Repentance as Gift
Fifth Sunday of Easter [c] May 19, 2019
12 [Jesus said,] “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 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 the Name of Jesus.
Do the words seem cryptic?
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”
What does Jesus mean by that? The disciples are clueless. John 16:18:
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'?" So they were saying, "What does he mean by 'a little while'? We do not know what he is talking about."
Jesus is on the way to the cross. They will see Jesus—see him accused and tried and convicted, see him spat upon and hit, see him nailed to the cross and publicly raised up for all to see, weak and humiliated.
Then they will not see him. His body, like all dead bodies, will go into the ground.
Then they will see him. His body will not be held. The bonds of death will be broken. The living Lord will come to these disciples and other disciples of his, and he will eat and drink with them. And anyone knows that neither a dead body nor a spirit eat food and drinks wine.
But Jesus will. After three days, they will see him again, death has no hold.
The disciples should’ve already known this. It hasn’t been hidden. From the moment of Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan by John the Baptist, they should’ve known he was the Christ promised by the prophets to save sinners.
They should’ve known when John the Baptist pointed at him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” that he was bearing the sin of every sinner of all generations, and for that he would go to death.
They should’ve known as they saw him cleansing lepers, healing the lame, and restoring eyes, that he was the creator of all life, and death would not hold him.
They should’ve known of the coming death on the cross and the resurrection which would follow on the third day because of what they had seen with their own eyes from the day when John baptized him up until now.
But even if they hadn’t known because of what they had seen with their own eyes as he healed the sick, cast out the demons, and spoke forgiveness to the sinner, they should’ve known because of the word of promise spoken by the Lord throughout the generations.
The promise to Adam and Eve of one who would crush Satan’s head. The promise to Noah of one who would save all peoples. The promise to Abraham of a descendant who would bless sinners. The promise spoken through Moses of one who would cleanse the conscience. The promise through David of a descendant who would gather all peoples into Israel, the Church, an everlasting kingdom.
It has always been there—the promise.
In dark times of despair, in times of suffering, in times of fear, there has always been the promise.
Despair has us looking at the hopelessness we see around us and looking back to what brought us to this despairing place.
Suffering has us looking at the sickness or the affliction or the persecution which causes us to suffer, and looking back at what we did to allow it to come to this or at what others have done to bring us to this suffering.
Fear has us dwelling at what can harm us but we have no control over.
The disciples of Jesus would know this despair and suffering and fear. They would see their Lord hanging on the cross. “Truly, truly, I say to you,” [said Jesus,] “you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful.”
But Jesus doesn’t leave them in this despair and suffering. He doesn’t leave them looking at everything around them causing fear, nor looking back at things they can’t fix, he directs them forward. He doesn’t deny anything of the present suffering, but he speaks of that which is to come, he speaks the promise:
“You will be sorrowful,” [said Jesus,] “but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
There will be joy. It’s an anticipation of what we do not have now, but will have tomorrow.
For the disciples, it was the promise that after the crucifixion, there would be the resurrection. After the sin is atoned for, the victory will be sealed and made known by the defeat of death.
For us, it is the promise that even in the midst of suffering, we must know that the sorrow will be turned to joy. Even in this present age of the persecution of the Church and of the affliction of the Christians—afflictions which may come as temptations, as injustices, as sickness and weakness, as failures—even in the affliction, we have the promise.
By the promise, we belong to tomorrow. By the promise, the death around us does not have final victory. The final victory belongs to life.
The promise is like a woman giving birth. In the giving of birth, it is sorrow and pain, even fear. But when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for the sorrow has been brought into the joy of new life.
So we also have sorrow, but Jesus will see us again. Our hearts now have pain, but will rejoice, and no one will take our joy from us. [John 16:22]
The life we live now, then, is every day pregnant with the life we will have tomorrow, even into eternity.
But now, we are in the days of tribulation. We have our own inner sufferings and distresses, our own internal doubts and fears. This is the pain of a woman in labor awaiting the joy of the new day of the birth.
It will, in our daily life, not be all tribulation and pain.
When given good days, days of peace and joy, days of health and strength, then one has much for which to give thanks. But in days of sorrow, one’s doubt is swallowed up in faith. For the days of tribulation are bringing us to the day of promise, the day of joy, the birth unto eternal life.
In that day, we will see Jesus in the flesh. We will see him face to face. We will see him with no tear in our eye, no lament on our tongue. We will see him with the fulness of joy of a mother having given birth.
It is the joy we await to see in the flesh, but in which we now rejoice as Jesus comes to us in his Word.
In his Word, his word of Gospel, his word of promise, he is purifying us of the stench of death, cleansing us of all sin, binding us to himself and to one another in the promise of the resurrection of the body.
In the Name of Jesus.