21. April 2013
The Scriptures describe our reality as an exodus, a journey between two worlds. The old world is one of bondage to sin under the tyrannical rule of the Law. This world is marked by suffering, grief, anguish, and death. And roaming about the world is its ruler the Devil. We were born into this world, born of the flesh, to suffer and die as all have since Adam.
Your loving and merciful God wants all to be saved from this body of death. Thus, He sent His Son Jesus in the flesh, to redeem those of flesh. His Son gave himself into your bondage, lived under the law, suffered in your sorrow, and died for you. By His death, He destroyed death’s stranglehold, released you from your sin, and tore you from the Devil’s grasp.
This became yours in Holy Baptism. Satan’s demon was exorcised, all your sin forgiven, your flesh crucified, the old Adam drowned. Each day, by Baptism, your sin is forgiven, your death gotten over with, and Christ’s righteousness given to you. A new Adam rises from the ashes of the old. Being done. God’s work-in-progress. And on the last day God will raise you and all the dead and give to you and all believers in Christ eternal life. Done. Complete. Here in time and there in eternity.
Thus, your life is an exodus, passing from death to life. St. Paul describes it as running a race, a marathon. All along the course of this life, you are still haunted by sin, devil, and death. They nip at your heels, trying to drag you back to Sheol. Your mortal enemies want nothing better than for you to lose faith, lose sight of the goal, to lose Jesus. These defeated enemies are relentless. They have lost but have not given up.
But you are not without hope. You see with faith’s eyes the finish line. You see and know full forgiveness, the resurrected body, and unending life with Christ and all the saints. Christ Jesus blazed the trail of salvation. He entered into the holy city as king, then to be crucified, and die at the behest of the Jews and the hands of the Romans. All cried out to crucify Him. God died your death with weight of the world’s sin upon Him. He was buried but on the third day rose from the grave.
Jesus has shown you the way of salvation. It is to die with Him and then to rise with Him. By Baptism, you were buried. And by Baptism, you also rose. This good work of God is begun in you and will see its completion in the day of Jesus Christ. Thus we are pilgrims, exodus-ing with Christ Jesus on the way He trod. Yes, we will die but so will the old Man finally be laid to rest. And with Christ’s command, with the voice of a trumpet, He will call us out of the grave, resurrected and living in His holiness and righteousness forever.
Jesus describes this reality in today’s Holy Gospel. “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” This became real for the disciples twice. First, Jesus “departed” into the grave but after “a little while,” some three days, He appeared to them again. He rose from the dead and appeared before them as proof. they saw Him and believed. St. Thomas put his hands in the resurrected Savior’s wounds. They have seen and testify this is the truth. Then, after fifty days, they saw Him no longer for Jesus rose into the heavens and is seated at the Father’s right hand. They will not see Him in the flesh again until another “little while,” when He comes on the Last Day. Their faith rested on His promise of return.
Today, we stand with the disciples in the midst of the second “little while.” We cannot see our Lord apart from faith in the Evangelists’ testimony. Indeed, over these recent weeks we have witnessed events that would lead us to believe our Lord is gone and absent from creation. The trial of serial murderer-by-abortion Kermit Gosnell began. Witness after witness described the brutal killing of children born alive. We heard of the explosion of a chemical factory in Texas with a dozen killed and many more injured. There was the earthquake in China, killing 157 and injuring thousands. Storms blew through the country with many floodwaters still rising and destroying property and possessions. And there was the bombing this week in Boston, killing three and injuring many.
If we look for God in these things, we despair. During this “little while,” Jesus’ words ring true. “You will weep and lament…” Our weeping and lamenting begins for the lives lost, homes and possessions destroyed, and the gruesome murders in that Philadelphia clinic. We weep and lament because we see how corrupt our world is. We witness tragedy after tragedy. We see how nature itself is at odds with us, seeking to destroy us. We observe the corruption of mankind as we struggle to understand the bombers and their motives. As we look to these things we see only the terrifying old world of sin and death.
Our weeping and lamenting won’t end when the sting of this week’s tragedy and deaths fade. Our sorrow continues even when things seem better. When the sun shines, the flower blooms, and even when life comes into the world, we Christians still cry tears. Why? We know the reality of our fallen flesh and corrupt world. We don’t hope for a better life now. We confess our sinfulness in sorrow and contrition. Dear Lord, we want to do better!
The world rejoices while Christians cry over sin. The world thinks disobedience before God a figment of our imagination. The world cheers in mockery when you drag yourself to church. They think it hilarious that we would acknowledge your nature before your God. And not just sin but forgiveness, too! They laugh at your faith, thinking it absurd that God the Father for the sake of Jesus forgives you. Salvation in Jesus alone is too good to be true. Life eternal is a joke for late-night TV.
For the world and it’s errors, we also are in sorrow. That so many, even those closest to us, would find the true faith to be a joke—that also grieves us. We mourn that so few listen to the Holy Spirit speaking through the Word. We weep that too many ignore the truth and follow after error.
Jesus has a special word for us. “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.” For now, while we are on this journey, our lives are full of grief and sorrow. We lament that state of the world and our flesh. We grieve that so few believe that forgiveness in Jesus’ blood is the only lasting remedy for this sorrow. But do not grieve without hope. We know that Christ is raised and that we, too, will be raised with Him. On that day, all fear and sorrow will be banished. Only life and joy will remain. Our sin will be forgotten. No trace of death will remain. The evil one gone.
Like the woman giving birth, Jesus says, the sorrow only lasts for a time. Yes, all creation cries out in the pangs of childbirth. Daily dying to sin and rising in Christ comes in those difficult words of contrition. It’s difficult business. The journey is hard, the warfare long. But through this difficulty, your lives are being transformed. God’s image and likeness is being restored in you through repentance and forgiveness.
Just like the mother whose baby is delivered, so also for the children of God. You grieve for now but in the end you will no longer remember our anguish. Each day, through Christ’s forgiveness your sorrow is turned to joy. And when the work of your rebirth by the Holy Spirit is complete, you will have forgotten this present darkness. The way of salvation is known. Christ Jesus has crossed the finish line already. You get to ride in on His coattails as a free gift. On that day you will see the “man born into this world,” Jesus Christ, the only-begotten of God, born of St. Mary. Now in the Lord’s Supper you see Him as in a mirror dimly but then you will see Him face to face. And when we see Him, your hearts will rejoice, and “no one will take your joy from you.”
In Name of the Father, + Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.
Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
Grace Lutheran Church