Finding Comfort in the Red Letters
The words in red in many Bibles are neither more nor less important than the words in black. Jesus said to the seventy: "He that heareth you heareth me" (Luke 10:16). This was his position concerning every divinely inspired writer or speaker. While millions read the Bible daily, few know why some Bible publishers print the words of Christ in red. Mr. William Emmett Shelton, author, of Mogadore, Ohio, and Mr. Laurence S. Heely, Jr., publisher of Christian Herald Magazine, say that the idea originated with Louis KIopsch, the first editor for the Christian Herald. The November 1901 issue of that monthly ran a large advertisement offering a red letter Bible to the readers.
Mr. KIopsch was born March 7, 1852, in Germany. In 1853 his mother died. The next year his father, Osmar KIopsch, M.D., brought him to the United States. Louis studied journalism at what is now Columbia University. He graduated with high honours. He rose from stock boy to editor with religious publishers, and by about 1889 he was the owner-editor of the American edition of the Christian Herald Magazine.
He and his father worshiped at Brooklyn Temple, where T. DeWitt Talmadge was the minister. June 19, 1899, Dr. KIopseh was writing an editorial for the Christian Herald when his eyes fell upon Luke 22:20 and the words:
"This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you."
Dr. KIopsch realized that these were the words of our Savior when he instituted the Lord’s Supper. Reasoning that all blood was red, he asked himself, Why not a red letter Bible with the red words to be those of our Lord? Dr. Talmadge, his preacher, encouraged him greatly by saying: "It could do no harm, and it most certainly could do much good."
The editor besought Bible scholars in America and Europe to submit passages they regarded as spoken by Christ while on earth. (Some publishers have since expanded this feature to include all words in red spoken by Christ.)
The first printing of a red letter Bible [Copyright 1899&1900(?) by Louis Klopsch] numbered sixty thousand copies. They were printed on presses owned by Dr. KIopsch. The edition sold quickly. Presses were run day and night to supply the demand. The King of Sweden sent a congratulatory cablegram. The telegram that thrilled publisher KIopsch the most, perhaps, was one from President Theodore Roosevelt. There followed a letter on White House stationery inviting him to dine with the chief executive. He accepted.
Dr. KIopsch died March 28, 1910, and was buried at Mont Lawn near Tonawanda, New York, where he had established an orphanage. The New York Tribune said:
"He will not be easily replaced. He lived and died by his own motto:
Do All the Good You Can for All the People You Can.
This, he truly did."
(Source: History of the Red-Letter Bible -http://www.angelfire.com/la/prophet1/redlettered.html
Apart from the Psalms, I believe that many people will also turn to the words of Christ for comfort and support. To look at what He had to say to the people of His day gives us a sense and feeling that He was speaking directly to us. We find the comfort and protection for our daily lives in what Jesus had shared with those who would listen.
A few years ago the Christian contemporary music group, dc Talk, released a song about the red-lettered words of Jesus found within the Gospels. The lyrics of the chorus are as such:
There is love in the red letters
There is truth in the red letters
There is hope for the hopeless
Peace and forgiveness
There is life in the red letters
Today, I want to look at just one of the “red-lettered” passages from the book of John. It is within this passage that, I believe, we can find hope and comfort for ourselves today. (Read John 14:1-7a)
In this passage, we find Jesus and His disciples gathered around a table for the Passover meal. Jesus’ earthly ministry is quickly drawing to a close. He is just minutes away from being turned over to the Jewish authorities because of Judas’ betrayal. Soon the other will have deserted Him, and Peter will have denied Him three times. His death was imminent.
This was weighing heavy on the hearts of those around Him. Jesus looked upon them with compassion, and He addressed their current gloomy status. He saw not only their faces, but He also so deep into their hearts. He does the same with us. “The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."(1 Samuel 16:7)
While looking at the disciples and empathizing with their current suffering, Jesus offers the following comfort: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me.” (John 14:1) As a way to bolster their lagging faith in the moment, Jesus tries to comfort them with these words. Jesus, more than anybody, understood the anguish of those troubled, and so He offered His comfort.
Robert Louis Stevenson tells of a storm that caught a vessel off a rocky coast and threatened to drive it and its passengers to destruction. In the midst of the terror, one daring man, contrary to orders, went to the deck, made a dangerous passage to the pilot house and saw the steer man, at his post holding the wheel unwaveringly, and inch by inch, turning the ship out, once more, to sea. The pilot saw the watcher and smiled. Then, the daring passenger went below and gave out a note of cheer: "I have seen the face of the pilot, and he smiled. All is well."
Jesus met the eleven, Judas had departed by this time, but encouraging them to keep the faith. He does so with us as well. We are told to keep the faith in the present because our future depends upon it.
What is prepared for those who keep the faith? “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2) Jesus encourages His followers to keep on because there is a heavenly reward for those who keep on in the Christian faith.
Comfort can be found in knowing that Jesus, who loves us all SO much, has gone to prepare the very best for us!
The word “room” in the NIV, a substitute for “mansions” in other translations of the Bible, can easily be described as “resting-places.” Within the home of God the Father there are places prepared for the weary. One day, the problems of this life will be a distant memory for the faithful. The troubles and trials will soon fade, and it is place will be a place of comfort and rest. As the hymn writer so eloquently wrote “There is a place of quiet rest, near to the heart of God.”
