Jubilate Sunday Sermon
ďThe Joy of Being DeliveredĒ
April 29, 2007
St. John 16:16-23
A little while is just a little
while though it may seem like an eternity.
Meanwhile, what we see colors what we think, feel, and believe.
This is why Jesus said to Thomas, ďBlessed are those who have
not seen and yet have believed.Ē (John 20:29)
The disciples would see Jesus arrested, beaten, mocked, spat
upon, humiliated, and finally crucified.
They would be overcome by sorrow.
But their sorrow would last just a little while.
Jesus would rise from the dead, they would see Him again and they
would be filled with joy. When
they saw Him again, they didnít remember the sorrow and the pain they
had felt when watching, helplessly, as He was led away like sheep to the
And so it is with all
Christians. Jesus is hidden from our eyes and none of the promises He so
graciously gives to us have any visual evidence to which we can point
and on which we can rely. Faith
requires us to shut our eyes to what we see, feel, and experience. We are to ignore what appears commonsensical and we are to
hold on to what is demonstrably impossible.
Faith is contrary to sight and sight is contrary to faith.
ďA little while and you will
not see Me.Ē That made
them sad. Their sorrow was
deepened when they succumbed to the weakness of their flesh, denied
Christ, and cowered in fear after His death.
But it was while they were enduring this awful sorrow that Jesus
was bringing forth joy to the whole world.
They were feeling something.
Their feelings lied to them.
This is why we cannot base our faith on how we feel.
The words ďa little whileĒ
appear seven times in our text. The
number seven is used symbolically in the Bible to speak of Godís
gracious authority in this world. The
number for God is three, as in the three persons of the godhead.
The number for the world is four, as in the four points of the
compass. The number seven
is the number of Godís gracious rule in this world through His only
begotten Son, Jesus Christ. Seven
times ďa little whileĒ occurs in this portion of St. Johnís Gospel
in order to drive home to us the fact that the ďlittle whilesĒ of
suffering we endure are under the control of our gracious heavenly
Are suffering and sorrow good
for you? That depends. It depends on who you are.
In our text, Jesus is talking to His Christians.
He promises them a joy that no one can take away.
He promises that their sorrow will only last a little while, but
their joy will last forever. He
promises that they will be able to ask the Father for anything in His
name and He will surely give it. To
such people, suffering and sorrow serve to draw them closer to God by
purifying their faith. They learn to base their faith, not on the fleeting feelings
of the moment or on their temporary successes, but on the clear words of
the gospel. They learn not
to judge God by what they feel God has done, but rather to trust in God
because of what God says. They
learn to find God in the crucifixion of Jesus where Jesus suffered for
them. They look to that
suffering and that sorrow and they know that if God can bring good out
of that He can surely bring good out of the Christianís suffering as
But suffering and sorrow is not
good for folks who are not Christians.
It embitters them. It
makes them cynical and angry. It
drives them to despair. It
confirms them in their unbelief. They
become hardened in their ungrateful denial of Godís goodness as they
point to their own troubles as proof that God doesnít really care
about them. They hear of
benefits in patiently enduring pain and loss and they find such claims
to be utterly absurd.
How to explain this?
How do we reaffirm Christianís in their Christian faith,
teaching them to look for God and His gracious help beyond the temporary
suffering? How do we invite
those who are not Christians to consider that the God who appears to be
so hard and callused toward their pain is in actual fact full of mercy
and compassion? What kind
of illustration can we use to show how it is that the short term
suffering can give way to permanent joy?
We can do no better than to turn to our Lordís own illustration
of a mother who is in labor.
Women who have given birth to
children say that men canít possibly understand what itís like and a
man would be a fool to argue with them.
But we cannot question what Jesus says, who suffered all of human
suffering on the cross. Surely
He suffered as well the pains of childbirth when He suffered for all
mothers. Jesus knows what
Heís talking about! Jesus
Despite the sorrow she feels
because she knows she is facing unwelcome pain there will be a joy far
greater than the sorrow. In
fact, the joy of a man coming into this world is so great that she
forgets how much pain she experienced beforehand.
