In the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.
John 16:22 “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.”
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our Lord… This day in the Church Year is called “Jubilate Sunday” – rejoicing Sunday. These Sundays after Easter reveal to us what Easter means in our lives. Jubilate – Rejoice! We sang together in the Introit, “Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth.” And what we will take home with us today is this: that although in this world we have sorrow, Christ’s gifts and promises give us joy.
Jesus says in our text today, “You now have sorrow.” When does our Lord say this? He says this on the night He was betrayed. The disciples are sorrowful because the Lord has told them He will soon be crucified. “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament,” says our Lord in verse 20. To lament is to sing a dirge, a mournful song of death and burial.
On the way to the cross, women were following along, weeping and wailing and singing loud lamentations, as it says in Luke 23 (27-28): “And a great multitude of the people followed [Jesus], and women who also mourned and lamented Him. But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children.”
“Weep for yourselves,” Jesus said. What does this mean? We live in a culture which provides us with many opportunities for weeping. The world in which we live is reeling from the obscene and horrid stories and videos of Christians around the world being murdered, drowned, beheaded and mutilated. We still live in the shadow of 9/11, Oklahoma City, Aurora, Columbine, and Boston. We live in the reality of an unstable Middle East. We live in the reality of weather-related disasters. We live in the reality of over 2,200 folks feared dead in the Nepal earthquake…and the number keeps rising. We live in the reality of a Longmont mother whose unborn child was cut out of her and died, a situation only made worse by the ungodly and gutless lack of laws in this state to punish the criminal for taking the life of that child.
Yes, we have many opportunities for weeping. We weep for ourselves, for others who are hurting, and we weep for the general situation in our world – a world which daily and incessantly reminds us of the ravages and effects of sin.
And while counseling or chemical solutions might help on the surface, they do not get to the heart of the problem, the problem that every human faces: sin, and as a result of sin, death.
When Jesus says in our text, “Weep for yourselves,” or when He says “You now have sorrow,” He does not call us to self-pity or anger or impatience, or greed, or any other thing that casts us into depression. All these things are, at the end of the day, rebellion against our Creator, imagining that we are not being treated fairly, that somehow we deserve better from God, that our problems are someone else’s fault. What we need – what we always need each and every day – is to confess our sins. It is in this way that we “weep for ourselves” over the fact that we are such great sinners; we mourn and lament our depravity. And if we confess our sins, God who is faithful and just gives us joy.
Jesus says today, “You now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.” What is He talking about here? When does He see them again? He sees them again on the evening of the Resurrection, when He appeared among them, while the doors were locked because they were cowering in fear. What does He say when He comes to them? We heard this in our Gospel two weeks ago: “Peace be with you” (John 20:21). And then our Lord gave the Church a great gift: “Peace be with you… If you (My Apostles and Pastors) forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven. If you retain anyone’s sins, they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Peace, Joy, Forgiveness – they all go together!
The Apostles’ joy was in the Lord’s resurrection, and that joy stayed with them even after His Ascension, as it says in Luke 24, “And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God” (vv. 52-53). Thus should it be with us. St. Paul described the life of the baptized in Romans 12: (10-12), “Be [kind] to one another…rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer…”
You can be “patient in tribulation” precisely because of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. We DO “rejoice in hope” every time we confess the Creed, the ancient and undeniable truths from Scripture. Trials and difficulties and sickness and sorrow all become unimportant when you consider what the Lord gives to us when we confess, “I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins, and I look” (not for the things of this present world of death and decay and sins, but I look) “for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.” The person who says and believes THAT has joy no matter what kinds of tribulation may come!
Jesus says, “Therefore you now have sorrow,” but how should we handle those sorrows? Christians do not live by the sorrow and sin and sickness of the world, but by the joy of the resurrection and the peace that His forgiveness brings! Our troubles are only “for a little while.” St. Peter writes, “In [God’s salvation] you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials” (I Peter 1:6). We bear our various trials knowing that they are but “for a little while.”
Jesus said, “A little while and you will see Me…and your sorrow will turn into joy.” St. Paul calls all of our afflictions, all of our troubles, all of our sorrows, even death “light” compared to the joys that are ours in Christ. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Cor. 4:16-18).
But until such time, how do we live now as Christians? Jesus says, “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice…” The world rejoiced and demons laughed at Christ’s crucifixion and death, and it is still this way today. The world calls good evil, and evil good. In our Baptism we are called to “renounce the devil and all of his works and all of his ways.” We are called to renounce the world which is under the devil’s sway. So we are never done with our Baptism, but we are always living in Baptism’s forgiveness, always living in that renunciation of the devil, always living in what Baptism makes us and what Scripture declares it makes us – saved children of God.
In Christ even death is only a “light affliction.” Death could not hold our Lord, and death cannot hold the baptized. Christ has trampled down death by His own death. And so as Baptized children of God we rise with Christ every day. In Christ we cast off the works of death and darkness.
You, O baptized child of God, are a new creation, for Christ says, “Behold, I make all things new.” So, let us sing bright Alleluias every day. Let us live shouting full-throated songs of joy to Christ who kept the Law, who was slaughtered as our unblemished Lamb, who has burst the tomb, and who has given us His Spirit.
Let us live in gladness and joy. Let us love one another as He has loved us. Let us keep the Feast. Let us remember the Paschal Feast every day of our lives until we keep the Feast together with all the saints at the marriage Feast of the lamb in His kingdom which has no end. And until that day we continue to celebrate that Feast each and every Lord’s Day here at this altar where Christ does more than just remind of His work, but comes to us physically, really, placing His living and resurrected body into our sinful, dying bodies, taking up residence in us, and keeping us in His faith and life during this “little while.”
From this day forward let us love God and live together in unity as brothers and sisters, encouraging one another, reminding one another of Christ’s resurrection, praying for one another, receiving His gifts with gladness and sincerity of heart.
When the Holy Things are in our mouths, we are armed against the assaults of the devil, armed against the sorrows of the world. Living in the glad hope of the resurrection we are mindful of Christ’s words, “I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.”
The Lord is not slow about His promise. It will be only “a little while” and we will see Him. And there in heaven we will have no more requests to make of Him, no more questions to ask Him, for there will be nothing left to be desired, for we shall be with God, and there will be joy beyond all knowing.
Even in the midst of sorrow we have joy, for Christ is risen and even death itself is defeated! Be joyful, for Christ is risen and the evil ones are cast down! Be joyful, for Christ is risen and the angels rejoice! Be joyful, for Christ is risen and the tomb is emptied of its death; for Christ, having risen from the dead, is become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
“Make a joyful shout to God, all the earth. Sing out the honor of His name, make His praise glorious. Alleluia!”
“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 name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit.