How about a difficult lesson from Revelation today? I know, Revelation. Why? What does anybody need to know from Revelation?
It seems that some of us are scared to death of Revelation, so we ignore it. We avoid it. We act like it’s not there. Others of us are almost obsessed with Revelation. We see penicillin in Revelation, and smartphones and bar codes and Russia and whatever Donald Trump had for lunch yesterday. That’s overboard the other way. Revelation was given to us as the final word in the Bible to encourage us. To give us hope. To give us the confidence to persevere. To show us how the Story of God ends and how we are to get from here to there. We ignore it to our own peril.
Randy Harris says Revelation is super simple, there are only three points to the whole book:
1) God’s team wins
2) You need to pick a team
3) Don’t be an idiot
But there are some hard lessons in Revelation. Here’s one: Jesus is not a lion. He is a lamb.
The Messianic expectation was for a lion, the Lion of Judah. That’s what God’s people were praying for, that’s what they were looking for and expecting. We need someone who is strong and threatening, someone who is powerful and mighty, someone to destroy our enemies and restore us to power. Like David, the Lion of Judah! That’s what Israel called all their kings after David, the Lion of Judah.
That’s clearly what Revelation 5 is alluding to. John is weeping because no one has been found worthy to break the seals and open the scroll to inaugurate the fulfillment of the Kingdom of God. But one of the elders tells John to stop crying. “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!”
So John looked. But he didn’t see a lion. There was no lion. He saw the Lamb.
“I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain.”
A Lamb. Not a lion. John goes on to say he saw the Lamb on the throne. He saw all of creation worshiping the Lamb. The Lamb is the One who breaks the seals and opens the scroll to fulfill the will of our God. Not a lion.
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men and women for God, from every tribe and language and people and nation!” ~Revelation 5:9
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain.” ~Revelation 5:12
Jesus could have come with power, but he didn’t; he came in weakness. Jesus could have asserted his rights, but he didn’t; he laid them down. Jesus could have stood up to his enemies, but he didn’t; he turned the other cheek in forgiveness and love. Jesus could have called ten thousand angels, but he didn’t; he died alone for you and me.
When Revelation 19 tells us the Lord Almighty rides on a white horse and his robe is covered in blood, we know it’s his own blood.
See, a lion or a warrior says, “I will fight to make things right. I will kill for you.”
The Lamb says, “I will sacrifice and serve to make things right. I will die for you.”
Jesus the Christ overcomes pain and anguish, he defeats evil and fear, he destroys sin and death forever with mercy and gentleness, with forgiveness and love, with grace and patience, with suffering and death.
Revelation tells us to wait for that glorious day of the Lord. And it calls us to wait in a certain way. In Revelation, the ones who are called conquerors, the over-comers, the ones who are called victors, are not the ones who fight. They’re the ones who submit faithfully to suffering and death, totally trusting God and God only to deliver.
And Revelation shows us the Lamb. The Lamb who was slain. The Lamb who endured suffering and death and entrusted himself fully to his Father. And who reigns now and forever at God’s right hand.
Worthy is the Lamb!
So we testify and we witness and we change the world. Not by power or force, not by threat or volume, not by fighting or by any of the other ways of the world. But by patience and gentleness, mercy and love. And, yes, even suffering and death.
That’s a hard lesson. It’s the centuries-old scandal of the cross, the centerpiece of our faith, that we still do not fully embrace.
Worthy is the Lamb!