I want to talk about the word "worthy." We seem to use the word "worthy" in songs a lot when describing God: "You are worthy! You are worthy!" and the word is sort of IN there. We say "you were worthy" and then we end up not continuing. But if you go to any concordance in the back of any Bible, you will see the word worthy always has some sort of context: worthy of death, worthy of his support, worthy of me, worthy of his wages, worthy of the gospel, the world was not worthy of him.
"Worthy is the Lamb!" We hear that in songs: "worthy is the lamb, worthy is the lamb" and sometimes our songs finish there, but then others realize that we do need some sort of context, so we get "worthy is the Lamb OF MY PRAISE." Worthy are you, Lord, of my praise. Now that just seems to turn God into a wallflower at the dance, saying "pick me! pick me!" Oh, okay, God, since you were jumping up and down the highest and waving your arms the widest, I will pick you! Worthy are you of my praise...this time around. Tomorrow it'll be Jeff, over there in the other corner, who will be worthy of my praise, but right now..."
I know what we are meaning. I know we're trying to say, "I used to worship other things, but now I have realized that only you, Lord, are worthy of my praise," but that's not exactly how it comes across. If we go to the book of Revelation, here we have in chapter 5 the long "worthy" context, the "worthy is the Lamb" statement starting at verse 12 of chapter 5:
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!
So, we have seven things that the lamb is worthy of. Worthy is the Lamb that was slain. He is worthy to receive these seven things: power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. Let's unpack each of these seven things to try to understand exactly what the Lord's worthiness is all about.
Power: I've talked to you before about how Jesus in his resurrection body is going to accomplish three things at the end of time. Those three things are to abolish power--authority--essentially inequality. He is going to abolish that first thing, and he is also going to abolish evil, and he is going to abolish death. Now, here is one of them again: worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive POWER. All power is transferred from the leaders of this world to our Lord Jesus Christ. He is the one worthy of power. Now, WHY is he worthy of power? Because he is the only one who knows how to use power.
Here we begin to get into something that all seven of these things fall into. Jesus is worthy of power, because he is the only one who has the power to lay down his life for the world. Let me repeat that: Jesus is the only one with the power to lay down his life for the world. We, as it says in scripture, aren't even willing to lay down our lives for a friend. If a gun is put to our heads, then we MAY lay down our lives for our friends. We may lay down our lives for the truth, but as a matter of course we do not go out of our way to lay down our lives for even a friend. Jesus went out of his way to lay down his life for his enemies. He lay down his life for the world while the world hated him. That is true power: to be able to give up your life for people who hate you. That is why he is worthy to receive power.
Do you see what's happening here? Jesus is the only one worthy to receive something, because he is able to use that something in a unique way, and that way is the opposite of what we, as fallen human beings, think that power, for example, should be used. So we have riches. Why riches? Why is he worthy of riches? Because he was able to give up everything. As it says in Philippians 2, he who deserves wealth and power and glory, and all of these things that he already possessed in heaven--the glorious throne room--this Jesus gave up all to come to Earth as a poor person, to be spit upon, to be the poorest of the poor, to be rock bottom, to be at the bottom of the heap. He humbled himself even to the point of death, death on a cross. That that is how Jesus gives up riches, and that is why he is the only one worthy of riches.
We can't take it with us, but in Jesus we find riches, just as in Jesus we find power. While we are here on earth, we can acquire power--not in the world's way but through Jesus Christ. Likewise, while we are here on earth we can acquire riches, but the riches ARE Jesus Christ. This is not the prosperity gospel, where they say you do not have faith if you're not wealthy. Your wealth IS Jesus. It's not "having faith in Jesus will get you money." That is a lie. Having faith in Jesus will give you riches, which ARE Jesus, because he is the only one worthy of riches. He is wealth, he is power, he IS these things.
The next thing is wisdom. As it says in the letters of Paul, God's foolishness is wiser than our wisdom. As humans, mankind's wisdom is pure foolishness to God's foolishness, which is wisdom. Once again, we have the turning of wisdom on its head. It says elsewhere that Jesus Christ IS wisdom. Jesus is wisdom, so if we want to be wise, the only place to be wise is in Christ. We could go to Proverbs and memorize the proverbs and become "wise" that way, but that would be only us taking the word of God and trying to memorize it and trying to use the wisdom for our human purposes, but if we seek Christ, we find wisdom through Christ. His Holy Spirit guides us; it's an easier way to wisdom, if you think about it. It's the path where we acquire true wisdom, because we have sought Christ and not tried to find wisdom on our own. It's the same difference as trying to keep the law ourselves and following Christ who brings us into compliance with the law.
Jesus came and was humbled. He came to Earth, gave up his wisdom, and brought foolishness to the people. Everybody knew dying on a cross was a foolish thing, and here it is: the power, the glory of everything, saving the world, the wise thing, appears to be the most foolish thing--dying on a cross. What seems to be the most foolish thing turns out to be the wisest, and dying on a cross, giving up your life for a world that hates you, is foolish to us, but it turns out to be the wisest thing.
