The passage we have before us this morning is beautiful and, so very triumphant. It makes allusions to passages both the Old Testament and the Gospels. Last week we looked at the most important moment inside and outside of time and this week, we find ourselves in the middle of a giant victorious celebration.
Let me remind you everything that is going on is in the great sanctuary of Heaven. The four creatures are encircling the throne, as are the 24 elders and the vast number of angels. In the center of it all is the throne, on the throne is the Almighty-One and the Lamb (who is Jesus Christ). And it seems that everything that happens requires a song of praise.
Last week all Heaven was rejoicing because of the Lamb. In the chapters between, the Lamb has released the seals on the book, and some pretty terrifying things have a happened. It seems as if our focus has shifted. It seems that these events are what it important, its seems that plagues and horsemen, wars and famine, death and destruction are the focus. It surely draws our attention. We want to figure out exactly what is going on here. We ask, “When is this happening?” “Why is this happening?” “How is the is happening?” “Are these things that have already happened?” If so, “What events in history are they?” “Are they the future?” If so, “How can I avoid them happening to me?” We want to dissect each seal we want to figure out what each color means, we want to identify time and place. We what to know who, what, when, where and how.
But then John draws us back to the sanctuary. It is almost as if he says, “Hey, guys, eyes back over here, this is where the important things are going on.” It tells us John looks again and there is a great multitude of people. They are dressed in white and they are waving palm branches.
Does this remind you of anything? It was not too many weeks ago. When we ourselves marched around the sanctuary here, waving palm branches and singing praises to Jesus Christ, re-enacting Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. But they all got it wrong somehow. They were rejoicing welcoming to Jerusalem one whom they believed was a victorious conqueror coming to oust the current regime and save them from their Roman oppression. They were welcoming an earthly king, who was entering the city to supplant the Roman puppet king who currently ruled them and establish a Godly kingship in the linage of David. They wanted a warrior, a conqueror, they wanted a Messiah they understood and fit into their expectations. And Jesus was not who they believed him to be. He was not who they wanted him to be. In all the ways that mattered they got it all wrong.
And now here in the great sanctuary of Heaven we have an innumerable crowd of people clothed in white have entered, waving palm branches and singing praises to the Almighty-One and unto the Lamb. THIS is the victorious celebration that the triumphal entry was should have been. These people are not worshiping Jesus for who they want him to be, they are not worshipping their own understanding of who he should be, they are worshipping the Lamb, who was slain. They are worshiping Christ Crucified, resurrected and glorified, sitting on the throne of Heaven, along-side the Almighty-One. They are worshiping the one the only Triune God of the universe, Almighty Creator, Living Son and the Guiding Spirit, one God forever, living and reigning. THIS is the Palm Sunday celebration of which all other Palm Sunday celebrations are mere shadows, reflections; all the Palm Sunday’s, which have preceded this Palm Sunday, are but dress rehearsals, practice for the great Palm Sunday celebration of Heaven.
In the great throne room of Heaven there is an innumerable multitude of people. There are so many they cannot be counted. They are from every nation, every tribe, every people and speak every language. Somewhere Abraham is beaming. He sees the multitude in white and in them he sees the stars of the sky, the sands of the seashore. He sees they are from every nation, tribe, people and language and knows that all the nations have been blessed through him. The promise of God is before him waving palm branches and singing praises to the Lamb.
The creatures and the elders and the angels all join in and begin to sing a song of praise as well; beginning the song with an, “Amen” and ending a song with “Amen,” bookending that song with a statement attesting to the truth contained within.
It is at this point, one the elders asks John the question I am sure everyone wants to know. It is such a strange thing to do. There is a part of me that wants to make him some kind of jerk, “Hey, John, who are these people?” He rolls his eyes and laughs because he knows this is a trick question, he know John hasn’t got a clue. John’s response is great, “I don’t know but I am sure you do, so why don’t you just tell.”
The truth is the elder is taking on the role of teacher and allowing John to be his student. A common way for a teacher in the ancient middle-eastern world, to introduce a new topic to a student, was to ask the student a question to which the teacher knows the student does not have the answer. The student then admits ignorance on the subject and the teacher precedes to give the student the answer so that the student is no longer ignorant on the matter.
