Sermon for Jubilate, the Fourth Sunday of Easter, AD 2021

John 16:16-22

Something you may have wondered now in the Easter season is why we so quickly in our gospel readings move from the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection to words that He spoke before the resurrection. The women at the tomb make sense, the appearance to the twelve and Thomas make sense, but what does this teaching from before Jesus’ death have to do with Easter? Remember, the gospels are not a documentary or someone taking play-by-play notes of Jesus’ life. The Gospel of John and the other gospels were written after the resurrection. All of these gospels speak of the empty tomb, but tell us not to linger there. For the empty tomb is just the sign. The power of the resurrection comes to us in the forgiveness of sins through the Word of God.
           
John, writing from a post-resurrection perspective, is able to show how the resurrection makes understandable the words which the disciples did not fully understand before Jesus’ death. This is exactly what Jesus did for the disciples after He rose from the dead, and so John brings this to us. For Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” This is about Jesus’ death and resurrection, but the disciples do not understand. Where is Jesus going? Why won’t we see Him? What does He mean He is going to the Father? Before Jesus’ death and resurrection they cannot understand this.
           
Jesus is talking about different types of seeing, actually using different words in His conversation with them. The disciples will see Jesus for a little while more, before His death, but then He will be in the tomb. They will not see Him. Their eyes, which will behold his death, his suffering, his scars, will no longer be able to look upon Him as He is buried. And this will be devastating for them. They will all scatter. They won’t know what to do. It will be to them as if Christ has abandoned them. Yet this is not the case, and Jesus has told them, “again a little while, and you will see me.” He will rise from the dead and they will see the fruit of the suffering, the pain and anguish of the cross. They will not only see Him physically, see the scars in his hands, but they will see him with the eyes of faith. They like Thomas will say “My Lord and My God.” All their sorrow will be wiped away and they will continue in joy.
           
While the disciples wept at Christ’s death, the world rejoiced. Neither one understood what was going on. The disciples loved Jesus, had followed him for three years, and now were sure that they would never see him again with their eyes. Jesus’ whole mission seemed to have been thwarted by the traitor Judas with the priests and their cronies. These Jews were happy to see this mission end. They had removed a troublemaker, and had found a way to do it without turning the crowds against them. They knew they had proven Jesus to be a fake when He did not even come down from the cross when they taunted him.
           
When Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples understood. They saw with the eyes of faith what had happened. Jesus had to die for the sins of man. He had to take the punishment for our sin so that we could be at peace with God. He is the great reconciler between God and man. His death was not in vain, it was not a tragedy, it was doing work. While He was in the tomb and they did not see Him, He destroyed death. He descended to hell and took death captive in victory. In His death he defanged death for all of us, and so also the threats of the world and the devil. His death did real work.
           
As Jesus said, 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. Jesus’ death, when they did not see him, was a labor of anguish like a woman giving birth. It is well-known that the pain of birth is one of the worst a woman can face, and many of you know by first-hand experience. Yet the pain of birth is different than the pain of a sickness or wound. For the pain of birth does work. At the end it produces a new human being. And when that baby is born all the work of the anguish was worth it. The pain is quickly forgotten as the focus turns to the fruit of the labor – the joy of a baby born.
           
You may think here – “so that is true, and the disciples had the joy of seeing Jesus resurrected, but what about me? I am in sorrow now. I have troubles, despair, chronic pain. I cannot see Jesus where I am.” Dear Christian, this is where this gospel is especially for you. You must turn like the disciples from using your physical eyes and see Jesus with the eyes of faith. For in your baptism, you are joined to Christ’s cross and resurrection.

The fruit of the resurrection was not just that they saw Jesus again. Jesus raised other people, even in the Old Testament Elijah raised the widow’s son. The disciples with Mary and Martha were glad to see Lazarus again. Jesus’ resurrection was more than this. Jesus’ resurrection is a vindication to call believers. It is the sign that death is defeated and your sins are forgiven. It is the sign that God is pleased with His Son and therefore also pleased with you, baptized believer in Christ.
           
What Jesus speaks of with His cross is also true of your crosses, for you are in Him. He is with you in your suffering. Any trials, any pain and despair, are not pointless, not fruitless. Your suffering as a Christian is fruitful. Trusting in Christ under trial, you are doing works that will last eternally. Your suffering is like the pains of childbirth. It is not lessened because you are in Christ, but it is fruitful. As Jesus’ tomb became a womb, the birthplace of new life and resurrection. So also yours will lead to another life, different and more blessed than the one you lived before.
           
Because He suffered, died, and rose, your suffering is not in vain. Because he suffered, died, and rose, your death is not the end. Because he suffered, died, and rose you too will rise to a new life. This is the life begun in your baptism. For you are joined to His cross and resurrection. Wherever you are in life, He is bringing you along to this new life. See with the eyes of faith that He is here to strengthen you by His Word and His body and blood. He strengthens you to believe His promise. This promise is not to remove all the sorrow you have now, but that you will see Him again.
           
Most important for now, you see Jesus as the disciples did after the resurrection, with the eyes of faith. To see Jesus as the one who died and rose for you. Yet also like the disciples, you will see Jesus again with your own eyes. The suffering He strengthens you through in this life will cause sorrow, but like the woman in labor that sorrow will be forgotten. For you will be filled with the joy of seeing your Savior face-to-face. That joy will be one that no one and no circumstance can ever take away from you. As surely as the Lord is risen today, this is true and certain. Therefore, even on the days when it seems like Christ isn’t there, like He is dead and in the tomb, remember – He is Risen, just as He said. In Christ, every trial is only a little while, but the joy is eternal. Alleluia! Christ is Risen.

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