Next, we have might. Look at the image of the lamb. Have you ever heard of a mighty lamb? What comic book artist would come up with a superhero called the Mighty Lamb? It's an oxymoron! It doesn't fit our sensibilities. He is the only one worthy of might, because he's the only one who understands what might is. Being mighty is being slaughtered like a lamb. A lamb who sits on a throne is not what the world wants. The world rejects a lamb. The world likes to EAT lambs, because they're tasty. They taste really good. We slaughter them, we eat them, we forget about them, and here is the Lord of heaven coming to earth and becoming a lamb for the slaughter, and we are told that this is a mighty act. We don't understand how it's a mighty act. Scripture text tells us how it is a mighty act, and our faith believes, and so if we wish to be mighty, we don't try to become mighty on our own. Instead, we turn to Jesus Christ, who is our might. We can only be mighty through Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slain for us.
Honor: who deserves the honor? Who is the only one worthy of honor? Jesus Christ is the only one worthy of honor. Why? Because he did what is considered by the world a very dishonorable thing. He allowed himself to be killed like a criminal, the most dishonorable thing. He allowed himself to be destroyed like a common crook. To the Jews, their God doesn't die at all, and to the Gentiles, their God doesn't die like a criminal. It is the most dishonorable thing, and it turns out it is the most honorable thing, because we do not really understand what honor is. Honor is laying down one's life for one's friends, for one's children, who were once enemies, but through this particular death have become children of God.
Picture the man with the tux, and the cufflinks, and he's going to be honored this night, and his wife is in the sequin dress, and his children are dressed up, and they go to the party, and they hobnob with all the people and they sit at the table of honor, and the man at the podium stands up, and he says, "we are here to honor the person who has made this company the greatest," and the CEO and his wife are sitting there, and they're thinking, "this is it! This is the moment that we've been waiting for, that we've been living for all our lives," and the man at the podium says, "we are here to honor...the janitor, because the janitor is the one who cleans up this place day after day, night after night, and keeps it clean." He's not the one who made the company what it was, the greatness, the man-made greatness that it was. He's the one that keeps everything smooth, because he cleaned it up. Jesus came to earth and cleaned it up with his blood, his white blood, which covers us all and makes us appear as snow. He is the only one deserving of honor, because he did what is considered the dishonorable thing: dying in our place.
Glory. Glory means heaviness. Nothing is heavier than Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the anchor. Think of a heavy anchor, think of our flimsy little boats on the river of life rushing toward the cliff edge, and we are about to go over the side and crash down onto the rocks and be destroyed forever on those rocks below. Think of that. What would we need to stay at the top of the falls and remain in the river? We would need a heavy anchor. We would need to put down a heavy anchor to keep us from going over that edge, and Jesus is the only anchor that will keep us firmly planted until his coming again.
When we have the anchor of Jesus firmly planted, we will not go over the side. We will see all of the things that we used to praise, that we used to hold onto, that we used to glorify. We will see those musicals like Les Mis going by like driftwood, and they go over the side. We will see all those rock bands that we used to listen to, like big driftwood going over the side. We will see all the amazing celebrities, and we will see all the politicians, and we will see all the people that we used to look up to, just like driftwood in their little flimsy boats going over the side. But we will not go over the side, because we have finally put our glory into Jesus Christ. We are glorifying God. He is our weight. He is the one that keeps us steady, and if we try to grab onto anything else that appears to be strong, swooshing by in the current, like, "oh wow I'm really into that philosophy or political stance right now, so I'll jump on that piece of driftwood!" Over the falls you head again; it's just another piece of driftwood. It's not going to survive. Jesus's glory: he's the only one worthy of glory, because he did something glorious. We think, "high and lifted up," when really Jesus is low, he's heavy, he's an anchor, and he keeps us firmly planted in the river.
Finally, blessing. Jesus is the only one worthy of blessing. Blessings seem to fall on believers and unbelievers alike. Curses also seem to fall on unbelievers and unbelievers alike, but for the believer curses are not curses. They are God's sanctification, making us into better people, into children of God through the Holy Spirit. Blessings are good for the Christian, but blessings also seem to fall on the unbelievers. Why is that? Why should they be allowed to have blessing? We know one unbelieving couple that doesn't just not believe but they reject God. They call themselves atheists. They believe there is no God, and yet they had a child, and the child is beautiful and sweet, and we think, "God granted them a blessing!" But is it a blessing if that child will never learn about Jesus Christ? If that child will never know God, and that child is doomed to destruction? How is that a blessing in the end?
Jesus is our blessing. He is the only one worthy of blessing, because he did not bless himself. He became a curse for us. He took our place under the curse, and as a result he is the only one worthy to be blessed. He blessed us with his presence, with his perfect person in our lives. God had this plan from the beginning; he had this planned, where we would finally have blessing, when he told Abraham, "through you the world will be blessed." He didn't mean through Isaac; he didn't mean to Jacob; he didn't even mean through David. He meant through Jesus. Jesus was the seed promised to Eve at the beginning of the curse, that her seed would defeat the devil and bless the world. We are all blessed through Jesus. He is the narrow way. When we go through Jesus, we are blessed. It doesn't matter what blessings we seem to get from God while we are here on this tangible earth. As soon as it is over, and it all passes away, if we have not put our faith in Jesus Christ, we are cursed forever. There is no blessing after. Never will an unbeliever know blessing as good as what he or she has right now, and never will a believer know curse as dark as the one we live through right now.
Jesus Christ, the lamb who was slain: is he worthy? Yes! Is he worthy of our praise? Of course! Is he worthy to receive all of these seven things? Power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing? Why is he the only one worthy to receive those things? Because he is the only one who knows what they mean, and how to use them. Where can we acquire all of those things? Only through Jesus Christ.