Sermon for the 5th Sunday in Easter
Preached April 27th and 28th
At Pinnacle Lutheran Church, Rochester New York
He is Risen! He is is risen indeed, Alleluia!
Our Sermon for this 5th Sunday in Easter comes from the Gospel lesson just read.
Game plans… everyone needs a game plan. Sports teams that have no plan how to win, rarely win, just look at the New York Jets, Geno Smith and Mark Sanchez… (really?). Families that don’t have game plans rarely find peace or clarity, it doesn’t matter if it’s something as simple as a trip to the grocery store or financial planning. Individuals without game plans often founder.
However, game plans, here on earth, change. Sports teams change schemes, families and individuals constantly adjust to circumstances, you’ve more than likely heard the cliche, the only constant is change. But should we Christians be so ready to accept this cliche as true? We’ve all experienced times of flux, times of trial, times of exasperation and times of uncertainty and have adjusted accordingly to meet the changes head on, avoid them completely or somewhere else in the middle. Plans change, but Jesus tells the disciples today something entirely contradictory to the old cliche, and shows us that the only constant is not change. Indeed, Jesus tells the disciples… that with regard to everything that really matters, nothing is going to change.
Our gospel lesson for this 5th Sunday in Easter is a text that describes the hours before Jesus arrest and crucifixion. Jesus addresses his disciples by reassuring them; “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot be bearing them now.” Well then, you and I might be saying, If He has more to say then why doesn’t he just get to it…. tell us the news Jesus. If it’s bad news then out with it…. if it’s good news then don’t you dare withhold it from us, after all the disciples need to know what to plan for and if there are going to be changes they need to be aware. What is it that Jesus still has to say to them?
My friends the answer is simple. Jesus had more details, details that they couldn’t handle, details that stood in opposition to their own plans, details that those with weak faith, but high self-resolve, couldn’t stomach, details that if they knew more would have caused those little children of God to crumble.
But there wasn’t just heavy news, there were to be more details specifically outlining how He would still be with them; how He would attend to their needs, how He would come again to save; but Jesus knew that to give them more would only burden them more… why? Because they simply couldn’t bear the news, neither the seeming bad or the seeming good, they couldn’t stand to bear more because their faith was weak. But why would I say their faith was weak, after all they had dedicated their lives to His service and they loved the Lord, wasn’t that enough? Isn’t that what true faith really is? Indeed it was not, indeed it is not. You see, Jesus had pulled no punches in the three years that He walked with these men, He told them everything about the Father’s plan for salvation; the salvation of mankind was to come about only by the Messiah’s death. Here is where the difficulty arises, here is why Jesus says to them, you cannot bear these things now.
The disciples had taken quite a liking to Jesus, but the fact was, it wasn’t a liking that God the Father had in mind. God the Father had sent for one specific purpose; to save mankind from sin and everlasting death; Christ had to be crucified. But, knowing that the disciples loved Jesus, had treasured feelings for Him etc. stood as a wall to true faith, they’re love, or perhaps it’s better to say; their plans about how love should manifest itself, stood in the way of being able to fully trust the stated plan that God had revealed for millennia. What was changing was the plans and hopes and dreams of the disciples. Their aspirations were being dashed. And for them, it appeared that the only constant was change. And according to their plans and schemes they were right, but according to the plan of God everything was happening exactly as it was supposed to. To the disciples; it appeared that God was not in control, it appeared that everything was changing, the only constant was change and it wouldn’t be until Easter Sunday that the pieces would start to fall into place. The only constant was Jesus, He had been truthful, He had been deliberate; the disciples unbelief prevented their seeing with eyes of faith, that what the Prophets, and Jesus Himself had said, was in fact true.
It’s so similar for us in our day isn’t it? How many sins are condoned in our day and age for the sake of what we call love? Great and grievous sins are dismissed because of what we call love, tolerance and acceptance. Our definitions of love often stand in the way of what God has said for our ultimate good. We know and love people who struggle with great sins, and because of this so often we find ourselves at a crossroads, believe God’s word, trust fully that He has given His word for our benefit, or… fudge the word, tinker with the word, make it support what we want it to say, and in this, we find that our trust is not in God’s word, but rather our trust is in how men can change the word of God to reflect the ways of the world. Our plans, designs, and thoughts about what love means are often fickle and in the final analysis we often find that our types of love so often gets in the way of the true love of God in Christ Jesus. It happened to the disciples and it happens to us.