Jesus, encouraging the disciples, and in turn encouraging us, tells the people to believe because He MUST die and rise again so that the resting-place may be completed. We find moments of piece and security in this present world, but as was said last week, storms still arise. We still face trials and temptations. Glory be to God, there is coming a day when we will no longer face those trials, but that we will find rest and peace in the kingdom of God! What a comforting thought.
I believe that while Jesus was looking at the hearts of those men that night, He still sensed a distress in them. He had just told them that He was going to prepare a place for them. Sometimes people leave with the best of intentions, but often fail to live up to the promise. We all know how hard it is to keep in contact with people we have met along the way. It’s probably a safe assumption that outside of special reunions, there are people, both friends and family that you have lost touch with.
I believe the disciples may have had a small dose of that fear, and thus Jesus sends another comforting promise to them: “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." (John 14:3,4)
Jesus told the guys that He had to leave. The best thing was that He PROMISED that He would come back! In the April 1987 edition of Today in the Word on page 27, you will find an article written about prophecy. This is just a sample of that column:
Biblical prophecy provides some of the greatest encouragement and hope available to us today. Just as the Old Testament is saturated with prophecies concerning Christ’s first advent, so both testaments are filled with references to the Second Coming of Christ. One scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to Christ’s Second Coming in the Old Testament, where 17 books give it prominence. In the 260 chapters of the New Testament, there are 318 references to the Second Advent of Christ--an amazing 1 out of every 30 verses. Twenty-three of the 27 New Testament books refer to this great event. For every prophecy in the Bible concerning Christ’s first advent, there are 8, which look forward to His second!
During the past couple Bible study nights, we have discussed the return of Jesus. With all the people who have gathered together, we have come up with one universal statement about His return. We can etch it is stone because it is that profound. After two weeks, we have surmised that we DO NOT know when He is coming back, but we do believe THAT HE IS!
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of promises that God has made to His people throughout the entire Bible. To this very day, there is not one that He has ever broken! Some have yet to be fulfilled, but if He answered the rest, who are we to question when He answers the others.
A promise from God is a statement we can depend on with absolute confidence. Here are 12 promises for the Christian to claim.
God’s presence -- "I will never leave thee" (Heb. 13:5)
God’s protection -- "I am thy shield" (Gen. 15:1)
God’s power -- "I will strengthen thee" (Isa. 41:10)
God’s provision -- "I will help thee" (Isa. 41:10)
God’s leading -- "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them" (John 10:4)
God’s purposes -- "I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil" (Jer. 20:11)
God’s rest -- "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28)
God’s cleansing -- "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9)
God’s goodness -- "No good thing will He withhold from them that work uprightly" (Psalm 84:11)
God’s faithfulness -- "The Lord will not forsake His people for His great name’s sake" (1 Sam. 12:22)
God’s guidance -- "The meek will He guide" (Psalm 25:9)
God’s wise plan -- "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28)
Our Daily Bread, January 1, 1985.
I would be remised if I failed to take a look at Thomas’ remarks to Jesus. “Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" (John 14:5) Thomas was looking for tangible proof. Maybe it was the doubter within him. May he was an “I’ll believe it if I can see it!” type of person. Whatever it was, Jesus offers one last comfort to those around Him. Many here to day have grabbed on to this promise, but for those who may have never done so, this was Jesus reply: “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him." (John 14:6,7)
The only way to have the faith that Jesus encouraged them to hold on to is to BELIEVE that Jesus is the only to God. The only way to know peace and comfort in the world, and in the time to come is found in Jesus Christ! He is the cornerstone that holds it all together.
Church attendance does not a Christian make! Paying your tithes does not guarantee that you will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. There is only ONE WAY, and that is through repenting of your sins, asking Christ for His forgiveness, and turning from the old patterns and following His leading!
Thomas a Kempis, a Renaissance Roman Catholic monk, in worshipful meditation wrote the following about Jesus‘ proclamation:
“Without the Way, there is no going; without the Truth, there is no knowing; without the Life, there is no living. I am the Way, which you must follow; the Truth, which you must believe; the Life, which you must hope for. I am the Way inviolable, the Truth infallible, the Life unending. I am the Way that is straightest, the Truth that is highest, the Life that is true, the Life blessed, the Life uncreated. If you remain in My way, you will know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free, and you will lay hold of eternal life.”
These are very comforting words, these red lettered words. We have seen today that Christ, in His love for us, has prepared a place for us. The only way to see the promised peace and glory that Christ promised to His disciples is to following the Way, the Truth and the Life!
I made reference to dc Talk earlier in my message. The bridge in the song “Red Letters” is the most fitting of invitations this morning. I would ask that if you have not read these red-letter words of Christ in a while take the time to do so. There are even more promises and comforting words than what we have looked at today.
If you are here today and have never accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Saviour, do not hesitate. There is a Lord waiting for you.
The bridge of the song “Red Letters” is as follows:
Heed the words divinely spoken
May your restless heart be broken
Let the supernatural take hold.