Back Like A Lion
Well this morning is the final Sunday of March and with that we will bring to a close this series of messages based on the theme of Spring with the second of our 2 “bookend” sermons
If you were here 5 Sundays ago you may well remember that the first message in our series on spring was In Like A Lamb
Using as our inspiration the old children’s adage that March either comes in like a lion and out like a lamb or visa versa our first message talked about Jesus Christ the Lamb of God and what that meant in the context of the passover and how the Jewish people would have interpreted those words
Now as we come to the end of March we face the other part of that saying, Out like a lion
But as you can see by my title I want to change it ever so slightly and as a reminder this morning that the return of Christ is imminent and that He is not coming back meek and mild as He came the first time
Instead His return is marked by this concept of a lion
In the 4th chapter of John’s revelation of Heaven and of things to come the Apostle tells how he was taken into the throne room of Heaven and he goes on to try his best to explain what it was that he saw there
John saw the throne and the one who sat on the throne which was God Himself, he saw the 24 elders and the 7 lamps, John saw the living creatures and he heard the praises that they offered up to God
But as all of this happens something sticks out to John
Chapter 5 begins with the important words “then I saw”
Now don’t miss this, John was surrounded by all these incredible sights and sounds which had to be an overload to his human senses and yet in the midst of this overload his attention is drawn into one thing, a scroll held in the right hand of God
Incredible beings that he could only describe as “creatures” and loud, I mean LOUD worship and thunder and lightning
And in all of this his attention was focused on this one thing this scroll
It’s kind of like going to the motorcycle show and seeing all this incredible sights, the bikes, the accessories, the chrome, BUT THEN across the aisle you see that one bike, your dream bike, and as your eyes are drawn towards it everything else fades into the background and out of focus
That must have been one important and impressive scroll!
John says that it was written on on both sides and although we don’t know what it was that was written on it, we know that it was something important and something that had to do with the restoration of God’s kingdom
But no one was able to open it, not even the “mighty angel” that John saw
And John begins to weep because whatever was in it was obviously so important to the reestablishing of God’s kingdom and now it wouldn’t happen
That’s where we pick up the story Chapter 5 verse 4
I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.”
But in the midst of his weeping an elder steps forward and comforts him telling him that the plans of God and the future of His kingdom are not in jeopardy because there is one who IS worthy to open the scroll.
He then goes on to tell him to lift his head. wipe the tears from his eyes and see for himself, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah!
But if you read on into the next verse you’ll notice that when John looks, He doesn’t see a lion, he sees “a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne”
So why did the elder say “Look at the Lion” instead of “Behold the lamb?”
Well let me give you two reasons, the first reason is to show that Jesus Christ, who we already know is the lamb, was also the fulfillment of the blessing that Jacob spoke over his son Judah
“Judah, your brothers will praise you; your hand will be on the neck of your enemies; your father’s sons will bow down to you. You are a lion’s cub, Judah; you return from the prey, my son. Like a lion he crouches and lies down, like a lioness—who dares to rouse him? The scepter will not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he to whom it belongs shall come and the obedience of the nations shall be his.
This is why Jesus is the Lion of the tribe of Judah because He is the one to whom the scepter and ruler’s staff belong, as He now begins His return to His rightful throne
But when John turns around and sees the lamb it is because it is by being the Lamb that Jesus became the Lion if that makes any sense to you
Let me put it another way, there is one key word in verse 5 that all of this hinges on, a word is often overlooked
It is the Greek word “Ni-kay-o” and it means to to conquer, overcome, vanquish, subdue
you see when Jesus came the first time, there was work to be done, there were enemies to be conquered but in His time here he did all that and as a lion stands proud in its own domain knowing that it is King, so too Jesus, the offshoot of Judah, Jessie, and David in the rightful King of His kingdom
You see when Jesus came the first time, there was work to be done, there were enemies to be conquered but in His time here he did all that and as a lion stands proud in its own domain knowing that it is King, so too Jesus, the offshoot of Judah, Jessie, and David in the rightful King of His conquered kingdom
So what I want to do this morning is concentrate on that term, Triumphed or overcome and see how that impacts us as we await His return
But as we do that I first want you to make the connection between what John writes here and what he writes just a couple of pages earlier
In and 3 we the dictation of Jesus to John as the Great I Am records what is known as the 7 letters to the 7 churches in Asia Minor
Each and every one of these letters ends in the same manner, Jesus makes a promise to the church based on this one condition, “To him who overcomes”
John then jumps directly into the throne room scene and the scroll which can only be opened by the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who overcame and the reason that He overcame was so that you and I could usher in His kingdom by overcoming as well
So let’s look at what Jesus overcame so that we know what is expected of us as well
The first of these areas is that Jesus has overcome the world
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
But what does that mean exactly, to overcome the world and how does it apply to us
Well first we need to realize that Jesus said we’re going to be faced with trouble and Jesus Himself had plenty of trouble in His lifetime so we know that it does NOT mean, as some have said, that when we come to Jesus we should live in complete success in every area
Our position in Christ does not exempt us from the problems of this world
I like what Expositor’s Bible Commentary says about this verse, “Even in the hour of his greatest suffering he had an unshakable confidence in the victorious purpose of God. Jesus did not overlook the trial that would affect them as well as himself, for that was inevitable in a world alienated from God. He did proclaim victory over it.”
