A Woman in Labor
Easter 4 Jubilate Sunday| John 16:21| Pastor James Preus| Trinity Lutheran Church| May 8, 2022 (Mothers’ Day)
‘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 is the greatest teacher who has ever lived. His parables, while hiding the mysteries of God from the wise and understanding, provide simple to understand lessons to the children to whom God has granted faith. And this simple one verse parable clearly teaches what Jesus means by “a little while.” There is no suffering a woman can expect to experience in her life greater than that of giving birth. And so, for a little while the Christian has sorrow in this world. Yet, while there is no suffering like that of a woman in labor, so there is no joy that a woman feels like that of holding her newborn child for the first time. And so, after we Christians have suffered for a little while in this world, we will have joy when we see our Savior Jesus again.
This parable is perfect, because it can easily be understood by anyone and it reflects the spiritual sorrow and joy that a Christian experiences better than any other physical human experience can. Yet, Satan has viciously attacked this parable by viciously attacking motherhood. Many cannot understand what Jesus means by this parable, because they do not recognize the joy a mother feels at the birth of her child. They no longer desire the joy that a mother experiences when a human being has been born into the world. And so, they avoid the sorrow caused by labor at all costs.
This Sunday is called Jubilate Sunday, which is from our introit today from Psalm 66. It’s Latin for, “Make a joyful noise.” And that is fitting for this Sunday. We Christians should make a joyful noise to the Lord today, for one thing, because this past week we have heard that the Supreme Court will likely overturn Roe-v-Wade, that 1973 Supreme Court ruling, which declared a constitutional right for a woman to kill her unborn child. Christians in America have been praying for nearly 50 years that this horrid ruling would be overturned, so that our legislatures could pass laws to protect children in the womb from barbaric and violent deaths. And now, after long last, our prayers seem to be answered. Of course, our fight for the rights of the voiceless is by no means done. Unborn children will continue to be killed throughout the country until states pass laws protecting them. So, we must continue to be vocal for those who cannot defend themselves and pray to God that he would change the hearts of our nation to pity these children, and so support laws to protect them.
Yet, we also should be ashamed of ourselves that it has taken so long to take this step. In the nearly fifty years since Roe was decided over sixty million babies have been violently murdered in their mothers’ wombs. And while many Christians have been very vocal, our so-called Christian nation has consistently rated the economy and other political issues above the life of innocent children. Unborn children are precious in the eyes of the Lord. Psalm 139 states, “For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Abortion is clearly wrong, because it is killing such a child in the womb. Yet, abortion is justified by saying that it is necessary to make life better for the mother and father. The Ammonites in the Old Testament had a similar justification. They sacrificed their sons and daughter to an idol named Molech in order to be blessed by this barbaric god. Here is what God warned Israel concerning this child sacrifice, “Anyone of the people of Israel or of the strangers who sojourn in Israel who gives any of his children to Molech shall surely be put to death. … And if the people of the land do at all close their eyes to that man when he gives one of his children to Molech, and do not put him to death, then I will set my face against that man and against his clan and will cut them off from among their people.” (Leviticus 20:2, 4)
And so, we should also thank God that he has been so patient with our nation, which he could have justly destroyed for closing our eyes to the shedding of innocent blood. No politician, whether Republican or Democrat, should ever have been able to get elected in a Christian nation without committing to defend the unborn.
Now, while most Christians will declare that they are against the killing of unborn children, they have accepted the premise that the devil laid down, which justifies the killing in the first place. The premise is that children are not a joy, but a burden; that the pain of childbirth is not worth the joy of children, that enjoying immediate gratification now is better than suffering for greater joy later. But we should not accept the devil’s premise that children are not a joy. We should not think that it is reasonable to despise children or that it is understandable to want to get rid of them. “Children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127) That is what God tells us. The desire to spurn children, so that you can enjoy your life the way you want is selfish. Scripture teaches husband and wife to find joy in their children.
Likewise, we should not accept the devil’s premise that Christ is not our joy. As people increasingly despise children and motherhood, so also, people increasingly despise the joy of Christ. “What do I need Jesus for? Doesn’t he just ruin all my fun? He’s too judgmental. I don’t think I want what he’s offering.” And so, as women do whatever is possible to avoid the sorrow, which leads to the joy of children, so people do whatever is possible to avoid the sorrow, which leads to the joy of Christ Jesus.
