Printable PDF: 4-12-2020 Easter Sermon 2020
Pastor Mark R. Jacobson ~ Revelation 19:11-16 ~ April 12, 2020 ~ Easter Sermon
11I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war. 12His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him that no one knows but he himself. 13He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God. 14The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean. 15Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. “He will rule them with an iron scepter.” He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.
The painting I have on my left is entitled “The Race Track.” Albert Ryder is the artist and this work hangs in Cleveland’s Museum of Art today. Its subtitle reads, “Death on a Pale Horse.” The horseman is alone on the track and is wielding a huge scythe. On the ground alongside the track is a big snake. Notice as you look at the picture the rider is going clockwise—the wrong way. The rider is going in the “wrong” direction so he can pick off as many people as he can. We know he will get everyone. That pale rider, Death, is coming after me. He’s got your friends and family in his sights. He’s going to catch you, too. He always wins or so it would seem to us in this world. The picture we have from the last book of the Bible is much different. The vision given to the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos was not “Death on a Pale Horse, but “VICTORY on a White Horse!”
- Our hero is not dead, but alive, having defeated death.
Look again at what the Apostle John says, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.”
America has had its share of famous generals. Many of them are best known by their nicknames. Do you know the real names of these American generals? Old Blood and Guts, Stonewall, The Bear, Ike? (Answers: George Patton, Thomas Jackson, Norman Schwarzkopf, Dwight Eisenhower) Here’s the name of another famous general: Faithful and True. His real name is Jesus Christ. Though we might not often picture Jesus Christ as a general, this is how he pictures himself in Revelation 19.
What a glorious picture of Jesus Christ! He is no longer pictured as a captive humiliated by soldiers. He is no longer beaten and whipped. His head is not bowed. Jesus had certainly died. As a matter of fact, after he was already dead, the professional killers stabbed him in the side to make sure he was dead. His body was then placed in a grave, sealed tight and guarded. The blood Jesus shed cleanses us from sin and not just our sins, but the sins of all the world. The victory over sin was made clear when Jesus shouted, “It is finished!”
Yet one more foe must be conquered: Death! That’s what today, this Easter Day, is all about! Victory! The mighty rider on the white horse is a victorious rider. The body of Jesus Christ is not in a grave. The empty tomb made the women and the Apostles wonder what had happened. The resurrection appearances of Jesus Christ leaves no doubt. The Bible lists over a dozen different appearances of the risen Jesus, including one time when there were five hundred people present. Most of the gospel accounts, including St. Paul’s account of the resurrection, were written during the lifetime of thousands of people who were alive at the time of the first Easter. Many people knew about Jesus’ resurrection from personal experience. They saw the resurrected Jesus themselves, or they heard about the resurrection directly from people who had seen Jesus. Jesus defeated death.
How important that is to all of us! Our country has recently spent trillions of dollars in an effort to defeat one virus. We spend trillions more to try to treat cancer, heart disease, and other health threats to life. Humanity does its best to push death away and the best we can do is a few more years or a few more decades. No one gets 100 more years. No one lives forever. Humanity can’t defeat death. There is no cure but one!
The empty tomb and the resurrection appearances of Jesus prove his words about death are true: Jesus once said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die” (John 11:25). The one who believes in Jesus is you and me. We believe in Jesus. We will rise because the one who has conquered death said so. St. Paul tells us: “In a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality” (1 Corinthians 15:52,53). Our hero is not dead, but alive, having defeated death, and now we see in the vision given to St John …
- Our living hero has all authority on the Day of Judgment.
Our lesson continues, “His eyes are like a blazing fire.” Mothers may have eyes in the back of their heads. Police write up detailed incident reports just in case they will need to appear in court. Jesus, his eyes like a blazing fire, sees everything. No one can hide from Jesus. Jesus is all-knowing. No one can run from Jesus either. Jesus is all-powerful. “On his head are many crowns.” The crowns on his head are not only from the world leaders who have willingly submitted to his authority, but also the crowns he has taken from those who have rejected him. On the Day of Judgment those who have rejected Jesus will feel his name. “…his name is the Word of God … Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations.” His robe dipped in blood is not his own blood shed on the cross, but the blood of his enemies who refused to live according to the Word of God. He will crush them like grapes. “He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.”
If you ever had the idea that Jesus was too soft on sinners or too forgiving of his foes, think again. His eyes, his crowns, his robe, his sword, ultimately his name – the Word of God – will terrify impenitent sinners. This image of Jesus as a conquering general also gets us thinking about whether or not we are faithful and true. Are you a faithful and true disciple of Jesus – hanging on his every word? Are you a faithful and true parent – raising your child in the fear of the Lord? A faithful and true spouse – reflecting God’s love to your husband or wife? A faithful and true child – obedient to authority? A faithful and true friend and neighbor – loving your neighbor as yourself? A faithful and true employee or student – knowing God is watching you? Jesus did say, “If anyone hears my words but does not keep them…the very words I have spoken will condemn them on the last day” (John 12).
The last day will be scary to some but not to us who believe in Jesus. True to his Word and faithful to his Father, Jesus took the place of sinners under the law and lived as our perfect substitute. He went to the cross and paid the full debt we owed God because of our unfaithfulness. True to his Word and faithful to his Father, Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears and believes in him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life” (John 5:24).
- Those with the rider are safe forever. Alleluia!
Our last section of Revelation reads, “The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses and dressed in fine linen, white and clean….On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” “The armies of heaven” are the holy angels. These angels have always served Jesus as faithful and true soldiers. They served as God’s messengers and protectors of God’s holy people. On the Last Day the angels will be spectators as their King conquers all of his enemies and establishes his new kingdom. We know Jesus is the King, and we know Jesus is the Lord, but who are the “of kings” and who are the “of lords”? We are!
It might be tempting to see the “of kings” and “of lords” as the defeated kings of this earth. Jesus is their King and Lord, too, but the Bible says, “If we endure, we will also reign with him” (2 Timothy 2:12). In heaven we will reign! No longer will sickness and death rule over us! We are safe forever. Alleluia! Even more, in heaven we will be in total control of our lives. No longer will we have to fight to take people’s words and actions in the kindest possible way. No longer will we concern ourselves with what others think of us or even of what we think of ourselves. In heaven our conscience will never again wrestle with right and wrong. We will be like the King! We have noble thoughts and pure motives. We will also have loving words and kind actions. Never again will hurtful words slip and fall out of our mouths. Never again will songs of praise be left unsung. “And when we’ve been there 10,000 years, bright shining as the sun, we’ve no less days to sing God’s praise than when we’d first begun.” Amen.