Preached: April 7, 2013
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit shows us Jesus is Revelation 1.
... and from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth.
To him who loves us and freed us from our sins with his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father -- to him be glory and power for ever and ever. Amen. (Revelation 1:5, 6).
This is the word of our Lord.
Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:
Who are you? I'm not asking for your name or a brief description. Psychologists say that people often ask that question when they've gone through a life changing event, for example graduating and heading out on your own, losing your job, becoming an empty nester, retiring, or a loved one's death. To define who they are, people may look to their marriage, their family, their job, their friends, their stuff. So when these change, that question pops up: Who am I?
But maybe there's a better way for the Christian to ask that question. Asking, “Who am I?” tends to turn my thoughts inward becoming self-centered navel-gazing. Rather ask yourself, “What has Easter made me to be?” We're not talking about God's creative work when he knit us together in our mother's womb, but rather his recreating of us through his Son, Jesus Christ. Easter brings us over from death into a new life in Christ, a new creation. What has Easter made me to be? For the Christian, that's what answers the question: “Who am I?”
How marvelously the Holy Spirit shows us the answer with the words he gave the Apostle John to write in the text today!
As John is given what to write, some seven decades have passed since the first Easter. The Gospel of Jesus has spread throughout the Roman Empire and beyond. The other Apostles are dead and John has been exiled by the government to the island of Patmos because he proclaimed that Gospel. There the risen Jesus appeared to him in glory. In the Second Lesson today (Revelation 1:4-18), You heard a description of what John saw. Jesus truly is the first-born from the dead.
But why did he die in the first place? “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his own blood” (Revelation 1:5 NIV84). That's why, dear friends.
We had nothing to attract his love toward us. God hates all who do wrong, the Bible says in Psalm 5. And how much wrong haven't we done? Like filthy rags our sin made us a stench repulsive to the holy God and completely unacceptable to him. But how extraordinary his love is! Knowing full well the sinners we were born as, God's love reached out and gave his Son nonetheless. In love Jesus came to free us from our sins.
But how dear the price the Son of God paid for our freedom! His own blood. Nothing less than the blood of God could set us free from the wages your sin and mine had earned for each one of us. Never loss sight of the bloody sacrifice Jesus made for you as he suffered on the cross to set you free. What extraordinary love! With Thomas marvel at the nail wounds in his hands and the spear wound in his side. Jesus was pierced for you. The punishment that brought us peace was upon him and by his wounds we are healed.
Freed by his blood, we no longer stand condemned by our sin. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23), the Scriptures declare. But Jesus has freed you from what your sins have rightly earned you. He has freed you from death's power to drag you into the fiery pit of hell. “The gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus, our Lord” (Romans 6:23). Easter proclaims your freedom.
Freed by his blood, we stand before the holy God washed clean. In fact, we approach his throne with boldness and confidence, for in Jesus we are God's holy people. We are his saints. I'm not claiming in any way that my daily life is free from sin. Though it pains me, I daily sin much -- more than I realize. But each day Jesus' blood washes my record clean. And he does the same for you, dear Christian. My record before God and your record is free from sin because of Jesus' blood. Easter proclaims your freedom.
And so, dear Christian, through faith in Jesus you are a priest before his God and Father. That's what Easter has made you. A priest to serve the holy God. What a wonder!
What does that mean to serve the holy God as his priest? In the Old Testament only a few of the believers were priests. They were to stand between God and the people. They represented the people before God, praying for them and offering the sacrifices the people brought.
Easter has made you a priest. Freed by Christ's blood, you no longer need another sinful human being to be your go-between. You do not need any saints or angels to bring your prayers to God. Go to him directly and bring all your prayers, your requests, your pleas and petitions directly to your Lord Jesus Christ and his heavenly Father. For through faith in Jesus, you are a priest who speaks to the holy God.
Easter has made you a priest. Freed by Christ's blood, present yourself as a living sacrifice, a thank-offering, acceptable to your God. What kind of offering is that? Not a sacrifice that pays for sin, Christ's blood has already done that once and for all. Not a sacrifice regretfully surrendered as we feel a sense of pain or lose. But rather, a sacrifice that expresses our joy and our thanks to our Savior-God. Present your life, all that you think, say, and do, as a thank-offering, dear Christian friends.
But why would the holy God be pleased with anything I do, since in itself everything I do falls short of the holiness and righteousness he requires? Even though on their own, even our most righteous acts are still filthy rags, Christ's blood washes them clean. So that whatever you do in line with God's commandments out of faith in Christ filled with thanks and love for your Savior has become a sweet, fragrant offering to your God. Christ's blood has freed us to serve our God with that confidence that he welcomes our daily service. What meaning and purpose this gives your life each day, as you remember what Easter has made you!
Who are you? What has Easter made you? Freed by his blood, you are a priest through faith in Christ Jesus.
Does that sound too good to be true? Don't take my word for it. Be convinced by Christ's testimony. He is “the faithful witness” (Revelation 1:5 NIV84). Jesus, the risen Lord, is God's “Yes!” and “Amen!” behind all of his promises. Yes, God's word is the truth because Jesus has risen. His word is to be believed with all firmness, sureness, and certainty because Jesus has risen. Easter proves Christ's testimony so that we are fully convinced.
And what does Jesus testify to? Not only that in him we are priests but that we are also a kingdom. He “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father“ (Revelation 1:6 NIV84).
What does that mean, that we're a kingdom? First of all, dear Christians, adore your King, Jesus Christ. He is “the ruler of the kings of the earth” (Revelation 1:5 NIV84). He rules over all. Everything is under his power. All must submit to him.
And through faith in him, convinced by his testimony, you, dear Christian, reign with him. All must serve for your eternal good. And if that sounds too remarkable, isn't that what God teaches us in that well-known verse from Romans 8? “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28 NIV84)? All must serve for your eternal good, for in Christ you are a kingdom.
Now don't expect the world to bow down before you. Don't expect it to lavish you with its wealth and praise. That's not what Christ's testimony says or what faith believes. Rather, no matter what the world hurls at you, be convinced by Christ's testimony that he will make it serve for good. For Easter has made you into a kingdom.
No matter what the lose or the sorrow, no matter what the pain or grief, no matter what the sickness or heartbreak, no matter what the cross be convinced that your King, Jesus Christ, makes it serve for your good. Easter has made you into a kingdom. In the face of powerful opposition, insulting ridicule, lies, betrayal, and whatever other kinds of persecution you suffer for following Jesus, be convinced that it cannot separate you from the love of God. You have Christ's Easter testimony. Easter has made you into a kingdom. What hope, perseverance, and confidence that gives you and me!
In fact, we can boldly offer love and kindness toward others as our service of praise to God. We can pray for our enemies and not worry if they return our kindness with cruelty. We can turn the other check and repay insults with gentleness. We can share the Good News of Jesus even when met with ridicule, persecution, or imprisonment like the Apostles. For Easter had made us into a kingdom. Your King will take care of you. Believe it and live it. What strength and motivation to do what is right and good!
Who are you? You can prove your identity to someone else by showing them your driver's license, such as when you go through security at an airport. But when you ask yourself that question, don't look at your driver's license or anything else that belongs to you. Look at the empty Easter tomb, your risen Savior, and ask what has Easter made you?
The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.