Sunday, April 21, 2024

Sermon for the Fourth Sunday of Easter - Jn 16:16-22


Easter 4

                                                                                                Jn 16:16-22



          It was the night when Jesus was betrayed.  Our Lord celebrated the Last Supper with his disciples.  Then he and the disciples made their way to the Garden of Gethsemane.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke do not tell us anything about this trip.  However, John provides us with an account of what Jesus said to his disciples during this time.

          In John’s Gospel, Jesus often says things that the disciples don’t understand until after the resurrection.  For example, in chapter two Jesus replies to his opponents by saying, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews are baffled as they reply, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?”  However, John tells us: “But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.”

          Earlier in this chapter, Jesus had shared unexpected news with the disciples.  He said, “But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.”  Our Lord said that he was returning to the Father.  He was leaving, and naturally this was very troubling for the disciples.

          We will hear in next week’s Gospel lesson that Jesus said his departure was actually a good thing.  It meant that he would send the Helper. In the course of these chapters, known as the “Farewell Discourse,” Jesus explains what the Helper would do.

          The disciples were already confused and troubled by what Jesus had said.  In our text, the Lord compounds this as he shares more information that they don’t understand.  Jesus said, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

          The disciples were confused by this, as well as by what Jesus had already said.  We learn in our text: “So some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?’ So they were saying, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.’”

          Jesus knew that the disciples wanted to ask him.  He understood that they were deeply confused by his statement, “A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me.’” 

In our text Jesus doesn’t directly explain what the “little while” is.  Instead, he tells them what their experience will be as they pass through it.  He doesn’t directly explain it because, as we will see, there was no way that they could understand.  They had to experience the event itself, and in this way they would understand and be transformed.

Jesus said, “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.”  Our Lord described a time in which the disciples would be sorrowful. They would weep and lament.  By contrast, the world would rejoice.  However, Jesus promised that their sorrow would turn into joy.

In order to illustrate this, Jesus said, “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.”  Labor is a time of hardship and difficulty – I am reminded of how Amy was in labor for 36 hours when she gave birth to Timothy.  However, when the baby has been born none of that matters.  Instead, there is joy that the child has been born into the world.

Jesus applied this illustration by saying, “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.”  The disciples would experience sorrow in the present when they did not see Jesus.  But they would see Jesus again. This would bring joy, and no one would take their joy from them.

The disciples in our text are mystified by what Jesus is saying.  However, we now stand in a position to understand what Jesus means, just as they would in a few days.  Our Lord speaks about his death and resurrection. A little while and they would no longer see Jesus.  It was Thursday evening.  By sundown on Friday they would no longer see the Lord.  He would be buried in a tomb.  But then in a little while they would see him again.  On Sunday evening – on Easter – they would see him as he appeared in the midst of the locked room where they were.

John the Baptist had announced that Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Our Lord had repeatedly declared that he would die. He said that he would be lifted up.  He told Nicodemus, “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up,

that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” He said during Holy Week, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this because he would die on the cross.

          Jesus died as the sacrifice to rescue us from sin and God’s judgment against it.  Our lives are filled with the pervasive presence of sin.  We put God second, as our interests, hobbies, and desires come before him.  We act in selfish ways as we put ourselves before our spouse, family, and friends.  We allow anger to direct our words and actions.

          This sin is not a violation of some abstract standard.  Instead, it is an offense committed against the holy God.  When David confessed his sin he said, “Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.  As we just confessed, this sin deserves God’s present and eternal punishment.

          However, as we heard Jesus say last week: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”  Jesus lay down his life for us in order to rescue us from sin and God’s judgment. Our Lord assures us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

          Jesus died and was buried.  For a little while his disciples did not see him. They wept and mourned.  The hope that they felt because of Jesus had been dashed.  And the world rejoiced.  His opponents celebrated the fact they had killed the Lord.

          But after a little while – on the third day – Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus says in our text, “but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”  He was right.  We learn in John’s Gospel: “On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.”

          Through the work of the Spirit the disciples have shared this good news – this Gospel - with us.  And now, we too rejoice with a joy that will never be taken from us.  Jesus’ resurrection has transformed our life.  Not only do we know that sin is forgiven, but we know that Christ has given us victory over death.  Because we believe in Jesus we already have eternal life now.  Death cannot end our life with God.  And we know that the risen Lord will raise us up.  Jesus said, “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

          This does not mean that the struggles of this world have ended. We still encounter disappointments and problems.  We experience hardships and tragedies.  But because of Jesus’ resurrection we do not lose hope in the face of these things.  We do not lose hope because nothing can take the joy of the Lord’s resurrection from us.  His victory has changed our present and future. 

          In this section of the Gospel Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”  We have peace because in Christ’s resurrection we find the assurance that God’s love for us continues no matter what circumstances may look like.  We live knowing that the victory will be ours because Jesus has already won. Our Lord declared, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

          Jesus’ death and resurrection also transforms the way we live. He said, This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”  Christ gave himself for us, and now we give ourselves in service to others.  This means that we put the needs of others before our own. It means that we are willing to sacrifice to help those around us.

          This begins at home.  So husbands and wives, look for ways to assist and support your spouse. Children and youth, help your parents with tasks that need to be done – even when it isn’t your chore.  And then it continues out with our friends and co-workers.  Look for opportunities to support and care for the neighbors around you.

          In our text, Jesus says, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”  The disciples did not see Jesus after he had died on the cross and had been buried in the tomb. They wept and mourned.  But a little while passed, and on the third day they saw the risen Lord.  Because they did, we know that our sins are forgiven and that death has been defeated.  We have peace knowing that Jesus has overcome the world and confidence that God continues to love us in the midst of all circumstances. As our Lord says, “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.”












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