Sermon for the 4th Sunday of Easter May 5, 2019
Text: Revelation 5:11-14 ILCW Series C 19:2129
Theme: Such a Sweet Sound: “Worthy Is the Lamb!”
Do you know what you just had? When I was a boy we lived in an old house built around the early 1900s. The house had doors with the old time key holes, the kind that were big. You could put your eye to the hole and, without opening the door, catch a glimpse of what was on the other side. It wasn’t a full view by any means, but you could peek at what was taking place on the side away from you.
You just had such a glimpse. You had a peek into heaven. But your peek into heaven is not there so much to show you what heaven is like and what your loved ones who have passed this life in faith now enjoy. No, that happens more in next week’s lesson. This peek into heaven is intended to show you what the Christian life here on earth is to be, even now in the present.
We need to see this and to hear what’s going on – even now. You’ll never see a greater sight nor hear a sweeter sound than that of millions upon millions of heavenly and earthly hosts joining their voices to sing: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, wealth, wisdom, strength, honor, glory, and praise!”
I. A song of joy rises from the lips of the redeemed people of God.
We need this sight in order to encourage us, to give us hope, and to stimulate us in our present lives of faith, because it isn’t easy being a Christian, never has been, never will be. It isn’t easy for our oldest members enduring illness, watching their strength fade, losing dear ones close to them, suffering ridicule for their faith, and knowing that death lies just ahead for them too. And it won’t be any easier for our youngest members (like Annabelle, newly baptized today. Look at her,) look at any new born child, so young, so fresh, so fragile, so blessed by God in entering His Kingdom of Grace through the washing of Holy Baptism today. But as life goes on, it won’t be any easier for her, either, for the Scriptures remind us of the reality of a world fallen in sin that “we must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God” (Ac.14:22). All of those things that confront our oldest members will confront her too in her life. It isn’t easy being a Christian, never has been, never will be.
As a result, Christians are tempted to feel like they are alone, isolated, or in a distinct minority as God’s people. Life can seem so
so small, so weak, so frail, yes, even desperate at times.
Sometimes I think about that with the students I teach in China over my early morning Skype classes on the internet. How alone, isolated and weak they must at times feel, even more so than we do.
When I start a new class, I like to try and get a feel for what their lives are like as Christians. Usually, I ask them 3 questions to get started: 1) where do they come from in China; 2) what is their family like; 3) what do they like to do. Here are some of their responses.
First of all, the students come from all over China – north, south, east, and west. Some come from Beijing, the capital in the north. Anybody know the population of Beijing? 20+ million. Others come from Shanghai to the east on the sea. That’s bigger – 23+ million. I once taught a former Roman Catholic priest. Another was a brilliant student with a doctor’s degree in aerodynamics. But she suffered a mental illness that the Lord used to bring her to Christianity. One had been a star athlete but got injured and was confined to a wheel chair. That’s when he began studying the Bible. Another came to faith after she married a Christian and his mother invited her to church. Another had been a kindergarten teacher in the Chinese army. She’s now retired. Monthly she goes into the mountainous rural areas to teach the village people about Jesus. I’ve heard stories about who they were, what they had been, and where they lived – all different, all unique – just like yours! Everyone’s life is different.
As I listen, the words “scattered” and “isolated” usually comes to mind. Yet, each one responds in a similar way when I ask what they like to do most. They like to gather in their Christian fellowships, to read God’s Word, to study, to grow in faith, to sing, to pray, to become better equipped to serve Christ. It makes them happy.
You see, dear friends, there is a bond, a unity that draws God’s people together so that a song of joy rises from the lips of the redeemed people of God, even though they’re scattered, isolated, or enduring hardships. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Paul said that after he was nearly stoned to death. But God keeps His people safe, no matter where they are or what befalls them for He promises that “the gates of hell shall not overcome His church” (Mt.16:18). He seeks to assure and uplift you. So He gives you a peek into heaven here. But don’t limit it to there.
