Sermon – April 28, 2019 – Second Sunday after Easter

Let’s begin in the name of the Risen Christ +, Amen. 

Have you ever been doing an ordinary task and remembered something you needed to complete or gained insight about a situation you had been puzzling over for some time? I seem to experience this type of revelation most often when I am brushing my teeth. I have always called this type of experience my light bulbmoment.

However, I recently learned what I call my light bulbmoment has a name. These moments of revelation are called “Showerthoughts”. There is even a place on Reddit where you can share your “Showerthoughts” with the world, if you want to make your thoughts public.

It appears that John, the writer of the Book of Revelation, may have had something like a “Showerthought” too. He made his thoughts public by writing an entire book of the Bible.

Biblical scholar Raymond E Brown says, “Too often we shy away from this biblical book because The Book of Revelation or The Apocalypse has been popular for the wrong reasons, for a great number of people read it as a guide to how the world will end, assuming that the author was given by Christ detailed knowledge of the future that he communicated in coded symbols.”[1]

The Book of Revelation can be called either the Book of Revelationor The Apocalypse. Both words – revelation and apocalypse mean unveiling. Apocalypse better catches the cryptic character of the genre of this work. But the book is no ordinary divine communication.[2]

A biblical apocalypse is a narrative in which a vision is given to a human being, through an otherworldly being, like an angel who takes the human to a heavenly vantage point to show him the vision and/or to explain it to him. The secrets revealed involve cosmic transformation that will result in a transition from this world to a world or era to come and a divine judgment on all. The visions of the things observed are frequently accompanied by vivid symbols.[3]

John received his revelation while imprisoned on the island of Patmos. He was imprisoned because the Roman Empire perceiving him as a threat because he refused to worship and swear allegiance to their god. Rather, John was preaching that God’s kingdom was at hand – that God was moving present history – the old age towards its final phase that would include the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the final and full coming of the new heaven and the new earth.

John’s vision was part history and part revelation. As a follower of Jesus, he had witnessed Jesus’ teaching and healing. He had also witnessed Jesus’ death and resurrection. Other parts of the Book of Revelation were new insight for John which he recorded for others, including us to read, study, and gain a better understanding of Jesus and God.

In just one verse, John makes quite the statement about Jesus. He says that Jesus is a faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth. Let’s take a closer look and see what John means when he says these things about Jesus.

Jesus is a faithful witness. A witness is someone who gives proof or evidence of something. Jesus was incarnate. That is Jesus was born a human and experienced human life. He also experienced human pain, suffering, and death.

During his years of ministry, Jesus did lots of teaching. One of the things he taught the disciples was that “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”   (John 14:9) In saying this, Jesus was a witness for God.

Jesus also wants to be a witness for you and me. Before his crucifixion Jesus told the disciples, and this is true for you and me too, that the Holy Spirit will teach us all things and remind us of everything that Jesus has said to us. (John 14:26).I do not know about you, but the Holy Spirit sure has saved me more than once in my life. Call it that little voice in my head, that gut feeling, intuition…whatever you may call the Holy Spirit that accompanies you, it certainly knows how and when to step up and speak out — that is to be a witness and remind me of all that Jesus taught about loving your neighbor as yourself.

John also says Jesus is the firstborn of the dead. At this point, other people had been resurrected, you may even recall how Jesus resurrected Lazarus from the dead after 4 days. Lazarus would die again. Scripture does not tell us how long he lives after being resurrected.

When Jesus talked about destroying this temple, and in three days I will raise it up, (John 2:19-21) the crowds did not understand that he was talking about his body and not a building of stones. Jesus is the first and only person that had the power to give his life, and take it back up, never to die again. (John 10:18)

Lastly, John says Jesus is ruler of the kings of the earth. All things in heaven and on earth have been created through him and for him. Everything on earth is subject to him – all rulers, animals and nature.

We certainly know the weather people on TV have no control over nature. But you may recall the story of Jesus and the disciples in the boat crossing the Sea of Galilee when the storm came up. Jesus was asleep in the boat and the disciples awaken him afraid the storm would overpower their boat. Jesus commands the storm to be still and the winds become calm and waves subside.

Then there was the night Peter and the disciples had been out fishing without catching one fish. Jesus instructs them to put the nets into the water once again and the nets are filled to overflowing.

Everything on earth is subject to him including all the kings and rulers of the earth. We hear Peter in our first lesson telling the council and high priest that he and the apostles “…must obey God rather than any human authority.” (Acts 5:29)The reason for this is because all human authority is subject to Jesus, the ruler of the kings of the earth. This means the Emperor of Rome was subject to Jesus too. The emperor could think he was getting away with treating the Christians badly because they did not worship and pledge allegiance to the Roman gods, but in the end, he would have to stand before Jesus and be judged.

This continues to be true today too. Jesus remains in control. Leaders and rulers will stand before Jesus at judgment time.

John the writer of the Book of Revelation says he saw a vision while imprisoned on the island of Patmos “…because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus.” (Rev 1:9). John’s vision or showerthought is a rather strange writing, one we often shy away from.  Yet it seems to me that within his writing, John is simply attempting to work out for himself many of the same questions the other disciples are asking in our gospel reading. How to make sense of resurrection?

Next time you have a showerthought, pay attention. It may simply be a mundane task you need to complete. Or it could be some great message God is giving you to share with the world.

Alleluia, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!