Because a man is precious! It
is interesting how Jesus speaks here.
He doesnít speak of a baby or a little child.
He speaks of a man. When
we think of childbirth we usually envision a little baby nestling
comfortably in his motherís arm.
But that little baby has a future!
The original Adam or man was made in the image of God and fell
from innocence. God
welcomes every child born into this world to the waters of Holy Baptism
where he or she will put on the new man and receive in Christ Jesus the
image of God.
We are precious in the sight of
God. This is why Jesus
endured the cross. We read
in the Epistle to the Hebrews (12:2), ďLooking unto Jesus, the author
and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him
endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right
hand of the throne of God.Ē Jesus
saw beyond the pain He would endure to the joy that was set before Him.
He did not let the shame of the cross deter Him because it was
only to be for a little while. It
is only possible for us to endure suffering as we look to Jesus who
suffered for us.
Jeremiah says in todayís Old
Testament Lesson, ďThe LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the
soul who seeks Him. It is good that one should hope and wait quietly for
the salvation of the LORD.Ē The
waiting seems to be for so long because we are stuck here on earth where
we have no greater perspective than what is visible up to the horizon.
How far away is that? Not
very far. We cannot see the
end of whatever the trouble may be.
This is why we cannot afford to depend on what we see.
This is why faith must demand, not sight, but Godís promise.
We go by what we hear, not by what we see.
We have more than the promise of
Godís word that He knows what we need.
We have the promise from Jesus Himself that whatever we ask the
Father in His name He will give us.
Whatever we ask in Jesusí name, we will receive.
Whatever we do in Jesusí name God will bless.
Whatever worship we offer in Jesusí name God will graciously
hear and accept. When we
die in Jesusí name our Father in heaven will receive us into our
The name of Jesus isnít a
mantra with magical powers. It
is rather the authority that flows from His wounds.
It is the power to forgive us sinners.
This power comes upon us when we are weakened by our own flesh.
We are afraid. We
lose heart. Our faith is so
pathetically weak. We
question even the most fundamental truths of Holy Scriptures.
We wonder if God cares, just because He has seen fit to permit us
to suffer pain. Our
confession of the faith becomes tentative.
We act as if Godís promises arenít even trustworthy.
We doubt what God has so vividly proven to us in the crucifixion
of His only begotten Son! Weíve
seen Jesus crucified for us and have seen the eternal love of the Father
emanating from that holy suffering.
But we have doubted that it was true.
But God wonít leave us alone
to our doubts. We doubt
because our eyes are fixed on our own suffering.
God invites us to look beyond the little while of our own
suffering to the suffering of Jesus.
We not only look, but we hear Godís word telling us what that
suffering means. Even as we
kneel at Godís altar and eat and drink the sacramental bread and wine,
God tells us that these earthly elements are nothing less than the body
that suffered for our sins and the blood that was shed for us for the
remission of sins. Whatever
we ask in Jesusí name, our Father in heaven will give to us. How can He deny us anything of true worth when He gives us to
eat and to drink the priceless body and blood by which our souls were
purchased out of sin, death, and hell?
How can He deny us anything we really need, when He hasnít
withheld from us His Son, His only Son, whom He loves?
What is your loss that you mourn today? What is the pain that you suffer? How badly have you been burned by life and how deep is the sorrow you feel? No matter how harsh your pain may feel to you, be sure of one thing. Jesus has borne that pain and more: He has borne the source of it. He has washed away the sin that causes it. By His holy sacrifice He has forever sanctified the suffering of His Christians, and He has promised not to leave us comfortless, but gives us His Holy Spirit who testifies to our spirits that we are the children of God. So then, letís act like it, asking our heavenly Father for every good thing and resting assured that, for Christís sake, He will surely give it to us.
Rev. Rolf D. Preus