REVELATION 7:9-17 ESV
“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.” Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, “Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?” I said to him, “Sir, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “Therefore they are before the throne of God, and serve him day and night in his temple; and he who sits on the throne will shelter them with his presence. They shall hunger no more, neither thirst anymore; the sun shall not strike them, nor any scorching heat. For the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.””
Our text this morning has the ability to hit each of us in a different way. Rarely do I read Revelation and it not cause a sense of awe in my soul. What John was privileged to see should deepen our faith, as the Holy Spirit ushered him into the presence of Jesus and the throne room of God.
John has just witnessed a playing out of both history and future events, seeing both the awesome and the terrible at the same time. Suddenly, he turns and sees a great sea of people from every corner of the earth. The people are worshipping, praising God, shouting and waving palm branches. At this, those around the throne of God fell in adoration and worship. These people are testifying. They are the ones the world took life from and Jesus gave life to. They are a clean people, a washed people, all because they chose to follow Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God.
What I find so interesting about this text is that one of the holy elders near the throne of God, looks to John and asks him if he knows who they are. Because he doesn’t, he looks at this exalted being and essentially says, “No, but you know.” I want to stop right there and spend some time on that moment.
Catholic Evangelist, Fr. Steve Grunow has a great line in an article he wrote called “YOU WERE CHOSEN TO BE A SAINT,” where he says,
“Most saints disappear into the mission of the Church. In heaven, we will know the profound impact thousands of hidden Saints had on our lives, but here on earth, as I said, most of the Saints move about and work among us, and do so for the most part unnoticed and unseen.”
I love this quote because it reminds me of the countless people who have gone on to be with Jesus Christ, fighting the good fight. Whether they died a martyr or a faithful disciple, it matters not.
Like those in the text, they have washed their robes in the blood of the lamb, and they join the countless multitude of believers who disappeared into the mission of the Church. In the end, our witness is ALWAYS about Jesus Christ being made known. It is through us that Jesus Christ is magnified, revealed, and made plain to people who have yet to see Him and accept His grace.
Like Fr. Grunow alludes to, there is an ordinariness about the call to saintliness. We should never be afraid of the word ‘saint’. Theologian Frederick Buechner makes the point well in a write-up I want to share with you.
In his holy flirtation with the world, God occasionally drops a pocket handkerchief. These handkerchiefs are called saints.
Many people think of saints as plaster saints, men and women of such paralyzing virtue that they never thought a nasty thought or did an evil deed their whole lives long. As far as I know, real saints never even come close to characterizing themselves that way. On the contrary, no less a saint than Saint Paul wrote to Timothy, “I am foremost among sinners”( 1 Timothy 1:15) …
In other words, the feet of saints are as much of clay as everybody else’s, and their sainthood consists less of what they have done than of what God has for some reason chosen to do through them. When you consider that Saint Mary Magdalene was possessed by seven devils, that Saint Augustine prayed, “Give me chastity and continence, but not now,” that Saint Francis started out as a high-living young dude in downtown Assisi, and that Saint Simeon Stylites spent years on top of a sixty-foot pillar, you figure that maybe there’s nobody God can’t use as a means of grace, including even ourselves.
The Holy Spirit has been called “the Lord, the giver of life” and, drawing their power from that source, saints are essentially life-givers. To be with them is to become more alive.
Buechner captures is perfectly, helping us see that saintliness is faithfulness. I want you to shout something out for me. Tell us all who the ordinary faithful were that you hold dear in your heart, who showed you Jesus through their simplicity and their faithfulness.
You want to know the saints who come to the forefront of my mind when I think about the ones God is most pleased with? Its a kind of person; those people who don’t second guess God’s love and faithfulness toward them. They reveal God’s holy stubbornness through the way they hold firm to hope and God’s promises. It speaks volumes to me because I, to this day, still pray that God will make me steadfast.
“Most saints will disappear into the mission of the Church.” Thats what I want us to take away from today. Live your life for Jesus Christ in such a way that you fade into the background and Jesus is moved into the foreground. Let the saving love, the transforming mission of Christ Jesus take the limelight, as you fade into plans of God to change the world. Amen.