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John 16:16-22

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Easter 4
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Sun, Apr 25, 2021 

When a mother is about to give birth to a child, she is suddenly faced by a time of trial.  The trial will not go on forever.  When the child is born, great joy suddenly replaces the pain.

Of course, you mothers understand this far better than I do.  But I think most anyone can get the general idea.

The pain of labor is different with different pregnancies.  Some women give birth relatively easily.  Others go for days in labor.  Sometimes, serious complications or even death can follow.

There is no use for one mother to compare with another and say, “She is so lucky!  She has easy labor!” Comparing and measuring who has worse trouble can only help make a person miserable.

When the mother is in the middle of labor, she cannot suddenly say, “I quit!  Enough with this!  I am out of here!”

There is one way to get out of labor, but it is a most awful way.  If a mother, who should be protecting the child, instead has the child killed, then she could avoid labor.  By rejecting a wonderful gift that God has given her, she could save herself discomfort and pain.

But a mother who gratefully receives and nurtures the gift of life God gives will endure the difficulty of delivery.  She protects the life in her and keeps the end in sight.

Because the end will come.  What may seem to take forever will come to its conclusion.  And what a conclusion!  A new life brought into the world, a human being, who had been hidden, finally revealed.

Christ Jesus our dear Lord uses the delivery of a baby as an analogy to the suffering a Christian must endure.

We may suddenly be faced by a time of trial.  Compared to a mother, we might have very little warning, whereas she typically gets nine months.  The trial of a Christian will not go on forever.  But when the trial is concluded, great joy replaces the pain.

The pain of one Christian’s trials may be different than another Christian’s trials.  Some trials pass relatively easily.  Others may go for years.  Sometimes, trials may be especially intense, or lead to death.

There is no use for one Christian to compare with another and say, “I wish I had an easy life like that person!” Comparing and measuring who has worse trouble can only help make a person miserable.  Besides, you do not necessarily know what a person is suffering that you do not know about.

When you are in the middle of a trial, you cannot ordinarily get out of it.  You must endure the trial for as long as God decides.  He will remove it in His time.

But we don’t want to wait for God’s time.  Trials are painful.  We would rather get out as soon as possible.  Yet trials are not avoidable.  God gives them to us.  We do not choose them.

There is one way to get out of trials, but it is a most awful way.  If we, who carry the new Baptismal life in us, decide to deny that life, we may get out of trials.  If we reject faith in Christ, our life may get easier.  The problem is, we are then working to destroy the new life inside us.  By rejecting the wonderful gift that God has given us, we could save ourselves discomfort and pain.

But a Christian who gratefully receives and nurtures the gift of life that God gives will endure the difficulties that come with it.  We refuse to deny the life in us, and we keep the end in sight.

Because the end will come.  What may seem to take forever will come to its conclusion.  And what a conclusion!  A new life will be revealed to the world on the Last Day.  The new man in us, which is the new heart and the image of Christ that had been nurtured in us by the Holy Spirit, will be finally revealed as we are raised to immortality and glory.

In the short term, we may simply get through the trial and find relief as our Lord releases us from our suffering.  Suffering cannot last forever.  Because Christ died and rose, we know that all suffering ends.

We have a further example to apply to our suffering in the trial of the disciples.  Christ’s words in our Gospel were specifically spoken to them, and we learn from their suffering as eavesdroppers, as it were.  The little time of trial that the disciples suffered is like the little times we may experience.

The disciples were suddenly faced by a time of trial.  The trial would not go on forever, but at the time they did not know that.  They were not thinking, when Christ was arrested and put on trial, that great joy would suddenly replace their pain.  As far as they knew, all the good things the Lord came and promised were at an end.

Their pain lasted a fairly short amount of time.  Three days until relief may not seem long to us if we compare our relatively longer sufferings to theirs.  But the intensity of their suffering was so much more than ours.  The Lord who was bringing hope to mankind had failed, as far as they could tell.  All hope was lost.

We may feel a pain that approaches that kind of pain if we imagine that our Lord has rejected us.  That is not quite exactly what the disciples felt, but it is similar.  We might imagine that God could not possibly love us if He is allowing such difficult and painful sufferings to happen to us.  The loneliness and hopelessness of thinking that God has rejected us is one of the worst things a human beings can experience.

At such times, we must hold on to faith in Christ by saying, “I know that You love me, dear Lord, because You shed Your precious Blood in unimaginable pain for me.  Right now, it does not look or feel like you love me.  But I will hold on and trust until You show me Your loving face again.”

In the same way, when the disciples were in the middle of their trials, they tried to run away from it.  For a time, that seemed to work.  When they ran and hid, they did not face the same trial and suffering and death as their Lord.  But they sill felt sufferings nevertheless because their Lord was going to death.  Their hope was literally dying.

There is one way they could have gotten out of suffering for Christ for good.  That would be to deny their Lord and never be disciples again.  Peter denied, but his Lord restored him.  The disciples ran away, but the Lord commissioned them to make disciples of all nations.  From then on, they would not deny or run away.  They faced tremendous trials, martyrdom and death, imprisonment and exile, scarcity and pain.

At that point, having been forgiven and restored by their Lord, why would they try to kill off the new life He had put inside them?  They might escape a little discomfort and pain in this life, but in the end they would lose all things.  The wonderful gift of eternal life in their Risen Lord could have been lost, as it was with Judas. 

Instead, by God’s grace they faced suffering for the sake of their loving Lord and for the sake of the crown of eternal life that He had earned for them.  They gratefully received and nurtured the gift of life Christ had given.  They endured the difficulty of trials and kept the end in sight.

Because the end indeed came for them.  They were faithful to the end.  At the Last Day, their lives, like ours, will reach an amazing conclusion, which is also a beginning.  The new life of the Resurrection will be fully realized as we all receive new bodies, as perfect and unspoiled as an infant’s body, yet fully mature and full of glory like our dear Lord.  Our lives will emerge from this present life of preparation to the true life, the life that was our destiny all along.  From this infancy, we will move to adulthood.  Our lives will be new and full and complete as they never were here.  All trials will be left behind.  All pain will be extinct.  And our risen bodies, glorious like the sun and the stars, will be revealed in the perfect world that our Lord has prepared for us.

In His Name alone and to His glory, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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