The Word This Week

Revelation 3:1...

We come to the church in Sardis, which is the first of two of the seven churches which receive no commendation from Jesus.

Imagine being part of a church about which Jesus has nothing good to say. Nothing. Let that sink in.

700 years before this letter was written, Sardis was one of the greatest cities in the world. It is thought to be one of the oldest cities in the world. It was located between Pergamos, Smyrna, Ephesus, Philadelphia, and Phrygia – and due to its location became a center of commerce. It was a very wealthy city. At Sardis, the first coins in the world came into existence. Known as ‘Lydian Staters,' they were minted from gold and silver.
In its heyday, Sardis was proverbial for riches. Its pagan patron deity was Cybele, (known of as Diana in Ephesus.) Gold had been discovered in the Pactolus River adjacent to Sardis, and it is believed this discovery originated from the ancient myth of king Midas. (His wish that everything he touched would turn to gold had been granted.) This would have led to his demise because his food and water turned to gold at his touch. Realizing this, Midas appealed to the god Dionysus who had granted his wish in the first place. Dionysus instructed Midas to bathe in Pactolus River. It is said once Midas had done this, the sands in the river turned to gold.

Sardis was perched atop sheer cliffs rising 1000 feet high above the valley of Hermus at the foot of Mount Tmolus. It was thought to be impregnable due to its location. There was only one road leading into the city, and it was easily defensible. With all its defenses focused upon that single point of entry, imagine their surprise when Cyrus figured out a way to scale the cliffs and enter the city. They who thought themselves undefeatable were easily defeated because they thought their physical location alone would save them. It did not. Years later, Alexander also conquered the city using Cyrus’ strategy.

And so - as Jesus reports it - Sardis becomes a picture of those who think they are alive but are in fact, dead. This is a grave warning to those who think just their physical location within a church, any church, can save them. It cannot.

Pastor Bill