“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me...When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you" (John 16:16-22 ESV)
God made man for eternal joy and blessedness but when Adam followed the serpent, the devil, he was sentenced to eternal sorrow and condemnation. Women have children in pain. Men live by the sweat of their brow. Like Cain and Abel, our children fight, and feud, and rise up against one another. They hold grudges and hope the worst for one another.
And so God promised a Savior who would crush the serpents head and on the holy cross he did just that. Christ has been raised from the dead. The Father raised him up on the third day to announce the total defeat of sin, death, and the devil. He ransomed us from hell by his holy precious blood and with his innocent suffering and death. Why? All so that you may be his own and live under him in his kingdom and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. God has bought you back – Your sins, though heinous, have all been removed. His love is greater than your wickedness. His goodness is greater than your evil. You belong only to him. It is finished.
He is risen. Sinners are forgiven. The dead are raised. Winter has ended and spring has sprung. You are baptized into Him – baptized and drowned into his death and raised up in his resurrection. You belong to God – children to be lifted from your beds and gravestones on the last Day – caught up in the clouds – raised by God to everlasting life to live with God in the splendor of heaven.
But your not there yet. Tomorrow you’re most likely not going off to heaven you’ll just be going off to work. You have to put up with a rude boss – maybe hostile coworkers. You have to wash the dishes. You have to care for your aging spouse. Spar with difficult children and face criticism and critique. You’re not in heaven. You belong to heaven, but you’re not there yet. You’re down here where the cheerful blast of Easter trumpets are not heard, at least not now, because what you hear best is the fiery blast of God’s law – the piercing blare of a guilty conscience.
Jesus gives his disciples some mysterious words this morning. He says “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” He is of course giving something of a farewell address in the upper room before the Last Supper. He is telling them that he is going away. He will be arrested. They won’t see him when he’s locked in Herod’s dungeon – then beaten – spat upon – crucified and killed. They won’t see him when his dead body is laid in the manger of the earth in a dusty grave.
Then Jesus says and a little while and you will see me again. We know that He is speaking about his resurrection on the third day – that’s what Easter is all about. Now He has ascended bodily to the right of the Father to be present for us in even a more glorious way through His Word and Sacrament – preached and given right here within these four walls.
But we’re still dealing with the little while of this life. A life which Martin Luther called a “valley of tears.” As blessed as our lives are down here – we’re still pilgrims – we’ll always be strangers in something of a strange land still ruled by our sinful flesh, the devil, and the grave.
Our anxieties bear witness to this. So do our medicine cabinets. It is a terrible mistake however, to think that our own sufferings are worse than the person sitting next to us in the pew.
Generally people keep things to themselves. We are germans. We are Lutherans. That is what we do. We grin and bear it. But none of us knows what each other is going through. No one knows whose wife cheated on them, nobody knows who struggles with addiction. No one knows whose child had an abortion and now the whole family suffers horrible guilt and remorse. No one knows who is nearly on the verge of a mental and spiritual breakdown.
And therefore, if anything, we should be more sympathetic to one another. We suffer from what is common to all men. As we wait through the little whiles of life, we’re in all in this together, tossed about in the same boat. The Scriptures say that “Our hope is in the same Lord. So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”
You’re living between the day of Pentecost and the Last Day. You’re living in the “little while” of this life. Our Lord this morning likens your salvation to a woman in child birth. She has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
Jesus says “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
Traditionally today is called the “Sunday of Christian joy.” Jubilate in latin simply means “rejoice,” and even though you have not rejoiced for some time, rejoice simply over this: that you too shall see God, face to face and much to your surprise he won’t be disappointed in you. Through his holy cross – his forgiveness you have divine approval.
In heaven our sicknesses will be brought to health. Our broken families will be restored. Jesus forgiving blood will cover us all and even now, the treasures of heaven belong to you.
But for now in this in between time, as we await the final trumpet blast make room in your heart for true Christian joy. We are destined for eternal joy and blessedness. Though weeping may tarry for the night joy cometh in the morning. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
(some inspiration for this homily comes from Fr. David Peterson on issuesetc.org 4/22/2015)