June 4, 2019
Pastor John Hering
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
“Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life. He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The wedding is over and the officiant says, “The couple invites everyone to the reception area while they take some pictures.” And you’re thinking to yourself, “I don’t mind going over there to have a refreshing beverage, some broccoli trees, a couple baby carrots and a hand full of Checks Mix.” But, the couple wants to get their money’s worth out of the limo ride, so after the formal pics it’s off to a park, famous landmark, stop for a drink….. at Sonic, and at Whataburger because they know they won’t have time to enjoy their reception meal. Your waiting stomach is growling and finally the bride and groom arrive and the dinner and reception begin. Then something wonderful happens. The meal, conversation, time with friends and family were so delightful you forget the delay. How thrilled to be at the wedding celebration.
Jesus wants us to join him in the most wonderful celebration of all. In Revelation 19 John wrote: “Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” Because Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead this is the eternal feast of his love which we get to enjoy in heaven. But, you know what? Just like the joy after waiting at a wedding reception comes to an end, there is greater joy for many more at Jesus’ eternal banquet. So, on this last Sunday of the Easter season, right after Jesus’ Ascension, we recall the privilege Jesus has given to us. While we wait for Jesus’ return we get to invite people to get ready as we pray:
Come, Lord Jesus!
The Reward of Christ
At the heart of our Lutheran teachings is this: We believe that we do not earn heaven by how we behave. So, when we hear Jesus say, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” The Bible answers this for us. Let me use this little illustration. What are your chances of winning the 100-meter race? With the exception of one or two people here, none of us would come close. Right? Now let’s say we get tickets to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. We sit in the stands and watch the lightning fast race. At the award ceremony the medals are being handed out, but the winner’s stand is vacant. Then you hear the announcer call out your name and declare you the winner! Hard to believe, until you have the medal hanging on your neck.
That’s what Jesus did for you. Jesus ran the race in order to endure the punishment of all your sins on the cross, then God the Father declared the whole world justified (declared not guilty) on the basis of Jesus’ work. You were declared to be the winner, forgiven! That amazing declaration of God is yours through faith. For Jesus’ sake you are forgiven! And the rewards of his grace come from your good works that also came from him! Ephesians 2 says, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” Just imagine how the message from John encouraged those in Ephesus! Their works of thankfulness that came through faith were seen by God! “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.” Christ’s reward was his gift of grace. The punishment of sins was paid, the curse removed, and the good news of his good gifts of grace were theirs according to the mercy of God. Therefore, Come quickly Lord Jesus and we will receive the blessing of your eternal rewards. And if you know anyone who Jesus’ rewards of grace, help us to invite them, too! Then they can join us to:
Enjoy the Presence of Christ
Christians who lived near Ephesus often felt alone. Many of them had been cut off from their families because they no longer worshiped the false gods of their ancestors. Many lost their jobs. When they trained their children about Jesus instead of the local deities, then they lost touch with neighbors and friends. Yup. They felt alone.
What a comfort to hear Jesus say, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” Jesus was assuring them that he was there with them from beginning to end. They were connected to Jesus yesterday, today and forever. Jesus was always with them and would never forsake them.
Do you know anyone who is lonely? Do you know someone who loves to feel like someone cares? Maybe their life is being torn apart by a death in the family, or a divorce, or a sense of discomfort about being all alone. That’s who needs to hear about Jesus who promises to be with them. He knows exactly what he’s doing to work out all things for the eternal good of his people. He knows from beginning to end just how it all turns out. So, we listen to his Word that never fails, trust in his promises and encourage each other in the shadow of his presence. Therefore, Come quickly Lord Jesus and as we enjoy the blessing of your presence. And if you know anyone who needs Jesus’ rewards of grace and presence, let’s go ahead and invite them, too! Then they can join us to:
Live in the City of Christ
By 1920, more Americans lived in cities than in rural areas for the first time in US history. Then in the 1950s people in America began moving from the cities to the suburbs. And now their children and grandchildren are moving in two directions. Some have moved way out of the city into large homes with large lawns to mow. Others are moving back into the city to be closer to their jobs and action in the city. Unlike years ago, where people live today has very little to do with protection. Years ago the city is where the king lived. The king provided a safe place in the event of an attack.
