – no serving one’s community or one’s country – not loving one’s family. Any other sign that is not connected to God’s promise flowing from the blood of Christ is uncertain. Only those washed in the blood of the Lamb are clothed in the white of innocence.
His blood sets you free to be people of God! His blood is the ground of all your hope! This does not mean that troubles will flee from you on campus, in relationships, in society, in your life’s work. Sometimes just the opposite! But the presence of the Lamb who reigns in your life does mean that He is in control. He loves you and is at work for you – even when your life seems empty.
Let me tell you what Jesus has done for you! Just as surely as He stood on the shore of the lake in our Gospel He has come into your midst this morning (evening)! It is the Lord! Let me tell you what Jesus has done for you! Even as He prepared a meal on the shore of the lake so He has prepared an eternal feast for you His Bride in the new heavens and the new earth. Even now heaven touches earth as He stoops low and gives you a foretaste and says, “take and eat,” – “drink of it all of you.” He who has begun His reign includes you in His blood-bought future as He reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, forever. Amen.