Believe it or not, by worldly standards, Jesus was not very successful
Now you may ask how it is that I could say that the Son of God and the head of the modern church which stretches worldwide and has hundreds of millions of members
Let me read for you from an article that I came across entitled Jesus the Failure, “Jesus, after all, was well-acquainted with failure; misunderstood by his own family, rejected by his own community, opposed by the establishment, abandoned by his disciples. Jesus did not convince all he spoke to, or heal all he met. He died a lonely death, ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.'”
In a world that measures success by your accomplishments, Jesus did not measure up but that didn’t matter because Jesus was serving a higher power and was living a greater purpose than this world could ever offer
That’s what it means to overcome the world, your identity, your purpose, your very existence does not come from the world but comes from God
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.
The second thing that Christ overcame was sin
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.
I want to make sure that you understand what this says, that Jesus was tempted IN EVERY WAY, JUST AS WE ARE - YET HE DID NOT SIN
Sometimes it’s easy for us to get caught up in the deity of Christ and we forget that He was fully human and was subject to the same things that we as humans are subject to
He was tired, He was angry, He was hungry, He was cold, He was tempted to sin!
Tell yourself that right now because I’m not sure that you believe me, “Jesus was tempted to sin just like I am”
I’ve said this before but some of you may have missed it, Jesus was actually tempted to punch someone in the face.
I know that it’s hard to believe but it’s true because the Bible says He was tempted by the same things that have tempted me (past tense!)
And just as Jesus overcame sin, He is calling each one of us to do the same thing
Listen to the next verse
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Okay let’s keep going, Jesus overcame these first two areas by the way that He lived His life, these next two were by His death
The next thing that Christ overcame was the enemy
I’m sure that we all realize that there is an antithetical power to the God who loves us and sent His Son to die for us
He goes by many names, Satan, the devil, Lucifer and so on and he has been handed this kingdom of Earth by virtue of man’s choice to deny God and follow his own path
Ever since the garden he has been doing his worst to destroy God’s beloved creation by stealing and killing and destroying
And he was the top dog as it were for a long, long time, but listen to what Paul tells the Colossians
And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.
It should come as no surprise to us that while He was here on earth demons and powers were subject to Christ because after all He created them
But do you realize that at the cross Jesus defeated them completely and for all
Therefore you are no longer a subject of the prince of the power of the air, instead when you are crucified with Christ, that is when you by faith receive the work of the cross in your life you become a subject of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords
So when the enemy comes in like a flood, the Lord your God will raise up a standard against Him () and no weapon that the enemy forms against you will prosper ()
James wrote in his epistle,
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
Jesus overcame the enemy and so too can you because greater is He that is in you that he that is in the world
Lastly this morning Jesus overcame the death and the grave
We sing that song What A Beautiful Name and I love the bridge of it, Death could not hold You The veil tore before You You silence the boast of sin and grave The heavens are roaring The praise of Your glory For You are raised to life again
As a part of his day of Pentecost Peter had this to say,
“Fellow Israelites, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
As says, “Death has been swallowed up in victory”
Oh come on I know that you can react better than that, “DEATH HAS BEEN SWALLOWED UP IN VICTORY!”
It no longer has any hold on Jesus and it no longer has any claim on us because, like Him, we too shall be raised from the dead, the perishable clothed with the imperishable and the mortal with immortality ()
Jesus came the first time as the Lamb of God, but make no mistake today that because of what He did when He came the Lamb will soon return as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah who has overcome and has, by His Spirit given us the ability to overcome as well