The people living in Ephesus needed some protecting. There was the temptation to let their Christianity drop and go back to their previous ungodly lifestyle. He reminds them of who they are in Christ. “Blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs, those who practice magic arts, the sexually immoral, the murderers, the idolaters and everyone who loves and practices falsehood….“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David.” During the reign of David and Solomon the Israelites lived the glory years. To live in Jerusalem during this time period meant protection and peace.
We are God’s people. We may not always be strong and courageous in our life on earth, but through faith we are living in the City of God—the place of safety. Do you know anyone who needs protection, who is attacked by temptation and has trouble saying, “No!” to sin? Know anybody! Are you kidding me! It’s me! We all need the sense of security, of an unburdened conscience, to walk in the assurance that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Good News, dear baptized children of God! You have been given this blessing in Jesus Christ. Therefore, Come quickly Lord Jesus and as we enjoy the blessing of living in safety in the City of Christ. And if you know anyone who needs Christ’s rewards of grace, presence and protection, let’s go ahead and invite them, too! Then they can join us to:
Bask in the Light of Christ
I have this thing for flashlights. I really like the cool new LED flashlights! Can you imagine being a shepherd in the days of Jesus trying to see your flock? Not only was it dark, but you had to deal with guarding, watching, leading them to pastures and keeping predators away. Imagine taking the midnight shift and trying to keep your eyes open without being able to shine your LED flashlight beam into the nighttime sky? How glorious to finally see the break of dawn! How wonderful to see the morning star signaling, “Light is on the way!” What a joy to hear Jesus say, “I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”
We get how many times in Scriptures darkness represents evil. The Christians who read this letter were surrounded by the darkness of sin. They were dealing with neighbors who flaunted their godless lifestyles as if there was nothing wrong with it according to God’s holy will, and then called Christians intolerant or bigots when they objected. What a relief to hear Jesus say, “I, Jesus,…. and the bright Morning Star”…who shines rays of hope into your hearts and lives to guide you in a holy, God-pleasing life.
Do you know anyone who is living in darkness—that is ignorant of God’s Word and wonders whether there really is such a thing as moral right and wrong? Do you think they would like to have someone shed some light on the subject, some direction, some brightness for the path of life? Therefore, Come quickly Lord Jesus and as we enjoy the blessing of the Light of Christ. And if you know anyone who needs the guidance provided by Christ’s light, let’s go ahead and invite them, too! Then they can join us to:
Drink from the well of Christ
More than one WELS church has capitalized on this whole idea of drinking. One church I hear uses this marketing spark in the summertime. Their church is at the end of a July 4th parade route. As the bands and marchers approach, they read the sign, “Come to the WELS and drink the Water of Life!” Catchy, but very insider! You get it. You know the Water of life is the gospel of Jesus.
But, the people in Ephesus had to recognize that while they did receive the reward of Christ, the presence of Christ, the City of Christ and basked in the light of Christ, they were in danger of growing apathetic and taking it all for granted. They needed constant spiritual refreshment and renewal. John’s message hit the spot! “17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.” You get it. You drank from the well of Christ as your baptism. You drink from the well of Christ at the Lord’s Supper. You drink of the well of Christ every time you read, listen to, or share God’s Word, and every time you parents bring your children to Kingdom Kids.
Do you know someone who has become stagnant in spiritual life? Maybe someone who says, “I think my faith is drying up!” Do you think they would love to have spiritual renewal, so every day is a new day filled with “WOW! Jesus is great!” Then let’s send out the invitations to the banquet of the Lamb! Yes, while we wait to enjoy the eternal banquet in heaven, let’s not become bored as if waiting for a wedding party, but let’s be rejuvenated by Jesus’ own words, “Yes, I’m coming soon!” Soon? Yes, so let’s forget about the delay and let’s be eager to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, the souls of people in our life that were purchased by the blood of Jesus. Until Jesus returns in glory, we have one main task—to invite souls to his wedding feast! Therefore, Come quickly Lord Jesus and while we wait we will remember the blessings of your rewards of grace, your eternal presence, living in the City of Christ with God as the light as we enjoy the water of life. Then we’ll be ready when the Lord Jesu comes. Amen!