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Easter - The Lion IS the Lamb!

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Revelation 5:1–14 NIV
Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?” But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. 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.” Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had 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 him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people. And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.” Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!” The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.

He Is Risen!

He is Risen!
I don’t know about you… but when someone says “Open to the book of Revelation” I start getting a little antsy…
Revelation is that book that attracts all kinds of speculation…
Wild theories…
People start talking about popes and presidents and people you’ll never find on the pages of scripture…
Counting moon cycles and worst of all – doing math.
At least one of you – when I said that we’d be reading from Revelation – groaned in your mind,
You can admit it...
And whined to yourself, “but I don’t want to do math!”
Good news – no math today.
No popes, presidents or moons.
Just the lamb that was slain.
The author of Revelation is a man named John, who lives on the island of Patmos
That’s actually about all we know about him.
He is believed to have been a respected Christian leader in a time in Rome when Christians were persecuted.
And he is telling us of his vision,

The Throne Room of God

And at this part of the vision, he is standing in the throne room of God.
But actually, if we back up to chapter 4, John gives an awesome description of the throne room of God.
And it’s overwhelming and magnificent – and you can tell as you read it that it is beyond John’s full comprehension…
Because he describes a throne in the middle,
He says there is the One on the throne,
That’s all he says – He’s talking about God, but just says “the One.”
It’s like words fail to describe Him,
And there’s no way we can fully grasp Him.
And the closest John can come is just to say “the One.”
The One is seated on the throne.
and the one on it has the appearance of jasper and ruby… like the person could be seen but not fully comprehended.
And in the throne room are flashes of lightning,
And rolls thunder,
lamps blazing,
And there are four creatures flying around the throne,
And they are described much like the seraphim in Isaiah 6, and sing the same song…
“Holy, Holy Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!”
They sing this song always – day and night, they never stop singing these praises,
Worshipping the One on the throne.

The Throne Room of God

And beyond these four creatures are 24 Elders
And they are falling down before him, laying their crowns at His feet, praising.
He starts in the center and then just peals back each layer.
The One,
The Creatures,
The Elders.
All saying “HHH is the LGA, WWaIaItC”
In Chapter 5, all of creation joins in these praises,
Everything on the earth and under the earth and in the sea,
All joining together to sing praises.
How many of you thought we started the worship service at 10:45am this morning?
I think John challenges that notion.
We didn’t start the worship service – we joined it.
John of Patmos tells us that it’s been going on for a very long time.

The Throne Room of God

And with that description, John’s focus returns to the One who is on the throne,
And he tells us about a scroll that is in His right hand.
With 7 Seals.
And an angel proclaims loudly, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?
That number 7 – the number of seals on the cross - is significant in Jewish thought.
When you hear the number 7 – you think about Creation, the seven days.
This scroll represents re-creation.
The scroll with seven seals represents God’s intentions for the world.
It represents creation being remade according to God’s intentions for it.
Represents all of history coming to God.
It represents all of God’s efforts throughout all of scripture, to make a Kingdom of Priests and a Holy Nation,
The KOG
Being fulfilled.

The Throne Room of God

Later chapters of Revelation describe this more fully.
If you go home today craving a peak into what the fulfillment of all things looks like,
And what the world looks like when the seals have been opened…
Read Revelation 21.
An angel proclaims loudly, “Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?
And John looks around and sees that no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth is worthy to open the scroll,
And he weeps.
He falls apart.
Is there really no one who can set the world right?
Is there no one to restore us to God?
No one to bring justice to creation!
Because if there is no one…
The hungry will remain hungry,
The poor will remain poor,
The broken will remain broken.
Victims of injustice will forever remain victims.
There is no politic or system or powerful person who can accomplish these things.
In 2,000 years of human history since the death and resurrection of Jesus,
The world has not succeeded in fixing itself.
And when John looks around and sees that there is no one fit to open the scrolls, he just weeps.
There is no hope.

The Throne Room of God

And John’s tears are shared tears.
He’s not just crying for him, he’s crying for us.
He’s crying WITH us.
He’s crying with all humanity as we all together plead with the heavens,
MAKE THINGS RIGHT!
End the suffering! Brokenness! Pain! Injustice!
Let there be no more victims!
End the extreme poverty,
End the deaths of innocent children,
End the systems of the world which allow people to starve in the streets.
End the mourning of this world because death has taken it captive.
We long for a day in which all of the pain and brokenness of the world is healed,
And sickness is eradicated,
And death is no more.
John’s tears are our tears!
John weeps, because there is no one who is worthy!
And as John weeps, we weep.

“Do not weep!”

But an elder comforts John, saying ““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.”
The elder says to John, “There is one who can make the world right!”
The Lion of Judah is a reference to Genesis.
Moses is at the end of his life – he’s dying, and he’s blessing his sons.
And he says to his son Judah, “You are like a lion, and from your line the Lion of Judah will come, to whom the nations will be obedient!”
Jesus a descendant of Judah.
When the elder talks about the Lion of Judah, he is referring to Jesus.
Jesus is the Lion,
And the elder says, “The Lion has Triumphed!”