Jesus’ analogy of a woman in labor is the perfect illustration for the Christian’s sorrow in this life. A woman has sorrow, because she is in great pain. The Christian is in sorrow, because he is not in heaven yet. The resurrection of all flesh has not yet happened. We do not yet see Christ in his glory. And so, in this life, we deal with sickness, pain, and death. The world rejoices as we weep and lament. We weep over the wickedness of the world, the suffering of the children, those who fall away from the faith, murder, war, and hatred. We lament that we are persecuted for confessing Christ, hated by those whom we love. We weep, because of our own sin, which we hate and try to avoid, that we have said things and done things that have hurt other people. We’re not in heaven yet. Our knowledge of Christ seems to increase our sorrow, because we are more aware of sin and suffering. Like a woman in labor, we are in anguish.
Yet, Jesus comforts us in our anguish. It’s only a little while. Jesus’ words are much like the encouraging words of a husband to his wife as she is in labor. “It is only a little while. Soon, you will meet your baby. Stay strong.” And so, Jesus encourages us. You have sorrow now, but soon you will see me and your sorrow will be over. We find this encouragement elsewhere in Scripture. St. Paul tells us, “Hence forth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.” (2 Timothy 4:8) And so, we deal with our sorrow now by taking comfort in the promises of Christ. Your suffering is not in vain. Though you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, your Good Shepherd is leading you to the pastures of eternal life. Though you do not see him now, Christ is with you. And when you see him, you will be like him. Your sins will finally be severed from you forever. Death will pass away. Christians will no longer be persecuted. We will be transformed after the image of Christ. We will see him in glory and we will have no shame. The suffering now is worth it. And it will only last a little while.
And the sorrow we Christians feel now, God uses for good. When a woman is in labor, she can’t go back. The baby is going to be born. This can be scary. The mother can feel helpless. And so, she does well to commit herself to the Lord, as Jesus said to St. Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” And so, the woman finds strength in her weakness, by trusting in the Lord her strength. And so, God teaches us to be strong in our suffering by being weak. When God permits us to suffer, when we sorrow, because we are pilgrims sojourning through this sinful world, we put our trust in God. We listen to his promises and trust that he will fulfill them. We commit our body and soul to him, who laid down his body for us on the cross and gave up his Spirit to save our souls.
A husband comforting his wife while she is in labor can feel like a pretty helpless fellow. And as empathetic as he is, his wife knows that he does not actually know how she feels. Yet, when Christ Jesus comforts us in our sorrow, he is not helpless or ignorant. He knows exactly how it feels. You have not nor will you ever suffer greater than Christ suffered for you. Everything you suffer as a Christian, Christ Jesus has already suffered for you. Jesus bore all your sins on the cross, so that your guilt cannot harm you. And he bears with your weaknesses today. The hatred the world hurls on you for being a Christian, they hurl on Christ. And even the blood of the millions of babies who have been killed by abortion in the past half century, which cries out to God for justice, Jesus has satisfied that cry. Jesus not only died for those babies, but he died for their murderers. America is stained by abortion. We Christians have tormented our righteous souls living in a land so stained. Yet, Jesus has borne this sin as well. So, all who bear the guilt of abortion can find forgiveness and cleansing in Jesus.
For a little while Jesus suffered on the cross for our sins and after a little while, he had joy in his resurrection. And he promises that he is with us in our little while of sorrow. And he has promised that after this little while, our joy will be filled by him. And during this little while of sorrow, Jesus has promised that whatever we ask the Father in his name, he will give us. We asked that Roe v. Wade be overturned, so that the lives of many children may be saved. It appears that God has granted our request. But much more, we ask that we may have eternal life in Christ Jesus, and through faith in Christ we know that God will most certainly grant that request. No matter how great your sin is, no matter what you have done, Jesus promises that God the Father will forgive you for the sake of Jesus’ suffering and death for you.
Christ’s joy is our joy. Our sorrow is his sorrow. Christ’s sorrow came to an end when he rose from the dead. And so, our sorrow will come to an end soon. As mother and child rejoice in their company together, so Christ will rejoice in us and we in him, when we finally see him as he is. Amen.