Think of what John saw – millions of angels before God’s throne. He saw 24 elders. They prompt thoughts of the 12 tribes of Israel in the O.T. and the 12 apostles of Jesus in the N.T. Put them together and they number 24. It seems to represent God’s church in every age. John also saw 4 living things which may be angels of high rank or reminders of God’s saving activity to the 4 corners of the earth. All join to raise such a sweet sound like John never heard before.
But there’s more. All creatures on earth, in the air, and under the sea joined in the singing. What a sound that must have been!
Imagine the chirping of birds on a spring morning, the roar of lions at feeding time, the squeak of bats in their caves, the moaning of whales swimming in the ocean, the barking of dogs, the calling of elephants, and on and on. Imagine them, all loud, all clear, and all together in harmony and tempo. Then imagine yourself and all Christians of all times joining in a chorus praising God, no matter how isolated or scattered we might seem to be. What a sound!
And why are they singing? They’re happy. This song goes up for salvation, for what the Father planned and Jesus fulfilled when He redeemed us from our sins with His blood. A song of joy rises from the lips of the redeemed people of God. Such a Sweet Sound! If we could hear and see all the places and all the circumstances from which all the people come, we would know that we are not alone and that no sweeter sound has ever been heard.
It was an inspiring picture for the scattered Christians in John’s day and for us in ours, from the youngest to the oldest. Christians may seem at times to be like such a little flock. They may seem weak and wobbly. But when all are added together, along with the angels and all the heavenly throng, they form a mighty chorus whose joyful praise to God thunders in all creation.
Do you ever wonder if you are ever really making a difference as a Christian? It may not feel like you are. But with this peek into heaven God graciously broadens your perspective. The Spirit blends our voices together. Such a Sweet Sound rises from the lips of all the redeemed people of God….“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain.”
II. A song of triumph to the Lamb of God.
Doesn’t that remind you of Isaiah saying the Savior would be “led like a lamb to the slaughter”? Or think of John the Baptist pointing to Jesus and crying out, “Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” Combine that with the Apostle John’s words: “The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son cleanses us from all sin.” This Lamb of God who died and rose again has triumphed over sin, death, and Satan. He “is worthy to receive power and wealth and
wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise” from all creation above, and from those below on earth.
Think about those 7 designations for a moment. Think of power and strength first. What represents power and strength for you? A truck with a big engine? A guy who works out at the gym? What symbolizes wisdom? A high grade point on a report card? A person pouring over books in a library? You might think of hundreds of different things that symbolize power, strength, and wisdom. But would a lamb come to mind when you think of wisdom, strength, power, or wealth? No. Lambs represent the opposite.
But this Lamb stands in the center of heaven’s throne, surrounded by all these things praising Him. He is Christ Jesus whose sacrifice on the cross for sin was pictured and foretold in countless prophecies and thousands of Old Testament sacrifices where lambs were offered. In the end no animal can take away sin. But Jesus can and did. To be able to do that He had to be strong and powerful enough to triumph over all our enemies.
And make no mistake, the Lamb was wise and wealthy too. “He knows all things” (Jn.21:17). He is “in very nature God” (Phlp.2:5f). One can’t get any wealthier than that, rich in person and power! “Yet for our sakes He became poor” (2Co.9:7), laying aside the things that marked Him as God’s Son so that He could triumph over sin for us. Such a one is worthy of highest honor and respect from all of us.
Now think of honor and respect. Whom do we honor and respect among us? A firefighter who saves someone from a burning house? A teacher who instills a love for learning and regard for others in her students? In short we respect those who in a moment or over a lifetime make a difference for the better. If that’s the type of person we respect among us, how much more ought we to respect and lift up the Lamb of God who made an eternal difference in our lives.
So, don’t wait for heaven. It doesn’t only happen there. Rise for Him now. Glorify Him above all. Salute Him with joy because in Him our lives never end; they go on to bigger and better things above. That’s what you ought to see today in your peek into heaven. It’s not only about the future; it’s about the present, too. Even now we have so much to celebrate as Christians, from the oldest to the youngest, even though we seem scattered, isolated, or weak. We join with all creation in the song of triumph to the Lamb. So let a song of joy rise from your lips. Such a Sound, Such a Sweet, Sweet Sound! God grant it to us in our lives of faith for Jesus’ sake.