Second Sunday of Easter.
Readings: Revelations 1:4-8; Acts 5:27-32; John 20:19-31
The God of our fathers raised Jesus…God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him. Acts 5:30-32
A few years ago on a Sabbatical, we visited the ancient Roman city of Ephesus in Turkey, which is also one of the seven churches John sends greetings in the introduction of Revelations. After hours of walking the streets of excavation sites, we tried to channel Paul as he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ first in the synagogue and then in the market, temple, and streets of the city. He stayed three years discipling believers and establishing the church. As we walked out of the ruins on a long pine tree-lined pathway we looked back at the ancient capital. The wind was blowing through the trees and the Spirit of God blew around us. We stopped and prayed for the Spirit to blow through this country and region to bring peace and salvation to all peoples. As Paul said in his letter to the Ephesians: For he himself (Christ), is our peace, who has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.” May our witness for Jesus as Leader and Savior break down walls and bring peace among all peoples.
Now back to John the Apostle, who writes to his churches the great cryptic vision which is the book of Revelation. Thanks be to God, I’m not writing about the apocalyptic mystery. But the greeting he gives is rich in imagery of the Trinity:
Grace to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ… Rev 1:4
The blessing from “him who is and who was and who is to come” is from the name God gives himself in Exodus 3:14, “I am who I am.” the same is said of Jesus Christ, who is “the same yesterday, today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8. The “seven spirits” is a surprising designation for the Holy Spirit. William Barclay suggests that it is the “seven-fold Spirit” in Isa. 11:2 and that his symbolic use of seven is for completeness. More on the use of “seven” in a moment.
…then the three titles for Jesus Christ follow in verse 5: “Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings on earth.” May these enlighten this post-resurrection topic, “Who is Jesus?”
- The Faithful Witness: Jesus said to Pilate: “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” John 18:37
- The Firstborn of the Dead . With the power and glory of the Resurrection, and as the “image of the invisible God” Jesus is preeminent and occupies the first place in creation. Col 1:15.
- The Ruler of Kings on Earth. Jesus fulfills this Messianic title from Psalm 89:27. Amazingly, the Devil tries to tempt Jesus with all the kingdoms of the earth (Luke 4:6) but Jesus won these through his determination and suffering on the cross and the power of the Resurrection. Amen! John’s vision reveal Jesus as “King of kings and Lord of Lords.” Rev. 19:16.
If those titles seem a little theological, then John goes straight to the heart to describe Jesus as “him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood” Rev. 1:5
Our pastor on many occasions has brought significance to Scripture by focusing on the verbs; and the tense of these verbs is both significant and overwhelming. “Loves” is a present participle and as such means that the love of God in Jesus Christ is something which is continuous. You could read it as “him who is loving us.” “Freed us” or set us free, is the past tense, which tells of a completed act in the past. In other words, what happened on the Cross was an act in time that is an expression of the continuous love of God. God IS loving us and HAS freed us! Let that soak in for a moment. God is loving you and your freedom was bought with the price of the blood of Jesus as John says later in Rev. 5:9, “And by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.”
Practice. Praying the Names of Jesus. Scripture gives us specific truths about who Jesus is so that we can more deeply know and worship him. Here are “seven” (John’s symbol of completeness) names to get you started. Think through other names of Jesus that are special to you and use them to shape your worship. You could choose worship songs that focus on his name. As each name shows us something about the character of Jesus, we can pray for specific purposes. For example: Jesus, you are the Resurrection and the Life. Empower and enliven me to follow you today as I have no energy to face this day/problem. Alpha & Omega, you are the first and last of my life. Help me to start and end the day praising and thanking you.
- I AM. John 8:58.
- Lamb of God. John 1:29; Rev. 5:6
- Messiah. John 1:4; 4:25-26
- Resurrection and Life. John 11:25
- Truth. John 14:6
- The Word. John 1:1
- Alpha & Omega. Rev. 21:6
BTW there are “seven” I AM statements in John’s Gospel. Check them out and use the images in prayer, for example:
- Jesus you are the LIGHT to show me the path ahead.
- Jesus you are the Door, help me walk through to you.
- Jesus you are the Shepherd, I trust you to care for me.
- Jesus you are the Resurrection, empower me to follow you.
- Jesus you are the Way, help me show your truth to others.
- Jesus you are the Vine, I find my very life in you.
- Jesus you are Bread, let me be satisfied with you.