HE IS WORTHY
Pastor Vernon Giesbrecht
In past years, I’ve had the opportunity to attend InterVarsity’s tri-annual Urbana Missions Conference several times, first as a university student and then as a Missions Pastor, usually with a team of students. If you’ve attended large Christian conferences, there is a sense of being both overwhelmed and encouraged, as you realize you as an individual are part of a global mass of people who love and follow Christ.
The Urbana conference occurs at the end of the year with the New Year’s Eve service culminating in sharing communion with 20,000 students, missionaries, and church leaders. The perimeter stadium lights are lowered, except for the multiple tables on the center floor holding the bread and the juice. After a reminder of what communion commemorates, volunteer servers, the elements and a “bulb” candle in hand, slowly make their way in the darkness up the aisles of the vast stadium to pass out bread and the juice. It is a vivid picture of the gospel – the life-saving work of Jesus, the light in the darkness – going out to the far reaches of the world! The image always comes to mind every time I join my brothers and sisters in remembering Christ’s sacrificial death and victorious resurrection on my behalf.
That experience came to mind again with my devotional reading taking me through the first chapters of Revelation, specifically chapter 5. The Apostle John, confined to the Island of Patmos, receives revelations in the form of visions regarding God’s cosmic plan for His creation. As you may know, interpretations vary of what the visions portray when combined with the visions of Daniel, Ezekiel, and other prophets and Scripture passages. It is not my purpose to represent any of these approaches here.
The first three chapters of the book contain messages to seven churches, the names of which we would recognize from the book of Acts and the writings of the Apostle Paul. The Son of Man, Jesus, is both commending and warning these churches. It is a good exercise to apply these messages to the church today, and more specifically to our church. Issues such as hardship, perseverance, immorality, hypocrisy, compromise, luke-warmness, repentance, and regaining our first love are just some of the convicting challenges in these initial chapters.
Chapters 4 opens with a spectacular vision of worship in heaven of Almighty God – brilliant gemstones, 24 elders in white on 24 thrones, lightning and thunder, seven flaming torches, and four living beings continually giving glory and honor to the eternally existent God! Then, in Chapter 5, John sees a scroll (book) in God’s right hand, sealed with seven seals, and with writing on the inside and outside. A scroll was typically written only on the inside; to symbolize completeness, this one is full on both sides. This is God’s redemption plan for the ages, and inside it contains both “hope and horror” (Andy Robinson) as future chapters will describe. No one is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll, which brings John to tears. Is this a hopeless situation; will the promises of God ever be fulfilled; has salvation history been brought to a standstill? (Robert W. Wall)
But, one of the 24 elders steps forward and exclaims: “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Surprisingly, John doesn’t see this conquering figure but rather a “Lamb, standing, as though it had been slain…” This is Jesus, the Son of Man, the Son of God, who steps forward and takes the scroll. The elder in heaven sees that Jesus has already triumphed – the Lion of Judah! From John’s vantage point, he sees victory over death and sin through Jesus’ sacrifice, the slain but standing/living Lamb! He is the one who is worthy to fulfill God’s eternal promises of salvation for His creation.
Then, the elders, creatures, and thousands of angels erupt in a new song: “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Salvation through sacrifice; victory through weakness; triumph through humility and service. This is the model for all of us who count ourselves as followers of Christ. In the words of our church’s mission, we are called to “Love God, Love Others, and Serve the Community and World”. And, it is Jesus who is worthy of all honor and glory and blessing for what is accomplished!
I opened with my experience of celebrating communion at the Urbana Conference, remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection so that His grace could be poured out on us. Let me leave you with another experience of worship – a relatively new song: “Is He Worthy?” written by Andrew Peterson and Ben Shive. Andrew Peterson wrote it after reading and meditating on Revelation 5. Please go to YouTube, pull up the lyrics and listen/watch either Andrew Peterson or Chris Tomlin sing this powerful song of praise to our Lord. And, join the thousands in heaven and around the world, basking in the wonder of what Christ has accomplished for them and for you. He is worthy!