Matthew 1:23 & Revelation 3:4

Sermon preached on December 25, 2011 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2011. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

They don't have chain gangs around here—at least I've never seen any. But in movies you sometimes see them. You'll see a group of prisoners chained together out at some worksite, with guards watching them. At least for part of it the prisoners are all chained together, and they have chains on their hands and feet when they're walking to and from the work site. It must be embarrassing to be in a chain gang. I'm sure it's not embarrassing for everyone there—I've known guys who, if they found themselves in that situation—would puff out their chests and walk around like a peacock—like they were proud to be a part of that. But I think that would mostly be an act. It must be embarrassing to be part of that. I think it would even be worse for someone who was innocent. Someone who was wrongfully convicted, who was put in that situation, who didn't deserve to be there—that would be incredibly hard on them. It would be hard on them in a lot of different ways. It would be hard when other people saw them—they would look down upon them and think that they were dangerous, that they were a threat. People would have the wrong impression of them. But that would only be part of it. Being brought into close contact with some of the dregs of society would be incredibly hard.

I experienced something like that when I worked on the docks as a longshoreman. The evil there was an incredible shock to me when I started working there. And it wasn't like I was brought up in a monastery. I had played hockey and I was used to hearing very bad language. But it was always from stupid kids my age. When I started working at the docks I was shocked to hear very bad language from adults—and it was worse than I had ever heard from kids my own age. Every second or third word from some people was filth. And it wasn't only bad language, the topics of conversation was very bad. Again, it wasn't everybody, but most of the people were like that, fathers of guys I went to school with, bosses, co-workers. It was an incredible shock to me. Adults, older men—unbelievable. It was like that whole place was a cesspool. Let me give you one example. But I want you to know that this example is one of the most benign things I can say about the place—the other stuff is so bad that decency won't allow me to talk about it. But the example is that one of the guys I worked with a lot would come to work drunk. He would arrive at work stinking of alcohol. As soon as he arrived at work the first thing he would do would be to throw up. And he might do that two or three more times during the first hour when we actually started working and doing some physical labor. I can't tell you the number of times I've seen him throw up. You'd be working right next to him and the next thing you knew he'd be throwing up on the ground. Yet I didn't mind working with him. He was one of my better working partners. If I was working with him—that would be a good day. There was so much that was way worse than that.

Now, take that illustration and multiply it a trillion, trillion times and you might be able to begin to grasp how hard it must have been on Jesus to come to this earth, to dwell with sinners and to put up with them. To think that He allowed Himself to be put into their hands—be arrested, abused and tortured, and put to death.

This is one of the things that I want to draw your attention to this morning. In Matthew 1:23 we read,

"The virgin will be with child
and will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel—
which means,
'God with us.'"

What an act of condescension! God came down among us. As the apostle John told us, (John 1:14)

"The Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us."

He came to us to suffer and die. How hard it must have been for Him.

Think of what He endured. How hard it must have been to dwell among sinners, among people who were so sinful. What an affront to Him. Think about how his brothers and sisters didn't believe in Him. Think of how His disciples were often arguing about which one of them would be greatest—and what sympathy did they have for Him, who was going to suffer and die. Think of what it must be like to be hated for doing good things, for healing people and freeing them from demons. To experience betrayal. To be delivered over to cruel soldiers, who would beat and mock Him. Think of being crucified by soldiers and hanging naked while people like the chief priests paraded by mocking.

Jesus came and made his home with us. To think that the Holy One had such close contact with sinners, with those of either no faith or little faith. We can hardly begin to imagine how difficult it was for Jesus. As John 1:11 says,

"He came to his own,
and his own people did not receive him."

In Isaiah 53:3 we read,

"Like one from whom men
hide their faces he was despised,
and we esteemed him not."

And in 2 Corinthians 8:9 we read,

"For you know the grace
of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that though he was rich,
yet for your sakes he became poor,
so that you through his poverty
might become rich."

Why did Jesus come to earth? He did it to save us so that we would walk with Him, not only here while on earth, but when He comes again.

Our text says, (Revelation 3:4)

"Yet you have a few people
in Sardis who have not
soiled their clothes.
They will walk with me,
dressed in white,
for they are worthy."

In the future those who keep themselves pure,

will walk with Jesus dressed in white.

The Romans had a custom of wearing white on the day of triumph. That day would be a day of great celebration and white was the color of the day. There would be a procession through the streets of the city.

Thus the reference here could be to the triumphal procession when Christ is honored for His victory. Grant Osborne says that the walking that Jesus mentions here, (Revelation, p. 179)

"best fits the triumphal procession imagery.… as victorious conquerors, they will participate in Christ's triumphant procession at the eschaton…"

When Jesus comes again, He is coming in triumph. Philippians 2:10-11 tells us that on the last day every knee is going to bow before Him and that every tongue is going to confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Jesus is going to subdue His enemies. According to 2 Thessalonians 1:10, on that day He is coming,

"to be glorified in his holy people…"

Christ's glorification will occur, (Charles A. Wanamaker, Thessalonians, 230)

"in the presence of his saints."

We are going to be glorified. As Colossians 3:4 says,

"When Christ, who is your life,
appears, then you also
will appear with him in glory."

We will walk in a triumphal procession with Him. There are at least two aspects of this. First of all,

Jesus will be glorified because He has saved us. Our salvation will be part of the reason He will be gloried.

