Who is worthy? (Rev. 5)

Publié le 5 septembre 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Samuel Niblack

We are studying the last book of the Bible, a book that wants to reassure the Church about its future. It is also a book that invites everyone to join the people of God and to participate in this beautiful future, in a world of peace and justice. But are we really moving towards a world of justice and peace? 

This summer, I read Things Fall Apart by a Nigerian author Chinua Achebe. It’s a novel that contrasts the colonizing Western system of government with the tribal, village-based system of Africa, but in both cases, things fall apart. The human heart is the same everywhere. Our systems of government, whether it monarchies, democracies, republics, tribal systems, churches, families,… everything collapses. But what if you could give absolute power to one person to solve the problems of the world, without everything collapsing, who would you give power to? Who is worthy? 

Jesus is best qualified to bring about a happy and just ending to world history. And he will do it. This is what can reassure us this morning, when many things around us can alarm us, worry us. This chapter helps us to be convinced, by mentioning 3 things: 

1. The scroll 

2. The tears 

3. The Lion who is a Lamb 

1. The scroll 

The object that dominates this chapter is this book, written inside and out, sealed with seven seals. The books were more in the form of scrolls (written inside and out). 

What can we say about this book? First, it evokes a very similar scene in Ezekiel (2:10), but this time, it has seven seals. This is reminiscent of an official Roman document, especially official documents such as wills or deeds. To open a sealed will, for example, you have to have the right authority, like a public notary who can open the seal and execute the contents. 

The image of this book and the seven seals will be the common thread for much of the book, as each seal when broken advances the divine plan of salvation and judgment. (This book is designed a bit like 2

Russian dolls – 7 seals are broken, and the 7th seal contains 7 trumpets, and the 7th trumpet contains 7 bowls). The whole course of the rest of Revelation, and thus the outcome of God’s plan for the ages, is contained in this scroll. 

So asking Who is worthy to open the scroll? s like asking Who has the competent authority to carry out God’s plan (revealed to us as a covenant, a testament)? Who can claim the title deed to the universe, and lead everything towards a happy conclusion? Who has the power and the authority to dispense justice and right wrongs, without becoming a tyrant, without abusing power, without corrupting himself, without corrupting the system, without everything falling apart, which is what has always happened… ? 

II. The tears 

5:3-4 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the book or look at it. 4 And I wept greatly because no one was found worthy to open the book or to look into it. 

John’s weeping adds the drama to this chapter. If this book is not opened, God’s plan is aborted, we cannot hope for justice, a happy ending, a final redemption. 3

No one can open it, nor even look at it, neither angel, nor man, nor demon. In the previous chapter, we saw extremely glorious and powerful beings, but they are not worthy. In the OT, we saw angels capable of decimating immense armies, but it is not raw power that makes them worthy. Needless to say, this heavenly court does not seem to propose Bill Gates, Macron, Stalin, Freud, Elon Musk, the Pope, Tibo in Shape, etc.. 

John is sad, devastated, he weeps loudly ! John’s weeping is the same weeping you have in this painful world, where many times we don’t have the why of suffering, we don’t know the outcome of our trials. We don’t know who could guarantee that justice will be done. 

For those of us who are going through moments of doubt and expectation, we understand these tears. These are the tears of those who do not see how a tragedy can come to good. These are the tears of many church leaders, of missionaries, who wonder if all their work is in vain. They are the cries of people who do not see the answer to their prayers. 

Between v2 and v5, it there is like a suspenseful time of silence, a time of questioning. Each of us must come to the same conclusion: no one here on earth, no human institution is worthy, capable of managing the universe, no one is worthy of managing my life, my future. As long as you have not come to this conclusion, the Bible remains a closed book. But if you have shared these tears, you are ready to hear the answer. 

III. The Lion who is a Lamb 

Finally, we find someone who is worthy. That is, someone who is qualified to carry out God’s plan of redemption, to execute the judgments, to take possession of the universe, to rule with absolute power. 

Who is that? It’s the Lion of Judah. But when John turns around to see, what does he see? v6: a Lamb. Behold the Lion… and I saw a Lamb standing there as if slain. The Lion: a symbol of power, royalty. But the Lamb is an image of weakness, sacrifice, humility. It is a Lamb as if slain, but also « standing » as full of life, and this Lamb has 7 horns and 7 eyes, he sees all and can do all, he is a mighty lamb. 

It is this mixture, this unique quality of Jesus, Lion and a Lamb, that makes him worthy, worthy of being the judge of the universe, worthy of our adoration. He admirably combines the qualities of the lion and the lamb: power and gentleness, judge and victim, strength and weakness. 

When we read the rest of Revelation, we might be shocked by the severity of the judgments, but the one who dispenses His judgments as a Lion is the same one who took them on the cross as a Lamb to save a multitude. v9, v12. This Lion who is a Lamb is not going to be too harsh or too lenient in his judgments. He can protect his people because he is powerful like a Lion, but also because he was sacrificed in their place as a Lamb. 

He is worthy to open the book, because as the sacrificial Lamb, He redeemed people from every tribe and made them into a kingdom to reign with him as Lion. That is the unique beauty of God’s plan of salvation, that He brings together people of every language, every ethnicity into one kingdom, giving everyone equal status. Other religions and political systems that would offer salvation tend to be ethnocentric. But not the Bible’s plan of salvation. 

Jesus is worthy because as a lamb He humbled Himself, He became one of us, He can wipe away their tears because He wept and suffered like us. Jesus is worthy because He is God, the same praise that is addressed to God on the throne in ch 4 is addressed to the lamb, to Jesus in ch 5. 

Who is worthy? Who is worthy to take charge of your future? On whom do you pin your hopes for a happy future? Perhaps you still need a time of searching, of silence, of crying, of disappointment, before you can give the same answer as this chapter, but don’t delay too long… Join the multitude of creatures who recognize that Jesus is without equal in the whole universe and say Amen with them.