Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
John 16:16-22 16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
In this Gospel, Jesus is preparing us for our life to come as we await his return on the Last Day. It is meant to turn our sorrow into joy during our time of waiting for Him. For that reason the name of this Sunday is Jubilate: Rejoice!
A little while and you will see me no longer. He knows we do not see him now. He knows that our eyes do not behold his presence, and this leaves us feeling alone, abandoned by God, especially in times of grief, sorrow, and when we are facing death. But, he says to us, a little while and you will see me.
What love he has for us. Before His disciples even asked the question, the gospel tells us that he knew what they wanted to ask him. What love and concern he has for each one of you. Before you even ask, he already knows what you want, what you need, what you feel. He knows your sorrow and grief. He knows your feelings of shame and guilt. He knows your anxiety over your children. He knows your heartache when someone you love is nearing death. You do not see him, but he is very near to you and sees into your heart, and he comforts you. You will weep and lament, you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. You do not see Him, but he gives you his promise, and your sorrow will turn into joy. You have his word, and his word you believe and trust. You do not see him with your eyes, but by His Word you have faith. And your faith does see him right where he promised to be, in Holy Baptism and in the Bread and Wine of Holy Communion. “Lo, I shall be with you until the end of the age,” (Matt 28:20), he promises. That is… in word and Sacrament.
He knows your pain and he cares, and because of his care for you he takes action. He came into our world and suffered and died for you on the cross. His suffering and death on the cross is not merely a display of his love, it is his love in action, it is his love saving you, it is his love bringing you peace and salvation. He is not seen except in faith, but he is near to you and you are in his heart of love from now until his return.
So how then should we live? Jesus instructs us in how we are to live during this time we await his visible return. First of all live in hope and faith and joy. Assured that though we weep and are sorrowful, our sorrow will turn into joy. Indeed, we have sorrow now, but our hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you.
Second, we live as St. Peter urges us to live as sojourners and exiles, abstaining from the passions of the flesh. Keep your conduct honorable so that when men speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. Be subject to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme or to governors sent to punish those who do evil. This is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, but not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Servants be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the unjust. For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. If when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.
And third, live in love for your neighbor. As Jesus loved you and gave himself for your sins, so you too, as a child of Jesus, love and care for your neighbor and give your life for him. Jesus cares so much for you that he knows you sorrow even before you ask, care for your neighbor and as you see his need, his sorrow, his suffering, don’t even wait for him to ask your help. Run to him to support him, help him, sustain him, and strengthen him. When you see his need, respond to him even before he asks.
Take comfort in this gospel promise of Jesus. He tells his disciples that in a short time they will not see him, but then another short time and they will see him again. He is speaking to all of us as we face separation from our loved ones on account of death. Just as we do not see Jesus for a time, we will not see our loved ones when they are taken from us. As you prepare for death and your departure from this world, may this comfort fill your heart, that it is only for a short time. A “micron” in the Greek language, the smallest, tiniest period of time you can imagine. Your separation from your loved ones will be only a micron in time.
And indeed, our loved ones who depart in Christ, are with us. They are not dead, but alive in Christ and with us whenever Christ is present with us, as our Communion liturgy states, “With angels and archangels and all the company of heaven.” Christ, wherever he is, is accompanied by his full court and all his kingdom, angels, archangels, and all who have gone before us into his eternal kingdom. That is the worship in heaven which we see in the Book of Revelation.
But this comfort is only known by faith which comes from His word. He who does not have this faith in Christ, he who is not a believer, does not know this comfort. Woe to those who do not know Christ. For they have no comfort. They have no hope. There is no joy waiting for them. Those who do not know Christ by faith, do not have this promise and cannot be comforted. For this promise is for the Christian alone. Oh, what a wonderful thing it is to be a Christian, a believer in Christ Jesus. For the promise is ours. Salvation is ours. And a glorious future is ours, forever and ever. Amen.