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Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The word of God for or meditation this Easter Sunday is recorded in Revelation 19:11-16. I won’t read the who section now, but you might want to have your Bibles open so that you can follow along as we get to each verse.
The Son of God goes forth to war. How did he do? By all outward appearances, it looked like he failed. It looked like he had lost the battle. The disciples on the road to Emmaus thought that was the case. They said, the chief priests and our rulers handed him over to be condemned to death. And they crucified him. But we were hoping that he was going to redeem Israel. But the centurion realized that there was more going on that Good Friday than the eye could see. He was moved to confess surely he was the Son of God! By God’s grace we know what it meant that Jesus cried out, it is finished! A dead hero laid in a tomb usually indicates defeat, but in this case, it meant victory.
What do you usually do when a hero dies in battle? You put up a commemorative statue. I’m sure you have seen many military heroes who have died depicted by a statue showing them with sword drawn riding a powerful war horse. Have you seen a statue like that of Jesus? I haven’t. But, in his vision on the Island of Patmos, John did. Well, not exactly, he didn’t see a statue. He saw Jesus himself, not dead but alive!
He tells us, 11I saw heaven standing open, and there was a white horse! Its rider is called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war in righteousness.
John didn’t see a statue commemorating a dead Jesus. He saw Jesus alive! He saw Jesus riding a white horse! We know it’s Jesus because he is called Faithful and True. He is the one who told Pilate, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. (Jn. 18:37 NIBO) He is the one who proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father except through me. (Jn. 14:6 NIBO) He is the one who gave those demanding a sign the sign of Jonah, that as Jonah was in the great fish for three days and came out alive, so he would be in the ground for three days and come out alive. He is the one who told his disciples repeatedly that he would die, but that he would rise again. Even the Jewish leaders knew what he said. That’s why they wanted guards posted at the tomb.
Jesus is Faithful and True. He said he would rise from the dead on the third day and he did. Paul says that over 500 different people saw him after his resurrection. Because he rose from the dead just as he said, we can trust all his wonderful promises- that he is with us always, that whoever believes in him has eternal life, that even though we die we will not perish, that because he lives we too will live, that he is preparing a place for us and will come back, riding his white horse, to raise all the dead, and take all those who believe in him to live with him in his glorious kingdom forever.
John says that he judges and makes war in righteousness. 12His eyes are like blazing flames, and on his head are many crowns. He has a name written on him, which no one knows except he himself. 13He is also clothed in a garment that had been dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God.
Many things in Revelation sound scary. They are intended to be scary, in fact terrifying—for those who refuse to believe that Jesus died for their sins and rose again. He alone can judge and make war in righteousness because his eyes are like blazing flames. He sees through all hypocrisy. As the living word of God his look penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. 13 Nothing in all creation is hidden from his sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb. 4:12-13 NIBO) He sees through every excuse. He recognizes every rationalization of a sin for what it is. Before him every mouth is silenced. Everyone is held accountable. Everyone is without excuse.
So how is that not scary? 14The armies in heaven, which were clothed with white, clean, fine linen, were following him on white horses. In Revelation it is not only the Angels and the 24 Elders who are clothed in white, clean, fine linen. Believers are too. John says, I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no-one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. 10 And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.” (Rev. 7:9-10 NIBO) And, John sees that Christ’s bride, the church, every believer, was given bright, clean, fine linen to wear. (In fact, the fine linen is the “not guilty” verdicts pronounced on the saints.) The blazing eyes and the sword of judgment need not cause us to fear because, by grace through faith in Jesus we have been clothed in the clean, fine linen of the righteousness of Jesus and declared not guilty of all our sins.
Earlier in Revelation the martyrs asked how long it would be until there was justice, until God would avenge their unjust execution. They were told to wait. What John sees here is that the wait is over. The crucified and risen Lord, wearing many crowns because he has defeated every enemy, his clothing spattered with the blood of his defeated foes as he trampled the winepress of the fierce anger of the Almighty God, is coming to bring about the final judgment. 15Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. He will shepherd them with an iron staff.
Jesus says that the judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day. (Jn. 12:48 NIBO) And Paul reminds us that the Lord Jesus will overthrow the lawless one with the breath of his mouth. (2 Thess. 2:8 NIBO)
As our crucified and risen Lord, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. The Psalmist calls upon the kings and the rulers of the earth to be wise, to acknowledge the Lord and put their trust in him because those who don’t, he will rule with an iron scepter; and dash them to pieces like pottery. (Ps. 2:9 NIBO)
There is no bronze statue of Jesus riding a war horse like those commemorating heroes who have died in battle. That’s because he isn’t dead. He is risen. He is riding his white horse right now, living and ruling all that exists, for God has placed everything under his feet. He is head over everything, victor over sin, death and Satan, ruling everything for his church, for us, his bride.
Jesus is Faithful and True. As he told the repentant criminal who asked to be remembered, to be included in Jesus’ kingdom, so he tells us at the moment of our death – today you will be with me in paradise. Death has a sting; it exists because of sin. And the power of sin in the law. But thanks be to God, he gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ who demonstrated his victory by rising from the dead just as he said.
When he comes riding his white horse on the clouds of heaven on the day of judgment we can rejoice, lift up our heads without fear, because we know our redemption has come. Our victorious, living hero, has come to take us to the place he has prepared for us. Like his name, that place is beyond our understanding. But who could complain about a place that is lighted by God, where there is no fearful darkness, where no doors ever have to be locked because no one and nothing evil will be there? Who could complain about a place where there is no mourning or crying or pain, where there is no death, and we get to eat from the tree of life? Who could complain about a place where you can bask in the presence and glory of God, joyfully joining the whole company of heaven saying, Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb. (Rev. 7:10 NIBO) Who could complain about a place were this is true, Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat. 17 For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; he will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes (Rev. 7:16-17 NIBO)
We don’t see Jesus as a fallen hero of war. We don’t commemorate him with a statue of stone or bronze, because he is not dead. Christ is risen. He is risen Indeed. Alleluia. Amen