St John 16.16-22
Jubilate (Easter 4)
St John's Ev LC, Victor, IA
Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
We will see Jesus again. / And it is when we see Him, that we will know Him fully. / And when we know Him fully, then (and only then) will we experience the joy that continues on, without end.
How we obtain worldly knowledge (knowledge about creation: about people and animals and all the details of this place), how we obtain worldly knowledge / is not all that different from how we obtain heavenly knowledge (that is, knowledge about the Kingdom of heaven).
If you want to know about the Grand Canyon, for example, / you can look at pictures in a book, or read about what other people have observed about it, / but your knowledge / will be incomplete / until you go there and experience it yourself. Then / (and only then) can you truly say you have a complete and full knowledge of the Grand Canyon; once you've seen it for yourself.
The Kingdom of God is like that. Although we don't have pictures of it, yet we do have some descriptions of It: the evangelists recorded many teachings of Jesus that begin like this: “The Kingdom of God is like.”
But if this teaching / was all that was needed to fully know the Kingdom of God, / then why, after hearing Jesus Himself speak about it, were the disciples and others so confused (and ignorant) about it?
Why? Experience. There was yet something missing from their training: experiencing the Kingdom of God themselves, first hand.
“But, pastor, this is the very thing that both Jesus and John the Baptist preached about. They said, 'Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand.' Didn't the Kingdom of God come in the person of Jesus? In other words, weren't those who were encountering Jesus, / also encountering and experiencing the Kingdom of God?”
Very good. And that is an important point, / that when those people encountered Jesus, they were encountering the fullness of the Kingdom of God. And yet, why did some not see it? He was right there. Why did some still reject Him? Or, let me ask it in another way: what was it / about those who did recognize Jesus for who He truly is?
The answer, / is faith. Those who saw Jesus face-to-face during His time on earth (if they had faith, that is, if they had eyes of faith to see who Jesus truly was), notice how those people reacted. Do this exercise this week: look through the Gospels for all the times when Jesus says to someone, “your faith has saved you” or “your faith has made you well”. I want you to notice how those people (who have true faith) react to Jesus when they see Him. Because they react differently / than those who don't have faith.
Now, to make my point here, I'll have to spoil it for you: they either fall on their face at His feet, or kiss and hug Him, or persistently nag Him, or something quite eccentric like that. The reason for this eccentric behavior / is that their faith is allowing them to see something altogether different that than those who don't have faith. And because they are seeing something different, they are also experiencing something different. They are experiencing (at least a bit) of the eternal joy that comes from knowing and encountering the fullness of God by faith.
Let me explain that by going back to the illustration with the Grand Canyon. / Consider this: / there are three men. The first man is quite old, and has been studying the Grand Canyon his whole life. From his study he has learned about every detail of that place: its history, its rock formations, its animal and plant life; and he's given thousands of lectures and written dozens of books and hundreds of articles all about that place, // but he / (for whatever reason) has never actually gone there and seen the Grand Canyon himself. But finally, after a lifetime worth of study, the opportunity presents itself, and he's able to go there.
The second of the three men has planned a vacation to the Grand Canyon with His family. He said to his wife one day, “Honey, you know what?” His wife says, “No, what?” He says, “We've never been to the Grand Canyon, let's go there on vacation this year.” His wife says, “OK, fine, but we better do a little reading about the Grand Canyon before we get there.” He says, “OK, that sounds fine.” And they do, they get a tourist guide from the local library and read a little bit about the Grand Canyon.
The last of these three men / doesn't even know the Grand Canyon exists. He's never heard of it, never even considered that such a place exists. But, one day / he decides to go rafting down the Colorado River and just keeps going and going until finally he makes it all the way down to Arizona, where the Grand Canyon is.
Now consider their response, when each of these men are standing at the edge of the Canyon and seeing it for the very first time. The initial response (for all of these men) / will probably be the same: “Wow!” If all these men were standing next to each other, their conversation might be something like this:
- The last man (who hadn't ever heard of it before) might say something like, “Wow, / that's a big hole!”
