Sermon Commentary for Sunday, May 1, 2022

Revelation 5:11-14 Commentary

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s John reminds me of young children who tell their parents or grandparents a story that so excites them that it tumbles out of them in a string of run-on sentences that begin with “And ….” You may know the form. “I was walking home from school and I saw this big fire truck, and its sirens were loud, and it was going really fast, and there were firefighters standing on the back, and …”

That sounds just a bit like the inspired John who introduces several of Revelation 5’s sentences with, “And’s …” Regrettably, however, most English translations obscure that repetition. They, after all, translate this Sunday’s text’s various instances of kai as “then.” Yet even first year students of Greek understand that kai is usually translated as “and.”

This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson is so brief that its proclaimers may wonder why the RCL’S compilers omitted its ten preceding verses from it. What’s more, it’s hard to both explain and understand the beauty and majesty of this text without at least some understanding of those first ten verses. As a result, proclaimers may wish to include all of Revelation 5 in this Sunday’s preaching and teaching.

That chapter’s literary movement may open a way for at least two different explorations and presentations of its truths. Proclaimers might show how Revelation 5 in some ways traces salvation history. It, after all, moves from blindness about God’s ways and purposes to praise to God. However, proclaimers might also take as their starting points this Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s movement that mimics the gospel’s movement. It, after all, moves from the one, John, to all, including living every creature.

Revelation 4 and 5’s literary moves are similar to each other’s. Chapter 4 begins with one person, John, whom a booming voice invites to see what God has in store for God’s creation. John then sees, first, the heavenly throne with someone seated on it who looks like “carnelian and jasper” (4:3). Four mysterious “living creatures” surround that throne (4:6b). Twenty-four elders surround those creatures (4:4). All sing of God’s worthiness.

Revelation 5 too begins with the solitary figure of John. The since Roman authorities have exiled him to Patmos’ remote island, for all John knows, as Scott Hoezee ( points out, he’s the last Christian alive. Of course, Revelation 5’s John is not actually totally alone. After all, there are at least seven surviving churches. What’s more, that John again sees One who sits on the throne.

That sight of the heavenly throne and its King prompts John not to fall down in worship, but to break down in sobs. After all, no one seems able to reveal God’s plan for God’s redemption of God’s creation and its creatures. John deduces that no one can figure out just what God is doing and will do in God’s world.

When one of the elders who’s likely reigning on one of the thrones that surrounds the heavenly throne (4:4) speaks to the heartbroken John, he offers him a word of comfort and hope. He insists there’s no reason for his grief. After all, there is One who can open the scroll that contains God’s plan for the world. He’s a “Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (5:6).

It’s as if that good news is like a rock that someone throws into a pond. It doesn’t, after all, just create one big splash that’s its announcement of the unveiling of God’s plans and purposes. Revelation 5’s gospel also creates concentric ripples that spread out from John and the Lamb-King.

The good news of God’s plans and purposes ripples out to those mysterious four living creatures, as well as the twenty-four elders that surround the Lamb’s throne. Just as they do in Revelation 4, they again respond by falling down in worship before the Lamb. The four living creatures and twenty-four elders also again praise that Lamb’s “worthiness” (4:11, 5:9).

This acclamation, as I noted in an earlier Commentary on this passage (, echoes what Rome’s emperor expected Roman crowds to shout when he appeared in public. So verse 9 especially makes the political statement that it’s not the Caesar who is worth of “worship,” but “the Lion of the Tribe of Judah” (5:5) who’s in charge of God’s world.

The Lamb’s worthiness that the worshiping creatures and elders praise, however, does not, as Revelation 4 does, stem from his creative power. Those worshipers, instead, acclaim him worthy, instead, because of his redeeming and transforming power. The enthroned Lamb deserves worship and praise because he is able to reveal God’s plans and purposes for all God creates. His blood, in fact, liberated God’s people from Satan, sin and death’s power and transformed them into a kingdom and priests.

And then the gospel of the Lamb’s worthiness ripples spread even farther. They reach all the way to the perhaps millions of angels who somehow encircle not just the enthroned Lamb, but also the four living creatures and twenty-four elders. They too, after all, join the chorus of acclamation. The countless angels join the four living creatures and twenty-four elders to pronounce the Lamb “worthy.”

That majestic chorus’ hymn announces that, as N.T. Wright (Revelation for Everyone, Westminster John Knox, 2011) notes, “The wealth and strength of the nations belongs to him; everything that ennobles and enriches human life, everything that enables people to live wisely, to enjoy and celebrate the goodness of God’s world – all this is to be laid at [the Lamb’s] feet.”

And then, as if not even all that is not enough, Revelation 5’s ripples of worship spread even farther. After all, according to verse 13, every creature somehow rises up to join the living creatures, elders, and angels’ choir.

As Scott Hoezee notes in the commentary cited earlier, “Every last creature in the world, including those in the deepest oceans … rise up to sing the doxology. You expect God’s holy angels to sing a song to Jesus the Christ, but perhaps nothing so vividly shows the scope of our God’s victory [more] than the fact that eagles and dolphins, jaguars, and hummingbirds, sandhill cranes and elephants will also give the Lamb honor and glory and praise forever and ever.”

And there we have it. The ripples produced by the dropped rock that is the Lamb’s ability to reveal God’s plans and purposes for God’s world have, by Revelation 5’s end, spread. They have, in fact, somehow reached all the way to every living creature.

That spread is a bit reminiscent of Paul’s account of the risen Christ’s appearance to people. It’s not just that good news travels fast. It’s also that the One who is the Good News “travels” fast. After all, the risen Christ appeared, according to 1 Corinthians 15:4ff. first to Peter. And then to the Twelve. And then to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters. And then to James. And then to all the apostles. And then, finally, to Paul as well.

But, of course, just as the ripples of worship don’t stop spreading at Revelation 5 or 1 Corinthians 15’s ends, the ripples of praise for Christ’s worthiness don’t stop spreading. What begins in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost and slowly spreads out from there to the whole world just keeps spreading, by God’s grace and the work of the Holy Spirit.

Revelation 5’s good news continues to spread to the children of believers. It spreads to those who newly receive God’s grace with their faith in Jesus Christ. This Sunday’s Epistolary Lesson’s good news will, in fact, keep spreading until it engulfs the whole new creation.


Revelation 5’s movement reminds me of some choir members’ gathering to sing together on Zoom. I’m especially thinking of a rendition of “Down at the River” that’s been posted on YouTube.

It begins with a soloist singing its first stanza. Then images of two singers joining her in song appear on each side of her. Those three are joined by three more singers. And so on until the screen fills with people together “Down at the River.”

It’s a stirring picture, not just of the spread of the gospel, but also the praise that results from that spread. That online rendition of “Down at the River,” in addition to Revelation 5 is also a harbinger of the New Creation. There, after all, the praise to the Lamb will no longer spread any farther. The worship of the Lamb will already have reached every corner of the new earth and heaven.


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