“Rejoice! The Lord Is Risen Indeed!” This is the message of The Church during this joyful Eastertide. She reminds us every week that Our Lord has conquered sin, death, and the grave. He has nailed these our enemies to His Cross and buried them in His Tomb. He has done it already, long ago, so rejoice!
Rejoice, but wait. Wait a little while. Forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours already, right now. You have them since you are baptized. But you can’t see that yet. You may not feel forgiven. You see death all around you. Salvation is just a hope you can’t see, feel, smell, or taste. So today God The Holy Ghost tells you: “It will be just a little while.”
It’s been 3 weeks now since Easter, yet today we hear from Our Lord’s sermon to His disciples on Maundy Thursday. We’ll hear excerpts from this sermon every Sunday through Pentecost. Since we are unable to ponder all He said on that night on that night, The Church has us read it now, just not in order. We read it to prepare ourselves for Our Lord’s Ascension and for Pentecost. So next Sunday we’ll hear about the work of The Holy Ghost. On the following Sunday we’ll learn to speak to Our Risen Lord through prayer. On the following Sunday, the one before Pentecost, we’ll learn He speaks back to us through His holy Word; The Holy Ghost works through that Word, Sacred Scripture. On Pentecost we’ll learn The Spirit speaks Jesus’ Word to us in order to give us peace with God, the very peace the angels sang about on Christmas.
Today we begin to prepare for His Ascension. When He said, “a little while and you will not see Me, and again a little while and you will see Me,” He was referring to His Death and Resurrection. Within 24 hours He was dead and buried. But about 48 hours after that they saw Him again, in that very room, alive and well. But when we read these words today, they take on a new meaning. They refer to the fact that the disciples no longer saw their Lord after He ascended into heaven. Now He is telling us that it is not a long while until He returns on the last day. No, it will be soon and very soon!
But it doesn’t seem like it. To Him 1000 years seems like nothing; after all, He’s eternal – He’s never not existed. But our few years seem like forever to us. The school year is almost over, and our teachers can’t believe it. But to their students it seems like it’s taken forever to get this far and will take forever to get to the end! During this year, they’ve had grief and tribulation. Perhaps they didn’t do their homework. Perhaps they didn’t feel up to the task. Perhaps they put up with a bully. Perhaps they broke a bone on the playground. Perhaps they lost a loved one or something sad happened to them. Or perhaps it just felt like forever because they can’t wait for summer to get here – and for winter to go away for good!
And how is your life? There are preachers – they are famous, you can find them on TV and in bookstores – who will tell you what kind of life they think you should have, dear Christian. It should be wonderful. No illness should be able to end your life. Poverty should not come near your tent. Your life should be better than the ideal life you saw on TV when you were young. If it isn’t that way, then perhaps God doesn’t love you and you need to get Him to love you. This is the core of their preaching.
But did our Lord’s disciples experience any of this? St. Paul himself reports a thorn in his flesh that God didn’t take away from Him. In that same Epistle that you heard on Sexagesima, 11 Sundays ago, he mentions imprisonments, lashings, beatings, a stoning, shipwrecks, danger from anything and anyone, toil and hardship, restlessness, hunger and thirst, being cold and exposed, having pressure and anxiety. All the others suffered much too, and all but St. John died a martyr’s death. St. Peter was crucified upside down and St. Andrew on an X. Some, like St. Paul and St. James the Greater, were beheaded. St. Bartholomew lost his skin.
So don’t be surprised that life isn’t perfect. Don’t be surprised when you get sick or when your bills get to be too much. Don’t be surprised when it turns out your car is a lemon. Don’t be surprised when you or a loved one fall into sin. Don’t be surprised when a Christian loved one dies suddenly. Don’t be surprised, but don’t let the devil tell you God has lost control or doesn’t even exist or love you. Don’t let him tell you that. When he tells you that, tell him: “I am baptized into Christ. He lives. He is coming again, soon!”
Jesus’ promise is most certainly true. He has the power and the authority to make it. For He was born of woman to take grief out of the world. He was born again out of the grave to take death out of the world. They mourned when He died, but they rejoiced when they saw that He lives again forever. He received His power and authority from His Father. He suffered hell on The Cross for us, and then He went to His Father when He died. His Father sent Him to do it, so He went to Him to show He had accomplished our salvation. The Father raised Him from the dead to declare that we are saved. He now is ruling all things for us. He is coming again to judge the living and the dead. He is coming to give you, O Christian, life everlasting. That’s what He will do on the last day. He will raise you from the dead and cause you to live with Him forever.
That life will be most blessed forever. You will be with Jesus. The grave will give birth to you. You will be like Him. Your risen body will be like His risen Body. You will live forever. You will never cry. You will never be hungry or thirsty. You will never have pain. Your mind and body will never get sick. You will never age or tire. You will never sin. You will never be sad. You will never have sorrow. The demons of this world will be nowhere near you. You will have joy, pure joy only, forever. Joy to be with Jesus. Joy to live with Him, to see Him!, forever.
It will just be a little while now. You are closer to that day now than when you first believed. It is true, your death may come first, but then your soul shall be with Him as your body awaits its raising to new life again in its bed, the grave. And this little while will surely seem to be just that as you live forever – no end ever in sight – with Him. And then you will rejoice.
So “Make a joyful noise unto God, all ye lands! Sing forth the honor of His Name; make His praise glorious.” Don’t wait until the Lord comes again. Do it now, for He has sent redemption unto His people, yes to you, the sheep of His pasture. Christ our Lord suffered and rose from the dead and only then entered into His glory. So in this life you will have tribulations. In fact it is only through tribulations that we enter into the kingdom of God. Your glory is promised, and you will find it in the life to come. Until then, catch glimpses of it here, in His holy sanctuary. His Word will picture it to you. His Sacrament will give it to you. And then, rejoice! The little while will soon come to a blessed end.