Look: “Then one of the elders said to me, ‘Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals.’” (Revelation 5:5)
The scroll, containing God’s plan for saving human beings from sin and death, is in God’s right hand. Its perfection is signified by its being sealed seven times.
As John sees and experiences this vision, he’s driven to despair. Because no one is found who is worthy, that is, no one is without sin, to open the scroll, humanity is doomed.
But then one of the elders reassures him. The Lion, Who also has the appearance of a Lamb who has been murdered (Revelation 5:6), is worthy, the elder says. This is "the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
I'm unworthy of opening the scroll.
The human race is unworthy of opening the scroll.
But the Lion Who is the Lamb, Jesus, true God and true man, can and does open the scroll because with His blood, He “purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Revelation 5:9).
Listen: Jesus is able to save me from sin and death, to save me from myself. And Jesus alone is able to do this.
Only He is able to break open the scroll and unleash life on and bring into the kingdom those who believe in Him.
I can’t break open the seal myself. I’m incapable of offering myself and making a perfect atoning sacrifice for my sin (or anybody else’s). I can’t perform my way into God’s kingdom. Intellectually, I know this is true. But I am sure that at some level, I still harbor the legalistic notion that I can be good enough to deserve the kingdom of God. I can’t be. My good works can’t break the seal.
Nor can the seal be broken by anyone or anything else. Revelation 5:3: “...no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it.” That means that it can’t be broken by religions. Buddha, Allah, Mohammad...none of them are true God and true human, none of them died for my sins, none of them were raised from the dead by God the Father.
Only One has conquered sin and death. Jesus says: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Jesus says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” (John 3:16-18)
Jesus is the One Who has earned the right to break the seals on our behalf by dying for us, although we weren’t worthy of the sacrifice of the sinless Lamb of God. “God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)
Jesus is God. Jesus a sinless Man Who bore all of our sins and took our punishment for them. Jesus is the only way to life with God.
It’s telling that, in Revelation 5, after Jesus steps forward to break the seals of the scroll, not only do the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders who have been worshiping the Father, now worship Jesus as well, but they each hold “golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God’s people” (Revelation 5:8).
Before His crucifixion, during His time on earth, Jesus had said: “Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24). The One Who breaks the seals is the one to Whom and through Whom the prayers of God’s people must go. To speak to God in any name other than that of Jesus, is to send letters to the wrong address.
(This doesn’t mean that parroting the words, “in the name of Jesus,” acts like a good luck charm for our prayers. To pray in Jesus’ name means also that one understands that we only dare approach God’s throne in the name, in the power, and in light of the self-sacrifice of Jesus. In other words, we pray in Jesus’ name when we have faith in Jesus as our Lord, God, and King.)
The bowls of incense containing the prayers of God’s people are brought to Jesus. He is the only way to God.
Respond: In many ways, this is a despairing day. So much bad news from Washington and other parts of the country and the world. And there is bad news from among our friends. I want God’s kingdom to break into this world in its fullness, banishing the bad, the sad, the sinful, toppling the arrogant and the foolish.
But I must not regard Jesus’ seeming delay in making all things right as a bad thing. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead, he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) I have repenting to do. I have witnessing to do.
Since I’m not the one who can break open the scroll and its delay might actually be to my advantage, giving God more time to break me of my sin and fashion Christ in me (2 Corinthians 3:18), I should not weep (or sigh, or complain, or bemoan, or rail against rotten people, or murmur, or give into misplaced spiritual pride, or despair over my own sin).
I should worship the God revealed by God the Holy Spirit in God the Father and God the Son, Who has saved me by grace through faith in Him, and be about my business. My business is Matthew 28:19: “...go and make disciples of all nations...”[I'm the pastor of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio.]
God, help me to be focused on worshiping You and making disciples today. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen