6th Sunday of Easter – C LSB #’s 397, 672, 673
Text – Revelation 21:9
Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues & spoke to me, saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
A VISION OF THE BRIDE
The epistle reading & the sermon title specifically, refer to the Bride of Christ. It is a beautiful picture that speaks of a joy which creatures of this broken world struggle to comprehend. What is missing from the appointed reading is the contrast that leads in to such a stunning picture, & it is the mother of all contrasts.
The epistle reading began with verse 9. To gain its full impact you need to hear verse 8: “But as for the cowardly & unfaithful & abominable people, & those who murder & sin sexually & practice witchcraft & worship idols, & all liars – they will find themselves in the lake burning with fire & sulfur; this is the 2nd death.” (Revelation 21:8 NET)
Thank you Jesus that the book of Revelation does not end there! Verse 9 transitions us from a vision of death to a vision of the Bride: “Then came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues…” He spoke to me saying, “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
The grim picture of verse eight, & all that is wrong with the world, as we too often experience it, is there for the purpose of setting off & highlighting the holiness & the perfection to come. It’s similar to lighting a bright candle in the midst of the pitch-black darkness. The total absence of light prepares you to appreciate the beauty of the light.
The brokenness of this world prepares you & me to appreciate the beauty of the paradise to come. But too often we think of heaven only in terms of a place to be. We think of it in such narrow & limited terms, as the place with no more sorrow & no more tears. Paradise will be so much more than that. You remember the thief on the cross, the one who said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” (Luke 23:42 ESV) Do you recall how Jesus replied? “Truly, I say to you, today with me you will be in paradise.” (Luke 23:43) Christ’s word order emphasizes that the former thief will be with Christ, & then Jesus adds, “in paradise.”
Heaven will be so much more than a place because there you will be with Jesus. Think of your best friend, & think of that relationship on the best day ever. No matter where you were, it would not have been the same if you weren’t there with your best friend. Heaven is not simply about where you will be, but also about whom you will be with.
If the absence of your best friend completely changes things here on earth, how much more would the absence of Jesus completely change things in paradise? Nothing in the entire universe is as glorious as the community of people who have fellowship with God. Here on earth that is marked & scarred by the effects of sin. In heaven, we will see & know it perfectly.
On earth, the Gospels of Matthew & Mark each record how both criminals that were crucified with Jesus mocked Him. Luke recorded that one of them finally repented & put his trust in Jesus. On this side of heaven that is our view of the Bride of Christ. The Church of God is marked & scarred by the effects of sin.
God had the book of Revelation written so that we’d also hear about the Bride of Christ from the perspective of paradise: “And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great, high mountain, & showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal.”
From our current perspective of brokenness, the Church looks like a mess! God showed John a picture of the Bride in her heavenly glory so that he could describe it to everyone who reads the Book of Revelation. The Son of God knew that each of us, in our walk of faith, would need to be encouraged & strengthened for the spiritual warfare that goes on in this world. In Revelation we see the Church in glory. In the Gospels, we see the Church with all its marks & scars, yet the story that is told is the same story.
One of the thieves crucified with Jesus moves from bitterness to trust, from darkness to light, from rebellion to humility, & from death to life. Even while he was in that very process of dying, he was moving from death to life. Can you see there the glorious beauty of the Bride of Christ? Then you have faith in Jesus as your Lord & your Savior!
This glimpse of heaven coming to earth gives hope & encouragement when times are tough, when we get discouraged, when things look hopeless. The Gospel reading gives the picture of hopelessness: “One man was there who had been an invalid for 38 years.” (John 5:5)
“When Jesus saw him lying there & knew that he had already been there a long time, He said to him, ‘Do you want to be healed?’ The sick man answered Him, ‘Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, & while I am going another steps down before me.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Get up, take up your bed, & walk.’” (John 5:6-8 ESV)
“And at once the man was healed, & he took up his bed & walked. Now that day was the Sabbath.” (John 5:9 ESV)
Do you realize why that last sentence is there? Can you explain it? If you’re being healed after 38 years of being an invalid, does it really matter which day of the week it is? The standard explanation is that Jesus was proving to the Pharisees His Lordship of the Sabbath; that He truly is God in the flesh. But I think there might be another message there.
Could it also be that Jesus is telling us what the Sabbath is for? Could it be that Jesus is teaching us that the Sabbath is given to man for healing? Our presence in the house of God on Sunday morning is for our wounds to be healed. You see, compared to our spiritual wounds, our physical injuries pale in comparison. Remember what I said earlier in the sermon about verse eight of Revelation 21? One commentator referred to it as the harlot city, as compared to the bride city, which is the wife of the Lamb. It is the mother of all contrasts.
If our spiritual wounds are never healed we remain as members of the harlot city. “But as for the cowardly & unfaithful & abominable people, & those who murder & sin sexually & practice witchcraft & worship idols, & all liars – they will find themselves in the lake burning with fire & sulfur; this is the 2nd death.” (Revelation 21:8 NET)
But if we come to the house of God here we will find healing, because here God offers & promises life in His Word & in His Sacraments. Oh, you may never have entered this house as an invalid & walked out physically healed, but that healing pales in comparison to the spiritual healing your Creator offers you here.
Looking around this room you likely know some of the stories of brokenness. With your current eyesight the marks & scars are obvious, while there are certainly many others that yet remain hidden. In Revelation 21, God’s Spirit is showing us what the Church looks light from God’s perspective. On account of Jesus Christ, & what He did, God sees this church as holy.
The angel who is speaking to John proudly shows him the Church from God’s perspective: “Come, I will show you the Bride, the wife of the Lamb.” That is the vision our Lord wants us to have when we look around the congregation, whether that’s on Sunday morning, or Tuesday evening, or any other time of the week.
Yes, we still see the darkness, but the glory of God’s Church, when we glimpse it here in this life, is all the more glorious for what our Savior is saving us from. Amen.
Within those walls of Zion sounds forth the joyful song, as saints join with the angels & all the martyr throng. The Prince is ever with them; the daylight is serene; the city of the blessed shines bright with glorious sheen. O sweet & blessed country, the home of God’s elect! O sweet & blessed country that faithful hearts expect! In mercy, Jesus, bring us to that eternal rest with You & God the Father & Spirit ever blest. Amen. LSB 672:2, 4.
 Revelation 21:10-11 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet