Sunday, April 7, 2013

Easter 2 John 20:19-31

John: to the 7 churches the ones in Asia; grace to you and peace from the One Who was, and the One Who is, and the One coming, and from the 7 spirits which face His throne, and from Jesus Christ, The Witness, the Faithful, The Firstborn of the dead and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To the One loving us and freeing us out of our sins in His blood, And He made us a kingdom, priests to God and His Father, to Him the glory and the power into the ages of the ages. Amen. Look He comes with the clouds, and all eyes will see Him also the ones piercing Him, and all the tribes of the earth will grieve upon him. Yes, Amen. I Myself am the Alpha and the Omega, says the Lord God, the One Who was, the One Who is, and the One coming, the Ruler of all. I, John, your brother and sharer in the tribulation and kingdom and endurance in Jesus, was on the island, the one called Patmos on account of the Word of God and the witness of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day and I heard behind me a great sound as a trumpet saying, “What you see, you write into a book and send to the 7 churches...And I turned to look at the sound which spoke with me, and having turned I saw 7 lamps of gold, and in the midst of the lamps one like a Son of Man dressed in a long robe and belted across His chest with a golden belt. And his head and hair white as wool, white as snow and His eyes as a flame of fire and His feet like bronze as it glows in a furnace and His voice as a sound of much water, and having in His right hand 7 stars and out of His mouth a sharp double-edged sword, and His outward appearance as the sun shining in its power. And when I saw Him, I fell to his feet as a dead person, and He placed His right hand upon me saying, “Stop being afraid; I Myself am the First and the Last and the Living one, and I was dead and look, alive I am into the ages of the ages and I–the keys of the death and of the Hades.      
Jesus is still Risen! Yes, the One who was dead now lives. Just as He lived to show Himself to unbelieving Thomas on earth, He also lives now in heaven above as He revealed Himself to John. But even more importantly to you, Jesus is still Risen for you. He still lives for the sake of the churches where His gospel love is preached, and where His actions of love are received in the sacraments. Jesus is, for you, the Firstborn from the dead, so that with Him, though you die, you live!
There is little doubt, of course, that Jesus was. Even the worst of historians will concede that a man named Jesus lived 2000 years ago in Palestine. But the fact that Jesus still is? This is difficult to accept. He died, after all. How can He make Himself alive when He’s dead? Thomas wouldn’t believe it. Many today doubt that Jesus still lives after death. You, yourself may have doubts at times too.
But the evidence that Jesus lives is all around you. He Who rules now over this world’s kings has made you to be a kingdom, to be priests with access to all of God’s blessings! Instead of you making sacrifices to try to please God as the priests of old, you are freed from your sins already by Jesus blood shed for you, and by His body given up as an offering for you. You taste and see that He is good!
There is also much doubt about Jesus’ return. The early church expected Him to come back quickly, and here it is 2000 years now and Jesus hasn’t reappeared yet. Many skeptics will wrongly assume that Jesus is never coming back. John himself may have had his own doubts as the sole surviving Apostle imprisoned on the isle of Patmos. Perhaps you have doubts about Jesus returning to earth.
So Jesus appears to John to show him that there is no reason for doubting, since the Son of Man is clearly alive. John is told to write this down to the 7 churches, meaning all the churches of God’s divine judgment, which includes our congregation. As He speaks, His voice is like the sound of much water, to remind you of your Baptism, washed by water and word, you are raised in Jesus to new life!
Even if you have no doubts about Jesus, you may have doubts about yourself. It’s already been a long while awaiting Jesus’ return, and it could be a long time yet. Like John, you live in the age of tribulation, with all sorts of temptations, trials and troubles abounding just because you are a Christian. You may be so overwhelmed that you faint dead away like John did before the appearance of Jesus.
But Jesus word of gospel love encourages you. He says to you, as He did to John, “Stop being afraid!” He tells you that He has won the victory over sin, death and hell, and now holds the Keys in His hand. Those keys lock up death and hades forever, and open the door of heaven for you! He Who now lives forever gives to you life everlasting in paradise with Him, into the ages of the ages! Amen.   

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