The Introit p. 16
The Gloria Patri
The Kyrie p. 17
The Gloria in Excelsis
The Salutation and Collect p. 19
The Epistle and Gradual
Praise be to Thee, O Christ!
The Nicene Creed p. 22
The Sermon Hymn # 518 If Thou But Suffer God To Guide Thee
A Little While - Jesus' Sermon of Comfort
The Sanctus p. 26
The Lord's Prayer p. 27
The Words of Institution
The Agnus Dei p. 28
The Nunc Dimittis p. 29
The Benediction p. 31
The Hymn #231 We Now Implore
THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER
Jesus' Sermon about Patience
KJV John 16:16 A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
Lenski: 10. The Little While of Sorrow, 16:16-24
The return of Jesus to his Sender brings such an advantage to the disciples (v. 7) in the coming and the work of the Paraclete that joy instead of great sorrow should fill their hearts. Now Jesus adds the further comfort that the separation shall be for "a little while" only. We have the same connection in 14:16, 17, the promise of the Paraclete, and v. 18, 19, the promise of Jesus' coming and of the disciples' be holding him. A little while, and you no longer be hold me; and again a little while, and you shall see me. The separation is to be short.
1. First, we will consider this narrative in the simplest manner, as it occurred after the Last Supper, while the Lord was in the garden on the way with his disciples to his last sufferings and death. In this historical narrative of today’s Gospel the Lord preaches his death and resurrection to his disciples, the words of which narrative the disciples at the time failed to understand, these words being to them dark sayings and totally hidden from them — an experience that may easily be ours, those of us who are not yet firmly established in the faith. What, however, hindered the beloved disciples from understanding the narrative? This, namely, that they thought Christ was about to establish a temporal kingdom which would make an impression upon the world, and move along in pure, perpetual life, not in death, of which he here speaks when he says: “A little while, and ye behold me no more.” As if he wished to say: I will be with you yet a little while longer, perhaps to midnight; after that I will die and be buried, and be taken out of your sight, so that you will see me no more. But again a little while and ye shall see me; that is, on the third day I will arise again and see you again, and ye shall see me again.
This is certainly one of the most peculiar of all Jesus' sermons in the Gospel of John, where the use of repetition is used far beyond our expectation. The same tiny Greek word for "a little while" is used seven times. That serves two purposes.
The first is emphasis. If it repeated so often, then the phrase must be important as one of the last sermons Jesus gave to His disciples in His ministry, before His death and resurrection. A similar example is Paul's seven-fold use of "one" in Ephesians 4.
The second purpose is related - teaching. Brief phrases, repeated, stick in our minds easily, and there is a bit of the annoyance factor that makes us wonder why this has been transmitted to us in a form where the Holy Spirit is quite concise. This lesson is intended to teach us patience in suffering, because all such periods are a little while to God, if not to us at that time of sorrow and pain.
This is a good example of Jesus preparing His disciples for His death and resurrection, although they appear to have forgotten everything in those days of real terror and profound sorrow. He strengthened them through the Word - enough to keep them together in the days after the crucifixion. And He built them up again during His resurrection appearances.
These passages are for us to know first and later apply in our lives, because we do not really comprehend them until the crisis is upon us. That is when we need to trust the Word of God completely and listen only to the Shepherd's voice and let all other voices go.
17 Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father?
The disciples not only asked for themselves, but also for us. Because they have taken hold of this saying, we wonder too. What exactly does Jesus mean? It certainly goes beyond the obvious part that we know, that they would lose Him to the crucifixion but behold Him again on that first Easter, when "they disbelieved for joy." (Luke)
Going to the Father means that the ministry of Jesus that they knew before would change. Jesus would ascend to the Father and continue on a global scale, not in one nature, as if He were only the Son of God but retaining the human nature which He obtained by being born of the Virgin.
That seems like such a fragile foundation for the Christian Church. These timid, grief-stricked disciples would be the preachers of the Gospel in the first generation and also train local pastors for their work. But that worked according to divine plan because of the sending of the Spirit to guide, direct, and encourage the disciples at all times, reminding them of what Jesus taught them.
In a time of grief and crisis, that event occupies our minds so completely that we can hardly think of anything else. Because of that occupation, seeing anything beyond the moment is extremely difficult. That is why this sermon by Jesus is so important, that we already know it in words before we experience in life.
And then, when we pass through such trials, faithful believers are confirmed in their trust in the Savior and in the Word of the Gospel. We say to ourselves and to others - "I have experienced the same pain and wondered too. And I seemed locked in that crisis. And yet, looking back, it was a little while."
Luther lived this for decades because he went through many years where he was a criminal in the eyes of the empire and the Church of Rome. He expected to be a martyr. We call 1517 the beginning of the Reformation. But 13 years later Luther could not attend the Imperial Diet at Augsburg (Augsburg Confession/Confessio Augustana) but remained hidden away in a fortress. That is indeed a long wait. Not only was Europe in doctrinal turmoil, but the Islamic armies came as far as Vienna up until the Formula of Concord, 1580.
