11/20/2016 7:31:32 PM
Look and Sing - Pastor Aaron Dolan
Medusa is a name from Greek mythology. If you are familiar with that name, let’s do a quick word association. What’s the first word that pops into your head when you hear the name Medusa? Are you thinking snakes? Hair? One version of the myth says that Medusa was once a beautiful woman, but one of the Greek goddesses punished her by making her hideous. Her once captivating eyes became permanently bloodshot and fierce. Her fair skin turned a sickly greenish tint. And, of course, her beautiful hair turned into snakes. Oh, and one more thing. Whoever looked into Medusa’s eyes was immediately turned to stone.
The story of Medusa is just that—a story, a myth. But imagine having to be that careful about where you looked, knowing that death would come if you looked at the wrong thing. Actually, it shouldn’t be difficult to imagine that, because that’s a truth: what you look at can harm you; it can even cause your death. When people focus their attention on the wrong things, they will die. And today we are not going to talk about being turned into stone, but being banished to an eternity in hell. All because of where someone looked, where they focused their attention.
In the book of Revelation, the disciple John directs our attention. “Look, he is coming with the clouds.” “He,” of course, is Jesus. John tells us not to lose our attention on the distractions of this world, but to look at Christ the King.
The book of Revelation can be distracting if we lose our focus. John was given several eyebrow-raising visions, which he wrote down for us. But all the details of these amazing visions were meant to turn his eyes to Jesus. The message throughout the book of Revelation is clear: Things are going to get bad. Evil will rise and it will seem like Christ has lost. But don’t be afraid! Christ is King, and he wins! Focus your attention on Christ the King, because he is victorious, and he will come back victorious. “Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him.” Every eye will be looking at him then.
But it will be too late for some. “All the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.” “People of the earth” is a way of referring to those whose attention was on the things of this world. They were looking at the wrong things and ended up rejecting Christ. This includes the people who saw Jesus as weak and unimportant and literally pierced him by nailing him to the cross. They rejected him. This also includes those who figuratively have pierced him—those who see Jesus as weak and unimportant and live in stubborn unbelief. They reject him. This includes those who live in apathy about a Savior. Those who are careless about sin. Those who choose to honor their own wants and desires instead of God’s. It won’t matter on that day how a person rejected Christ. What will strike them with fear is that they did reject him. The peoples of the earth will mourn. That word “mourn” literally means to sing the songs of public grief that would be sung at a funeral. Their attention on earth was misplaced, so they will mourn because of Jesus, because they will have to spend forever without him—hell. They looked to the wrong things, and they will sing a sad song because of it.
Where have your eyes been looking? Where is all your attention? Money, financial security? Recreation? Physical pleasures? Satan continuously tries to distract us with the busyness of life and the opportunities of life. He’s like the misbehaving kid in class that wants to get attention from the other students rather than letting them concentrate on the teacher. How is he distracting you? What’s getting your attention? We might not even realize that he’s distracting us. The things of this world that receive our priorities might seem harmless. They might appear to be positive things, or at least neutral. But if they distract from Christ, then they are a trap.
There’s a story about how to catch wild pigs. You use the same strategy: distract them until they’re trapped. Put some food out in the woods each day in the same spot so that the wild pigs come each day to eat it. When they are used to coming to that place, put a fence up, just one side. They’ll probably notice it right away, but it will seem harmless, because nothing bad happens when they come to eat each day. So they get used to that fence and keep eating. That’s when you put up a second side. When they get used to seeing that and start eating each day again, you put up a third side and then eventually a fourth side surrounding the food, with a gate open. Since the pigs are used to eating the food and nothing bad has happened to them yet, they come in the gate to eat as usual. That’s when you slam it shut. They’re caught, trapped.
It’s the same way with our sinful nature. We get in the habit of feeding it with the things of this world, our own wants, our own desires, our own schedules and agendas, that we don’t realize the trap we are falling into. Our eyes are down, on the things of the world and on ourselves, not on Christ. And those who look at something other than Christ will be singing the sad song. They will mourn.
John says “Look!” He directs our attention to Christ the King, to the cross. Even though Christ doesn’t look very kingly there, when we look to him and the cross there is another song for us to sing. “To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.” This is the song John invites us to sing with him. Instead of ignoring and rejecting Christ Jesus with the world, John invites us to sing with joy already now of him who “loves us.” It is a song that rejoices because in that great love our Lord Jesus “has freed us from our sins by his blood.” We have been freed forever from mourning with “the peoples of the earth.” Despite having to confess how often we too have pushed our Lord Jesus aside in our lives, despite having to confess to him a whole host of sins that should have disqualified us from heaven many times over, we have been “freed from our sins by his blood.” The word John uses here is the word for having a chain loosed that once bound us. The blood he shed in his love for us has unchained us. His blood has loosed from us the guilt of our sins that should have left us singing the sad song forever. And instead, we can sing to him in praise and thanksgiving.
When we look to our King we can sing for another reason too. Not only has his blood freed us from the guilt of our sins, but we have become something more. He “has made us to be a kingdom.” We are his kingdom. That means we have become the loved and cherished possession of God himself. This kingdom that we have become is the only eternal kingdom that exists, and it is the most secure kingdom in the world, because it has ruling over it the Lord Jesus, who is called here “the ruler of the kings of the earth.” It is not Barack Obama or Donald Trump who calls the shots in this world. It is not the supreme court or Russia or China or the Islamic State. The one who stands behind everything in this world is our Lord Jesus.
And in this kingdom we have a role too. He “has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father.” In the Old Testament, priests were to bring sacrifices to God and to stand before God with the prayers of the people. What do we do today as priests? The same thing—bring sacrifices and serve the people. Our sacrifices are not bulls and goats and lambs and sheep. Our sacrifices in this kingdom are the offering of our lives. It says in Romans 12, “I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God. This is your spiritual act of worship.” That means every day we are serving as priests. When we keep our eyes on Christ the King, every part of our life, every day, has something we can offer. The way we spend our time, our money, and our abilities is our offering to God. We use those things with our eyes on Christ, following his commandments while being confident of his victory and rule.
Today we are finishing something. It’s the last Sunday of the church year. Once again we have done what Christians have done for centuries before us. We began with the promise of a Savior. We again watched that promise fulfilled in a manger, on the cross, and at an empty tomb. We watched that risen Savior ascend into heaven and send his Holy Spirit to his Church on earth. Once again we spent the last six months understanding what it means to be a Christian, someone who lives and grows in Christ’s kingdom. And now we made it once again to Christ the King Sunday. But one year, Christ the King won’t arrive on the calendar. One year, he will bring a church year to a premature end, and Christ the King will arrive in the flesh. On that day, everyone who is part of his kingdom through faith in his blood will begin the eternal celebration. But we don’t have to wait until then to worship our King. Until then we can rejoice in our freedom from our sins. Until then we can rejoice by living as priests who already belong to the most glorious, powerful, and secure kingdom in the world. Keep your eyes on Christ the King. Look, and let your heart sing.