Sermon: Worthy Is The Lamb

Throughout the summer we have been tuning our hearts, as we’ve studied Revelation 1-5. You may remember that at the beginning of our series, Pastor Stephen told a story about tuning and re-tuning his guitar, before discovering it wasn’t him that was out of tune, but my piano. The piano was so loud, that he thought that he must be the one out of tune. That is a picture of what the Christian life can feel like at times. Our out-of-tune world can make it hard for us to know what is right. So, throughout the summer we’ve been tuning our hearts to sing God’s praise. This morning we come to the climax – this is what it’s all about.

I invite you to open your bibles with me to Revelation 5. If you don’t have a bible with you, feel welcome to grab one from the pew. Revelation is the last book in the Bible. Revelation 5, beginning in verse 1.

Before we hear God’s word this morning, I invite you please to pray with me.

Father, may your Word be our Rule,

Your Holy Spirit our teacher,

And the glory of Jesus Christ our single concern. Amen

If you’re able, I invite you to stand for God’s word. We stand for God’s word, we sit for mine.

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals; and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of the one who was seated on the throne. When he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell before the Lamb, each holding a harp and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints. They sing a new song:

“You are worthy to take the scroll

   and to open its seals,

for you were slaughtered and by your blood you ransomed for God

   saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;

you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,

   and they will reign on earth.”

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels surrounding the throne and the living creatures and the elders; they numbered myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, singing with full voice,

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea,

and all that is in them, singing,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb

be blessing and honor and glory and might

forever and ever!”

And the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

These are the very words of God.

Then I saw in the right hand of the one seated on the throne a scroll written on the inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals…

The one seated on the throne holds a scroll. But, this isn’t just any scroll. This scroll holds within it the very words of God. It both symbolizes and embodies God’s intention to execute justice “on earth as it is in heaven.” When this scroll is opened everything will be made right again. Evil will be defeated, and order will be restored. Everything wrong with the world will be overcome. The scroll holds hope and salvation.

The book of Daniel points to the scroll as God’s book of life, where those whose names are written within it will be saved – a scroll to be revealed at the final judgment. But, I think the scroll points to something else as well.

Here these words from Luke 4:16-21,

When [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, he went to the synagogue on the sabbath day, as was his custom. He stood up to read, and the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,

   because he has anointed me

       to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives

   and recovery of sight to the blind,

       to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.”

Jesus opens the scroll, reveals what it says, and gives us new and greater understanding – scripture is fulfilled in Him! The scroll points ahead to God’s salvation accomplished upon the earth – redemption, judgement, setting right – but also points to the scroll of the Scriptures. John sees the Word of God – the Scriptures – held before him. But, it turns out no one is worthy to open it. The Bible, for all its beauty and hope remains locked.

…and I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it. And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.

Who is worthy to open the scroll? …and there was no one worthy. No one in heaven or on earth or under the earth.

Devastation.

We don’t have access to the scroll – the scroll of hope, of restoration, of salvation. Not one is worthy to open it, and John weeps bitterly.

I struggle to emphasize how significant this is. Has there ever been a time that you wept bitterly? Maybe at a difficult diagnosis? A sudden and unexpected death? A future you thought would be there and is suddenly gone?

We weep because the world is not right. God created everything good, but sin entered the world, and everything is broken. Everything is skewed. I have often heard the question, “Why did this happen?” I have asked it myself. “Why!?” It doesn’t seem right. And it isn’t. It is not right.

But this scroll holds hope. This scroll holds the words of God’s judgment that will set the world right again.

John weeps bitterly, because no one could be found who was worthy to break the seals of the scroll and open it.

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered…

John does not need to weep. Our tears can be wiped away. There is one who is able to open the scroll. Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slaughtered; Jesus Christ, crucified and raised; Jesus Christ, the very son of God – this one is worthy. Jesus Christ opens the scriptures so that, in him, we might behold the salvation of God and see that all Scripture (and, in fact, all of history), points to him. He is the fulfillment of the Scriptures, and he opens them to us to see the redemption of God.

[pause]

Let me tell you a story.

Then an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Get up and go toward the south to the road that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” (This is a wilderness road.) So he got up and went. Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch, a court official of the Candace, queen of the Ethiopians, in charge of her entire treasury. He had come to Jerusalem to worship and was returning home; seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah. Then the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over to this chariot and join it.” So Philip ran up to it and heard him reading the prophet Isaiah. He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

And he invited Philip to get in and sit beside him. Now the passage of the scripture that he was reading was this:

“Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,

   and like a lamb silent before its shearer,

       so he does not open his mouth.

In his humiliation justice was denied him.

   Who can describe his generation?

       For his life is taken away from the earth.”

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.

As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

 

He asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” He replied, “How can I, unless someone guides me?”

 

And I began to weep bitterly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it.

The Ethiopian eunuch was reading the scriptures, but it did not make sense to him. He was not able to understand what God was saying through what the prophet Isaiah had written. Could this possibly be good news for him?

The eunuch asked Philip, “About whom, may I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” Then Philip began to speak, and starting with this scripture, he proclaimed to him the good news about Jesus.

 

Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

Then I saw between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders a Lamb standing as if it had been slaughtered…

It is only through Jesus that we can understand the scriptures. We have been given this book [lift Bible] – the very words of God, and it is only through him that we can fully grasp its meaning – fully understand its significance. Everything in scripture points to Jesus, the Lamb that was slaughtered.

The Ethiopian eunuch struggled to understand the scriptures. It simply was not clear to him. The book was sealed to him. Even though it was right in his hands – he could open it and read it – he still could not understand it. He needed the key to unlock what it contained. But, through Jesus, God’s word was made clear, and he was given understanding. Everything in the bible points to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Lamb who was slaughtered and yet stands alive before the throne. It is Christ crucified and raised who opens the scroll. The whole of the Bible points to Jesus, but to Jesus sacrificing his life and rising again to set all things right, make all things new, and to bring salvation to the earth. The Ethiopian eunuch was amazed at this new understanding, and responded in faith, giving praise to God for opening the scroll. The eunuch went on his way rejoicing.

As they were going along the road, they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water! What is to prevent me from being baptized?” He commanded the chariot to stop, and both of them, Philip and the eunuch, went down into the water, and Philip baptized him. When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing.

 

“Worthy is the Lamb that was slaughtered

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might

and honor and glory and blessing!”

The response is the same in John’s vision. The four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall before the Lamb, singing a new song. The voice of many angels numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands joined their voices. Every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea and all that is in them sang together,

“To the one seated on the throne and to the Lamb

Be blessing and honor and glory and might

Forever and ever!”

Our series on Revelation may end at this chapter, but the rest of the Book of Revelation details more of what happens because the scroll is open. When the scroll is opened salvation and judgment comes upon the world. Everything else that happens in the book is because the lamb is able to open the scroll. There is nothing new in Revelation that is not found elsewhere, but everything is seen in a new way because of the Lamb who was slain and yet stands alive before the throne of God. The judgement and the new heavens and the new earth are all promises spoken long ago to the people of Israel, but seen anew in the light of the slain and risen Lamb.

The best response to hearing God’s Word is to fall down and praise. This is the response of the living creatures, of the host of angels, of the multitude of heaven and earth. What does the scroll proclaim?

by your blood you ransomed for God

   saints from every tribe and language and people and nation;

you have made them to be a kingdom and priests serving our God,

   and they will reign on earth.

That is the scroll opened, and it should cause us to praise God.

Rev1-5_lamb

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