Sermon for 7th Sunday of Easter, June 2, 2019, on Revelation 22:12-17, 20
Dear friends in Jesus,
It’s somewhat ironic, sinful even, that just about every day we ask Jesus to come be with us to bless us as we receive our food at meal times. Yet there are times during that same day we sort of wish Jesus would stay away. For example, I shamefully admit that as a child I could join my family at the meal table and pray, “Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest; and let these gifts to us be blessed,” and that same night include in my prayers a request of Him that if tonight were the night He was to return that He might consider postponing it a day. You see, I would pray such things when there was something I enjoyed very much in this life coming up the next day. I loved playing little league baseball, and I can remember more than once telling Jesus in prayer that I wanted badly to play a ball game the next day, and though heaven is for sure a lot cooler than a baseball game, I still don’t want to miss this opportunity to play – so if tomorrow is the Day, could you wait until about 11:00 PM?. Comparing the joys of playing a stupid baseball game with the never ending joys of heaven and hoping Jesus might wait to come back so I could get in one more game – how hypocritically sinful of me!
On this last Sunday in the Easter season, we are reminded from Jesus’ words in His own Revelation given to His apostle John that the joys of heaven far outshine anything in this world touched by sin. For that reason, as we live in wait of that day, we pray as the Apostle John does at the end of the Revelation …
Come, Lord Jesus!
- Come daily to keep me faithful to you in this earthly life.
- Come to take me to Your heavenly city.
Jesus is coming soon! The times in our world show us that. The times are dangerous for Christians, as Jesus said they would be as the day of His return for judgment draws closer. The apostle John, who was given this Revelation and wrote it down, and those to whom he wrote it were already living in dangerous time. And this was only 50-60 years after Jesus had ascended to heaven. Already there was persecution of Christians. John himself was in exile as he wrote the Revelation, “because of the Word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). No longer was the pressure coming only from the jealous Jewish leaders. It also came from the government, the Roman emperor himself. Such difficulties and dangers made it tempting, for physical safety, to no longer follow Christ.
It’s the same for us today. The signs of the times Jesus gave in Matthew 24 are all around us. We see natural disasters. There are wars and rumors of wars. The love of so many people has grown cold. Among Christians a love for God’s word and for their fellow human beings seems to have chilled. Among people in general, there seems to be less love for others which shows itself in selfishness, violence and abusive behavior. The temptations are strong for believers today to stop following Christ, either by giving in more and more to sin and/or by gathering less and less with fellow believers around His word and sacrament.
Because temptations are so strong to walk those paths away from Jesus, Jesus sent His angel to give John this testimony, this Revelation about the future. Jesus Himself was revealing in general pictures what would happen in the world until He returned for judgment. The whole Revelation boils down to the simple thoughts that for those who remain faithful to the Savior who kept His promises there will be struggles and challenges to your faith, but in the end through Jesus you will have victory in heaven. So hang on. Be faithful. That’s something we, in and of ourselves are not capable of. In the Confirmation Rite a month ago our confirmands were asked several questions about what they believe and accept, which they answered with recitations of the Creed. But when it came to questions about their future faithfulness to their Savior, the answers had the phrases, “I intend, with the help of God” and “…by the grace of God.” To stay faithful to Jesus, we need Jesus staying faithful to us! So we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” Come now, every day, to keep me faithful!
That’s a prayer Jesus never fails to answer. He comes and is available to you in His word and in His supper. He comes and makes available to you and me what we need to faithfully follow Him in love, trust and obedience. In that word and supper He comes with His reward, what He has won for us. He comes with His innocence that stands up under God’s judgment. He comes with His purity for us. He comes with reminders of who He is. He is the Alpha and Omega (first and last letters of Greek alphabet, on our altar), the eternal One around whom everything revolves. He is the Root and Offspring of David, both David’s Creator God and physical descendant, who lived perfectly and died sacrificially for us. If we expect to have the perfect life of heaven, then we need Him to come to us every day with these reminders and promises. He promises to come to us.
And what a happy result there will be! When Jesus comes to you everyday to keep you faithful, you have something far better to look forward to than some baseball game or any other earthly activity. That’s why we also pray, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come to take me to your heavenly city!”
The vision Jesus gave John of heaven was an earthly picture. The picture used the finest and most valuable things on earth to convey the joys and value of life in heaven with Jesus. John writes that the faithful have a right to partake of the Tree of Life. That’s the other tree mentioned as being in the Garden of Eden at creation. But it is the tree that receives little of our attention. We tend to focus on the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil that became the downfall of Adam and Eve. But the Tree of Life was there, and they were permitted to eat from it. Life is there with Jesus, good and joyful. Heaven is pictured also as a city made of gold, the most valuable substance on earth. Life with Jesus in heaven is therefore invaluable! That’s where we expect to be because of Jesus. We don’t want to be left outside that life. So Jesus gives a little warning as well. Being disconnected from Jesus, being without faith in Him at judgment, means being left out of that beautiful, heavenly life. Again Jesus uses an earthly picture to drive home the reality of this. “Outside are the dogs.” The term He used doesn’t describe a cute, lovable little puppy. These are street roaming, emaciated, vicious mongrels. They’re angry. They’re wasting away. The discomfort of hunger and disease continually stays with them. This is the way the Jewish people of Jesus’ time spoke of many non-Jews, especially the Samaritans. Jesus identifies who these “dogs” are who are left out of the “city of gold” by connecting them with a list of sinful behaviors that lay hold on peoples’ lives: practice of magic arts (trusting things other than God regarding the future), sexually immoral people, murderers and idolaters. He sums it all up by including everyone who loves and practices falsehood – who live by the lie that the greatest joys are to be found in gratifying my own selfish desires. Really, that should be me and you who will be left outside the heavenly city when Jesus comes to take to heaven those who are His. But when He comes daily through His word and sacrament of forgiveness He washes you and me of our sinful stains that would make us unworthy of being in His city. When He comes in His word and Supper He comes to be the “bright Morning Star”, that star that is still visible as the morning sunlight just nips at the eastern horizon, that star that signals a new day is about to begin. As Jesus comes daily to keep us faithful to Him, He also assures us that there will be a new and glorious day soon beginning for us in heaven. With all the pictures of the beauty and perfection of that heavenly home, who wouldn’t want to be there? So we pray for ourselves, our young Christians graduating from various levels of education, and for one another that Jesus would keep us always knowing that His heavenly home is the best and most desirable place to be; that to be there NOW would be far better than anything that might be in store on earth tomorrow, be it a baseball game, a pool party, an anniversary celebration, or even a wedding. You and I want to be in that heavenly city, not outside.
So we pray for ourselves and for each other, “Come, Lord Jesus! Come every day in Word and sacrament to keep me / them faithful; and whenever You know the time to be right, come to take me / them to your heavenly, eternal city!” Amen.