So Luther thought in terms of eternity rather than pension funds and mission goals. His first hymn, Flung to the Heedless Winds, was written in memory of the first Lutheran martyrs, burned at the stake. Now we think it is bad that someone is condemned and shunned, even though he keeps his pension plan.
19 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?
It is a little amusing that the disciples discussed it among themselves when Jesus knew their thoughts. That is the kind of detail we should enjoy in the Gospel of John, because we can feel the first-hand intimate portrait of the event. They all wondered and therefore they all needed to be taught so that important phrase would be the anchor of their lesson on patience in suffering.
As Lenski noted in his commentary, there seems to be a contradiction between the hope of "a little while" and "I am going to the Father." This going cannot be anything other than going away, and yet the Ascension of Jesus was not a loss but a triumph and the beginning of their missionary activity, after Pentecost.
And this is all going to be rather rushed, because the disciples would be flattened by the crucifixion, then taught with the 500 before the Ascension, and unleashed on the pagan world, alone but not alone, to preach the Gospel.
Luther - Faithful Villains
Aye, how friendly and lovingly he associated with us and showed us all exceptional love and friendship! And we have acted thus toward him, have forsaken him and are forsaken by him. Like unfaithful villains, we have denied him, have misused his teachings and grace. What will become of us?
We dare not appear before God, neither can we stand before man, much less before Satan. There is now no consolation. The Savior has departed.
We are in a hopeless, condemned and lost state. Observe, the beloved disciples stood in such anxiety, need and grief that no fasting, no praying, no chastisement, could have helped them. All was lost.
7. In like manner God deals with his children today. Whenever he wants to comfort them, he first plunges them into similar anxiety and temptation. It is agony unbearable when the conscience passes sentence against one. The heart and every refuge fail and anxiety penetrates every nook of the conscience. Anguish and fear consume the marrow and bone, flesh and blood, as the prophet David often laments in his Psalms.
20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.
This parable of child-birth is one we all know from experience or from hearing the stories. Our son was born on the third trip to the hospital. One professor's wife asked so many times that I put a notice on our apartment door - "Not yet, Franny."
I told her, "The announcement is when the sign disappears." She thought that was great.
When something momentous, troubling, or painful is weighing on us, we are to remember the child-birth parable as an explanation of endurance in suffering. The problem weighs us down and presses on us in every possible way. I always tell students, "This degree seems so far into the future, but you will look back on it and say - that was more like a few weeks, not a few years." That has encouraged many of them to stick with it, because giving up seems like a vacation at the moment. Likewise, those who do not trust in God engage in self-destructive behavior because of impatience. I cannot recall how many felt making up a few assignments was beyond their endurance and strength, when simply doing the work could have been done in a day. And of course, that is nothing compared to dealing with multi-year problems. But in our minds, if it is a crisis, then our lives can be consumed by it.
The special nature of this "little while" is the ability to see what the Holy Spirit is teaching us. There is no such thing as a bad outcome in faith, if we measure according to eternity, which is God's time-table (not ours).
And when we come out on the other side of that long, dark tunnel, whether in this life or the next, we see how God transforms and uses the painful moments of life.
In this life- God says, "You thought this was so terrible, and it was for a little while, but that became a time where something new and better was shown to you."
The disciples wanted to continue, but Jesus gave them a world-wide ministry without His visible presence. Yet they knew His real presence and knew no limits in where they went and what they suffered for Him and for the Gospel. Paul wrote about all the things he wanted to do and yet he languished in prison. However, his most joyful epistles were from prison, while the followers sorrowed. He understood this sermon from Jesus.
22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Jesus knew about His suffering in advance - and all the faithful villains (the Twelve) would do. But He was faithful in that role as Teacher and Savior. And for that reason, being without sin, He conquered sin for mankind and was victorious over death.
The depth of sorrow will be matched and even exceeded by joy when Jesus rises again. This is not enough for the disciples now, but will reverberate in their minds when all these events unfold.
As I told one widow in our highschool class. the grief remains and never goes away completely. Nor should it. But grief for a believer is healing. Slowly the pain is transformed to joy because the memories that were so painful at first become something to laugh about and be thankful about.
And for those who lose someone late in life, the little while is only so many years, not a long time.
We lost our daughters about 30 years ago, and we still feel the sorrow at times, and it pressed down hard. But most of the time, those memory buttons get pushed for the oddest reasons and we laugh about something connected with them, no different from when we talk abut and laugh about our son's antics. So we point out, not we had two daughters, but we have two daughters.
No one can take that joy from us. I would say to any parent, too, no matter what pain your child is giving you at the moment, having a child - born or adopted - is a great blessing from God. All the joy and pain are wrapped up together.
23 And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you.
Here is a Promise that has some startling words - Don't ask ME anymore, after this happens. Instead, ask the Father in My Name, and He will give it to you. What sounds strange at first is the next step in their work, and it remains a great Promise to us as well.