4/24/16 5th Sunday in Easter
Text: John 16: 12-22
IN A LITTLE WHILE
As a parent I recall using this phrase quite often when my children or grandchildren ask for something. “In a little while”, maybe some of you have used that term as well. What is a little while? To a young child that can seem an eternity when they are waiting on a treat, another bite of ice cream or some other sweet thing. Maybe this time of year it might be a venture to the great outdoors as the children love to roam and explore God’s beautiful creation on these spring days when all seems to be coming back to life. Adventures await smelling the fresh air, seeing the buds exploding as the trees, bushes and flowers show their glory after a long enduring winter. We are blessed to experience the four seasons here in Michigan and go through the changes of various climates that accompany the varied times of year.
John reminds us in his writing from Revelation that all things are made new just as the changes of the seasons and weather reminds us of God’s ever abiding presence. He is making all things new for us as followers of Christ. As John states in verse 3; “The dwelling place of God is with man, he will dwell with them, and they will be his people and God himself will be with them as their God.. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” This wonderful reassurance comes to us in the midst of great uncertainty that we face in our present life.
There are trials and times of not knowing what lies ahead for each of us. We don’t know if there will be the job we are preparing for in our studies. We don’t know who God will place in our path to by our life-long mate or will there be one for us? Our health has questions that cause us to wonder what tomorrow will look like and how much longer we have to endure the suffering. Death will be no more John states in the Revelation 21:4. How can this be? We know that we are all born and brought into this world isn’t there an ending point as well that we have to face? Yes, of course there is death in the physical realm we will die an earthly physical death. John is referring to living eternally with our Lord, Savior and Redeemer. No longer will we have to wonder, doubt or question what will happen to us after we stop breathing and living in this physical world.
When we have Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior and we live that in our daily life we no longer have to wonder or worry about our future. We spend lots of time planning our future, planning for retirement, planning for college or buying a vacation home. Do we put as much energy and resource into planning for our future with our Lord? The study of His Word, coming to worship, daily devotions, prayer throughout the day, these are all ways that we connect with our Lord who has come to reside with us as John also tells us in the Revelation reading. We don’t have to go it alone in this world when we have our God right here with us. He is there to take away our tears, to calm our fears and to reassure us that we are not alone. Even though life can be overwhelming we know that when we have Jesus Christ and His Holy Spirit active in our lives we will never be alone or abandoned.
John informs us in his writing that we are not able to fully understand to take what God’s Word has to tell us. His Spirit helps us to digest that information when the time is right for us to walk in faith knowing that our Lord is there to lead and guide us. The disciples themselves were caught up in this same dilemma that they weren’t comprehending what Jesus was telling them prior to his going to the cross and going through all the suffering and shame that he endured. They didn’t comprehend all of this until after he rose from the dead and then appeared to them teaching and guiding them back to those words he had shared previously. Sometime you may be reading through verses of scripture and it doesn’t mean much to you as you read it. The Spirit of the Lord reveals to us his blessing through His Word when and where he sees that it is needed. We just need to be in the Word and he shares with us through that involvement. We come into His Word in worship, in Bible Studies, in our private devotions these all help to reveal to us God’s plan for our lives.
Jesus reminded his disciples in verse 20 that they would not be sorry, but that they would experience joy and celebration. When he came to them again it would not be as a teacher or guide or buddy. He would be there to be their Lord and their God who would help them endure the trials of life and bring them salvation. They needed nothing more for Jesus was all they needed as they continued his work of spreading the good news that now was available because of what Jesus had done. We now are all commissioned to continue this most important work and spreading seeds of the gospel and sharing the love of Christ to those who are lost and hurting.
In looking around our world today we see there are many who are lost, alone and afraid because they are looking for answers. They are looking for hope to get them through another day. Jesus told the disciples “In a little while”. That little while applies to us as we know through God’s precious Word that he is here with us directing our lives and blessing us as long as we allow him. In a little while we will see him face to face when he calls us back into his Kingdom. Our time in this world is very short so we are to live our lives for our Lord each and every day. Some may say I have tomorrow to go to church or to read God’s Word. We must not wait but respond to the Lord’s calling upon our lives in the here and now. There are many challenges that will face us in those tomorrows. We need to be equipped to face those challenges head on and know how to stand for what God means for all of his creation.
Christ came to seek and save the lost which includes each of us gathered here today. He also came to save those outside of the church, there are many who don’t know or ignore God’s Word and don’t allow His Word to reflect in their lives turning them from their sin into the light where forgiveness, life and salvation await. Our Lord is a gracious, loving and patient Lord who allows everyone and opportunity to come to him and to know his love and forgiveness. Many have heard these words before but choose to turn away and go their own way. There is nothing but darkness and pain for those who choose to go their own way. The Triune God is the Father of Light who brings us out of the darkness of sin into everlasting light.
Let this God be the God of our life leading you down the path of righteousness to where there is hope and promise. We are blessed to have a God who continues to wait on us to allow His Spirit to take control of our lives as that Spirit works in order to keep us in the faith and in the grace of our living God.
May God continue to lead and guide you as you seek to follow His path and know Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. May the peace of God which passes all our understanding keep your hearts and minds one with Jesus today and throughout your journey of faith. Amen.
Marvel at What Has Happened!
The days were all mixed up for these faithful followers of Jesus. The weekend before they had participated in a parade where Jesus was greeted, and waved to, as he rode into Jerusalem. He was a celebrity greeting his fan base. Then on Thursday they enjoyed the Passover meal with Jesus and he told them about how the meal was his body and blood. So confusing? Later that night their hopes and dreams came crashing down on them as soldiers came with swords and clubs and took him away. On Friday he was brought before Pilate and Herod. It all seemed like it had been arranged to put him in this awkward position. Then the flogging began, they beat him so mercilessly that he could barely move. And to top that off they nailed him to the cross and crucified him! How did this all happen so quickly? How did the tables turn so out of control?
