“To the angel of the church in Sardis,” says Jesus, “you have the name of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up…”
We’re not all that good at telling dead from alive.
Trying to live up to a name—even a good name—can kill you. And making a name for yourself will kill you, or already has. To take knowledge of the Good, to make yourself good, makes you bad… and dead. To hide your shame from Jesus is to hide your self from the Truth, who is the Life.
“You’re dead! Wake up… Repent… Or else…” says Jesus. “To the one who conquers… I will never blot his name out of the book of life… He who has an ear to hear let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
The more I scream accusations like, “You’re dead!” the less you feel alive and the more you feel imprisoned to the name of being alive, although dead. And what’s the point of preaching to the dead? Dead doesn’t even know dead!
The seven letters sound like the law and the “power of sin is the law,” wrote St. Paul, “The law that promised life to me proved to be death to me.” The law brings death and the dead can’t obey the law!
So what is Jesus trying to say to us?
Technically, He’s not talking to us.
He’s talking to an “angel.”
The seven angels are seven stars, who appear to be the seven Spirits of God, who are the seven Eyes of the Lamb. Himself and imputing His Righteousness to us. It means that the Spirit on the throne is calling to His own Spirit in us saying, “Live, live, live”… until “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.”
You are a patient on the operating table listening to the great surgeon discuss your surgery with Himself. So what should you do?
Hold still, surrender all that’s diseased, and see the salvation of your God. Confess your sins and believe God’s Grace.
Sardis had a name for being alive but was dead.
Jesus had a name for being dead but is alive. He is “The Life.”
If you’re proud of your name, it’s not your name. If you’re grateful . . . I bet it is.
“Whoever has sinned, I will blot out of my book,” said God to Moses.
That means all have been blotted out of His book, except One—He who knew no sin but became sin, that you might become the righteousness of God.
He gives you your name. Be grateful.
*Discussion questions are available for this sermon here: Discussion Questions “Sardis & the Dead Who Don’t Know They’re Dead”