Text: Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” (John 16:16-22)
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! In the name of Jesus, who proved all his promises to be true when he stormed back from the grave, dear fellow celebrants and recipients of life,
About a week ago, as I was making my lunch, I looked at the Heinz ketchup bottle and noticed a question on the label. It asked, “How do you happy?” The reader was encouraged to share their happiness for a chance to win up to $5,700. The question got me to thinking about what people submitted in the hopes of getting the prize. I suppose that there were quite a few pictures of people’s families. There were probably quite a few pictures of people’s pets. There may have been some pictures of vacation destinations. Some may have sent in pictures of food with Heinz ketchup prominently displayed, hoping that would give them an inside edge on the competition. What would you have submitted? On the happiest of all days, as we celebrate the resurrection of our Savior, we turn to his promises in our text for this morning. He says, “I TELL YOU THE TRUTH . . . YOUR GRIEF WILL TURN TO JOY. It is true that 1. You Will Weep, Mourn, And Grieve, but 2. Your Grief Will Turn To Joy
If only it was true. If only that vacation was all we needed to make us happy. If only our pets always made us happy. If only our families or friends never hurt, but always made us happy. If only the ketchup covered hamburger was all it took to make our hearts smile. It maybe can make our hearts stop — but our hearts don’t always smile that easily, do they? Today is Easter. Of all the days of the year, our hearts ought to be grinning from ventricle to ventricle today. Of all the days of the year, the alleluias that have been hidden for the six weeks of Lent should be pumping through our veins. Check your pulse, it should be going, “Hal-le-lu-jah, Hal-le-lu-jah” (Hallelujah Chorus). Is yours? Maybe yours is. If so, congratulations!
But I doubt if your spiritual EKG always reads so positively. And I’m not alone in that prognosis. Our Savior once told his disciples, “I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve . . . ” Weep. Mourn. Grieve. Just a few days after saying these words, that’s exactly what Jesus sees going on among his followers on Easter Sunday morning. With the rooster’s crow still ringing in his ears, Peter goes outside and weeps bitterly. Mary Magdalene, that faithful follower of Jesus, where do we find her early this morning? Wetting the graveside with her tears. Think of that trek from Pilate’s palace to the place of the skull. As Jesus stumbled to carry his cross, the daughters of Jerusalem mourned for him, lamenting a dirge along the Via Dolorosa. Or how about on the flip side of Easter? Even with the joy of the resurrected Lord, we see Peter hurting when Jesus asks him over a shoreline breakfast one day, “Do you love me?” (John 21:17).
Why do the Scriptures share such raw emotions? Because that’s reality. If we ever have this delusion that the Christian life is one of ease, read the Scriptures and your delusion will soon be corrected. Christians hurt. We weep with sadness. We mourn over losses. We grieve over guilt. But the pages of Scripture don’t have to tell us that, do they? No, in this case the pages of Scripture simply confirm what we see in our own lives. Your heart may be smiling today. You maybe woke up today and sang, “Welcome, Happy Morning!” But I can guarantee that wasn’t the case every day since last Easter. And I can guarantee it won’t be the case every day until next Easter.
What has caused your tears this year? A loss of a job or a broken heart? Whose death did you mourn this year? A grandparent or a spouse? Are you still mourning over that loss from a few years back? What guilt has caused you to grieve this year? In one of our confessions of sins generically confess “faithless worrying and selfish pride,” but what were the “sins of habit” or the “sins of choice”? Are we too embarrassed and ashamed to even think about them here in church? The real question today isn’t what pain you have or what’s causing your grief. The question is, how will you deal with it?
Jesus had an answer for his disciples. Just prior to saying they would weep, mourn, and grieve, he counsels, “‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.’ At this, some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?’ They kept asking, ‘What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.’ Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, ‘Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’?”
Did you catch the key phrase? “A little while.” Seven times within three verses the Holy Spirit inspires John to record those words: a little while. They must be pretty important. Jesus is telling them and us, “Take a step back. See the big picture. Whatever you’re going through, whatever you’re going to go through, it won’t last long. Hang in there. In a little while, it’ll be over.” Sometimes we maybe want to slap the person who says that. When you’re on mile 21 of a marathon and the person sitting in his lawn chair says, “Just a little while yet,” you want to retort, “Easy for you to say. ‘A little while’ it’ll be over. Why don’t you run the race yourself and see if it’s ‘a little while?’”
But it’s different when Jesus says it. Jesus has a different perspective than anyone else who’s ever spoken those words. First of all, he’s all-knowing. He knows how long our “little whiles” are going to be. For the disciples, he knew most of them wouldn’t see him after they abandoned him in the garden. But he also knew he’d see them 96 hours later in the locked room. He knew exactly how long their little while would be. And he knows exactly how long your little whiles will be. He knows how long you’ll suffer with your sickness. He knows how long your heart will ache. And he promises not to let you suffer beyond what you can bear. Hang in there; it will be just “a little while.”
Not only is Jesus all-knowing, but he’s also eternal, meaning he’s got a much better grasp about how long our suffering really is in the whole scheme of things. Ask one of our veteran members here today about how time flies. They don’t just say things like, “It seems like yesterday I was learning to ride my bike.” Experience has taught them that. The last month of school that drags on for the high school senior is .5 percent of his life, but it’s only .1 percent of an 80-year-old’s life. Well, now consider our Savior’s eternal perspective. He knows our troubles are light and momentary compared to the eternal glory that awaits.
We know, because we are still in this world that has been infected by sin, we will weep, mourn, and wail. Jesus says this very plainly, “You will grieve.” However, look at how the verse finishes: “I tell you the truth . . . your grief will turn to joy.” That’s how the passage ends up. Not, “Your grief will be replaced by joy.” Not, “Your grief will coincide with joy.” But, “Your grief will turn to joy.” That is what Easter is all about. It takes a sad, seemingly hopeless situation and it turns it to joy. For the disciples, they mourned and grieved over the loss of their Savior. But when they saw him again after a little while, they realized that their Savior’s death was a payment for their sin. In view of Easter, the cross that caused them so much grief two days prior turned into a source of joy for them.
Look what Easter does to the grave. There was Mary, crying at the tomb. But when her Savior stood next to her and called her by name, Easter turned that cold hole in the rock into the rock of her faith, as it powerfully declared Jesus to be whom he claimed to be, the Son of God. Easter turned her grief into joy.
But Easter didn’t just change things for the disciples or the women at the tomb. It does it for you and for me. Instead of the guilt and grief of seeing our sins pinned on the cross, Easter turns the cross into a gift as we are assured God accepted Christ’s payment on our behalf. Instead of weeping at the grave of our loved one, Easter turns our tears into droplets that magnify the blessings we enjoy on this earth and the sure hope we have of being reunited with our loved ones where Jesus wipes every tear from our eyes. Instead of lying awake at night fearing our own death, Easter turns our fears into a longing for a pleasant sleep where our souls enjoy heaven while we wait to be reunited with our glorious bodies on the Last Day. No matter how you look at it, Easter turns our grief into joy.
It was only a few years ago that a Hindu woman went to visit a Christian missionary who had converted her 16-year-old daughter. The woman asked, “What did you do to our girl?” The missionary replied, “We did nothing.” To which the girl’s mother said, “Oh, yes you did. My daughter died yesterday, and she died smiling. Our people do not die that way.” Because of Jesus, that girl’s heart was smiling. Nothing could take that away from her. Not a family that disagreed with her beliefs. Not her guilt over sin. Not even death.
And nothing can take that away from you. Christ is risen! May that put a smile in your heart today and always. Alleluia. Let all God’s people say, “Amen.”
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