The women, including Jesus' mother, were distraught as they were obligated to abide by the Sabbath laws that forbade them from doing any work or food preparations during that day. They must have been so grieved as a flood of emotions ran through them. Their desire was to properly prepare the body of Jesus with the dignity he deserved, They had bought all that was needed to complete the task. But they had to wait. The disciples were confused and in sorrow, as well. They weren't able to put the pieces together. He had told them what was going to happen, but they didn't realize what was taking place right in their midst.
Have you ever been in a position such as this? You can't think straight and don't know how to complete even the most simple of chores. Your life is turned upside down. Maybe you lost someone special, unexpectedly. Or someone deceived you and walked out on the family and you. Maybe that job you dreamed of for years isn't what you thought it would be and has turned from a dream into a nightmare. These things happen to us at the most unexpected times. But, they do happen, and there is nothing we can do to stop the confusion, the pain, the lost and lonely feeling that overcomes us. We seem to be lost, alone and full of hurt, anger and despair. What will we do? How can we continue on through the daily routines of life with this looming over our heads? You can relate to Jesus' followers. You have been there! You know how it feels to lose someone you thought would be there for you, always. This wasn't what you signed up for! This wasn't your understanding of the agreement. Is there ever relief from that feeling, that pit of despair and nothingness?
So it was for Jesus' followers, that weekend 2000 years ago, until something unexpected too place. It turned things around for the women and the disciples in the first moments of that first Easter morning. It gave hope and promise that things weren't as bleak as they had seemed. When the women arrived at the tomb the stone was already rolled away and the Jesus' body was nowhere to be found! Things were not at all as they expected they would be. Early that morning they had taken spices and such to prepare Jesus' body for his burial but there was no body to prepare. They had been mourning his loss and now he is not dead! He has risen? Could it be? How could this happen? It just seemed too unbelievable to be true!
The angels that appeared to the women, that morning, reminded them Jesus' had told them this would happen. We, like those women need to be reminded of God's Word. That is part of the reason we come to worship here in His house. We come to hear His Word preached, taught and read so we can be encouraged in our faith journey and continue to learn and grow. Learning is a life-long process. We need to continue to grow in faith and knowledge to help us through those difficult times in life. Through Christ's mercy, forgiveness and renewal we are able to get through the toughest places in our lives. Jesus is there to lead and guide us through the pain and suffering. He is there to comfort and strengthen us. We learn from these experiences and they make us stronger and more prepared to face the next challenges that lie ahead.
Jesus made sure that his disciples and close followers, including his mother, were cared for and that they had the reassurance that he was where he was suppose to be. And he was doing what the Lord God had directed him to do, to fulfill the scriptures. We are recipients of his mercy and grace, today, as we meet challenges in our own lives. Jesus cares about us as individuals and seeks to bring us his blessing and comfort when we are troubled and alone. When we have Jesus Christ as Lord of our lives, and trust in his promise we are assured that, through the death he suffered on Good Friday, our debt has been paid.Our sins, past, present and future, have been paid for by his one-time sacrifice upon that cross. We will continue to fall short of his glory. We will continue to stray from his commandments. But, he offers forgiveness for all those times we disobey him and try to do things in our own way.
This whole Easter thing is not just about the celebrations, the meals, the Easter baskets, the family gatherings. Those thing may add to our enjoyment, but, the wonder of Easter is actually found in a cross, an old wooden cross much rougher and barren than any in our sanctuary. It is the cross on which our sins were laid. Jesus took them there so they could be paid for all time. "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord". (Romans 6:23) We would all be destined to eternal damnation if it hadn't been for Christ's sacrifice upon that cross when he exchanged his very own life for ours. Now because of what Jesus has done for us, even though we will die an earthly death, we are not destined to eternal death, unless we denounce faith in Christ as Lord. He has rescued us from the horrible destiny that we were headed for, without him in our lives and without accepting his life giving sacrifice for us.
We have done nothing to deserve his righteous and selfless act of mercy. We can do nothing to save ourselves. It is all through the mercy and grace of our Lord that we are able to be saved and look forward to eternal life with our Savior and all those we know who have gone to be with him. What a wonderful reunion that will be one day. One day, when the Lord calls us unto himself, we can live in peace and harmony with him for eternity.
The lives of Jesus' friends and family did a 180 that day in Jerusalem. They were able to go from mourning to rejoicing. Their Lord and Savior had risen, just as he told them he would! What glorious news! They couldn't keep it to themselves, but, shouted it from the roadways and city streets. The news traveled quickly: the one who had ridden into town on a donkey the weekend before, the one who had been crucified on a cross on the hillside on Friday, had risen from the dead! Unbelievable news for many and yes, there are still some who question how or if it happened. We know and believe that it happened because this is what God's Word tells us. Four of those witnesses write about it in the gospels.
Jesus has risen from the dead and now because of the fact that he died, rose from the grave and ascended back to the Father in heaven, we can now live as redeemed children of the Savior Jesus Christ. Hold onto that reassuring promise, that free gift of salvation! Jesus' life, death and resurrection was all to fulfill the scriptures and to bring salvation to all mankind.
Share this important message with your family and friends, shout it in the streets, your homes, the highways. We all can rejoice and be renewed in the promise that because he lives we can face whatever lies ahead. We know now that we are safe and secure in his promises. May the peace of God which passes all our understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus this Easter day and throughout the coming year.Amen