“Your Dying and Rising is But a Little While” The Sunday of Christian Joy 2024

YouTube player

21. April 2024
John 16:16-23

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.

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Today, Jesus preaches about His cross, the Apostles’ cross, and your cross. Each of us is given burdens to carry, and they seem to last forever. But Jesus comforts us with those words, “a little while.” So, the next time you talk to someone about the suffering, trials, difficulty, temptation, loss, or pain, emphasize that it will only be “for a little while” and see how it goes. They’ll think these words are trite, callous, insane, or heartless. “A little while” is a hard word to believe. Because these run contrary to experience, this Gospel must be proclaimed to be believed. The disciples didn’t understand what He was talking about and nor can we. The mystery of the Gospel is believed to be the Holy Spirit working faith through the Word. 

Thus, Jesus patiently teaches us by way of assertion and example. “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.” He uses His cross as an example of our cross. On this night, in a few hours, He will be betrayed into the hands of sinners. They will deliver Him over to the Gentiles to be crucified and killed. 

In keeping with the sign of Jonah, He will be buried in the earth, and they will not see Him. Yet, things are never over for Jesus. After a little while, that is, three days, He will rise from the dead. Then they will see Him again, though not for long, for He will go to the Father. Then, He will begin His reign, putting all things under His feet, preparing the way for us, and opening heaven to all believers in Him. Now, that’s Good News!

As hard as it is to believe that our sufferings are for but “a little while,” we are given to believe an even greater mystery! Christ Jesus overcame the world, sin, death, the devil, and hell, and has received all authority in heaven and on earth. And now that His enemies have been conquered, He reigns as the mighty King on Mount Zion, from where He strengthens, guides, and governs you, His own Church, with the Holy Spirit.

So, on that night, Jesus was taken from them, crucified, and buried. They were sorrowful and distressed. They and the rest of the band of disciples and the women wept and lamented. While they could find no consolation, the world rejoiced at their seeming victory over God’s saints. While they were in deepest sorrows, the hounds of hell sang, danced, and “rejoiced.” The world, having killed Jesus, thought He was done for. 

But Jesus told them not to worry. He promised He would rise again on the third day, and would come and comfort them and set aside all their anxieties. Indeed, this would change everything for us Christians, those who believe and are baptized into Christ. Now, even when we are forced to suffer content, cross, or persecution for Christ’s sake, we believe and confess that our suffering is only temporary, but our joy to follow is eternal. It is, after all, only for “a little while.” 

God made man for eternal joy and blessedness, but when he followed the infernal serpent, the devil, he was sentenced to eternal sorrow and condemnation. Yet since man did not sin intentionally and maliciously as Satan had done with his host but was surprised by the devil and deceived with cunning, God turned this eternal sorrow into a temporary cross by the merit of Christ’s suffering and death. Thus, all children of God, indeed, all Christians on earth, must temporarily bear the cross and be sorrowful, but after this life, they will rejoice forever. But as for the devil and all wicked, ungodly men, they rejoice here temporarily, working plagues and torments for the children of God. 

Christ says, “You also have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Today in Divine Service, Jesus gives you joy of heart and the peace of the conscience, namely, that you know and believe that for Christ’s sake, God will be gracious and merciful to you, forgive all your sins, uphold you in your cross, and finally bring you to everlasting life.

Learn this well. When the time comes for us to fight with the devil, death, and sin, it will seem to us that Christ has hidden and has left us stuck and flailing in the anguish of death and hell. But do not forget His words, “After a little while, you will not see Me.” It will seem as if Christ is dead and buried, and nothing but fear, terror, anguish, and distress is before us. But as we will hear in the coming weeks, when the darkness is deepest, and the war seems to be lost, do not give up hope. Wait, watch, and pray. And remember the second half of the verse, “And again after a little while, you will see Me, for I go to the Father.” 

Then you can exclaim, “So what! Maybe it seems Christ is dead and buried to me, but He rose from the dead. Maybe He has hidden Himself from me for a little while, but He will come forth again for me.” Or to say it another way, “On the third day He will rise again from the dead.” Or, as He said, “I am the resurrection and the life!” Death and resurrection in Christ is the pattern of all reality, and we are being conformed to Christ’s image (Romans 8:29). So, hold on, suffer and endure, and let the storm pass. Your Dayspring will rise again, and darkness will give way to light.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin