The Third Sunday after Easter, 2017

The Epistle – 1 Peter 2:11-17

The Gospel – John 16:16-22

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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Christ is risen!

 

Not only did we see in last week’s Gospel that Jesus was the Good Shepherd, but the other part to that is that we are the sheep.

 

The metaphor used for mankind as sheep is apropos.  It is a good description of us.

 

In this image we see weakness, dependence, frailty.  It’s an image of us that, if we are to be true to ourselves, we have to admit is accurate.

In fact the better we know the Lord Jesus the better we know ourselves.  There is a clear contrast between who we are and who Christ is.

 

We find numerous passages as well in the New Testament in particular where the frailty and limitations of man are referred.

 

Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians 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)

 

Here Paul speaks of our limited vision and marred image in a mirror…but seeing it only dimly.

 

David, writing in Psalm 13 begins with a cry to God for deliverance.

 

“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?

                        How long will you hide your face from me?

            [2] How long must I take counsel in my soul

                        and have sorrow in my heart all the day?

            How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?” (Psalm 13:1-2, ESV)

 

So David is crying out because of a feeling of helplessness.

 

 

 

 

In Revelation 6:9-10 John writes about the saints in heaven who have died martyrs…

 

“When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. [10] They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” (ESV)

 

How long is their cry.  Though they are in the presence of God, they still are looking to Him to make His promises full and complete.

 

Job 14:1-2

            [1] “Man who is born of a woman

                        is few of days and full of trouble.

            [2] He comes out like a flower and withers;

                        he flees like a shadow and continues not.” (ESV)

 

Job as we know was vexed with all kinds of disaster….disease, loss.  His lament here is to the state of man and his utter shortness of life and helplessness in the length of it.

 

In Romans 8:18-23, Paul speaking of where his confidence and reliance reside says…and it is not in himself as you will hear… “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. [20] For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope [21] that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. [22] For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. [23] And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (ESV)

 

The creation as a whole is groaning under the weight of sin right now, awaiting the return of Christ and its final redemption.

 

We see it even today in the Gospel.  The Disciples are sitting with Jesus.  Jesus is speaking to them about His departure by way of death.

 

 

They are unable to fathom what He is talking about…what He means by a little while and you will see me no longer and then a little while and you will see me.

 

Granted this situation here today is a bit unusual.  So the inability of these men to comprehend what Jesus was saying to them is understandable.

 

But it does still go to show us where we stand.  There are times when we are unable to know clearly what Jesus means when He says something.

 

Furthermore, our faith wavers at times because of this long period of waiting…wondering.

 

So we should use the light that we have been given and not doubt that “to him that has…more shall be given.”[1]

 

To compound this slightly, notice here that Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” (John 16:20, ESV)

 

When Jesus had given these words to the Disciples it was on the night of His arrest.  It was true that in a while they would not see Him.  He would not only be taken from them, but He would be crucified and buried.

 

And as we should know of this passage, He is not only talking about His three days in the tomb.

 

He is speaking also to us and of the time between His first and second coming.  This too is a “little while” and He warns them and us that in His absence the world will rejoice.

 

Not only will we be awaiting His return.  There will be troubles that will make our waiting for His return even more difficult at times.

 

Our faith will be tested and tried.  Our reliance on God’s grace will be made even stronger.

 

This is why this compounds the problem. Not only is there a vulnerability and a weakness and a frailty to our condition, but to make matters worse, Jesus says that the world will rejoice at His absence.

 

We in this time or in this life get a taste of what the Disciples felt in brief as they contemplated Jesus’ going away.

 

We know He is away right now.  He is at the right hand of the Father.  He is with us through the Holy Spirit, but our minds are so set on earthly things, it takes a lot of thinking on this to make our minds adjust to this truth and find comfort in it.

 

Christ’s personal absence is indeed a sorrowful thing to us and to all believers.

 

Jesus said to them at one point earlier in His ministry, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. [20] The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.” (Mark 2:19-20, ESV)   

 

The faith we have in one sense is not seeing.  Reading about these things and hearing these things is not the same as beholding Jesus with our eyes.

