The Returning Redeemer Revealed
A sermon based on Revelation 22:12-17, 20
Sunday, May 12, 2013 – Easter 7C/Ascension
Eight-year-old Elizabeth made a Mother's Day card for her mom. And in it she wrote: "Dear Mother, I'm going to make dinner for you on Mother's Day. It's going to be a surprise. P.S. I hope you like pizza and popcorn." Okay, so it wasn't much of a surprise. I guess she wanted mom to be prepared.
Today, as we finish up our sermon series on the Risen Redeemer revealed, based on our texts from Revelation, we get a final glimpse of Jesus. He tells us that though he's ascended into heaven, he's coming back soon. He doesn't want us to be surprised. He wants us to be prepared.
As we get a final glimpse of the Risen Redeemer revealed in the book of Revelation, we see the Returning Redeemer revealed. And we hear him urge us to get ready and run quickly to our Savior. He urges us to get excited because our Savior comes quickly to us. We read from the last chapter of the Bible, select verses of Revelation 22…
12 "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
14 "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. 15 Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
16 "I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star."
17 The Spirit and the bride say, "Come!" And let him who hears say, "Come!" Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life…
20 He who testifies to these things says, "Yes, I am coming soon."
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
I. Get Ready! Run Quickly to Your Savior!
"Behold, I am coming soon!" says Jesus, "…and I will give to everyone according to what he has done." Hmmm… Does that make you nervous? He will give to everyone according to what they've done?! How well have you done? Students, as the school year is coming to a close, you know that it's comforting to hear the teacher say, "I will give fair and just grades according to how well each student's done," only if you've done well in your class. So how does your grade up before God?
Well, he says, "Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood."
Of course, the term dogs here isn't complimentary. He's not talking about loved pets. He's talking about mangy mongrels, filthy curs who are excluded from heaven. John explains who they are:
· "Those who practice magic arts" is literally pharmatikos, from the same word we get pharmacy from. It's used for those who poison, who use drink or drug to see strange visions and to manipulate others. Sure, you're no Harry Potter, but have you ever abused any substance? Pharmatikos.
· Next, John lists "the sexually immoral" as dogs, literally the pornos, those who commit sexual sins, who have sex outside of marriage, who lust with pornography.
· The dogs are "the murderers," who hate one another and think evil thoughts about their fellow man.
· "The idolaters" are those who love or trust anyone or anything more than God—all who love themselves more than keeping his commands.
· Finally, John says, "everyone who loves and practices falsehood," everyone who ignores what God's Word says in order to keep on sinning, everyone who has more important things to do than listen to God's Word, is a dog who should be left outside.
So how'd you do? How's your grade before the holy God, "the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End"? Not too good? Me either. Let's face it, if we were to be judged just by our merit, we'd all be damned to spend eternity "outside." For if God should ever let sinful dogs into heaven (even sinners who "aren't that bad"), we'd ruin it for sure. Nothing short of perfect (A+ with no mistakes) can get in. So does that mean we're doomed?
No. Because we're not judged based on our merit. John tells us the solution to our problem of sin: "Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city." How do we wash our robes? We already heard it a few weeks ago: "[The saints] in white robes… are they who… have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." (Revelation 7:13-14)
So run to Jesus to get clean! When Jesus said, "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me…" he didn't mean he'd reward people for their behavior. He meant he had the reward that he won the cross! As true God (David's Root, that is, his Creator) and as true man (David's Offspring or descendant), Jesus accomplished his mission for us. He lived a perfect life as true God. He died an innocent death as true man. And his ascension assures us that his mission is complete. He won. And his reward is with him to give to us freely.
Run to Jesus and to the Living Water! When your guilt makes you thirsty for peace with God, well, then, "Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life…"
One of my kids was playing outside a few weeks ago and slipped and fell… face first… into "Lake Grace." He was soaked in ice-cold muddy water from head to toe. And in spite of the tears streaming down his face, he knew what to do. He went running for mom. She would clean him up. She'd make it all better. That's what moms do, right?
Likewise, when you slip and fall into the mud puddle of sin that sends you shivering and crying, run to Jesus. He'll clean you up again. He'll make it all better. Run to him like a little kid thirsty for a drink from mom. He'll give you the water of life at no charge. And when he's cleaned you up with his absolution, when he's quenched your thirst with his Word of Grace, then you'll be ready to go! And you are ready! So get excited because your Savior is coming quickly to you!
