Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
Messiah Lutheran Church
Easter 3 – Jubilate (April 13, 2008)
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TITLE: “A Little While”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text is from the Gospel lesson. We focus on Jesus’ words, A Little While.
What is the “little while” to which our Lord refers? It is the three days in the tomb. Our text for this morning is a part of Jesus’ sermon to His disciples on the night in which He was betrayed. He has washed their feet like a servant. He has served them with His very body and blood. He is strengthening their faith and preparing them for the life of suffering and glory which is to come for them. So He now gets them ready for the time when He will leave them in death and return to them again on the third day.
Of course as we learned on Good Friday, there is no real preparation for death. It comes, sure as the morning. It always comes. It always kills. Death always follows sin. There is no such thing as sin without death. They always go together. But our Lord, who is the victor over both sin and death, wants His disciples to know what is coming, so that when it is over they may look back and believe in Him.
This is the way of suffering, whether it be suffering over sin or much more so suffering over faith. When you are in the midst of a trial and hardship, you cannot see past it. It defines you. If you lose a child or a parent or a friend or other family member, the last thing you want is someone coming up to you and saying, “Don’t worry. You’ll forget about this soon.” There is a real sense that when you are in the midst of such grief, you don’t want to be robbed of it. Things must happen at their pacing. The book of Ecclesiastes puts it well:
[There is] a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance; (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
God, of course, orders things very well. He sets it up so that joy often precedes sorrow in our daily lives. A married couple usually beginning their life together with joy and happiness, and it is only after a time that they experience hardship and difficulties together. Things are almost always great at the beginning of a new job, but it is only when you get into it that you discover what you really got yourself into. And school is great until the assignments start coming due! This is the way that God orders things in the world, because He knows that if we really knew how hard things would be at time, we would never have agreed to it in the first place.
This isn’t deception on His part. No, this is our heavenly Father knowing our strengths and weaknesses. He knows what we are able to handle and receive with grace, and how much will drive us to despair and death itself. He knows how to take care of His own, and that means you.
Now if this is try for our lives here on earth, our relationships with each other and with the world, how much more is this true when it comes to the faith and eternal life! You are patterned after our Lord Jesus Christ. You have been stamped with His image in Holy Baptism, the image of the only begotten Son of the Father. The path that you walk in this life is His path, not yours. He knows the trials that you face. He knows the evils that beset you, the temptations that you make war with every day. That’s why your time of trial is like our Lord’s. It is “a little while.” For just as Jesus lay in the tomb for three days and rose again victorious, even so you will be planted and tilled over in this life for a little while, and then you will rise again from the dead.
What I think is difficult for us is rejoicing in our sufferings, as St. Paul exhorts us to do (Romans 5:3). Even if you know it is only for a little while, that doesn’t make it any easier at the time. But the key is understanding your life under the cross in the light of Christ. When you suffer, it is a sign that you are in Christ and that Christ is in you. One Lutheran pastor put it this way:
How could it make sense if Christ had to hang on the cross and you wanted constantly to live in happiness? Would you be wanting to have your paradise in this life, even though Christ had to suffer so much adversity here? Certainly not! Instead, let it be dear to you that you are made like unto Christ through tribulation. If He sanctified our Baptism by His Baptism, then He also has sanctified our cross and tribulation with His cross and tribulation. That’s why the true believers’ suffering and adversity is called a cross, because they bear it after the crucified Christ (Johann Gerhard, Postilla,p. 389-390).
Jesus promises that the suffering you endure is but for a time. This suffering is called a cross for you, and it is precious. In a little while your suffering will be over. In a little while you will rise from the dead. Today you eat and drink at the Lord’s Table, to give you strength for the battles of this life, but in a little while you will eat and drink face to face with the Lamb in His Kingdom, which has no end. Today you rejoice in the midst of suffering, but in a little while you will rejoice and not even remember the pain, because of the glory that is yours in Jesus. Remember the words from Isaiah:
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
his understanding is unsearchable.
He gives power to the faint,
and to him who has no might he increases strength.
Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint. (Isaiah 40:28-31)
Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.