Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Fifth Sunday after Easter

Fifth Sunday after Easter (C)
April 25, 2013
Text: John 16:12-22

He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!
            You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20; ESV).  You can take Jesus’ Word for it.  Both parts of the promise.  He promises that you will have sorrow.  You will have sorrow because this is a fallen world, because you are a sinner, because you live in the midst of sinners who will sin against you, because the wages of sin is death and you are dying, and so is everyone else, including those you love.  You will have sorrow because you will have sickness and pain.  You will have sorrow because the world hates Jesus, and so the world hates Jesus’ disciples and the Word of Jesus you confess.  You will have sorrow.  You can bank on it.  But your sorrow will turn into joy.  You can bank on that, too.  Because Jesus has taken your sorrow into Himself.  He is the man of sorrows for you (Is. 53:3).  There, on the cross, He bears your sorrow to death, to be buried forever in His tomb.  And He is risen, victorious over your sorrow.  Your sin, your death, your condemnation, all of it came to an end when our Lord spoke from the cross, “It is finished” (John 19:30).  Now we are left with an empty tomb and a living Lord Jesus and the new life He gives us in the means of grace.  Rejoice, dear Christian.  Sing unto the LORD a new song, for He has done marvelous things (Ps. 98:1).  Even now, in the midst of your sorrows, be glad and sing for joy.  For you can live now in the reality that your Lord Jesus Christ has finally made everything that is wrong right again, as it will be revealed on the Last Day, and you have eternal life in Him.
            Your sorrow will turn into joy.  Jesus originally speaks these words to His disciples before His crucifixion.  A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16).  What does this mean?  The disciples don’t know.  They discuss among themselves what Jesus might mean.  Jesus knows they want to ask.  But they are afraid.  In this original context, Jesus is talking about the reality of what He’s about to go through.  He will be betrayed by one of His own disciples into the hands of the Jewish authorities and delivered to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor.  The disciples will be scattered.  In their fear, they will flee.  He will be nailed to the cross for the sins of the world, for their sins, for their fear, for your sins, for your fear.  And they will have sorrow.  He will be buried, and for a little while, they will see Him no longer.  But then, on Sunday morning, and again and again for the next forty days, they will see Him, risen from the dead.  Their sorrow over His crucifixion will turn into joy.  Alleluia.
            But what is true for the disciples is also true for you and for me and for the whole Church of God.  A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  After those forty days in which Jesus was appearing to His disciples, proving that He is bodily risen from the dead, He ascended into heaven.  Ever since, He has been hidden from the physical eyes of believers.  As He went up, He was hidden by a cloud.  It is not that Jesus went away.  It is not that He’s somewhere up there and not here with His people.  Remember His promise?  And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  Jesus is always with His believers.  He’s always with you, to the very end of the age.  But ever since He ascended into heaven, He’s been hidden from our eyes.  Present, but hidden.  And so we have sorrow.  We wish we could see Him.  Not just by faith, but by sight.  We wish we could see Him and touch Him and hear His voice and ask Him questions and receive clear answers.  We know that He will come again visibly, on the Last Day, to raise the dead and to judge all people and to give eternal life to us and to all believers in Christ.  That is what the angels said to the apostles after the Ascension: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 2:11).  He will return visibly, on a cloud.  Then we will behold Him with our own eyes.  But not now.  Now, for a little while, we have sorrow.
            Yet, Jesus does not leave us on our own in this sorrow.  He has sent us His Holy Spirit.  This is the Spirit He promises His disciples in our text, the Spirit who will lead them, lead us, into all truth.  This is the Spirit that comes upon the Church at Pentecost, which we will celebrate again in a few short weeks.  How does the Spirit guide the Church into all truth?  How does the Spirit operate?  How does He glorify Jesus and take what belongs to Jesus and declare it to the Church (John 16:13)?  Well, He doesn’t do it by zapping us, or by giving us a feeling in the pit of our stomach, or a burning in our heart, or voices in our head.  He does it in the Word, by the Prophets and Apostles, the Word of God recorded in Holy Scripture, preached in the Church, confessed by God’s people in your vocations.  He takes what belongs to Jesus, the Gospel, Holy Absolution, the proclamation of sins forgiven and eternal life with Christ, and He declares it in Word and Sacrament.  For in the Word of God, you see Jesus and hear His voice.  In the Sacramental Word you touch Him, His true body and blood, given and shed for you, placed in your mouth.  You speak to Him in prayer and petition, and He gives you answers in His holy Word.  The Lord Jesus is hidden in these means, delivered by the Spirit.  That’s how the Spirit does His work.  And as the Spirit does His work, what happens to your sorrow?  It turns into joy.  Not that you don’t still live in a fallen world, as a sinner among sinners who sin, with sickness and pain and all the causes of your sorrow.  But you know that this sorrow is temporary.  The joy, though… The joy that is the risen Lord Jesus, that joy is eternal.  What that means is that you can live with joy in the midst of sorrow… even profound sorrow, even the sorrow of death.  Really, only Christians can do this.  Because only Christians can sit with Job in sackcloth and ashes, having lost everything and everyone, without a friend in the world, and still confess: “I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.  And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).  This as Job, and as you, dear Christian, pour out your heart to God in weeping and lamentation.  Actually, only a Christian can truly mourn, because only a Christian can totally relinquish control, give it all into the hands of God, in faith that God will take that sorrow and turn it into joy.  How do you know?  Because Jesus Christ is risen from the dead.  Even as you weep, rejoice!
            Because here is what is coming.  We heard it in our second lesson (Rev. 21:1-7).  On the Last Day, when Jesus comes, there will be a new heaven and a new earth, a resurrection heaven and earth.  The first heaven and the first earth will have passed away.  The old order of things is done.  Jesus Christ has made all things new.  And what marks that new heaven and that new earth is nothing but joy.  The new Jerusalem, the holy Church, you, beloved, come down out of heaven as a Bride adorned for her Husband, the Lord Jesus.  God Himself will dwell with you.  Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man, with you.  You will see Him, touch Him, hear His voice, and ask Him questions and receive clear answers.  Not by faith, but by sight.  No longer hidden, but revealed.  You will be His people.  And your sorrow?  It is finished.  It will be turned to joy as God wipes away every tear from your eyes, and death is no more.  No more mourning or crying or pain.  It is done.  So, knowing that is the reality, what do you do, dear Christian, even in the midst of sorrow?  You sing.  At the Lamb’s High Feast, you sing, for here your Lord gives you the proof that all of this is true: His risen body and blood, Himself the Host and the Meal.  Easter triumph, Easter joy.  And here is the promise of the risen Lord Jesus to you: “I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one,” and nothing, not even death, not even the devil, not even hell… “no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22).  For He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.         


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