What will it cost?

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

What does it mean for something to cost you?  Have you have heard the phrase that is going to cost you?  Maybe you have heard that phrase in a movie when the good guy does a heroic act and then the bad guy yells out that is going to cost you.  Perhaps a parent has said to a child after that child disobeyed.  Perhaps you have said it to yourself after you broke something.  When we think of the idea of something costing something in our world we often think of punishment or a consequence because of something that we ourselves did.  If a child throws a ball through a window it might cost them a few months of allowance to help pay for a new one.  If a person commits a crime it may cost them a fine or even an amount of time of their freedom.  What is a time in your life that something has cost you?  Was it small or big?  Did the action cost you money, time, broken relationship, or something else?

This morning I want to take a look at this from a slightly different angle.  In our reading from Revelation take a look at what John says in Revelation 1:9 (ESV) I, John, your brother and partner in the tribulation and the kingdom and the patient endurance that are in Jesus, was on the island called Patmos on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. We have John the author of Revelation who identifies himself as “your brother” and “partner in the tribulation and the kingdom.”  Both of these titles are in reference to the connecting point of all people in the church and that is Jesus.  John is the brother of the people he is writing to directly as well as us whom he is also writing to.  John is your brother and your partner in the tribulation (or a clearer word for us suffering) and the kingdom.  John finds himself banished to the island of Patmos on account of the Word of God and the witness of Jesus. John’s faithfulness to the Word of God and the witness of Jesus cost him his worldly freedom.

Now this word that is translated as witness is an interesting word.  Now I don’t typically get into word studies in my sermons, but today I think that it is very relevant for us today so I want to look at this word “witness.” Μαρτυρία is the word in the Greek and I will get to why that is important in a moment.  What is a witness?  A very basic meaning is of course one who observes an event.  The Apostle John would have been one who would have observed the events, miracles, and ministry of Jesus and the only disciple to have observed the entire passion of Jesus.[1] Here in this context a witness is not simply one who observed, but also then one who proclaimed what they saw.  We have here a very court room understanding of this word witness.  The one who observed the events then testified to the events. The understanding of a witness in this time is that they could be called to back up what they saw and heard.  The witness would be required back up the testimony with his good name and reputation and there were even times when the witness would have to back up the testimony with property and wealth.  The good name and reputation still plays into our own legal system today as a jury tends to believe some testimony more than others depending on the individual’s history.

The word translated as witness deals with observing and testifying about the observations but not only with your words but also with your life.  The word that is translated as witness is the Greek word Μαρτυρία.  If you listen closely to that pronunciation you can perhaps hear where the word martyr comes from.  The word martyr comes from the Greek word Μαρτυρία which is translated here as witness because it is talking about much more than simply dying for your faith but it may in fact include dying for your faith.

What this means for us today then is that to witness or to give testimony to Jesus involves more than just words and just like John it will often cost us something to be a witness to Christ.  To witness to Christ one needs to have a basic understanding of who Jesus is and this may in fact cost you some time and some effort to engage with God’s word and search the scriptures to get a better understanding of who Jesus is and what he has done.  To witness to Christ it might involve speaking about who Jesus is and what he has done in places that may not be real receptive of that message.  It may cost you relationships in your life. It may cost you social embarrassment. To witness to Christ it may require you to give up things in your life.  It may cost you all sorts of different things.  It may cost you not being able to do all of the things that the world says you should be doing.  It may mean that you have less and give more.  It may mean that your child does not get to be on the traveling team because there are other things more important in life than sports.  It may mean that you don’t get to fish as much as you would like.  It may mean that you don’t watch the same things that world watches.  It may mean that you are different all because you confess that Jesus Christ is Lord of your life and in doing that it will cost you something.

Don’t get me wrong what it will cost you will not earn your salvation.  What it will cost you will not make you more forgiven.  Your forgiveness, life and salvation are given to you by Christ and have cost you nothing because they cost Christ everything.  Yet my question for us this morning is why doesn’t our faith in Christ cost us a little bit more? Not a cost to earn salvation but rather a cost because of the salvation that has been freely given to you by Jesus Christ.  We (myself included) need to stop with the grand allusion that we can have all of Jesus and all or at least most of the world.  Those two things are not consistent.  We need to stop and repent when we attempt to play the fence.  What I mean by that is that what I observe on a regular basis is when we try to keep Jesus close enough to make sure that we get into heaven but not so close that we might actually be confronted by our sin and have the gospel applied to us because we are sinners and in turn having the Holy Spirit lead us in our sanctification. To be a witness to Christ is to be a martyr and a martyr has to do with who you confess in words, actions, and in death.

What is it going to cost you? Not one of us here has confessed Jesus Christ well enough.  Not one of us here has been faithful enough in our witness. Not one of has given all that we have. Not one of us is worthy to be in the presence of Christ our Lord just as John the author of the book of revelation was not worthy to be in the presence of Jesus either. Revelation 1:17–18 (ESV) 17 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades. John fell at the feet of Christ as though John was dead.  John the man who was exiled for his faith in Jesus Christ and for the proclamation of the death and resurrection of Jesus fell down before Jesus which is a sign of unworthiness.  He did not see his actions as making him worthy.  He did not go up to Jesus and give him a high five.  John fell at the feet of Jesus who is described as his face shining like the sun and his voice sounding like the roar of many waters.  What then does Jesus do?  “He says fear not. I am the first and the last, the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and have the keys of Death and Hades.”

Look how the risen Lord is depicted in this reading.  He is given the same title as God the Father.  He is depicted as one who has complete power of all things including the keys to death and hades. He points John back to his death and resurrection and that is why he can say fear not. This reality once John hears the words of grace from Jesus is a comfort to John.  Jesus is in control.  Remember John is in prison and he is writing to churches who are and will continue to face persecution as they witness to who Jesus is and what he had done.  There witness would cost them a great deal but Jesus would be more than enough for them as they faced the persecution.

In Revelation we have John imprisoned on the island of Patmos. In the gospel reading we have the disciple hiding in fear of the Jews.  In our Acts reading we have the apostles arrested. Their faith cost them all in these readings.  Their witness of Christ cost them dearly but what do we see in each of the readings.  In revelation Jesus shows up in power and might and says fear not.  In Acts they are freed from prison.  In the gospel they hear the words from Jesus “Peace be with you.”

Does our faith cost us? When we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live out the reality of the gospel in our lives it will cost us.  It will cost us but what we are promised and see throughout the scriptures is that Christ will be with all of those who have faith in Him each step of the way even if they face death.  We don’t need to run from suffering.  We don’t need to run from pain. We don’t need to avoid the gospel because that is not who Christ has made us to be 2 Timothy 1:7–9 for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.

May our witness of words, actions, and death witness to Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

[1] Brighton, L. A. (1999). Revelation. St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House. (20-21)

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