5th Sunday of Easter
April 24, 2016
“The Old Won’t Do; All Things New”
Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you all in the name of God our Father and our Risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The text that engages us today is the Second Lesson read from Revelation chapter 21.
My dear friends in Christ Jesus,
Dad knew early on that his boy Josh was special. It went beyond the normal father-son relationship. Dad saw the specialness in Little League. The other kids couldn’t hit his son’s fastball. He had a curveball that the other kids couldn’t catch up with. In high school there was no doubt that his son Josh would play college baseball…and he did. Josh went to Auburn University and played baseball for the Auburn Tigers helping them get to the College World Series in 1997. From there it was a simple leap to the pros. Josh bounced around the big leagues: Boston, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and then in 2005 he landed in St. Louis with the Cardinals. In 2006, as a middle reliever, Josh Hancock helped the Cardinals become the world champions of baseball for the 10th time. A perfect existence, right? World Series ring, professional baseball player in a major Midwestern town where Major League Baseball is “king”. Nothing could be finer, right? St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Josh Hancock, only 29 years old, on his way home from Busch Stadium struck the back end of a tow truck in April 2007 and he was killed upon impact. His perfect career, perfect life, some might say perfect existence was over like that.
What’s your idea of a perfect existence…a perfect world? Being a big leaguer? Being famous with lots of money? Or are your sights set elsewhere like having the perfect job in a perfect part of the country with the perfect salary? No pain…no problems…no worries. What would be the perfect way to die? What’s your idea of a perfect existence? Now, consider this. Is it attainable? Is it something you or your family member can really, actually achieve? My guess, without knowing any more than that, is NO…a perfect day, a perfect job, a perfect life is not something you can find this side of heaven.
But in today’s Second Lesson, though, we are given a glimpse of a new, perfect existence! Revelation 21 gives us a vision of the New Jerusalem coming down out of heaven. St. John sees a new heaven and new earth because the old heaven and the old earth and the sea were “no more” (v. 1). The New Jerusalem was a beautiful thing for John to see and he compared its appearance to a bride about to be married. But wait a second! Why would there be a need for a new heaven and a new earth? What’s wrong with what we have? God created them, true enough, so why is there a need for the new when the old will do?
Actually, in this case, the old won’t do. A careful reading of Revelation 21 reveals that the New Jerusalem has elements from the old Jerusalem, the old tabernacle, the old temple, and even the Garden of Eden itself. It is still a creation of God, but in this case the new, Holy Jerusalem must supersede what God first created back in Genesis chapter 1 because of what happened in Genesis 3.
You all know the story. The Garden. The Tree. The Fruit. The Snake. Adam and Eve. The lie. Disobedience. Sin. It is a story as old as time itself, because it is as old as time itself! When Adam and Eve fell into sin – when they rebelled against God’s will and yielded to temptation and ate that forbidden fruit – that made Revelation chapter 21 necessary. Verse 4 reminds us of why we need a “New Jerusalem;” why the old one won’t do: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” There were no tears before the fall into sin. There was no death, no mourning, no crying, no pain. The Garden of Eden was a perfect existence; the closest thing humanity has had to a perfect existence. But because of what Adam and Eve started and what we have perpetuated every day since by our actual sins, the old creation will not do. Something new was needed.
Just as God created perfection at the time of creation, so He has made all things right once again. In verse 6 of today’s lesson, the Lamb seated on the throne – Christ – said, “It is done!” Sound familiar? In John 19:30, Jesus cried from the cross “it is finished” and then He gave up His spirit; He died. God had created the world by the power of His Word. He again makes everything right by the use of words. When Jesus said “It is finished,” He meant the completion of His mission…to die for the sins of humanity. Jesus Christ had to die to pay the price of blood that sinfulness has always demanded. With the words “it is finished” ringing in the ears of all, something new began. Sinfulness had been appeased. The price of redemption was paid in full by Christ on the cross. What had been made wrong was set right once again, and it would forever be sealed three days later when Jesus rose from the grave to ensure our future resurrection.
Our new life, our new salvation over and against the damnation that was ours because of sin, is guaranteed and ensured by the Lamb. Jesus called Himself the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end. The Alpha and the Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. In essence, Jesus is saying He is the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the old and the new. In fact
When will the newness happen? Good question; it’s the proverbial “$64,000” question. None of us know when our Lord will return and, quite frankly, none of us know when we’re going to die. When we are young we think we’re invincible; we think we’re going to live forever. A pitcher in the prime of his career like Josh Hancock certainly didn’t plan on dying as he drove home from the ballpark but it happens. As such, we live in a constant state of readiness: believing and confessing God in Christ, trusting in our salvation by grace through faith, learning to love God above all else and loving and serving our neighbors.
Death does not discriminate. It takes away children, major leaguers, and international rock stars. This sin filled world has its share of problems, granted, (everyone know which bathroom to use at Target?) but my friends by and because of your faith, God has made YOU new, because the old you wouldn’t do. The promise of the New Heaven and the New Earth – in which death no longer exists – are your reality by your faith. May that faith in God preserve and protect you today and always until you enter the new heaven and new earth.