In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
Time flies. And at the same time it drags. Nine months of pregnancy flies by, even while it can’t end soon enough. Just as the days of your child’s life seem to last forever, even as they are too quickly gone and before you know it Anna will be toddling around doing parkour with her daddy.
For our Lord on the night in which He was betrayed it was quite literally a “little while” (John 16:16) and He would be dead. Less than 24 hours. (John 18:1-19:30) And then only about day and half later, spread over 3 separate days, He would again be alive. Just a little while.
But in the midst of suffering it doesn’t matter how short the time is. Suffering seems eternal. Relief can’t come too soon. In child birth suffering can be intense—physically for the woman going through it, and spiritually for her loved ones who witness her suffering. Yet, once that beautiful child is in her mother’s arms, though the suffering was intense, you won’t ever see a bigger smile, more love, or peace on a mother than when she first holds her baby. (John 16:21)
And Christ our Lord says that’s what His disciples were facing—a short while of sorrow. (John 16:20) Of suffering. Suffering because while they were sorrowful over their dear friend and teacher’s death, the world would rejoice! For the Roman soldiers and governing officials it was just one more hassle off their plates. For the Jewish religious leaders a national crisis had been averted by this death. (John 18:14; 11:50) For Satan and his hosts it was like Christmas Day! “The Christ of God is dead. Our Father below is victorious!”
But the never ending mercies of our Lord would be renewed early Sunday morning (Lam. 3:23) in the resurrection of Christ’s flesh. Giving us a new view of timed suffering. For we followers of Christ here below our sufferings are just a “little while”. A while of suffering is our lot as His disciples. For the World will exult over us whenever it can. (John 16:20) Whenever it thinks it has put this Christ to death; or put His followers to flight; silenced their message. For in truth sinful mankind has no desire to hear of the One who dies for their sins. “What? Me a sinner? Me in need of a saviour? Shut your mouth. Who are you to judge me?” The sinner in you hates to hear that you need a saviour. Why do you think it is so easy to skip church even if you believe that Jesus is your loving saviour? It’s easy because your sinful flesh will never cease to have self-justifying excuses why you don’t need to hear of Jesus again. Why you don’t believe that, how it isn’t true that you are in fact a sinner, in need of a saviour.
This is why the Holy Scriptures and Luther’s Catechism teach that we can not by our reason and strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him. For of ourselves we’d never do it. We’d always find some excuse. Some justification of ourselves. Of our ways, our thoughts, our lies. For Scripture says that “all men are liars” (Ps. 116:11) And if you are a particularly honest person you know this to be true because you’ve caught yourself in your own lies that you tell yourself. We’re always justifying ourselves, our choices, our existence. Because we all exist in a courtroom. A court of public opinion. A court of what others think of you. A court set up by your own conscience. Our inner monologue is always seeking to let itself off the hook, or explain why it is right. Even to ourselves! Jesus knows this. He died for this. He lives to silence all that lying that goes on in your own head, let alone in your words and deeds. All that justifying yourself before whomever you are feeling accused by at the moment.
He lives so that your soul would be put at rest. Rest from this constant justifying of your own existence. And so, we Christians here below always live in a “little while” of sorrow. A “little while” of our consciences being tormented, as the world laughs at us for believing Jesus lives and reigns in a world as messed up as this. We have sorrow, for a little while, until we remember and believe again the message that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! And He lives to silence your conscience. To put it at ease, knowing His judgement of you. That you are forgiven, free from guilt, that no accusation that is formed against you can stand. For Christ has taken them all to the cross.
We constantly have a little while of sorrow over our wounded consciences and then Christ comes by the word of His testimony to silence our fears. But more than that, we suffer not only in our consciences from the world’s accusations, and from our sin’s guilt, but we suffer here below, for this is not the home of righteousness. (2 Pet. 3:!3) And if you seek to live faithfully with Your god, if you value His word, if you speak that word people will make you suffer for it. Your own family and friends will reject you, and slight you for even mentioning Jesus, let alone His expectations of us. (Matt. 10:34-39) Of course, everyone in their self-justifying says, “Yes, yes, love your neighbour as self. Treat people decently and all that.” But then go on to list how compassionate they are, how decent they are, how not a jerk they are. At east until they get behind the wheel of a car when suddenly they angrily will roll eyes and extol their own driving prowess, and everyone else’s idiocy. You see, we lie to ourselves constantly. We angrily justify selves and our actions eternally.
So, when you point any of that out, as Christ our Lord did, people respond similarly. And you dear Christians know it. For you’ve all experienced it from your loved ones. So much so that you all justify yourselves by mentioning to me constantly how you can’t say much of your faith to them if you are going to keep having a relationship with your family. It is a sorrow to you. I know. I understand.
But remember the mother who has just delivered. Remember her joy after her sorrow. Jesus says, “The joy of seeing Me again will give you joy like that. And no one will take it from you!” (John 16:21-22) Joy which is yours in faith in Christ Jesus that He has conquered death for you remains. Just as it does for the mother and father. A joy that pervades their woefully inadequate parenting all through the days of their child’s life. So that your child will always be that perfect little baby you once held in your arms. No matter how badly they screw up. No matter how much they test limits of your love. No one will take that joy from you. I am convinced that’s what keeps parents from acting out on those thoughts they have when their kids hit the teen years. And that’s what your faith in Christ Jesus is like. A joy that will not depart. It can not be taken.
Though the world put you to great suffering and torment, though own kids reject you for your faith, that joy in your salvation remains with you. It sees you through unto the day of your own resurrection. When Christ raises you from your grave and grants you a new body like His resurrection body.
Peter says it is a grace unto you when you endure a “little while” of suffering for Christ’s sake. (1 Pet. 2:19-20) And old Jeremiah the prophet—who saw his own city of Jerusalem destroyed, sat in the rubble of that city lamenting his dead brothers and sisters—spoke of how it is a blessed thing to take up the yoke of suffering in your youth. (Lam. 3:27) For when you do that you are taking up the yoke of Christ who suffered all for you. And remember He says, “Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me, and your will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt. 11:28-30) It is light, for He has already given you complete justification. Freeing you from your sins. Declaring you righteous. Just as He did for little Anna today by water and His word when she received that Triune of God in which is salvation. (Matt. 28:19; Mark 16:16; Titus 3:5-6)
So righteousness is hers. Forgiveness is hers. God the Father’s eternal love is hers for Christ has granted it to her. She has this “little while” of sorrow that will be hers here below. But the day shall dawn (Lam. 3:22-23) and she will have unending joy with Christ her Lord in paradise.
Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Grace Evangelical Lutheran Church