Easter 4 Jubilate
April 25, 2021 A+D
St. John 16: 16-22
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Christianity is sometimes portrayed as Pollyannaish. This is the case with the Simpsons’ Ned Flanders. He is constantly optimistic and cheerful, worse than being a simpleton, Flanders lacks empathy and is less than fully human. But we know the truth. Jesus has won salvation for us and forgives our sins, but He has not yet moved us to paradise. We are optimistic and cheerful. St. Paul teaches us to rejoice always. We know that Jesus lives. But we are also suffering in various ways.
So it was for our fathers. Adam and Eve had sorrows even after they were spared death and nakedness by God’s intervention and promise. Abel dies. David had sorrows and horrible consequences for his sins, even after he received the absolution from Nathan. His first son by Bathsheba dies. The apostles had sorrows even after Pentecost and the bestowal of the Holy Spirit. John has to carry on after all the others died. We have sorrows even after Baptism and despite our Faith. Jesus predicted this. He said: You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
The salvation that Christ has won for us is real. It gives us joy now. It changes us and puts all the world into perspective, but this salvation is not fully realized before the 2nd coming. Until then we have sorrows and our faith waits for the fullness to come.
These sorrows are brought upon us simply by living in this broken and unjust world. Bad stuff happens to us and to our loved ones. We are often victims of injustice at the hands of the powerful and sometimes even at the hands of our friends and families. We all go the way of the cross for the student is not above his teacher. But unlike our Teacher, we are not completely innocent. We complicate these sorrows by our sinful reactions. The old man in us is not yet fully crushed. We act in pride, short-sightedness, and selfishness that is beneath our calling.
Our Lord compares this to a woman in labor. His point, in the first place, is that our suffering is temporary. The reward of eternal life with Him which follows our suffering will be so great and joyous that we will forget, in a sense, the suffering which we endured. St. Paul makes the same point when he says “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” (Romans 8:18, NKJV)
There is also a hint in this illustration that our suffering is a consequence of our sins. It is a holy chastisement from our Father. The pain and danger of labor is the explicit punishment for and consequence of Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the garden. Immediately after promising the Seed of the Woman whose bruising by Satan will be Satan’s undoing, and Who will redeem Adam and Eve back unto Himself, God says to Eve and all her daughters: I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception; In pain you shall bring forth children. (Genesis 3:16a, NKJV)
The pain and danger of human birth are a curse upon us. Yet human birth under the Law is the means by which God became a Man for us and saved us. Our Lord Jesus Christ is that Seed of Eve, born of Mary under the Law, with sorrow and pain. His heel was bruised by Satan on the cross until all of the Father’s wrath was appeased and every last accusation of Satan against us disappeared from his mouth and death itself lost its sting. Then and only then, Our Lord said, “It is finished” and so it was. There was no more ransom left to pay, no more demons left to defeat, and no more graves to empty of their lying victory. Jesus then submitted to death in obedience to His Father. His Body and His Soul came apart as proved by the spear that let loose the water and blood which births and feeds the Church. Then, on the third day, He rose again. What men meant for evil, God used for good. The curse of the Law in labor led to the Gospel of peace in resurrection.
Mary is the preeminent example of faith. The angel Gabriel foretells her honor by God, an honor that will bring pain and shame among men. In response she says, “Let it be so according to your Word.” She accepts the honor and sets her will to bear the burden. She is the most blessed of women, and yet a sword pierces her heart. She must watch her innocent Son be brutalized and slandered and killed in the most horrific way imaginable. She has sorrow. Then she sees Him again. He rises. But again, His local presence is removed from her and He ascends to the Father. Until she is transferred to glory, Mary gets her Son no differently than we do. She has Him by His promise in His Word and in the breaking of the bread. Until her transfer, she must wait, shu must live in this evil place, in the midst of sorrow, by faith, learning to rejoice in all things.
So it is for us. We are forgiven and belong to God. He has won our salvation and bestows it freely to faith. We rejoice always. Yet we also have sorrows. Our sins deserve punishment. In all this, Christ’s grace is sufficient. We endure in faith, hopeful and expectant. We look to His Word for comfort and we look for His return in glory when we will be complete, when our hearts will rejoice and our joy no one will take from us.
In +Jesus’ Name. Amen.