My good friend Jim Pounders recommended I read a sermon today that was based on Revelation Chapter Five. God is seated on the throne and in His hand is a scroll that has seven seals on it. The question is asked, “Who is worthy to open the seals?’ There was no one worthy. John, the writer of the vision, began to weep because no one was able to open the seals. Then one of the Elders tells John “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” Rev. 5:5. He is called the LION, you know, the King of the Jungle, able to rip his prey to pieces. The image of Aslin from the Chronicles of Narnia comes to mind. As John wipes away the tears and turns his attention to the Throne once again expecting no doubt to see this ferocious beast and there between the Throne and the four beasts standing among the Elders is a Lamb. Obvious wounds are visible for this Lamb had been a sacrifice.
But the sacrifice is alive again and not only worthy because of His death to open the seals, He is the object of worship from all of those around the throne. “Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth.” Rev. 5:9, 10
The sermon writer asks, “How can a Lion be a Lamb”? “The two are opposites. One is the hunter and the other the prey. One is placed in a cage with iron bars; the other in a petting zoo. We have all heard of an oxymoron. It is where seemingly contradictory terms are combined. It is an oxymoron to talk about jumbo shrimp, fresh frozen food, or a holy war. We talk about a cool heat, or a deafening silence. A lion-like lamb is an oxymoron. The terms do not belong together — except in heaven. Here the lion is the lamb. His power was found in his death, because with his death he purchased the souls of people, and he was thereby made worthy to open the scroll.”
We look around today and it would appear that Christians are not winning the battle. Evil seems to reign and the future looks bleak. Some question, “Why doesn’t God intervene and stop all this sin”? We sometimes don’t know how to respond when God has the appearance of weakness. Our sermon writer continues,
“What about a God who appears to be weak? What if it looks like evil is winning and most people are on evil’s side? What if people who follow Christ are ridiculed and even persecuted? What if it becomes a disadvantage to be a Christian? What then? Then only the people who truly love God follow God and live for him. Only those who love God, for who he is, rather than what they can get out of him, dare to be called by his name. Only those who love the truth, regardless of how weak or irrelevant it is made to appear by the world, will follow the truth. It does not take courage to follow what everyone else believes and does, it takes courage to follow the truth when others do not understand and belittle what you believe. It takes courage to do the right thing even though you are punished for it at work or school. It takes courage to stand up for what is right when everyone else thinks you are wrong. These are the kind of people God wants for his followers. Anyone can take the easy road, and you don’t have to be much of a person to do it. But Jesus said we must, “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it” (Matthew 7:13)”.
What we fail to recognize is that God IS in control regardless of appearances.
“Remember the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane? The guards came to get Jesus, armed with swords and clubs. Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of one of them, but Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back in its place, for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels?” (Matthew 26:52-53). Jesus was completely in control, even though he allowed it to appear that others were in control of him, and even of history”.
On October 30, 1974, Muhammad Ali and George Foreman squared off in the boxing ring in Zaire. Ali had dubbed it “The Rumble in the Jungle.” Foreman was heavily favored, and considered the hardest puncher in heavyweight history. Ali did something in that fight that no other fighter had ever dared to try. He held up his arms against his face and leaned back against the ropes allowing Foreman to punch away at him for eight rounds. The strongest boxer in history beat on Ali until he could punch no more. When the right moment came, Ali bounced off the ropes and knocked out Foremen, sending him into retirement. Ali called his technique “rope-a-dope.” Even though it looked like he was losing the fight, and losing badly, he was in control the whole time. He took all those punches because he knew he would deliver the final blow.
So when you get discouraged and you look around for hope and see little of it, just remember that God is using the “rope-a-dope” technique on the world of evil. He wants followers that not only trust Him in the good time, but in the tough times as well. It is then that we give honor and glory to the Lion who is a Lamb.
Excerpts taken from Sermon Central and a sermon by:
Rodney J. Buchanan
January 13, 2002
Mulberry Street UMC
Mt. Vernon, OH 43050