 

Praying is not the same as speaking face to face.

 

Though all of these…praying, hearing, reading….they are sufficient according to Christ, and are true avenues of direct contact and communion with Him, though our frail nature tells us otherwise.

 

 

 

 

J.C. Ryle says of this, “There is something, even in the hearts of the most eminent saints, that will never be fully satisfied as long as they are on earth and Christ is in heaven.

So long as they dwell in a body of corruption, and see through a glass darkly, so long as they behold creation groaning under the power of sin, and all things not put under Christ…”[2]

 

And this thing about the world.  The world will rejoice while He is away is true.

 

In the immediate context, as Jesus would leave them via His death, it is true that they would be upset and mourn while those who sought Christ’s death would rejoice.

 

We can be fairly certain that those who sought to put Jesus to death were quite relieved when He was finally dead. 

No longer would He be leading people astray.

No longer would He be breaking the Sabbath.

No longer would He be performing miracles through satanic powers.

No longer would He be pointing out their sins and shortcomings.

No longer would He be telling them that they were of their father the devil.

No longer would He be talking nonsense about God being His Father…or building the Temple in three days.

 

Though He spoke the truth in all things, because their hearts were hardened, they did not accept His sayings.

Today things are similar.  The world continues to be hardened to Christ.  They don't even want to hear about Him.

 

They want to compartmentalize religion to everyone's personal and private choice.  They want to place Christ’s teachings on the same plane as pagan philosophers and leaders of false religions.  The Buddhas and the Gandhis of the world.

 

Some might think the longer Christ stays away from this world, and leaves them alone, the better off they will be and the happier they will be.

 

But this is all because their minds are darkened.  They do not have the light of the Holy Spirit and they don't know what true life is in Christ….

nor do many even think any kind of judgment is coming or worry about their eternal destination.

 

The writer of the Book of Hebrews reminds us, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” (Hebrews 10:31, ESV)

 

But the other side of this… to those of us who look for His coming again in great glory to take us unto Himself, His return after this “little while” will be a source of boundless and endless joy…and comfort and relief and restoration…and reconciliation.

 

He says, “…your sorrow will turn into joy.”

 

He makes the comparison here to a woman giving birth to a child.  He has both the time while He is absent from us and compares it to the labor and the delivery.

And then He has His return and all that goes along with it compared to the relief that the birth process is over and the mother is able to embrace and hold the child and see what a great gift of life she has been given.

 

The Disciples of course would have gone through this up and down when Jesus died and then appeared alive to them again, but this doesn't not need to be tied down to just that incident.

 

This applies to us and our lives as well in a very real way.

 

His return is described this way, “…the Son of Man [will be] coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. [31] And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31, ESV)

 

Paul says something very similar in his first letter to the Thessalonians.  “For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. (1 Thessalonians 4:16, ESV)

 

Listen to how the Book of Hebrews speaks of this to his audience….and see where we too fit into this, “Hebrews 10:32-38

 

[32] But recall the former days when, after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle with sufferings, [33] sometimes being publicly exposed to reproach and affliction, and sometimes being partners with those so treated.

[34] For you had compassion on those in prison, and you joyfully accepted the plundering of your property, since you knew that you yourselves had a better possession and an abiding one. [35] Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward. [36] For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. [37] For,

 

            “Yet a little while,

                        and the coming one will come and will not delay;

            [38] but my righteous one shall live by faith,

                        and if he shrinks back,

            my soul has no pleasure in him.” (ESV)

 

This is where we are to fix our eyes.

 

Endure hard struggle and suffering when it comes.

 

We have need of endurance so that we will receive what is promised.

 

As the Collect says, Avoiding those things which are contrary to our profession, and following all such things as are agreeable to it.

 

For the righteous shall live by faith.

Not throwing away our confidence because there is a great reward that awaits us.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Ryle, J. C. (1880). Expository Thoughts on John (Vol. 3, p. 149). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.

[2] Ryle, J. C. (1880). Expository Thoughts on John (Vol. 3, pp. 149–153). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.