Due to user error (I didn’t hit “record” on my phone before preaching like I thought I did) there is no audio recording of this week’s sermon. My apologies. If you would like to download the full text for this sermon as a .pdf, the file is attached below. Thank you for your patience. — Pastor Cody.
John considers his exile on Patmos to be “on account of…the testimony of Jesus” (v.9).
When John writes to the churches, he gives his own reasons for why he is there: “on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus” (v.9). What Rome considered a terrible punishment, John considered his participation in Christ, because of Christ, for Christ. John defines his difficulty differently because of what he’s seen: Jesus Christ, risen and ruling.
Christians are called to consider our sufferings as a sharing in what Christ suffered. In Christ, the hardships we endure here on earth might become more than the senseless, meaningless circumstances of chance that the world sees suffering to be. Enduring hardship with faithful perseverance is discipleship, according to the New Testament. It is how we become more like Christ, literally.
The risen Jesus is the vision that sustains us.
And the vision that sustained John in the thick of his suffering was the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s why John writes that the vision was revealed to him “on the Lord’s Day” (v.10). That means Sunday, the day that the Christian Church quickly set apart as their day of holy worship, because Sunday was the day that Christ burst out of his borrowed tomb and revealed himself to his followers, changing the world forever. On an ordinary Sunday on Patmos, which is to say a day when John was participating in worship, however that was done in the first century, mindful of the fact of Christ’s resurrection and “in the Spirit,” aware of Christ’s Holy Spirit moving in and around him there; and suddenly everything changed. The veil between the realm of humans and the realm of God became thin, and the risen Jesus showed himself to his beloved disciple John in a waking dream.
And John hears this Jesus give us the reason for our hope. Jesus says to us through John, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades” (v.17-18). Jesus’ words about himself point us directly to the resurrection, to the moment when Jesus overcame suffering, defeated death, and became our eternal life. This risen Jesus tells us that, no matter what trouble we experience, He experienced it fully, and conquered it, and has won life from it for us. It is this Jesus who reveals himself to us, and it is the vision of this Jesus that empowers all our enduring, all our discipleship in the meantime.
The first faithful response to the vision of Jesus is worship.
John collapsed on his face before this risen Jesus, “the first and the last,” the Alpha and the Omega.
We must never forget this. John walked with Jesus for three years, and ate by his side, and did life with Him, and still, when he sees the fullness of Jesus’ power and authority over all things, John collapses in awe-filled worship. There is no amount of familiarity with Jesus, no amount of friendship with this Jesus, which can ever keep us from being completely undone when we see Him in His glory. Jesus as He is, the true Jesus, inspires first and most in us a holy dread — the kind of worship the Old Testament could only call “fear,” a falling down as though struck dead. That is what we should feel when we think of Jesus, and not just the “warm fuzzies” of a heavenly friend. We should be struck silent and weak by the thought of His absolute power and majesty and dominion.
Yes, Jesus comforts John, and touches him in compassion, and Jesus always commands us not to be afraid. His perfect love casts out fear. But holy fear, a reverence that is expressed in awe-filled worship, is still our right response.
Yes, things are difficult. And the risen and reigning Jesus is among us, igniting us by His Holy Spirit. His kingdom is among us. And he lays his hand on us in comfort, as we worship.