"A little while and you will see me no more. Then a little while and you will see me and you will have joy that no one can take away." That's Jesus talking to His disciples before He is arrested and undergoes His suffering and death. He'd be snatched away from them and crucified. And they would be crushed. But not for long. Because Jesus rose the third day. Because He overcame death. Because He was and is alive. And then they had joy no one can take away. Not suffering or persecution or even torture and death could end their joy. For their joy was in Christ who forgives sins and gives everlasting life. "Go ahead and kill us," they could say, "Jesus will just raise us up from the dead!" This is what Jesus means. They will be sad for a time, when it seems like all is lost and the Son of God could be nailed to a cross and die. But then resurrection. Life. Victory. Triumph. Then a joy that cannot be contained or suppressed or smothered. And that's not just a happy feeling. It's true joy which is the happy and glad confidence that because Jesus is risen from the dead, everything is going to work out fine. Everything is going to be OK. In this life and forever.
That's how our lives go too. Today, joy. Then, Jesus seems to be taken from us. It's nice here in church. We're gathered with our brothers and sisters in Christ and here we are reminded of our baptism. Our sins are forgiven. Jesus is right here with us in sermon and Supper to forgive our sins and give us life and salvation. Here in the church are all Christ's gifts to give us true joy: that happy and glad confidence that everything is going to be OK in the end because of Jesus. Then it's like He disappears. Out there, in the world, is a world trying to rob you of that joy and crush you. Out there is a world where diagnoses of disease happens, where marriages break apart, and kids seem to go wrong, where friends abandon and betray, and where your own flesh leads you to do things you never should. Out there, it's as if Jesus is gone and you're on your own. Except you will see Him again. Next Sunday! Next Divine Service! Maybe in Bible Study or when you read your Portals of Prayer or Higher Things Reflections during the week. There you will see Jesus and there you will have joy. Again, not always a happy feeling, not always a smile on your face. But real joy, the glad confidence and sure knowledge that everything is going to work out OK because Jesus is alive even though He was dead.
And then expand that out into your whole life. Your life now is one of joy where Christ's Word and gifts are, but then comes the time of death. But after that, joy that can never be taken from you: eternal life. With Jesus. In paradise. Forever. And ever. This is your life. A joy that cannot be taken away. The devil cannot take it away. The world cannot take it away. Your Old Adam can't ruin it like he ruins everything. This is joy that is in Christ. Joy that comes from a Savior who has taken your place and taken away your sins. Joy from a Savior who has laid in death and risen again. Joy from a Savior who washed and claimed you as His own, who preaches to you and feeds you His own body and blood. This is a joy that triumphs over death because on the Last Day, when Jesus has returned, and we are awakened from death, there will be such joy as we can't even begin to imagine now. You see, the Christian faith is a little bit of "now but not yet." Now we have joy in His gifts but also now we have suffering and death. And soon but not yet, we will have the joy of everlasting life with Him when He puts away all our enemies and gives us paradise. This is the Christian life. Joy that comes to us in Christ, a world that tries to take it away. Joy that is given in His gifts, and sorrow when the world comes after us. And then a once-and-for-all joy when Jesus comes again in glory. And when that day finally comes, the joy and happy glad confidence we have in Jesus, that He has continued to renew and strengthen in you--well, that joy will last forever. Really, forever. That is joy. The glad and happy confidence that everything is going to be worked out in the end because Jesus died and now is risen. He is risen indeed. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: John