In the name of Lord whom we shall see in glory, dear fellow redeemed:
Three weeks ago, we celebrated our Lord’s resurrection.
We can take great comfort in the fact that
we will see Him with our own eyes,
as Job also confessed and we heard in the Easter OT lesson:
For I know that my Redeemer lives,
And He shall stand at last on the earth;
And after my skin is destroyed, this I know,
That in my flesh I shall see God…
Jesus’ own disciples needed to hear that.
Jesus knew it would be hard for them after He was arrested.
Though it should not have been a hardship for them,
it was, because our sinful flesh makes war against faith,
delighting in the apparent failure of God.
Christians today need to hear the truth that Job confessed.
We also have hardship ahead of us and around us even now.
Our own sinful flesh makes war against faith,
and delights in the apparent failure of God.
Christians today need to know that we will see Jesus again.
Jesus gave this assurance to His disciples.
He was so certain that He told them they would rejoice.
That’s our theme today, because we will see Him again too.
Your heart will rejoice, because your battle will be done.
Your heart will rejoice, because He will bring you the victory.
“A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “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 go to the Father’?” They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”
Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 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 into joy. A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.”
We don’t see Jesus now.
Sculptures and paintings supposedly resemble Him.
Are they accurate? Because we don’t see Him.
Jesus ascended forty days after rising from the grave.
Since then, few have seen Him.
Many people have wanted to see Jesus.
Some have claimed it, but their claims cannot be proven.
Jesus predicted those claims when He said (Mat. 24:23–24),
“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.”
So we wait to see him.
We long to see Him.
We hope to see Him.
We believe we will see Him.
But we do not see Him.
Why is it so important to see Jesus?
Because we live in the same world as the apostles.
It treats all disciples of Christ as it treated them.
Jesus said, “I say to you that you will weep and lament,
but the world will rejoice.”
So even in the best of times,
we still have the natural sorrow in a fallen world.
In the worst of times,
the world delights to heap ridicule and persecution,
to drive us away from our Savior.
Jesus told His disciples that their sorrow would come
in “a little while,” and that alarmed them.
They kept talking about it, until He explained it.
Only later did they realize that He did all of it on purpose,
willingly submitting to the will of the Father.
They thought they’d lost Him, and would not see Him again.
The phrase “a little while” might alarm us, too.
When we think about the future, it can make us anxious.
Maybe tomorrow will bring no more hardship than today.
But maybe it will bring grief or pain.
Maybe that grief or pain will be extreme.
Part of life is not knowing for certain what will happen next,
and the possibility that it will be horrible.
But as much as we may fear the things to come,
the hardest parts of Christian life arise from our faith itself.
Those who follow Jesus Christ as His disciples
must naturally follow His conduct.
Today’s epistle lesson speaks to each of us
in whatever circumstances we have been called to faith,
so that our faith should live according to Jesus’ example.
Peter writes (1 Pet. 2:11),
Beloved, I beg you as sojourners and pilgrims,
abstain from fleshly lusts which war against the soul.
We must resist our impulses to violate God’s commandments,
because our nature is corrupt,
and would lead us to eternal death apart from Jesus.
But a godly life can’t be lived in secret.
It must always show so that others would notice.
So Peter goes on (:12),
…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.
That’s what happened to Jesus, isn’t it?
He was crucified as an evildoer,
but when others saw His works,
many believed, and will have eternal life as a result.
So the true Christian faith impels us to live
in a way that stands out in the world.
Peter went on to describe our lives in three spheres:
civil government, the Church, and the workplace.
But the behavior Peter describes is odd to say the least.
He describes a willingness to suffer,
that God’s will may be done.
Sounds like Jesus again, right?
Peter says (:15–16)
For this is the will of God, that by doing good
you may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men
— as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice,
but as bondservants of God.
What does Peter mean by the words as free?
First, you need to see that you are not free.
Peter understood this because of his own battles.
You recall that while Jesus was paying the price for our sins,
Peter denied even knowing Him three times.
Peter also tried to stop Jesus from paying that price.
At those times, Peter’s own sinful flesh had the upper hand.
He was not free.
The same happens to you, because you have the same flesh.
You also deny your Lord when you do what God forbids.
