Summary: Good Friday Sermon - Jesus will dispense mercy and justice as the Lamb
Chapter 6 of John’s Revelation or vision from God paints a picture for us that is not pleasant. In America we strive for the pursuit of freedom and happiness, so the glimpse we are given here of the past, present, and future is something most of us would rather not see or deal with. It’s like those late night commercials of starving children or 6 pm new reels of the after-effects of a car bombing or military cleansing. These types of pictures trouble us, depress us, and cause all kinds of negative emotions and fears.
When it comes to Christian holidays and holy days Christmas and Easter are much easier to stomach than Good Friday. Our Easter services will be packed all across this city and nation, but Good Friday is another matter. The picture of a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes with gentle farm animals surrounding it, the story of Jesus triumph over death and the excitement of his disciples all give us goose bumps and warm fuzzies. But this vision of John’s and the Scriptures we’ll read today of Jesus journey to the cross make us feel uncomfortable, perhaps even scared.
The image of Jesus that John is given from God is that of an angry Lamb. In chapter 5 he referred to Jesus as a Lion, the Lion of Judah. Then he saw a Lamb looking as if it had been slain. Literally the Greek reads “as if it’s throat had been slit.” As this Lamb opens the scrolls permission is given for all kinds of catastrophes on earth: death, sword, famine, and persecution and martyrdom of believers were all predicted.
When he opened the sixth seal and read the scroll it talked of earthquakes and judgement. The passage we read was of the utter terror that people will feel when Jesus, the angry Lamb will comes to judge and avenge the death and persecution of his followers and judge all those who reject him. When that day comes people would rather be struck by an avalanche of rocks than have to face the Lamb that was slain for sinners.
How do you reconcile this picture of Jesus with other Biblical images that portray him as tender with young children, as turning the other cheek when spat upon, as a man who cried “Father forgive them” when his tormentors mocked and killed him? Lambs are soft woolly gentle creatures that don’t defend themselves. They are what we take our children to the petting zoo for? Lambs are nothing to be afraid of. But Jesus has another side to him. God’s patient love, tender mercy, and unconditional grace must always be balanced with God’s justice. The Jesus who we are told to call friend and the God we are told to call Papa or Abba is also the God of judgement and wrath.
What is it that Jesus is so angry about? Is he angry with those who killed him for no reason? Does he want revenge for his brutal murder? No, he died even for those who were directly responsible for his lynching. Is he angry at all the Hitlers & Saddam Hussein’s of this world? Yes. Is he angry with his apostate and unfaithful bride, the church, who forgets and forsakes him? Yes, Jesus experiences anger, hurt, and frustration, just as any parent does with a child who rebels or acts foolishly.
But will we all need to be hiding under rocks when he comes again to judge the living and the dead? Do we need to be afraid of His wrath? Not if we are in Christ. Not if we believe in Him and cling to Him in faith. Jesus walked up the lonely hill of Calvary to rescue us. He was the Lion of Judah, the “king of the jungle”, but became a helpless lamb to satisfy the demand of God’s justice for our rescue.
What this Lamb that John portrays cannot tolerate in eternity are those who deny and reject this offer of salvation. He suffered, bled, and died to rescue and save us and enable us to live forever. To spurn that love is the greatest tragedy and waste you can imagine.
We are about to come to the table of the Lord and solemnly and gratefully acknowledge his sacrifice for us. Rejecting the love of Jesus, which the bread and wine symbolize, is a sin which one day will cause us to cower and tremble at his appearing. The Lamb of God has two faces. C.S. Lewis talked about the face of wrath, a sight “that ought to make our blood run cold.” The other is a face of suffering love, a lamb who had his throat cut to redeem us. In this dark hour as we reflect on this vision of Jesus, which face will you see? Amen.