Year C – The Fourth Sunday of Easter – Revelation 7:9–17

Rev 7:9–17 NRSV – After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. 10 They cried out in a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!” 11 And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, 12 singing, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” 13 Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?” 14 I said to him, “Sir, you are the one that knows.” Then he said to me, “These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 For this reason they are before the throne of God, and worship him day and night within his temple, and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them. 16 They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them, nor any scorching heat; 17 for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Summary – The book of Revelation is what Christ “signified” in visions (Rev. 1:1) to John which unfolds a series of judgments which culminate in the destruction of Jerusalem (the Great City 11:8, Harlot in ch 17) (in 70 AD) and the promises a new creation in the new Jerusalem coming out of heaven (ch. 21-22). This new Jerusalem is the Bride of the Lamb and is thus the multi-ethnic Church. In ch. 7 we  are told that the complete number of Israelites are saved (144,000) during the Great Tribulation (which happened in the years preceding 70 AD). But even so, not only were Israelites saved, but a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages during this “Great Tribulation” (NRSV “ordeal”) were also saved. John says elsewhere: John 3:17 – “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” 1 John 2:2: “and He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.”

Insight – While much of the book of Revelation describes horrific judgments, still at every turn, we find the salvation of multitudes during the worst times of trial and tribulation. If indeed this time of Great Tribulation was prior to 70 AD, then this represents an exceedingly difficult time and yet during this time multitudes “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” and now are worshipers before the throne. Despite judgments and the fall of nations and men, the goal of redemption and salvation will be accomplished. Jesus is Lord and so “the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Is. 11:9). Thus, we should expect the general and universal advancement of the kingdom by means of the gospel with a final consummation of this victory at His coming when even death will be utterly and completely abolished. Therefore we are to make the nations His disciples (Mt. 28:19-20). We pray and work (ora et labora) with the confidence that all His enemies shall be subdued. “The kingdom of this world, has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ and He shall reign forever.” (Rev. 11:15)

Catechism – How many people will be saved? A great multitude that no one could count.

Discussion – How does it help you to serve Christ to know that so many have been and will be saved?

Prayer – Creator of the universe,
you made the world in beauty,
and restore all things in glory
through the victory of Jesus Christ.
We pray that, wherever your image is still disfigured
by poverty, sickness, selfishness, war and greed,
the new creation in Jesus Christ may appear in justice, love, and peace,
to the glory of your name. Amen.

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Year C – The First Sunday After Christmas – Luke 2:41-52

Luke 2:41–52 NRSV –  Now every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the festival of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. 43 When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. 44 Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him, “Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.” 49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Summary – The transition between the story of the birth of Jesus and his baptism, then ministry is this account of his participation in the festival of passover in Jerusalem. Jesus was only twelve but he stayed behind after the group of travelers with his parents left. Jesus was learning the Scriptures and engaging the leaders of Israel. The summary of his purpose is, “I must be in my Father’s house.” Jesus increased in wisdom and in years and “in divine and human favor.”

Insight – Do you ever wish you were older or living in another town? Do you long to leave the community that you are in? Like Jesus, we must learn to live in 1) Obedience in our Place – God condescended not only to take on flesh, but to be part of an ordinary (if not despised) hometown. In the first century references to Jesus, his last name was not “Christ” but “of Nazareth.” But even from heaven Jesus gives this local identification in appearing to St. Paul: “I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting” (Acts 22:8). We must also embrace our community. 2) We should live in Obedience in our Time –  He continued “to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom” (v 39 also v 52). This means that Jesus, like ordinary boys, progressed through the stages of maturity. What is implied is that He did so faithfully. Did He do miracles in place of chores? Did He “just know” everything or did he study?  The text says in the temple, He was “both listening to them, and asking them questions” (v. 46) which indicates that He matured without a supernatural crutch. We must also be faithful where we are. 3) We should learning Obedience in our Business – After anxiously looking (v 48), they found Jesus in the temple. This was an occasion (annually) to gain more wisdom from study and to begin the process of the “inspection” of the leadership of Israel (a theme throughout the Gospel). Perhaps a better translation of v49 is that Jesus was “engaged upon my Father’s business” (Weymouth) since there is no term for “house.” We must also be engaged in kingdom activity.

Catechism – How does Scripture describe the childhood of Jesus? Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

Discussion – Are you discontent with any aspects of your life?

Prayer – Heavenly Father, we thank you for sending your Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ to become a human and to live and grow as a person. He was tempted in all things, but did not yield to any sins. In this Christmastide, grant that we may learn contentment as we remember that Jesus lived as our example and Jesus died our death that we might live forevermore. In His name, Amen.