Series: The Stained Glass Series
October 16, 2011
Dear friends in Christ.
Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steerman, at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well." In such a simple way, with such the simple gesture of a smile, the pilot of that storm caught ship provided comfort not only for that daring passenger, but for all the passengers on that ship. Well just like those passengers found comfort in that smiling steerman, so also we find our comfort in Jesus Christ our Savior. In fact, this is the very comfort that the Lord Jesus proclaims to us through the Apostle John in our lesson today!
Now, if you haven’t already done so, I invite you to open your bibles and take a look at the words that Jesus brings to us through John his Apostle in Revelation 1. Now, I don’t know about you but I love looking up the book of Revelation because it is one of the easiest to find since it is the last book of the Bible, so I often tease my Confirmation class that if they cannot find Revelation they fail my class. Now, the thing I love about this book is the comfort that the Lord bestows on his people at the end of the 1st Century AD. It was the early 90’s and the Roman government was turning on the Christians. In some cases the persecution was nothing more than mild announces because people didn’t like the Christians. In some cases the persecution was more difficult as Christians were being brought to economic ruin because they were viewed as untrustworthy, security risks and un-hirable for the good of the empire, while in other cases, especially in Rome, the Christians were being fed to lions in the coliseum simply because they believed in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior and would not acknowledge the Roman Emperor as a god.
Thus, Jesus speaks to all his people through these words of John in our lesson today: “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, 2 who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3 Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it, because the time is near. 4 John, To the seven churches in the province of Asia: Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen. 7 Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. 8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”(Revelation 1:1–8, NIV84)
With such simple and beautiful words, the Apostle John lays out the Savior’s greatest comfort both to the people of his day as well as to you and me. For with these words John is assuring each and every believer that no matter what situation we might be facing, no matter what hardships, no matter what frustrations or persecutions, we are at peace with God through the comfort that is ours through the forgiveness of sins. Just take a look at those beautiful words that John write in verses 4-6: “Grace and peace to you from him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits before his throne, 5 and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever!” (Revelation 1:4-6, NIV84)
In three simple verses John reminds us of the very things that we have been studying in detail for the last 10 or 11 weeks. He reminds us how Jesus came to the earth to be our Savior. He reminds us that it was Jesus who gathered up all our sins in the same way that we are right now working in our yards to gather up all the leaves that are falling from the trees. But unlike the way that we have to continually go back and rake or mow to get the majority of the leaves without ever getting all of them, it was Jesus who collected every single one of our sins at one time. He loaded those sins in the bags of his forgiveness and carried them with him to the bonfire of the cross where he threw them in and burned them up even as he suffered the very flames of hell in our place. It was this Jesus who not only cried out “It is Finished!” to assure us that he had completely forgiven all of our sins through his innocent suffering and his death, but it was also this Jesus who was raised to life again on the third day to assure us that we had been completely acquitted of all our sins. We had been completely forgiven of all our sins. Those sins that had been piled so deeply in our hearts that they were beginning to rot and spoil our hearts; all of them have been removed. Our hearts have been washed clean by the blood of Jesus our Savior who has had mercy on us and who freely pardons us, as Isaiah told us in our first lesson today! (Isaiah 55:6-9)
Yet this is not the only comfort we find in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! For as his children, who have been washed clean by his blood, we have the great comfort and assurance that he is the one who dwells among us and holds us in the palm of his hand! Take a look at how the Apostle John reveals this very truth to us in the next verses of our lesson today: “I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. 10 On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, 11 which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” 12 I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, 13 and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. 14 His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. 15 His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. 16 In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. 18 I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades. 19 “Write, therefore, what you have seen, what is now and what will take place later. 20 The mystery of the seven stars that you saw in my right hand and of the seven golden lampstands is this: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:9–20, NIV84)
With such beautiful words the Lord Jesus reveals himself as the King of all kings who comforts his people with his presence. Even though the Christians of John’s day were undergoing persecution and suffering death for their beliefs, John saw and reported that Jesus himself was dwelling in the midst of his people. Jesus himself was the one whom John saw, the one like a son of man who dwelt among the seven golden lamp stands, which as verse 20 tells us were the seven churches to whom John was to write. But not only was Jesus dwelling among his people and his churches, he was also holding the seven stars, the seven angels or messengers, or pastors of those congregations in the palm of his hand. Even though the Christians were dealing with hardships, persecutions and in some cases begin hunted down and driven from their homes because of their beliefs, they could take comfort in the knowledge that their Lord and Savior dwelt with them and was holding them in his hands.
The same is true for you and me today! We can still find comfort in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior! Even though we are now dealing with the beginnings of economic crisis that the experts warned us about two or three years ago, we can still look to our Savior who has always provided for us and will always provide for our needs. Even as we’ve begun to feel the economic sting as it has affected our jobs, our careers our industries, and our ability to find profitable employment or even provide for our families, we can take comfort that the Lord our God, Jesus Christ our Savior dwells among his people. Just as he promised his disciples before he returned to heaven that he is with us always and will be with us even to the very end of the age. (Matthew 28:20) We can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus our Savior is the living one! Though he was dead, he has risen from death and now lives and reigns eternally. Though he sacrificed his own life by throwing himself on us as the mortar fire of sin and death rained down on us, he is the one who took back his life. Even as we crawled out from under his protecting arms knowing that there was no way he could have survived such an attack, when we least expected it, he stirred. He stirred. He stood up, and he revealed himself as the Son of God our Savior “Who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NIV84) He comforts us with the forgiveness of our sins. He comforts us with the peace we have with our God through faith in Jesus as our Savior. He comforts us with the assurance that no matter what we might face in this life, not only does he dwell among us, he also holds us in his hands because we are his dear children.
Now, knowing the comfort that is ours through Jesus Christ our Savior, it is our mission to carry the message of salvation with us wherever we go! This is what the believers did with the Word when the left Jerusalem. This is what Jesus told his disciples to do when he told them that they would be his witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth, as we heard last week. (Acts 1:8) This is also what Jesus commanded us to do at his ascension when he told us, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”(Matthew 28:18–20, NIV84)
What greater comfort could we carry with us than the comfort that the Lord Jesus, our Savior, is with us always! He is the one who dwells among us. He is the one who holds us in the palm of his hand. He is the one who goes with us wherever we go. He is the one who helps us in our weaknesses. He is the one who protects us from harm and danger. He is the one who gives us the words to speak when we are sharing our faith with others and he is the one who protects us and is preparing a place for us. Could there be any greater comfort than the comfort we receive from Jesus Christ our Savior who is and who was and who is to come! This is the comfort that we carry with us. No matter how stormy the seas of our lives might be, Jesus is the pilot of the ship of our lives. Just as that daring passenger sought comfort as he came to the wheel house, so also we find our comfort in Jesus Christ our Savior. He is the one who has freed us from our sins. He is the one who has promised to be with us always. He is the one who dwells among us and even holds us in the palm of his hand.
Pastor David M. Shilling
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church--Le Sueur, MN