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Third Sunday After Easter – John 16:16-23a

by pastorjuhl ~ April 22nd, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

What does it mean to have resurrection joy? Resurrection joy is resting in the true presence of God. Joy is not a feeling. Joy is a state of being. Joy is who you are as a Christian. Joy is being grafted into the Vine of Righteousness that is Jesus Christ.

Now that you have completed the journey to Jerusalem to witness the death and resurrection of Jesus, you’ve rested in His presence for a couple of weeks. The breath of God takes away your sins. The Good Shepherd leads you and protects you in good pasture. Today’s Holy Gospel brings a note of sadness and joy. Jesus says so. Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. It can’t be possible! You just got comfortable resting in resurrection joy and now it’s time to say so long for a little while!

That’s what Jack Buck used to say at the end of a St. Louis Cardinals baseball game. Though I’m a Chicago Cub fan, I had to sit through countless Cardinals baseball games on KMOX radio. Following the game, Jack Buck would review the highlights of the game. Then for those radio stations who weren’t sticking around for the post-game show, Jack would say “So long for just a while.” Some listeners would come right back in a couple of minutes. Others wouldn’t hear Jack’s voice until the next game.

Jack Buck is dead. His voice lives on. Jesus Christ lives. His voice lives on. Contrary to Jack Buck, Jesus Christ’s voice brings joy in the midst of sorrow. There’s plenty of sorrow to go around. So many people are out of jobs. So many businesses are closing. So many people we know are dying. Some we will see in a little while. Others we will never see again.

Those whom we will never see again put themselves in a bad position. The Word of Christ does not dwell in them. Either they have not heard the Word or they have heard His Word and rejected it. Some reject God’s Word because they want to live as those who are of the world rather than those in the world. Saint Peter begs to differ. He says in today’s Epistle: I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul, having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.

You are a sojourner and pilgrim in this world. You have no continuing city. Living in the world rather than of the world makes a powerful confession to an unbeliever. Some unbelievers are convinced that God rewards certain people and despises others merely by chance or some twist of fate. Some Christians may believe this way also. No wonder some Christians have no joy. They live as if they are compelled to sorrow. Yes, you should be penitent of the sin you commit. Nevertheless, as a Christian you live in the joy of Jesus Christ’s all-sufficient death and resurrection. When the disciples first heard Jesus say they would see Him in a little while, they had no idea what He meant by a little while.

There are two facets to our Lord’s Words. The first facet is what would happen to our Lord immediately after this discourse. Jesus would suffer and die for the sins of the world. Most of the Twelve fled the scene. It’s best not to be seen next to the most wanted Man in the Holy Land. A couple of disciples were there nearly to the end. Saint John was there to see Jesus hanging on the cross. While everyone around Christ rejoiced to see the so-called King of the Jews die, those who loved the Lord sorrowed. However, their sorrow was turned to joy when the Lord returned to life.

The second facet of a little while is where you and I are right now. The Church Militant is the little while of John chapter 16. It’s odd that nearly 2,000 years have passed since Jesus ascended to heaven, yet the Scriptures say this time is a little while. Consider that time and space to the Creator of the universe is much different than it is to you and me. Time to the everlasting God Who is, was, and is to come, is a four-letter word. He is the Master of time. When time is full, our Father in heaven will send His Son back to this earth to recapitulate creation. As it was in the beginning is how it will be in the end. Only then will time be meaningless.

When our Lord rose from the dead, He opened the minds of His apostles so they could understand what He taught. This is why Jesus says, in that day you will ask Me nothing. The Holy Spirit’s descent at Pentecost delivers the Holy Spirit Who gives them breath to proclaim the everlasting Gospel to the ends of the earth. In the midst of earthly life, when sorrow seems to have you in a headlock, there is joy in Jesus Christ. Jeremiah writes in Lamentations, there may yet be hope…. For the Lord will not cast off forever. Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitudes of His mercies. For He does not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.

It’s hard to be joyful in the Lord when there isn’t much joy to go around. Remember those five words from Jeremiah’s pen: there may yet be hope. There is hope in Jesus Christ. His hope is certain. Your sorrow will be turned into joy. This little while that is here and now will be destroyed. When you see the Lord, you will be glad because everything He promises you will be fulfilled. This mortal body will put on immortality. The dead in Christ shall rise. We will be forever with the Lord. No one, not even the devil, can take this joy from you.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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