Jubilate (3rd Sunday after Easter) + St. John 16:16-23a + April 17, 2016
Order of Holy Communion - Pg. 15Hymn #204 Come Ye Faithful, Raise the Strain
Collect for Jubilate, the 3rd Sunday after Easter
Almighty God, Who showest to them that be in error the light of Thy truth to the intent that they may return into the way of righteousness, grant unto all them that are admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion that they may avoid those things that are contrary to their profession and to follow all such things as are agreeable to the same; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.
Sermon on the Holy Gospel
Grace and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
1) Jesus says “A little while, and you will not see me; and again, a little while, and you will se me, because I go to the Father.” The disciples don’t understand Jesus’ word because without the illumination of God the Holy Ghost, man’s reason and understanding can’t understand Jesus’ word. It is as St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned." Yet the disciples, having been given faith through Jesus’ preaching, desire to understand His Word. That’s part of what faith does, it always wants to be hearing, and understanding, the word of Jesus because faith lives upon no other thing than the word of Jesus. Christ’s word is faith’s meat and drink indeed. But they are still afraid to ask Jesus. “Some of His disciples said among themselves, ‘What is this that he says to us, ‘ a little while, and you will not see me; and again a little while, and you will see me;’ and ‘because I got to the Father?’” Like people in our own day, they don’t want to ask because asking the question makes them appear, in their own mind, as if they are ignorant or uninformed. Jesus knows they want to ask but are still afraid to ask. St. John writes, “Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said unto them, ‘Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘ A little while, and you will not see me,; and again a little while and you will see me?” Jesus loves honest questions. He is always the humble teacher to those who approach Him humbly. This is the reason Jesus came into the world, to reveal the will of God to men for their salvation.
2) So He explains, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy.” When Christ says “a little while and you will not see me,” Jesus is teaching them about His passion and death. Jesus speaks these words on the night in which He was betrayed, just after He had instituted Holy Communion, His means of grace for giving sinners the benefits of the cross. With this one brief phrase, “a little while,” Jesus sums up His suffering and death. For a little while you will not see me. I will be taken from you. I will be bound by temple guards. I will be tried by Caiaphas and Annas. I will be beaten by soldiers, bloodied by a whip of cords, and bludgeoned by sinners. For a little while you will not see me because I will be concealed in suffering. For a little while I will leave you so that I can, by my innocent, bitter sufferings and death, atone for all of your sins and the sins of the entire world. For a little while you will not see me because I will be dead and buried, concealed in the grave, entombed in the sepulcher of Joseph of Arimathea, beyond the eyes of the living. This short phrase, “a little while,” encompasses all of Jesus suffering and death into it. Thi is the “little while” in which His disciples would not see Him.
3) Once Jesus is taken from them, once Jesus removes Himself from them, that is when “you will weep and lament.” Peter literally goes out and weeps bitterly in repentance over his great public sin, that three times he betrayed Christ before men. Each of these disciples will lament the loss of their Lord. They will be sorrowful, for all joy will be taken away from them, all gladness will be stolen away by grief and fear. In John 20 we learn that on the night of the resurrection the disciples hid themselves away, “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews.” They feared public shame, for they had publically been Jesus’ disciples. They fears that the Jews who murdered Jesus would do the same to them, for Christ had told them in John 15:18, “If the world hates you, you know that it hated me before it hated you.” The disciples weep and lament, their cup is filled to the brim with sorrow and despair because Jesus is gone from them. Jesus has been taken away from them. And where Jesus is not, there is no joy. This was to be the disciple’s trial, their suffering, their cross to bear, this “little while” without their Lord. Not only would they weep and lament, but the world would rejoice because they world hates Jesus. The world hates Christ’s Word. It hates His gospel because the gospel offers the forgiveness of sins and the world is perfectly fine with its sin, thank you very much. The world does not need saving, it believes, nor does it want to call sin what it is, because the world delights in contradicting God, calling evil good and calling that which God calls good evil instead. This is also part of the disciples’ cross to bear. Not only must their Lord be taken from them for “a little while,” but the world will rejoice over their loss and laugh them to scorn for their faith in Christ.
