Seventh Sunday of Easter – Epistle

by Crossings

Come, Lord Jesus!
Seventh Sunday of Easter
Revelation 22:12-14, 16-17, 20-21
Analysis by Steven C. Kuhl

22: 12 “See, I am coming soon; my reward is with me, to repay according to everyone’s work. 13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” 14 Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they will have the right to the tree of life and may enter the city by the gates. 16 “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.”
17 The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.”
And let everyone who hears say, “Come.”
And let everyone who is thirsty come.
Let anyone who wishes take the water of life as a gift.
20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus! 21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen.


DIAGNOSIS: Coming with Recompense

Step 1: Initial Diagnosis (External Problem) – Living in Suspense Or Having Neither the Beginning Nor the End (v. 13)
We tend to like beginnings and endings: Beginnings offer the appearance, at least, of fresh hope, and endings–well, whatever they might bring, at least, they dispel all doubt about what will be. Endings always “break the suspense,” whether they turn out good or bad. The problem with life, as we experience it, is that it is always lived in suspense. We live “in between” the times, in between the ultimate beginning and ending, of which the mini- beginnings and endings merely foreshadow. Is it any wonder, then, that people–ancient and modern–seek to know the future; is it any wonder that they seek some means to “break the suspense” that, in some fashion, is “killing them”? For if they know the ending (so they reason) they could better prepare for it in the now, and perhaps in a saving way. Is it any wonder that people look to “future tellers,” whether the sophisticated economic and social prognosticators or the flamboyant TV future-readers, for some glimpse of the end? The suspense is killing them–and us, too.

Step 2: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Problem) – Loving and Practicing Falsehood (v. 15)
But there is more to this desire to “break the suspense” than meets the eye. Although the lectionary authors skipped over this verse in the text, this all-too-natural desire (what John the Seer might call “the practice of falsehood,” v. 15) is also a sign of what is going on inside, in the heart. John calls it “the love of falsehood” (v. 15). No practice of faith is neutral. Practice always follows some love, some belief. And in our desire to “break the suspense” we will believe almost anything, including “falsehood”–or, as the whole of John’s Revelation asserts, especially falsehood. Of course, living as we do, “in between times,” the challenge to discern truth from falsehood (i.e., faith) is always risky, always suspenseful. For truth, like falsehood, depends on “testimony”–and testimony seeks to engender “faith” by way of a credible witness. In this case, love of falsehood, while a kind of faith, is an “in-credible” faith, a false-faith, an “anti-faith,” because it is connected to an anti-testimony–or an antichrist, to use the imagery of Revelation.

Step 3: Final Diagnosis (Eternal Problem) – Coming with Recompense
Ironically, John’s revelation does in a sense give seekers exactly what they desire. John does offer them a glimpse into that ultimate future. He does accommodate their/our desire to “break the suspense,”–if, that is, we have ears to hear it. But in general the breaking of the suspense brings no relief. If the suspense is killing us, then, it simply foreshadows a deadly ending. For what is coming, says this testimony from the future, is “recompense” (v. 12). What is coming is doom and destruction on all that is false, in practice and in belief. “Every one who loves and practices falsehood” is an “outsider” (v. 15), says the testimony. Outsiders have no right to an enduring future; the tree of life is out of reach. John would probably not make a cent trying to post a 900-line with this witness about the future: would-be inquirers would be loath to call. For the witness is not inviting or flattering. Indeed, given this testimony of the future, one can easily understand why people might opt to hang up on the message, stay “in suspense,” and continue to speculate on more appealing falsehoods. But, of course, to no avail, ultimately.

PROGNOSIS: But He Came with Blessing

Step 4: Initial Prognosis (Eternal Solution) – “It Is I, Jesus . . .” (v. 16)
The testimony of recompense would indeed cast a shroud of eternal doom and despair on everything, if it were not for Jesus, who jumps into scene and shouts: “It is I, Jesus who sent my angel to you with this testimony [of recompense] for the churches,” (v. 16). Although we have not seen the “end,” the testimony of Jesus is that the end-time judge is he. What is more, he testifies that he came in the mean time, not to trumpet recompense (he left that to his angel) but “blessing” (v. 14). By taking our falsehood on himself, by suffering it to death on the cross, Jesus makes possible a new kind of baptism (“washing,” v. 14) that brings forth a new kind of “repayment”: forgiveness and the promise of life eternal. And all of this is “right” (v. 14) because of who Jesus is as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end,” the Lamb of God who [in the end] takes away the sin of the world. Not only does he span time, he is the One who determines its outcome. That is his testimony.

Step 5: Advanced Diagnosis (Internal Solution) – Shouting “Come, Lord Jesus” Is Believing in Jesus the Savior
The testimony of Blessing trumpeting over Recompense (that Jesus offers) is a testimony that reorients our whole heart away from falsehood toward the truth. To live in faith in the Lamb of God is to live in truth. Indeed, although we know that the truth of God’s coming judgment on sin is right (and that we dare not “take away” one word of that truth, v. 19), we also know and trust in a greater “right,” that for the sake of Christ God gives the promise of life to those who believe. Faith alone connects us to Jesus alternative future established in his death and resurrection. [By the way, as the Revelation makes clear, nothing dare be “added” to that truth. For it is by faith alone in Christ alone that Blessing is received (v. 18). For to add to the testimony of Christ is to “take away one’s share in the tree of life” (v. 19).]

Step 6: Final Diagnosis (External Solution) – Living not in suspense, but expectation
Such new found faith in the testimony of Jesus yields a new kind of practice. John envisions that practice as worship. Each of our lives is lived in adoration of the Christ: not in suspense of some unknown future, but in expectation and anticipation of his coming again with blessing. Faith in the testimony of Jesus does not ask, When will the end-time come and what will it bring? Rather, faith prays, “Come, Lord Jesus.” The Spirit and the Church are ready for his blessed coming regardless of what this life brings. The Spirit and the Church busily prepare the “thirsty” (v. 17) world for his coming through giving testimony in the world. The Spirit and the Church make sure that the water of life remains a free gift-no deceptive 900-numbers allowed here. (If they were, then the testimony that we pretend is free today would cost us our life at the end of time.) The testimony remains free because the testimony of the believer becomes one with the testimony of Christ. Jesus’ testimony is the believer’s testimony, even when that means martyrdom in the literal or figurative sense. Jesus says, “Surely I am coming soon” (v. 20). And, in harmony with him, we say worshipfully/prayerfully/expectantly, “Amen, Come Lord Jesus!” (v. 20).

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  • Crossings

    Crossings is a community of welcoming, inquisitive people who want to explore how what we hear at church is useful and beneficial in our daily lives.

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