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John 16:16-22

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Easter 4
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Apr 17, 2016 

There is a huge contrast between Easter and the Christian life.

What I mean is this: In Easter, we see the victory over death in the resurrected body of our Savior.  In Easter, there is no concession or compromise with the Grave.  Christ did not partly win.  He completely shattered the enemy.  He said, “It is finished,” so that we know that all is accomplished.  The Tomb and all the forces of darkness are beaten.

Yet our Christian life is one of sorrow and burdens.  We continue to struggle with sin.  We must carry our cross.  Our lives do not usually look triumphant.  Often, we face failure after failure.  We are described by Scripture as sheep being led to the slaughter.  That old specter, Death, still stalks us, as we live in its shadow.

Both things are true.  Christ has completely won.  Yet we also contend with weakness and pain.  These are not contradictions, although they seem to be.  This is a paradox that will not fully be resolved until the Last Day.

Christ told us this would happen.  For a little while you must struggle.  For a little while, you will have sorrow.  For a little while, the sinful world will rejoice as it seems to win victory after victory over Christians.  Yet the true victory does not belong to the world, but to us.

This requires patience, because it does not seem like a little while.  From our perspective, this life keeps going on and on.  One burden is added to another.  A new sorrow comes before we have recovered from the last.  Over and over, we fight and stumble and try to pick ourselves up.

How long?  With the Psalmists, we say, “Return, O Lord!  How long?” “Let my prayer come before You.  Incline Your ear to my cry! … Why do You hide Your face from me?” “How long, O Lord?  Will You be angry forever?”

From God’s perspective, it is not a long time.  From the perspective of eternity, which is our possession as His saints, our sufferings are only a little while.

Christ suffered, and it was not too long.  He suffered the right amount.  He bled and felt anguish of body and soul for hours on the Cross.  A few moments would have been enough, so precious was His life as the Son of God.  We cannot understand how great His pain was.  He suffered the right amount so that we can know for certain that His agony fully paid for all the punishment our sins deserved.

Our lives are precious in His sight, since we are sons of God.  So He will not let us suffer too much.  We may not understand how much is too much, but He does.  We may disagree with His judgment, but we know that He is right.  We should commit ourselves into the hands of His wise providence.  It is necessary that we be like Christ in this life, carrying a cross and suffering as He did.  But it is only for a while, the right amount of time, and then we enter glory with Him.

The great bliss and wonder of that life will be that we shall see Him.  The majesty of His countenance will shine visibly upon us.  We know that in this life, He shines His face upon us, for so He promises in His Benediction.  But there we will see face to face.  There we will meet the eyes of the One who carried our burdens to the Cross.  We will bow in the visible presence of our Redeemer.

We will also see His Father.  We will bask in the light of the glory of the One who sits upon the heavenly throne.  We know the Father and His love, because we have seen the sacrifice of Christ.  To know the grace of Christ is to know the grace of His Father.  So we know the fantastic affection that He holds for us in His heart.  He did so much, and let His precious Son die for us.  We are going into His presence, where He will seat us in glory forever.

So this life of weeping and sorrow will come to an end.  At the Day of Resurrection, we will reach the completion of the path our Savior has shown us.  We have followed that path through sorrow.  Soon enough, we will follow that path into unending joy.

So we must consider ourselves to be mothers in labor.  You men will have to stretch your imagination a bit for this one.  A mother suffers through stages of labor, sometimes more intense, sometimes less.  Sometimes, the pain may feel unbearable.

But great joy soon follows, when the new life appears.  The baby was there for about nine months, but hidden.  In the same way, our life is endless through Christ.  We are immortal like Him, yet it does not appear that way.  But the Day of joy is coming when the new life in us will be made visible.

Such amazing happiness follows the moment of birth.  A mother may comfort herself with the knowledge that there is an end, and a wonderful revelation to come.  So she holds on through the pain.

There are other comforts along the way.  God in His wisdom and compassion has worked through men to produce various drugs that dull the pain of childbirth.  Amazing strides in medicine have allowed for easier, less dangerous births in general.

We Christians also have some comforts along the way.  As we struggle through pain, our compassionate Lord provides the medicine of His Supper, to strengthen us in our trials, especially when they wear us down and seem endless.  The Great Physician speaks to us to reassure us that all is well, even when it seems that it is not.  He gives fellow believers who give mutual consolation to each other in our times of need.

He who sympathizes with your pain is never far away.  He sees what you go through, and is quick to give His words of comfort.  He says to you, “Be of good courage.  This will pass.  I have purchased for you a future of joy that no one can take away.  The eternity of rejoicing that I have given you by dying and rising will never end.  When you are there, you will see and understand that this time of suffering was only a little while.”

The Spirit give us faith to trust in His promises, until that Day when our little while is ended.  Amen.

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