The Elder then tells John, these are the people who have come out of the struggles and trials of life and are washed in the blood of the lamb. These are those who are redeemed, these are the people whose salvation was won through the death and resurrection of the Lamb. This is US, God’s Church, Christians who now live again. On Easter Sunday I spoke of the hope of the resurrection to come. How Christ’s resurrection is the promise of our resurrection. This right here is a snapshot of the resurrection that will one day be. The saints of God alive, waving palm branches singing praises to God, giving thanks and praise for our salvation. And all Heaven joining in and praising God the creator and Jesus Christ for our salvation; celebrating that we are alive, that we belong to God and that we are joining them in worship of the Almighty-One and the Lamb who sit on the throne.
Luke chapter 15, which is one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, three times we are told that there is rejoicing in heaven over one lost sinner who repents. Here we have not just One sinner washed clean, not just one repentant sinner, but all of them. Myriads and myriads, of us, multitudes and multitudes, gathered together. We know there is rejoicing in Heaven when just one of us is found, when just one of us repents, when we are all gathered together, when we all stand surrounding the throne of Heaven, then a great victorious cry is heard, there is a victory celebration that cannot be found anywhere else on earth!
Here at this point all heaven is rejoicing BECAUSE of us; because the Church lives victorious; because we too have gathered and we have joined all of Heaven, around the throne. We are alive, we are washed clean, we are redeemed and the angels and the elders and the creatures, cannot help but rejoice. Our redemption, our salvation, our living and joining them in eternity is HUGE. It is something worth celebrating. You are worth celebrating, I am worth celebrating, WE are worth celebrating and all Heaven rejoices because of us! And one day, we will have the privilege of joining them in that celebration, one day we will stand clad in white, palm branches in hand singing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne and unto the Lamb.” We will hear the multitudes of Heaven sing, “Praise and Glory and wisdom and thanks and honor and power and strength be to our God for ever and ever. AMEN!!!
All heaven rejoices over us, all Heaven sings because we are redeemed. That is exciting. That is amazing. Heaven worships God, worships the Lamb because God brings salvation to us, because we are washed clean by the blood of the lamb, because we are redeemed.
As Christians we are called to live here on this earth the way Christ lived when he was here on this earth. We are to bring peace like he brought peace. We are to speak words of loving kindness just as Christ did. Our actions toward others are to be God’s love in motion, just as Christ’s actions were. This is what it means to be Christians. This is what it means for us to be redeemed. When we live as Christ calls us to live, we are being washed in Christ blood, we are being made clean our lives are being conformed to that of Christ. This is what it means to be holy as Christ is holy, and this is what it means to live out our resurrection here on earth. And this passage is a snapshot of the culmination of our salvation, redemption. We stand in Heaven a holy multitude, being rejoiced over and rejoicing.
One day we will stand reborn, alive once more, before the throne, but today we are living here and now. Each time we live, act, speak in the ways Christ did while here on earth we are living into that resurrection. We are becoming the people who will one day surround the Almighty-One and the Lamb; we are being transformed into the white clad multitude, here and now.
Living right, living God’s love here and now; being a person of peace and grace who shares the love of Christ with those around us, being holy as Christ is holy, we are becoming, daily being transformed into this multitude. Being holy, being people of integrity, grace, peace and justice, is what we do because we are Christians. It is how we live because we love God. It is who we are. Knowing the multitude in this scene is who we are becoming show us that living and being the people of God is exciting. What we do now, how we live now, who we are now, is than THIS. Think about it. When we live into our resurrection, when we live as Christ lived then we are those for whom all Heaven rejoices. Our lives bring joy to Heaven. Whenever you or I share the love of Christ in our daily lives, through words, or actions we are the reason Heaven celebrates. Whenever we do something, say something, act or react in a way that makes us the hands, feet or voice of Christ bringing the love of God to this world THEN we are the celebration of Heaven. That is kind of amazing. And is an incentive to think about the things I do each and every day. Are my words worthy of all heaven rejoicing? Are the ways I acted today, yesterday or plan to act tomorrow worthy of celestial celebration? It makes me want to rely on God more. I makes me want to trust Christ more. It spurs me on to be the Holy person I know Christ calls me to be, so that I can be the joy of Heaven. Let us all be challenged to be the joy of Heaven and, let us rest assured that when we live as Christ calls us to live, when we are holy as he is holy, THEN we ARE the joy of Heaven and all Heaven rejoices because of us; because of our actions; because we are being redeemed daily, made holy so we can live Christ’s holiness here and now.