Easter 3, 2016
The Epistle. 1 Peter 2:11-17
The Gospel. St. John 16:16-24
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
The centrality of the Resurrection to Christianity is clear from the Biblical text. Paul makes it abundantly clear in 1 Corinthians when he tells us that if it didn't happen then we are foolish to believe any of it…to even put our faith in Christ.
Something happened that made disbelievers… scared men… the most effective evangelists the world has ever seen. If they knew it was not true, what explains their zeal in telling us that it is true…and going to their deaths for it.
Not many would go to their deaths for something they knew was a lie.
The Emmaus Road. The numerous appearances of Jesus alive …behind locked doors. Eating and drinking. This is historical fact.
So in today’s lessons we have something to take with us as we continue to live in a post-resurrection world awaiting the coming again of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.
First, in John’s Gospel account, what is happening here today? This is a conversation that took place before Jesus was crucified.
We can see from this account just how prescient Jesus was in His foretelling of what was to come. This is probably one of the things that the Disciples recalled to mind after He had risen.
He told us that He would be leaving….was this the death? Or was it something greater?
It turns out Jesus’ predictions were not all centered on His death and Resurrection.
Today we get a glimpse of the Ascension and beyond that event as well.
that after 40 days, Jesus would be taken up…out of the presence of the
Disciples….right in front of them.
He had prepared them not only for His Resurrection but for His Ascension and even His coming again.
So this is why this passage has so much meaning for us, since we are the very people Jesus is promising these things to as we await His return.
He begins today by saying, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” (John 16:16 ESV) “I am going to the Father.”
Because of lots of factors we won’t go into, this is not referring to His death and burial. Jesus is telling His Disciples that in a little while you will see me no longer. This is looking further ahead than to His death.
We know He was speaking about going back to the Father.
But since the Ascension is still a little ways away, it behooves us to look more today at the rest of the passage and see what it has for us to know in the mean time…for us in the present time.
The greater portion of the passage is this: “Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?
And, yes this is what they were wondering. But notice that Jesus does not give them a straight answer on this. He does not clarify in a way that is noticeable really on the surface.
He tells them rather what will happen while He is gone from them. It is the answer, but we have to look deeply into this answer to know what Jesus meant.
He goes on this way.
And this helps us understand why this is an Ascension passage rather than a Resurrection passage.
He says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
St. Augustine says of this passage: “…the whole verse is meant to be a general description of the state of things between the first and second advents of Christ. [then he paraphrases Jesus] “During my absence from the world after my ascension, you, my beloved disciples, and believers after you, shall have many reasons to lament and mourn, like a bride separate from her husband, while the wicked world around you shall rejoice in my absence, and not wish to see Me return. During this long weary interval, you and all believers after you shall often have sorrow and tribulation; but at last, when I come again, your sorrow shall be turned into joy.”
He is right. And we might think about another passage at this point that tells us a little something about the state of things when Jesus is gone.
We read this in the 9th Chapter of Matthew’s Gospel: “Then the disciples of John [the Baptist] came to [Jesus], saying, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them? The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast.” (Matthew 9:14-15 ESV)
There will be time to fast and weep and mourn while Jesus is gone. At that time, He was with them. They had no need of these things.
Dates and times are not given to us either, so we must cling to passages such as these as we live our lives in this world.
Jesus says: “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.” (Mark 13:32-33 ESV)
Also from Matthew: “Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matthew 24:42-44 ESV)
But again, Augustine is absolutely correct about what is happening. It is happening all around us today.
Those of us who long for the return of Christ live sorrowful at times. Some live more sorrowful and even persecuted lives than we do… while we all await Christ’s return.
The world is said by Jesus to rejoice that He is not here. That is true at least of those who even have any concept of who Jesus is.
Nowadays, many don't even know Him enough to hate Him. Many don't care.
Jesus’ description of this time of waiting and mourning is further described by Him today...
“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.”
So we see that life in the here and now, can be compared to a woman and a baby she will deliver. The pain of childbirth is the time we are in now.
Once Christ returns, it will be compared to the joy that …the pain was brief relatively speaking. The persecution, the suffering, the sadness and death were all temporary and brief when they are laid up against the joy of His return.
All of it will be forgotten. It will be forgotten because of the great imbalance between this time and the time of His arrival.
Life will have seemed so short and eternity will be looking even more desirable because of the knowledge that all of what we have gone through has gotten us to that point.
Christ left but has not forsaken us. He has only gone away a little while.
There were mansions being prepared for us…there is a dwelling place being prepared for us.
It is true that Jesus’ burial is for us and was for His followers, a glimpse of the future time when we await. It was a glimpse of this current time.
Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit and a full knowledge of these things writes of this with a great future to look to.
He says: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.”
(2 Peter 3:11-13 ESV)
In the last part, Jesus even changes the way in which we will relate to God and to Christ. Of how we will pray and ask for things.
How the relationship will look.
“In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” (John 16:19-24 ESV)
In other words, “In the day of my second advent you will not need to ask Me any questions. You will then fully understand the meaning of many things which you do not understand now.”
Its like when Paul says: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12 ESV)
There is a far superior light that we will see by… and will enjoy on the day of Christ’s return.
Paul writes in 2 Corinthians this, and it is full of great joy and hope. “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.”
This life is said by Paul here to be a light momentary affliction because what is to come is an eternal weight of glory.
To the Apostle Paul, one writer says: “They [the afflictions he went through] were not momentary so far as the present life was concerned. They lasted from his conversion to his martyrdom. His Christian life was a protracted dying. But what is the longest life in comparison with the everlasting ages?”
If in this life there is a weight of trouble bearing down on us…how minor it will feel as we enter eternity bearing the eternal weight of glory?
Knowing this is what made scared, insignificant men great evangelists.
Knowing this…knowing that Jesus rose from the dead and witnessing it is what gave them a new beginning.
There is sorrow and weeping and all kinds of difficulty….just as Jesus promised.
It is a little while.
It is momentary affliction.
But only when compared to what is to come. We too will rise again in the Kingdom of Heaven…all of the things that we have endured will seem to have been short and minor on that day…and we will joyfully bear that eternal weight of glory.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.