We will be with Jesus. He will be glorified, in part, because of us—not because of what we are in ourselves, but because of what He has done for us. Just as Paul said that the Thessalonians said that were his joy and crown, (2 Thessalonians 2:19) so Christ will delight in us. This is remarkable because our salvation is all of grace and mercy, but it is part of Christ's glorification. Hebrews 2:13 tells us that one day Jesus will stand with us and say,

"Here am I, and the children
God has given me."

He will acknowledge us before His Father. As Jesus said in Matthew 10:32,

"Whoever acknowledges me before men,
I will also acknowledge him
before my Father in heaven."

How wonderful it will be to walk with Him on that day.

The second aspect of walking with Jesus in white is that

we will be like Him. We will be holy. We will be worthy.

David E. Aune, tells us that, (Revelation 1–5, p. 222)

"The verb περιπατεῖν [walk] is frequently used in the NT with the meaning "behave,"

One example of this is Ephesians 5:8. It says,

"For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live [walk] as children of light…"

We will walk with Christ. We will be like Him. As 1 John 3:2 says,

"we know that when he appears,
we shall be like him,
for we shall see him as he is."

Grant Osborne says that white symbolizes, (Revelation, p. 179)

"not just victory but purity, holiness, glory and celebration."

We will be like Him. We will be made perfect in holiness.

But then it says that they will walk with Him in white,
because they are worthy.

This reward seems to be linked to the fact that they have not soiled their clothes. They are rewarded because they have endured.

Does it mean that we are worthy because of our works? The Bible sometimes puts things like that and there are various reasons for that—one of them being to encourage us to work hard, to endure, to overcome.

Yet, in other places the Bible explains how it really works. It makes it clear that our worthiness comes from Christ. In ourselves we are not worthy. We will have done nothing to merit our exalted position—it's all of grace. For example, Ephesians 2:8–10 says,

"For it is by grace you have been saved,
through faith—and this not from yourselves,
it is the gift of God— not by works,
so that no one can boast.
For we are God's workmanship,
created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Sometimes the two ideas, our working and God's working, are put together, like in 1 Corinthians 15:10. But notice how Paul deals with the tension between them there. He totally resolves in God's favor.

"But by the grace of God I am what I am,
and his grace to me was not without effect.
No, I worked harder than all of them
—yet not I,
but the grace of God
that was with me."

If it's all of grace and not of works, if we are God's workmanship, if our good works were prepared in advance for us to do—how then can we be called 'worthy'? There can only be one answer—it's because of our connection to Christ, because we are in Him, because He has made us worthy.

Consider that great truth. Consider how high Jesus will raise you—that you will walk with Him in His victory procession. That you will be 'in Him' to such a degree that your association with Him will make you worthy.

What does all this mean in practical terms?

First of all, it means that

Jesus should be everything to you.

His work for you was so incredible. That He should take our nature upon Himself. That He dwelt among us and endure unbelief. That He allowed Himself to be tempted by the devil. That He allowed Himself to be delivered into the hands of sinners. All of them are incredible. He lowered Himself so much.

He has done so much for you. He has been so good to you. Your life should be devoted to His glory.

Secondly, this means that

you should do everything you can to walk with Jesus right now.

You are to shine for Him. You are to live so that people can see Christ living in you. You are to be like Enoch, the seventh from Adam, who, (Genesis 5:22,24)

"walked with God…"

How do you walk with God? You do it by applying His commands to your life. Jesus went around doing good, (Acts 10:38) so you walk with Him when you do that. He loved others so that He sacrificed Himself on their behalf. You are to show love to others. He was kind, compassionate, merciful, speaking the truth. If you do such things, you walk with God.

Walking with God also means that your focus cannot be on yourself.

No matter how many times we hear the teaching, "It's not about you," we find it very difficult to put that into practice. We live like so many in the world, we make decisions on what's best for me, how do I protect my interests, my rights. It's all about 'me, me, me'. We all act like we're the center of the universe—self-centered, self-absorbed and lovers of self more than anything else. We talk about not being like that—but it's so hard.

Walking with Jesus means loving others as He loved us. It means sacrificing yourself for them. It means putting yourself last. Think about that. We pay lip service to that concept—but do we do it?

How do you define a good Christmas? So many in the world are just like little kids. We define a good Christmas in selfish terms— "I got lots of presents." Even as adults we define it in selfish terms—my family was home, I got lots of stuff I wanted.

Yet Jesus said it's more blessed to give than to receive. Do you consider yourself blessed this Christmas if you find yourself saying,

"I gave a lot more than I received. I was able to give a lot this Christmas."

The second application from our text is for those who are not Christians. Unless you repent of your sins and go to Jesus, in the future you're not going to walk with Jesus, clothed in white.

Instead, you're going to be shamefully exposed.

The opposite of walking with Jesus, clothed in white is given in Revelation 16:15. Jesus said,

"Behold, I come like a thief!
Blessed is he who stays awake
and keeps his clothes with him,
so that he may not go [walk] naked
and be shamefully exposed."

Rather than having your sins forgiven and covered, they are going to be exposed. Your shame and humiliation will be great. It will be much worse than you can imagine. If you can imagine people being caught in the most horrific of situations—like the woman being caught in the every act of adultery, like the ancient Israelites who were punished for their sins by being shamefully exposed, (Jeremiah 13:26), like ancient Nineveh who suffered the same fate. (Nahum 3:5)

The opposite of walking with Jesus is going around blind. In 1 John 2:11 the apostle John put it this way,

"But whoever hates his brother
is in the darkness and
walks around in the darkness;
he does not know where he is going,
because the darkness has blinded him."

Walking around in darkness. Like a blind man with no one to lead Him. Fear. Unfamiliar. Danger. Lostness. Don't let that happen to you. Go to Jesus now.