Sermon for today, after the jump. It’s the “little while” Gospel.
A Little While.
It doesn’t seem like a little while when you are waiting for something. In the case of the disciples they were not really waiting for Jesus to be crucified. They don’t even know it’s coming. And once he was crucified, they weren’t waiting for him to be raised from the dead. It’s not like they went home fromGolgothaon good Friday saying, “Well that was terrible. See you at the sunrise service on Sunday. Don’t forget to bring a passing dish.” When they left the cross on good Friday, they figured that this was it. It was all over. There was no more.
And yet Jesus tells them point blank: A little while, and you will not see me. And again a little while and you will see me. I am going away for a time. You will be filled with sorrow. Well, they were filled with sorrow. If only it were like when a woman gives birth. At least there you have the hope of life. All the disciples have is knowing that he is dead, that they all abandoned him, that his body lies in the ground, and there is no way to make it right again. And of course, the fear of the leaders coming to kill them all. That’s the weeping and mourning that the disciples had. Meanwhile, the leaders of the people rejoiced. They had finally gotten rid of this Jesus problem once and for all.
Of course, we know something the disciples didn’t – their sorrow would turn to joy. The rejoicing of the world would turn to shock, astonishment and anger once Jesus was raised from the dead. That anger has not faded one bit in the two thousand years since then. The world still complains, and every year at about Easter time we see the inevitable magazine articles and television specials that try to explain away the resurrection. And we are temped to believe it. Or at least to temper our joy, to let the joy of the resurrection fade away. Especially as change and decay in all around we see. A loved one dies, you fight against sickness and the challenges of getting older. The changes and chances of life gang up on you, and the temptation to give up on the Easter joy is strong. How can we have Easter joy, and still be stuck in this situation – struggling with this and that and the other. Having whatever problem it is that plagues and troubles. It is so hard to see the joy. So hard to remember that death has been conquered when the doctor returns with the bad news, when the job goes south, when friends abandon, when loved ones no loner stand beside, when… well, when the world happens. And often we look at the poor struggling church, we see the other people in it with their own problems, their own sin, their own lack of joy, and we say, what’s the point. The church can’t help me. It can hardly help itself. And After all, these are real problems in the real world.
But that’s exactly what the world wants you to think. That you may as well away from the church, away from the salvation Christ offers through the preaching of the Gospel. That there is no benefit to it, that Jesus resurrection can’t affect you in any meaningful way today. After all, it was so far away, and the problems you face are so real. The discouragement you feel is so deep.
The little while that Jesus speaks of is not just something the disciples had to endure. It’s not just those three days, and then *poof* the world never gets another shot at you. It’s not just Jesus resurrection and then the world never gets another chance to rejoice while you weep. If only it were that way. The women at the tomb, they were afraid and trembling at the news of the resurrection. The disciples were locked away in fear of the Jews – even after they heard the report of the women. Thomas wouldn’t believe even though he had the testimony of the other ten disciples. The news is too incredible to be fully believed in a world that is too filled with sorrow.
We even admit as much – we can not believe in Jesus Christ or come to him by our own strength. And all our resolutions to follow, to be faithful, to do the right thing, to be better people, to give up on the sin, to stop despairing, to stop disbelieving, all the promises fall flat on our own, because our sinful flesh is too desperate to believe the lie the world presents. And the world is good at presenting the lie that there is no point in all of this. It’s tempting to our flesh to believe the lie, because the world is so convincing with the sorrow and the pain.
But do not despair, oh follower of Christ. We hear the promise of our Lord “No one will take your joy from you” and you are tempted to believe that he means that joy will replace sorrow, and you will never be sad again. And then when sadness and sorrow come your way, the world says, “See, it was all a sham, a hoax. There is no power in your God, and so your faith in him is in vain.” While it’s true that sorrow and happiness can not exist at the same time, happiness is not the same thing as joy.
While it’s true that the world brings sorrow and causes us to weep, it is also true that we can be joyful in the Lord in such circumstances. Job shows us this. When he lost everything, all his possessions, even his family, he did not despair. Rather, he said, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord. For I know that my redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God.” This is the joyful cry of someone who knows sorrow.
You have been given the joy of the resurrection. The disciples would know this joy as well. Jesus would be raised from the dead. Their sorrow would turn to joy, and no one could take that joy from them. Not the leaders of the people, who would continually tell them to stop speaking the name of Jesus, under threat of punishment, and who would take the life of Stephen, and others. The rulers appointed by the emperor could not take their joy from them, even though they would put the apostle James to the sword, would crucify Peter, exile John the apostle, behead the apostle Paul, and on and on and on. The joy of the disciples was not happiness. They were happy to see Jesus again. But happiness can fade, it can be taken away. Joy is different. It is the thing that stays with you even through the sorrow. The sure and certain hope of the resurrection that takes you to the grave of a loved one with tears in your eyes, but with hope in your heart. Not just a wish that one day they would rise again, but the sure and certain hope – scripture speaks of hope not as wanting something, but as waiting for the sun to rise in the morning. Hope is not a wish. You know it will happen. You are just waiting for the fulfillment of the promise. Hope is the wait in faith for the promise of God. A promise that you know will come true, because it has already been fulfilled in Jesus death and resurrection. No one can take that from you, because God’s promise is good. In a happy time and in a sad time, in a time of gladness and in a time of sorrow, in a time of laughter and in a time of weeping, in a time of plenty and in a time of famine, in a time of life and in a time of death.
The Word of the Lord remains forever. The promise of God can not be destroyed by simple events in this world. The things of this world, as solid as they seem, will not last, they will melt away. But the word of the Lord will never be taken. That is why your joy is complete, and no one can take it from you. Because, even in times of sorrow, the resurrection of Jesus comforts. Where he has gone, there you will go too. And yes, that means into death. But it also means that death is nothing more than the way to life.
And the world can’t touch that life that you are given in him, a life that begins when you are called out of this world into the life of repentance through the water and word of baptism. A life and a baptism that finds it’s fulfillment in the world to come. A life, a hope, a joy that no one can take from you.