Pastor Wes Peaden 4-5-20
“I shall ask God mercifully to protect us. Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence. If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me, and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others. If my neighbor needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy and does not tempt God.”
-Martin Luther during a plague 1527 in letter to a friend (Volume 43, Pg. 132: Whether One Should Flee From A Deadly Plague – To Rev. Dr. John Hess)
Church of Laodicea
In today’s text we examine the most well-known and often talked about church of the seven churches in Revelation 2 and 3, the church of Laodicea. The church is known for the lukewarm quote and the threat that God would spew them out of his mouth. There is more to the story than, as we will see today, and the story of Laodicea is relevant for us. God is speaking to us, the church in the United States, and saints all over the world through this message to the church of Laodicea. Let us open the text and read from God’s word before we dive into the message today.
The Message to the Church in Laodicea Revelation 3:14-22
14 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning[e] of God’s new creation:
15 “I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! 16 But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! 17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. 18 So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by your nakedness, and ointment for your eyes so you will be able to see. 19 I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.
20 “Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends. 21 Those who are victorious will sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat with my Father on his throne.
22 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.”
A City Searching For Identity Finds Prosperity
Laodicea sat in an area often shaken by earthquakes, as was common in many of the other locations. The ground, or foundation of the city was regularly shaken. In the early days of Jesus life on Earth the city was destroyed by an earthquake and rebuilt only to have it happen again a little over 3 decades later. When the most recent city destroying quake to the writing of Revelation, city leaders rejected Roman funds to rebuild and used their own wealth.
The trade route on which Laodicea sat and its role in Roman commerce had brought vast wealth to the city. The city had bid for the second temple of Apollo in Asia Minor but lost the bid to Smyrna as Laodicea was deemed as less important in the Empire. Apollo, the Greek god of music, poetry, light, prophecy, and medicine was important to this city, but they did not get the honor of hosting a temple for him. Hierapolis, a city about 5 miles north, was known for healing pools of water and beautiful travertine formations caused by hot springs. Apollo’s temple went to Smyrna and the healing arts were in Hierapolis. Laodicea was left to find its identity in commerce. We have examined how Jesus’ identity in John’s original vision related to each church by the way Jesus addressed each church individually. Let’s examine, with this background in mind, what Jesus is saying to Laodicea.
Jesus: Faithful, Trustworthy, Genuine, Mindful, the Origin of All Things
Jesus, as he has in each of the previous six letters to the other six churches, identifies himself in a way that is specific for the location. To the church of Laodicea, Jesus is the always existing and steadfast one upon whom we should have our foundation. In Revelation 1:17 he revealed himself to John as “the First and the Last.” To Laodicea he reveals this aspect of his character as “the Amen – the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation” (Rev. 3:14). Paul called Jesus the last Adam and a life-giving spirit when writing to the church at Corinth (I Cor. 15:45) [45 So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”[a]; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. I Cor. 15:45 ESV]. Interestingly, this is the only church addressed among the seven churches that is clearly founded by Paul’s missionary work and not directly tied to John’s work in the area as its origin. Jesus reveals himself as an unshakeable foundation for Laodicea and the Jesus followers, or church in that city. He reveals himself as trustworthy, unlike the temperamental Greek gods and Roman Empire. He states that his is genuine, not like the fake gods of the Greek and Roman cultures. Jesus is the mindful one, or present and focused. The term mindful is often used in relation to eastern religions, but Jesus is the ultimate example and the embodiment of true mindfulness. He is present, focused, and welcoming.
Jesus is the origin of all things, especially the new creation of God. He is the life-giving Spirit, Paul said, brings a new creation in us and through us. To the church of Laodicea Jesus offers spiritual purpose and the route to ultimate healing. He is standing at the door to give them a wake-up call to their true identity.
Wealth and Indifference: The Opposite of Love and Giving
This is the most scathing letter of the seven. Jesus uses strong and consistent rebuke for the church of this city. Laodicea has made its own way without help from the gods or the Roman empire. The city had forged its own identity through industry and hard work. Does that sound familiar at all? It should, because it could not sound more American. The Laodicean’s said they were rich and needed nothing. They demonstrated this by rebuilding their city on their own. What they saw as resilience, God clearly calls out as pride and arrogance.He gives them the most humbling call to repentance. He pleads with them to come as: wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked. He “advised” that they buy gold from him refined in the fire. This recalls Solomon’s words of how praise is the trial of man like fire is the proving place for gold (Prov. 27:21).
He then tells them to buy garments of white from him. Laodicea was known for its mercantile trade most of all. He is clearly rebuking their self-reliance just as Adam and Eve were rebuked for their fig leaves. Now, Jesus brings what is perhaps the most important part of his message with an equally important preference: turn from your indifference. The Lumineers got it right in their song Stubborn Love, “the opposite of love’s indifference.”
When Jesus calls them away from indifference, he is calling their minds back to his lukewarm rebuke. The water hot springs in Hierapolis like filter down stream to Laodicea as a lukewarm flow of water, neither hot or cold. If you have ever swam in such water, it just feels gross. If you have ever drank such water, you understand the comment about vomiting it out. Jesus is standing at the door knocking and raising his voice so someone will come out and open up to him. I turn again to the Lumineers and their song Subborn Love:
It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
So pay attention now
I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I won’t leave until you come downstairs
- Stubborn Love, The Lumineers
Jesus wants to give us hope, purpose, identity. We can’t have that and be indifferent about the people he loves and died to save. In case you missed it, he loves and died for everyone:
16 “For this is how God loved the world: He gave[a] his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. 17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
John 3:16-17 NIV
Jesus loves you. He loves your neighbor. He loves you friends. He loves you enemy. He expects the same from you.
The indifference plaguing this nation and the church in this nation has come to a head in the COVID-19 crisis. People have dismissed this thing to a large extent. Some have prepared. Others have feared. Most people have expressed no concern one way or the other, expect in regard to money. To those in that indifferent way of thinking, Jesus is saying clearly today: you make me want to vomit.
Folks, let’s see that hate is not the opposite of love but a misplaced expression of love. Indifference is the opposite of love and it is killing this nation right now and the church. Many in the church wanted a political salvation. We got what we wanted in the way we asked, the Lord showed me signs of this in 2014 and 2015. I saw that there was great possibility and great risk in this prayer and the answer to it. He also showed me some of the scenes I am seeing right now and it is eerie to see it with my opens eyes on the computer, phone, and TV like I saw it in prayer, dreams, and a vision.