The Lion

Think about a Lion.
My family is watching Our Planet, a Netflix nature documentary.
We’ve watched all kinds of animals on there…
The lion stands out.
The lion is fierce and powerful.
It is so powerful that it has become a kind of iconic image of power.
A symbol of might and muscle.
A conqueror.
And when you look closely at it, you immediately know why…
Its paws are 12 inches wide, with claws an inch and a half long.
Its teeth are four inches long and razor sharp.
And if that doesn’t intimidate you, its roar will. **ROAR**
That is the image of Jesus that the Elder describes – Roar!
It should get us excited!
The broken powers of this world have had control for two long!
It’s time for a new power!
A lion!
It’s time for a powerful Conqueror, who will set things right!
The elder tells John, “The Lion of Judah has Triumphed!”
And John turns around to see what the elder is talking about
Where is this lion?!
but what he sees is a Lamb

The Lamb

looking as if it had been slain,
standing at the center of the throne,
surrounded by all of the creatures and elders.
That’s maybe the greatest plot twist in all of scripture
John heard that the Lion had Triumphed, but he SAW the Lamb who was slain.
They are one in the same.
That is the victory of Easter – the secret to the whole Gospel – The Lion IS the Lamb.
The power was in the sacrifice.
The victory was in forgiveness.
The triumph of God is about redemption.
The truth of the Resurrection of Jesus, that we celebrate today, is that Life is Victorious over Death.
Death has been conquered not by death,
Victory has been achieved not by power,
Death has been defeated, victory has been achieved by Life.
Victory, it turns out, wasn’t about force, it was about reconciliation to God!
It was about the broken being made whole again.
The Victory of Easter is the dynamic truth that the Lion IS the Lamb.
Not sometimes,
Not when it convenient,
Not just in certain circumstances.
It is not the truth sometimes,
It is an eternal truth.
The Lion Is The Lamb

The Lamb

But how does the Lamb conquer?
If God is going to be victorious, wouldn’t he use the power of the Lion?
Lambs are gentle, hooved herbivores –
not dangerous carnivores with claws and muscle and might!
If we’re celebrating victory on Easter, shouldn’t we be celebrating the victory of a Lion?
That certainly is the narrative of our culture –
Power brings victory.
Dominance brings triumph.
The problem is, Power and Dominance may force our enemies to compliance,
but power and dominance never bring peace
Not to them,
Not to us.
Our imaginations have been completely shaped by this cultural narrative.
Our imaginations only know lion.
When there’s confrontation, we have never imagined victory through peace.
When there is conflict, we’ve never imagined victory through sacrifice.
And we have a difficult time seeing victory as something we celebrate with those who were once our enemies
Instead of something we celebrate against them or over them.

The Lamb

What would that even look like?
For us to offer such radical forgiveness to our enemies?
What would it look like to pursue a restored relationship?
In realistic terms – what does celebrating victory together rather than over one another take place?
Certainly, it wouldn’t be easy.
Our enemies are our enemies for a reason.
And even if we can find a way to love them in spite of our feelings against them,
Why would they ever do the same for us?
What would it take for our enemies to think differently of us than they once did?
To trust us even?
And maybe that’s part of the reason that being reconciled to our enemies is so difficult…
Because even if we can entertain being reconciled to them,
We can’t image that they would be reconciled to us…
What would make our enemies trust us?
Unless… unless we chose to bear the cost of their distrust…
By loving in ways that are self-sacrificial…
And bearing the cost of that sacrifice.
What if we took the burden of a damaged relationship upon ourselves?
That may sound unappealing…
But to know genuine peace is worth that cost…
Can we imagine, for a moment, what it might look like if we approached our enemies with the intent of saving them and us from conflict?
Can we imagine what it might look like if we really did pursue peace?
From an idealistic perspective, it’s easy – right?
In reality, the cost might be high.
But the reward is even higher.

The Lamb

The reward is salvation from death because neither we nor our enemies are using death against the other person any longer.
The victory of God and God’s Kingdom does not come from the power of the lion,
It comes from the death of the Lamb.
What the cross teaches us is that those with authority and power were no match for the one who sacrificed everything.
What resurrection teaches us is that the weapon of death is no match for the God of Life.
That it is in Life that victory is Eternal.
And that the Victory of Life is a victory of the Power of God.
Power isn’t to be held over people,
Power belongs to God.
And if we, the followers of God, believe that’s true
-That power belongs to God,
-Then we are called to surrender our power to Him.
That means we put away our efforts to dominate others.
And trust God with the power.
Because what is power, after all?
In the hands of this world, it is destructive.
In the hands of God, it is redemptive.
And what is victory?
In the hands of this world, it is destructive.
In the hands of God, it is redemptive.
Because in the hands of God, power and victory are not the weapon of the Lion,
They are in the sacrifice of the Lamb who was slain.

The Lamb

The victory of Easter is a victory of life over death...
Jesus did not merely return from the dead…
He re-ordered the cosmos.
He re-structured the universe.
Life, and not death, now claims the victory.
And that means something for our lives this morning.
It means something for the conflict we find ourselves in.
It means something for the way we approach the world.
It means something for the way we live.
It calls us out of death and into life.
It calls us to bind the weapon of our tongue,
Deny the weapon of dominance over others,
Reject the powers of hell in our world,
That are so easily accessible to us.
And participate in the victory of life.
The victory of sacrifice.
The victory of the Lamb.
It calls us to pursue relationships with people,
Rather than power over people,
And it calls us to call upon the power of God, which is life,
Rather than the powers of hell, whose weapon of death has already been defeated.
So I want to invite you this morning to imagine that perhaps the world we were brought up in has told us a lie…
It has told us that the ways of death can lead to victory…
That there are times when we may have to compromise the way of Jesus for the greater good…
And imagine instead that by emptying ourselves, we may be filled….
And that by lifting others up…
By loving without limitations…
And by offering our lives as a sacrifice… alive or dead -
We may know the victory of the lion of Judah, the lamb who was slain.
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