II. Get Excited! Your Savior Comes Quickly to You!
"Jesus is always watching you." When you're clean of all your sin, that's a comforting promise, not a threat. "There's no where you can go where God isn't with you." When you know you're forgiven, that doesn't bring fear, but peace. "Jesus is coming soon." Washed by the blood of the Lamb, that promise fills us with excitement not with dread.
"Behold, I am coming soon! … I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches…. Yes, I am coming soon."
We who have washed our robes through faith in Jesus do have the right to the tree of life—that tree in the Garden of Eden that gave eternal life to any who ate it. We have the right to go through the "pearly" gates into the heavenly city! How exciting!
As C.F.W. Walther so beautifully put it in his Easter Hymn, He's Risen, He's Risen, we don't fear death because that gate is open! He wrote: "Oh, where is your sting, Death? We fear you no more; Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden's door. For all our transgressions his blood does atone; Redeemed and forgiven, we now are his own." In fact, not only are we not afraid to die, but we genuinely anticipate that day with eager expectation.
How often do you pray that prayer of John in verse 20: "Come, Lord Jesus." All the time, right? But it's almost hard to stop there, isn't it? We want to keep going with "Be our guest. And let these gifts to us be blessed." And I don't know about you, but having learned "The Common Table Prayer" probably before I learned the alphabet, I've become a bit like Pavlov's dog. When I say or hear, "Come, Lord Jesus" I begin to salivate because I know it's time to eat.
Well, next time you pray that Common Table Prayer, I hope you'll remember this context in Revelation 22 and start to salivate in eager anticipation of the greater blessings that we're all about to receive: "Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me… Yes, I am coming soon." Get excited! The long trip will be over soon enough! We're almost in heaven!
And in the meantime, while we wait, get excited about the Word! "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life…" The Spirit of God invites everyone to hear the Word! The bride, that is the Church, invites you to come to worship! To drink of Jesus' forgiveness and be satisfied!
But you know the Greek of verse 17 is a little different than the English translation. "Come" is literally a present participle. That denotes an ongoing, continual action. Literally, "Keep on coming." We want to keep coming to the water of life. We want to keep coming to the Word. We want to keep coming to worship and Bible class with our fellow believers. We want to do this, not because we're driven by fear, ("We'd better or we might not be prepared."), but because we're excited! We want to hear more about our Returning Redeemer and keep growing in our faith!
And finally, as we hear that message, we can't keep it to ourselves! It's too exciting to not share the news! We have to tell others! "The Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life…"
Can you imagine wandering through the desert dehydrated and about to die, when suddenly you come across an oasis with a huge spring-fed pool of cold, clear, and pure, life-saving water. Can you imagine if you encountered another poor soul, dry and dehydrated and about to die, that you would say nothing about the oasis?! Of course you'd share the good news, wouldn't you? You'd be eager to do it! You'd be excited to save a life just as yours had been saved.
In the same way, we're eager and excited to tell others of God's grace! And we don't need a Ph.D. to do it! All we have to say is, "'Come!' …'Come!' Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life…"
One of our Wisconsin Synod churches in Las Vegas, Nevada—a church named Water of Life Lutheran—had a sign on the strip that said, "Free Water." And they offered a free bottle of ice-cold water to any who passed by as a way to introduce themselves to the community and offer to them the water of life. Maybe we do that this summer. Maybe we offer a free bottle of water to the fishermen standing on the beach or in the river and invite them to visit our website later where they can get a cold drink of the water of life.
But no matter how we do it, we will invite others to get the free gift of the water of life. We will invite them to worship with us. We'll invite them to our website. We'll invite them to our school that they and their kids might better know God's Grace. We'll invite them because we can't help it! We're just too excited about our Risen Redeemer who promises that he is our Returning Redeemer and that he is coming soon with his reward, that he's coming soon to take us to heaven.
I hope your Mother's Day isn't too full of surprises, but that if it is, they're all good surprises. But even more, I hope that you're not surprised by Jesus' return. I hope you're always ready, running to him every day to get clean! I hope you're always excited that he's coming quickly for you! In the name of our Risen Redeemer Revealed, dear brothers and sisters, amen!