4) But Jesus gives them hope, for Jesus never wants His Christians, no matter how weak or infirmed, to be without hope. So He also says, “your sorrow will be turned into joy.” This is the other side of the coin “a little while.” Christ says that He will leave them for a little while, but only a brief time. Then He will return to them, fully alive, never to die again, having opened death’s prison and been vindicated by God the Father as the only one who is righteous by His own merit. Jesus promises to rise from the grave, for He is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. He says in John 10:18, “No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again.” The comfort Jesus offers them in this Word is this: “I will be gone for a brief time. I will conceal myself in suffering and death. I will be cloaked under shame and scorn. But only for “a little while.” Then you will see me again, vivified, victorious, and vindicated through my death and resurrection.” Jesus promises to return to them and this will fill them with joy which “no one will take from you.” Joy is a fruit of Christ’s resurrection that He bestows upon all who believe His resurrection and cling to it for their salvation in their lives and in the hour of death.
5) To drive this great comfort and consolation deeper into their hearts He tells them a parable of sorts. “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.” What Jesus means by this is that they will be in anguish like that of a woman in the pains of labor. They will sorrow and lament because of the persecution of the world and the terrors of their own consciences. Satan will press them hard with temptation to defect from discipleship and descend into disbelief. But it will last a short time, just as a woman’s labor pains last a relatively short period of time. As the woman in labor gives birth to a child she forgets the trouble of the labor, the pain is pushed aside as she holds her little one to her breast and feels the warmth of his presence against her. That is a joy that I have witnessed. I cannot even begin to imagine the fullness of that joy experienced by the mother of my children. Jesus gives this to the disciples as a picture of their hardships for the gospel and their persecution for confessing Jesus’ doctrine before men. It will hurt. The nails will dig in deep as they bear their crosses. The load will afflict them and burden them just as it did their Lord. But their sorrow, their lamentation will last but “a little while.”
6) Jesus spoke this for their comfort. God the Holy Ghost inspired St. John to record these words for our comfort. Jesus wants His Christians to be joyful in their sufferings, full of praise in the midst of their persecutions. He does not want you to despair as you take up your cross and follow Him. In all our sufferings, especially suffering and persecution for the sake of the Gospel and the doctrine of Jesus, He reminds us that whatever our suffering and cross, it will be as His was, “a little while.” In the midst of “a little while” that small phrase may seem like an enormous burden to bear because in the middle of suffering we just want it to come to a pleasant end and be removed. But that is not the life that Christ promises for those who love His Word and look to Him for mercy. There are times, as all of you can attest, in which it seems that Christ has gone away from you, and at times He most certainly does, not in punishment, but to teach you to not rely upon your own reason and understanding, so that you despair your own works and your own efforts and learn all the more to trust in His gracious promises to grant mercy in every time of need. There are time when Christ is concealed from us, when He is not present, but this is as it was for the first disciples, for our benefit. When diverse crosses are laid upon our backs, Christ wants us to flee to Him, the one whose cross killed Him, so that we can drink deeply from the still waters of His Word and take courage that though Christ’s cross killed Him, God the Father raised Him from the dead. By this Christ wants to give us courage, so that we look to Him, trusting in His power to save and His mercy in all our afflictions. This is how He wills it to be for His Christians.
7) And so this small phrase, “a little while,” should be used among us as a word of comfort. “A little while” is given to us to remind us that no matter the trial and cross, whether it be external or one that is internal, such as the terrors of conscience over sin or any kind of fear of the devil or the world, we remember that in our weeping and lamentation Christ promises joy, the kind that the unchristian world and the anti-Christian culture cannot take away from our hearts. So rejoice in your trial. Make a joyful shout in your temptations and crosses of every kind. It will last, as Christ’s did, only “a little while,” then Christ will graciously remove it. You have His Word. Amen.
May the peace of God, which passes all human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.