A Little While
Topic: Biblical Verse: John 16:12–16:22
The Fifth Sunday of Easter
May 15, 2022
“A Little While”
When we are young, the words, “a little while,” can seem like an eternity. Just how long is “a little while,” anyway? Half an hour? An hour? When we are young, we tend to view time very differently than when we are older. Growing up, I remember my parents talking about how fast time went by. “Where did this week/month/year go?” And I remember thinking: “What are they talking about?” As a young person, time doesn’t always seem to zip by; it can drag on and on. But the more we are in this life, the more we come to realize that time really does go by very quickly. “A little while” is the blink of an eye. Jesus uses this phrase in today’s Gospel lesson as prepares his disciples for the day when he will no longer be physically present with them. But Jesus reassures them. In a little while, Another will come: the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). All of this becomes the theme for preaching today under the theme, “A Little While.” May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
All three Persons of the Holy Trinity are mentioned in today’s Gospel lesson as Jesus himself, the second Person of the Trinity, speaks: “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. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). From this, we come to grasp in some small way the beautiful dance of the Trinity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all work together in seamless symmetry. There is no competition; no vying to be first; no grabbing for power. The altar plaques and suspended cross here in our Sanctuary remind us how of the three Person of the Trinity work together in unity and harmony.
So what does Jesus mean when he says: “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16)? Scholars are divided here. Some say that Jesus is speaking of that short time from when he first uttered these words until his death upon the cross (“you will not see me”), and the time after his resurrection (“you will see me”). Others say that Jesus is speaking of when he will withdraw his physical presence and return to the Father (John 16:17b), which we will celebrate on Ascension Day, May 26. “The time of ‘not seeing’ is the in-between-time when the physical Jesus is no longer present to them [the disciples], but the ‘seeing’ is associated with the worshiping community and the time of the Paraclete” (The Gospel of John – Sacra Pagina Series, Vol. 4, by Francis J. Moloney, S.D.B. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 1998; p. 447). From seeing to not seeing, and then to seeing once more – all in a little while.
The question for us becomes what will we do in this little while? How will we spend the time that we have been given? We believe that Jesus, who was crucified for our trespasses and raised for our justification (Romans 4:25) will do what he says. He will reveal himself at the appointed time in great power and glory as he has said (see Matthew 25:31-46), not just for those who believe in him, but for all the world to see. Until that day, how will we live? Jesus tells us that his people will “weep and lament, but the world will rejoice” (John 16:20a). From the world’s perspective, believers in Jesus may be looked upon with scorn and contempt, much as Jesus himself was looked upon by the religious and political leaders of his day. But that is not where things will end, as Jesus tells us: “You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy” (John 16:20b). Note that Jesus “does not speak of their sorrow being replaced by joy, but of turning into it. The very same thing, the cross, that would be to them first a cause of sorrow would later become a source of joy. This corresponds exactly to the illustration that follows. In childbirth it is one and the same thing which is first a source of pain, then of joy” (The Gospel According to John, by Leon Morris. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1971; p. 705). How, then, are we to live in this little while? We live with one foot in the here and now, and the other foot in eternity. We wait for that new heaven and new earth, “the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband” (Revelation 21:2). In this little while, we look ahead and long for that day when God “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” (Revelation 21:4).
This blessed assurance gives us strength, courage, and hope for living even when living is difficult, painful and hard. We may weep and lament along life’s way. Jesus closing words remind us of life after lament: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you” (John 16:22). “No one will take your joy from you” – those are powerful words. After believers “have come to understand the significance of the cross they are possessed by a deep-seated joy. This joy is independent of the world. The world did not give it and the world cannot take it away” (Ibid, p. 707).
In this little while until our risen Savior appears again, we have work to do – the joyful work of sharing his love and extending his kingdom. This is the great sending, which flows out of what our risen Savior has done for us through his life, death, and resurrection. In response to this, we go forth to serve as Jesus’ hands and feet and mouth in the world. That is our calling in Christ and that was the theme of our Southeastern District Convention held this past week. We were all encouraged in this little while to be about the work we have as Jesus’ everyday missionaries in our homes and neighborhoods, where we work and go to school, wherever God has placed us, that is our mission field. Through our Baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection, this is our calling; our joyful responsibility.
In this little while, may our risen Lord Jesus Christ strengthen us in this great sending. Amen.