Christ’s Letter to the Church in Laodicea

Sermon for Maundy Thursday based on Rev. 3:14-22 and Mark 14:12-26

Dear people who have an ear to hear what the Spirit says to the churches: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

To conclude our Lenten series on Christ’s letters to the seven churches, our sermon this Maundy Thursday is based on Revelation 3:14-22: “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s creation.

“‘I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me. The one who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as I also conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’” Here ends our text.

Being lukewarm is intolerable. It is being neither cold nor hot, but indifferent, uncaring, apathetic.

The church in Laodicea was self-satisfied in their material wealth, and indifferent to spiritual wealth. They thought because they were materially wealthy, they had everything they needed. They thought their material riches were all that mattered, and they lived lives primarily for earthly wealth and selfish desires.

They had no enthusiasm for God. Not that they hated God, no, no. They were just indifferent to Him. They could take Him or leave Him. They did not realize that their indifference to spiritual riches would cause Christ to spit them out if they did not repent. They did not realize that even though they thought they were rich and needed nothing, they were in reality wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. Yet, they were indifferent to what Christ offered them.

We know indifference. How often do we show indifference to the spiritual riches that God offers us? We will show up to church here and there, when we feel like it. No big deal. Bible class? No thanks. Reading the Bible? Not today. Not that we hate the Bible, no, no. We are just indifferent to it. We could take it or leave it. No big deal. We have no enthusiasm for it. The Lord’s Supper? Nah, I already had it once this month.

The indifferent will say, “I already believe, so what’s the harm if I miss church here and there? I already know who Jesus is, I don’t need to read more about Him. I’m already forgiven, so what if I don’t receive the Sacrament of the Altar today?”

Christ says, “Because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth… Be zealous and repent.” Being zealous for God means having zeal and eagerness marked by a sense of dedication. It means having desire and enthusiasm for God and being committed to Him and His Word. It means most of all a love for receiving the spiritual riches God offers to you freely.

Repenting means having contrition and sorrow over showing indifference to God and His Word, and trusting that for Christ’s sake, you are forgiven. Repenting means desiring above all things what God desires for you.

It’s not a matter of being compelled by God’s command to go to church and Bible class or being compelled by God’s Law to read the Bible and receive the Sacrament. Rather, we do them out of love for God’s Word, out of enthusiasm to hear it and learn it, and out of a desire to receive Christ’s true body and blood for the forgiveness of sin.

Where does love for God’s Word come from? It comes from God’s Word! Start reading God’s Word every day, and you will wonder how you could have lived without doing so. God works through His Word to strengthen and nurture your faith, and to teach you. You will find yourself thinking about God more and you will start coming up with all kinds of questions for which you desire answers, and you will want to read more and more. You will learn new things from familiar passages, and be reminded of old things from new passages.

Scripture will give you the desire to receive Christ’s true body and blood more. Why? Because God’s Word tells you that the Lord’s Supper was not dreamed up or invented by men, but by Christ Himself without anyone’s counsel or deliberation. If Christ Himself instituted the Sacrament and says that it is good for you to receive it often, surely your desire will be awakened to receive it often.

Christ’s Word distinguishes this sacrament from ordinary bread and wine, so that it truly is His body and blood. Let a hundred thousand devils, with all the denominations that deny this, come forward and say, “How can bread and wine be Christ’s body and blood?” Still we know that all the devils and fanatics put together have less wisdom than the divine Majesty has in His pinkie finger. Here is Christ’s Word: “Take, eat, this is my body.” “Drink of it, all of you; this cup is the new testament in my blood.” Here we shall take our stand and see who dares to teach Christ and alter what He has spoken. As Christ’s lips speak and say, so it is; He cannot deceive or lie.

With Christ’s body and blood, we receive what He promises He gives to us in the Sacrament – namely, the forgiveness of sins. This indeed is the real purpose of the Sacrament. “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” For this reason Christ bids you to eat and drink, that it may be yours and do you good as a sure pledge and sign – indeed, as the very gift He has provided for you against your sins, death, and all evils.

Therefore, it is appropriately called food of the soul, for it nourishes and strengthens us. We are born again through Baptism, but we still have our human flesh and blood. There are so many hindrances and attacks of the devil and the world that we often grow weary and faint and at times even stumble. Therefore Christ has given us the Lord’s Supper as food and sustenance so that our faith may be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger. For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses. But it has to suffer a great deal of opposition. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him through contrition and repentance, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and prowls about every turn, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce the faith or lose heart and become indifferent and lukewarm. For times like these, when our heart feels too sorely oppressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.

Here again the devils and fanatics will shout, rant, and rave, “How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?” Yet, it is not the bread and wine. It is Christ’s Word which imparts these to us. It is Christ’s Word which promises these things to us. It is Christ’s Word which promises us that He gives us His body and blood, and Christ’s body and blood cannot be unfruitful and useless things that do nothing and help no one. Indeed, Colossians chapter one tells us that we are reconciled to God in Christ’s body (v. 22), and First John chapter one tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (v. 7). It is not because of the bread and wine, but because of the Word which Christ has joined to the bread and wine through which He promises us His body and blood, and the forgiveness of sins.

Although Christ’s work took place on the cross and forgiveness of sins has been acquired, yet it cannot come to us in any way than through the Word. We cannot know of forgiveness or where to receive it without believing Christ’s Word. And Christ promises us in His Word that He gives us His body and blood with the bread and wine for the forgiveness of sins (Beginning with “Scripture will give you…” up to here, I have intertwined, cited, and paraphrased much from LC V.4-32).

These wonderful promises of Christ to us ensure that we are not indifferent. Christ’s promises to us give us a zeal and eagerness to hear His Word and receive the Sacrament He instituted for us. Christ’s Word has given us a desire and enthusiasm to receive the spiritual riches He offers to us freely. In this way, Christ Himself has ensured that He will not spit us out, but instead He will come in and dine with us and we with Him, and we will conquer and sit with Him on His throne, even as He has conquered and sits with the Father on His throne.

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.