Your actions and words sometimes scream out,
“I don’t know Him either.”
But nothing stopped Jesus from paying the dreadful price,
so now our guilt has been atoned. Your sins are forgiven.
Jesus has freed you from the condemnation of God.
In fact, you now stand with Him, above all earthly things
as a son and heir of God.
You are redeemed, but since you still live in the world,
your faith must live and do battle against the flesh.
That’s why Peter describes you as he does,
as free, yet not using liberty as a cloak for vice,
but as bondservants of God.
So we wait now like the disciples did,
through this time when we don’t see Jesus.
But by God’s grace, we believe that we will see Him.
He promised it.
When you do, this long night will be past,
and the eternal sun will shine upon you
with no corruption, no sorrow, and no sinful flesh.
Your heart will rejoice, because your battle will be done.
Jesus describes the sorrow that Christians have in this life,
using the picture of childbirth.
A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
This teaches the difference between our lives now
and our lives to come.
When a woman gives birth, God does something amazing.
A new person comes into the world from her womb.
Who besides God can make a new person?
He designed us so wonderfully,
to bless marriage with the glorious fruit of children.
Even though sin has corrupted us
physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially,
God’s blessing remains.
New people are born into the world every day,
each one a gift from God.
When you see Jesus, your heart will also rejoice,
because then a new life is beginning, a glorious gift of God.
The new life will be yours, and it will be eternal.
You are spiritually born into that life already
when you believe that Jesus has won forgiveness for you.
You live spiritually in that new life every day,
empowered by the promise of God in your Baptism.
But you don’t always sense this spiritual life He has given you,
just as you don’t see Jesus now.
Instead, you must deal with
the sinful flesh, the temptations of the devil,
and the unpleasant byproducts of living in the world.
So we look forward to something, don’t we?
But seeing Jesus, we will rejoice for the end of our suffering.
We will also rejoice when we see what’s ahead.
Jesus said your heart will rejoice,
and your joy no one will take from you.
Church history shows that His words were true.
When Jesus’ disciples saw Him alive again,
nothing could stop them from preaching the Gospel.
Nothing could prevent them from living by their faith,
because they knew that Jesus would be with them, forever.
So they gladly lived as Peter described in our epistle lesson,
gladly suffered all things for the sake of the Gospel.
Christians still had to deal with the sinful flesh,
the temptations of the devil, and this evil world.
It would be a mistake to think they had it easy,
but they also had the certainty of Jesus’ resurrection.
Faith is a great gift from God, but like cars on the road,
it needs maintenance.
God is the only qualified mechanic for your faith,
and His tools are His Word, with both Law and Gospel,
and the Sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.
Using these together with your temporary hardships,
God the Holy Spirit builds your faith and keeps it strong.
That’s what our Old Testament lesson today describes.
It’s the ebb and flow of faith,
as we are locked in battle with our spiritual enemies.
The prophet writes (Lam. 3:18), And I said,
“My strength and my hope
Have perished from the LORD.”
So it can seem when we don’t see Jesus.
Yet in his lamentation, the prophet also says (:21-22),
This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope.
Through the LORD’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
The whole lesson well describes the battle
that a Christian’s faith must fight daily
against the doubts of the flesh.
But we are not alone in this battle.
The Holy Spirit continues to empower your Baptism.
It’s God’s permanent imprint upon your life,
His seal guaranteeing your forgiveness
through the death and resurrection of Jesus.
How did the disciples could continue their work,
even through many years when they didn’t see Jesus?
For one thing, they believed what He had told them:
“This is My body” and
“This cup is the New Testament in my blood.”
How could He not be present with you,
when He feeds you with His own body and His blood,
for the forgiveness of your sins?
Just because you don’t see Jesus walking around,
don’t assume that He’s not here.
In fact, He has promised to be here in hidden ways,
until He finally appears in glory.
So we are with Jesus now, in His Word and Sacrament,
and we know this by faith in His Word.
By faith. By faith, always by faith.
That’s the nature of this life we have now,
until finally we will see Him again.
Then we will no longer require faith,
because we will know Him by sight.
Then, His victory over sin and death will be complete in us.
Then, our struggle will be over,
and we the victors with Jesus. Then your heart will rejoice.
Soli Deo Gloria!