But notice the care that Jesus takes with these men that He truly loves unto death. I will not tell you more than I have already stated; I must die, I will rise again as I said, for a while you will not see me but after a little while you will see me. What?
Not seeing Him is easy enough to understand. The disciples knew that He was going away, and up until Jesus dying day, these men would try to prevent the inevitable. Little did they know, peter and Judas especially, that they would, through even their own sinful actions, fulfill exactly what the scriptures of old had said would happen. Nothing was changing… the plan for your salvation and mine was being executed perfectly, according to every letter that had ever been written. Jesus hadn’t changed, His eyes stayed fixed on the cross, while the rest clamored to try to make it all make sense according to reason and their eyes of faith were blinded.
Jesus would die, but when He rose the disciples would see Him for who He truly was… not just as the great healer, not just the majestic rabbi… but the Savior, the very Messiah of the world. And after He had risen, His plan would not change… this is what He tells the disciples and us today. He would walk the earth for 40 days and then ascend into the clouds, and it was there again that the disciples would wonder where He had gone. And it would be on the Day of Pentecost that the words Jesus spoke to the disciples that night before He died would come to fruition. “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. Dear friends, hear the word of your Lord; the Spirit, the Holy Spirit will come… He will be attached, indeed bound to specific means, He has a specific job description and He will follow it perfectly. He will not speak on His own authority, but will speak the very words that He hears from God the Father, words that testify, indeed glorify the Son. Jesus says; “The Spirit will take what is mine, which is also the Father’s, namely His word, His forgiveness, His mercy and abundant joy and give it to those who have been claimed, indeed stolen back from the grasp of sin, death and the devil. You are the Father’s, by virtue of what Christ has done for you.
A little while you will not see me… it might be better to understand that Jesus is saying here…. for a little while you will not see me with your physical eyes, you shall see me with the eyes of faith, which the Spirit will give to you abundantly, but after a little while you will see me. Dear friends, like the disciples we ask… What shall we see?
For now, for a little while, we shall suffer the anguish of grief; a little while must be measured in the greater scheme of eternity which has been won for us, a little while might very well mean entire lives. Because of this we will grow weary of waiting, but though we have labored, though our plans, adjustments, schemes rarely provided permanent solace, our plans and designs were never were intended to provide true solace, for the truth is that your solace has always been there. He was there enacting the plan before us, it came to perfect fruition exactly according to the stated plan, the plan remains the same, the scheme hasn’t changed and you and I reap the benefits of this constant, deliberate, methodical and loving plan.
The pains, of life this side of heaven, the bombings, the shootings, the unemployment etc. shall be like that of a mother giving birth, we will have sorrow now, but THEN… on the last day you will see Him again. Brothers and sister’s we must consider sorrow and joy. Too many times we see that word sorrow and believe wrongly that it means a twisting of the face sorrow, a tearful sorrow, a mournful and sad sorrow… but this is not just what our Lord means… everything is measured compared to heaven, measured according to the Holy measurements of God, and so we see that He compares even our best days… the day of our children’s birth, our wedding day, that 7 day cruise you took to jamaica, bursting bank accounts, vacation homes, you name it, God counts all of these things as sorrow compared to the glory, joy, jubilation and perfection that we see in glimpses now but will see fully in the end.
There are good days and bad days as we humans measure them… but our Lord says something quite different… all days this side of heaven are a gift, there shall be tears and laughter, there shall be trials and triumphs, there shall be changes and alterations that might seem to be the only constant, but lest you forget who has always been with you, the One who has always fed you, the one Who constantly seeks to nourish you, recall, that your Savior has provided to comforter, the spirit of truth, the sanctifier to remind you that your home is not here, your Lord knows of what you have need and He shall provide, but He shall always be here, by measured, predictable, simple means giving Himself to us in His word, claiming us as His own in Holy Baptism, constantly nourishing you and me with the heavenly food of His body and blood. The plan has never changed, the victory is won! He is Risen! He is Risen indeed, Aleluiah!
But then… at the end, like a mother who has labored, you shall forget the pain… and see your Lord by sight, you shall see, because Jesus has been and is the only constant; what St. John writes to us today.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, 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.” Now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. Your now and your forever are taken care of dear brother’s and sisters, your loving God has taken every step to save, to keep and sustain you. This is true now, so shall it reign true forever, this is the Word of your Lord, this is His promise and it is for you.