IN NOMINE JESU
Maundy Thursday was melancholy for Jesus’ disciples. The Lord made His last will and testament when He instituted His Supper. He told them what would happen to Him in a matter of hours. The Lord knew that His time of departure, His hour of death, was drawing near, for it was Holy Week. The disciples were soon to lose their Teacher, Master, and Lord. They had been with Him for three years, learning from Him as He taught them. They grew very close as they had been with each other day in and day out. Yet the time was at hand when the disciples would not see their Lord, for they would not see Him following the Crucifixion until the third day. Doubtless the disciples were in sorrow, and there were many things the Lord wanted to say to them, but their heavy hearts would not allow them to be able to listen.
There would come a point in time when the disciples would no longer see their Teacher. They would see Him betrayed into the hands of sinners. They would see Him suffer the biggest miscarriage of justice ever. They would see Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted. They would see Him nailed to the cross. They would see Him die. They would see themselves without Him, and that would be too much for them to bear. But on the third day, they would see Him alive—resurrected—risen from the dead! Jesus said they would see Him, and they would rejoice, except for the fact that they were too dumbfounded to recognize their risen Lord. They didn’t believe the Easter Day eyewitness accounts that announced the Jesus was alive. Thomas refused to believe even his fellow disciples. So hard-headed and hard-hearted were the disciples that Jesus invited Thomas to see and touch His wounds, that Jesus ate something in front of them to show that He really had risen from the dead and was not a mere ghost—to establish for them the reality that God’s not dead. Eventually, they would get it; they would finally realize that Christ is risen; their sorrow would finally turn to joy.
But their joy would not be permanent. Jesus said they would see Him because He goes to the Father. He would be with them for 40 days following His resurrection. On the 40th day He would go to His Father; He would ascend into heaven, where He would sit at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. In six weeks the disciples, whom the Lord would make apostles, would see the Lord leave this world and ascend into heaven. The thought of being without their Teacher again was too much for them to bear. The Lord says in our text, “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again in a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father” (v. 16). The soon-to-be apostles would indeed see Him as they, one by one, would be martyred for the faith, except for John, and they would eternally rest from their labors, and they would see the Lord face to face, in all His glory, in heaven. They would rest from their labors, having fought the good fight of faith, for the faith, for the sake of Christ, for the sake of the Gospel.
And so it is with us today, this Fourth Sunday of Easter, that we begin to turn our faces from the empty tomb toward heaven as we begin to look forward to celebrating our Lord’s ascension, His going to His Father, and by the Father’s grace we will see our risen Lord again, as He leads us to the marriage feast of the Lamb in His kingdom, which has no end. This hope, this certainty, gives us joy, which no one will ever take from us.
The joy of the Christian, however, is far different from the joy of the world. The world derives its joy from the perceived absence of the Lord. Its passion is without the Christ. The world’s perception is perverse, for it seeks to serve not the Lord but one’s own selfish, sinful desires. Is this what God has ordered for the universe He created? By no means! Then, again, the world in which we live has no regard for God and His Word. This is evident by the frequent and flagrant misuse of God’s Name; the majority of people that do not come to the Lord’s house each Lord’s Day to be fed on Word and Sacrament; the lack of respect children have for parents, teachers, police officers, and other authority figures; wanton disregard for human life, as if only certain lives matter; more and more couples living together and engaging in sexual intercourse prior to or even outside of marriage; corporate fraud; lying to save one’s skin rather than defending one’s neighbor; and wanting and scheming to get what is not ours to have. Yes, this unbelieving world has no regard for the Ten Commandments and even seeks to remove public displays of them. And the world rejoices when we neglect the Word of God and seek to follow the ways of the world. The world rejoices when we are not only in the world but also of the world. The world rejoices when we suffer, whether it’s on account of our health, our finances, or our broken relationships. We sorrow over these things on account of sin. We were conceived in it, regardless of whether our parents were married because they’re sinners, too. We were born in sin. We live in sin. We live in a world filled with sin. We live in a world filled with the darkness that comes from not recognizing Jesus Christ as the Light of the world. This brings great sorrow to God, who has made us and desires that all people be saved. When we live apart from God, we do so to our own condemnation, where sorrow will be the least of our concerns, for we, apart from Christ, will be in a place where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, in the fires of hell.
Even though we sinners often speak and act as if we are apart from the Lord, we can take comfort that the Lord is still near us, that He is in fact with us. Saint John testifies as he says in Revelation 21, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God’” (Rev. 21:3). He is indeed with us, for His Name Immanuel means “God with us.” He promised His disciples and promises us in the last chapter of St. Matthew, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:20b). As the Lord instructed John, the Holy Spirit instructed Matthew, “Write, for these words are true and faithful” (Rev. 21:5b). This means that our God has promised to be with us, no matter what happens.
Jesus, our Immanuel, is with us today in His Word. Yet we do not see Him, but by faith we behold Him, for we walk by faith and not by sight. The heavenly Bridegroom is with His bride, the Church, whom He has cleansed with His blood, making her presentable to God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Behold, He who makes all things new has made us new. He made us new at our Baptism and in our living our Baptism, as the Old Adam in us drowns and dies each day in all sins and evil desires and as the new man daily emerges and arises to live before god in righteousness and purity forever. He makes us new in the forgiveness of sins, which is an extension of our Baptism. He made us new this morning at the beginning of Divine Service. We see our risen Lord in His body and blood, tasting His forgiveness upon our lips. Behold, He who has made us new will make us new again at the resurrection of the body on the Last Day, when He will raise us and all the dead, and give eternal life to us and all believers in Christ. The old body will be gone, and we shall look like Christ, for we will regain the image of God once lost in the Fall.
Whatever sorrow we have for our not being in heaven, in God’s kingdom of glory, will turn to joy as the Lord has claimed us as His own and will gather us to Himself on the Last Day, “and God will wipe away every tear from [our] eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). As the Lord says in our text, “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” (v. 22).
As we begin to focus on our Lord’s ascension, we keep in mind the central message of Easter, that Christ who once was slain has burst His three-day prison. The disciples were in sorrow for the Lord’s body lay in the tomb, and they saw Him not. But their sorrow turned to joy when they saw the risen Lord, who gave them His peace. The peace He gave them He also gives to us, that peace which the world cannot give. Jesus Christ died so that we would not sorrow but live in the forgiveness He won on the cross for us. And now is Christ arisen…He lives! “He lives to silence all my fears; He lives to wipe away my tears; He lives to calm my troubled heart; He lives all blessings to impart” (LSB 461:5). God grant this in Jesus’ Name and for His sake.
Christ is risen! HE IS RISEN, INDEED! ALLELUIA! Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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