- The second man (who had done a little bit of studying and knows a few of the details about what he is seeing) would respond, “Are you kidding me, that's not a hole, that's a canyon.”
- Finally, / the first man / (as He stands there with tears welling up in his eyes because of how joyful he is to finally behold the thing he has dedicated his whole life to, the one thing that has been on his mind ever since he first heard of this place, / his true passion in life) / he would respond, “Yes, / you're both right; your eyes see a big hole, and your books teach you that it is called a canyon. But this / this is the one and only / Grand / Canyon. There is none other like it in all the world, / and it is marvelous in our eyes.”
Jesus said, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me...you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts / will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
The second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ will be much like the experience of these three men. It will truly be magnificent. And the initial response will be the same for all: “every knee shall bow,” as Scripture says. To some, who have no prior knowledge of Christ or His Kingdom, they will say simply, “Wow, that's powerful man, he speaks with so much authority.” / Others, who have heard and studied a little about Christ will respond, “Are you kidding me, that's not just a man, He's God and man.” / And still others (with tears of joy welling up in their eyes, those / who, as the Psalm says, “have meditated day and night” upon the Word of God and upon the mysteries of this heavenly Kingdom which their own eyes now see) / they will say, “Yes, you're both right: / your eyes see a man, and your books teach you that this man is also God. But this / this is the One and Only, my God and my Lord. There is none other like Him, He is marvelous in our eyes. He is my light and my salvation, my joy, my love, my Life.”
Dearly beloved, / we have something to look forward to. We have a joy to come that we can't now know fully, / because we can't now fully experience it. But when we are brought to that time when our Lord and God, Christ Jesus, will come again, at that time, our joy will be full and complete, because we will finally know Jesus fully, because we will see Him in all His glory.
Jesus / isn't some character in a book. Jesus is a person. God, yes, but also fully man. Just like you come to love and enjoy those whom you get to know the most, so also with Jesus, especially with Jesus. The more you know about Him, the more you encounter Him, the more you love and enjoy Him.
And, despite the fact that we can't fully know Jesus yet, in fact, because we can't fully experience Jesus yet, He has given us at least a foretaste of that fullness even now: the Blessed Sacrament. Hidden in that bread and wine, we encounter our God, we physically come into His presence, / and we rejoice! Some / rejoice more than others. None of you come up here like the last man in the illustration, for all who commune at this altar are Baptized and have been given the eyes of faith to believe Jesus' words regarding this holy Meal.
But, dearly beloved, there's more than what eyes behold. There is, in this Sacrament, a joy like the joy of that first man, who was so passionate about the thing which he so diligently studied. / With deeper and deeper study of this Blessed and eternal Meal, there also comes a deeper and deeper enjoyment that is beyond human expression; / and so, thankfully, God has given us divine expression in the Psalms. This is what today's Introit says,
“Shout for joy to God, all the earth. Sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise! Say to God, 'How awesome are your deeds! So great is your power that your enemies come cringing to you.' / Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. Bless our God, O peoples; let the sound of his praise be heard, who has kept our soul among the living and has not let our feet slip.”
We were once those enemies of God, and when we sin we act like enemies of God again. Let us, with the Psalmist, fall to our knees and come cringing back to God in fear and trembling. / And what we will find, is not a hard and demanding man, bent on justice at every cost, // but a compassionate, loving, and all-merciful God and Lord. What we will see, are His awesome actions of grace toward us and all the children of man. And we won't be able to help ourselves; the sight of what God has done will drive us to join in the heavenly chorus of praise and blessing for the very One who has not destroyed our soul (as we very much deserved), / but has, instead, kept our soul among the living, / and bringing us from our knees to our feet, he will establish us on the firm ground of His Truth, and by the power of His own Spirit, He will lead us to that eternal place of peace and rest, the place where joy will never end, / in the eternal Kingdom / of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.