Concordia University Chapel Devotion                                                                     
Rev. Dr. D. K. Schroeder
John 16:16-24 Sermon                                                                                                                              
April 15, 2013


TEXT:  [Jesus said] 16 “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. Then in a little while you will see me again.”

                        17 Some of his disciples said to each other, “What does he mean? He tells us that in a little while we won’t see him. Then he tells us that in a little while we will see him again and that he’s going to the Father.” 18 So they were asking each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while’? We don’t understand what he’s talking about.”

                        19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him something. So he said to them, “Are you trying to figure out among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, and in a little while you will see me again’? 20 I can guarantee this truth: You will cry because you are sad, but the world will be happy. You will feel pain, but your pain will turn to happiness. 21 A woman has pain when her time to give birth comes. But after the child is born, she doesn’t remember the pain anymore because she’s happy that a child has been brought into the world.

                        22 “Now you’re in a painful situation. But I will see you again. Then you will be happy, and no one will take that happiness away from you. 23 When that day comes, you won’t ask me any more questions. I can guarantee this truth: If you ask the Father for anything in my name, he will give it to you. 24 So far you haven’t asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive so that you can be completely happy."

                Today, I have a true story to share with you.  This happened at a rather large congregation during a worship service.  Things were progressing normally; but when it came time for the sermon, the pastor walked to the pulpit and said, “In the congregation today is sitting another pastor, who is one of my dearest childhood friends.  I would like to share my pulpit time with him so you can become acquainted with him too.”

                  With that, the pastor stepped aside.  A very distinguished elderly gentlemen got up out of his pew; and with the aid of his cane, he slowly came forward.  Everybody was silent as he made his way to the pulpit.  He cleared his throat; and with his slightly shaky but clear tones he began to speak to the congregation.  Here’s what he said:

                A father, his son, and a friend of his son were in a boat sailing off the Pacific coast.  They were having a good time, when all of a sudden a fast approaching storm blocked any attempt they made to get back to shore.  The waves were so high, that even though the father was an experienced sailor, he could not keep the boat upright.  The boat capsized and the three of them were swept into the ocean.

                It was at this point that the elderly pastor hesitated for a moment.  Sitting in front of him just a few rows back from the pulpit were two teenage boys.  They had been smiling and chatting, and they hadn’t been very involved in the worship service.  However the elderly pastor noticed that they seemed at least somewhat interested in his story.  So the pastor continued:

                The father grabbed a rescue line with a life saver attached.  It was at this point that he had to make one of the most excruciating decisions of his life:  which boy would he rescue?  He had only a very few seconds to make a decision.

                The father knew that his son was a Christian; and he also knew that his son’s friend was not a Christian.  He was an unbeliever.  Even the torrents of the waves were nothing compared to the decision this father had to make.

                The father yelled out, “I love you, son!”  And with that, he threw out the life saver to his son’s friend.  By the time the father had pulled the friend out of the ocean and back on the keel of the capsized boat, his son had disappeared beneath the raging swells and into the blackness of the night.  Despite diligent searching, the son’s body was never recovered.

                The two teen age boys were sitting up straight, just riveted to what the old pastor was saying, just waiting anxiously for the next words out of the pastor’s mouth.  This was turning into quite a story!  So the old pastor continued:

                The father knew that whatever happened to his son, he would ultimately step into eternity with Jesus.  He was a Christian, and there was no question about that.  But the father could not bear the thought of his son’s friend stepping into eternity without Jesus.  Therefore, he allowed his own son’s life to be sacrificed in order to save his son’s friend.

                The old pastor hesitated again for a few moments, and then he continued:  How great is the love of God that he should do the same for us!  Our Heavenly Father sacrificed his only begotten Son to pay the price for our sins, and die so that we might have eternal life.  He did this out of nothing but the great love he has for people the likes of you and me.

                And with that, the old pastor turned and left the pulpit, and returned to his seat.  The congregation was completely silent for a few moments, trying to comprehend what he had just said.  Then the pastor stood up and concluded the service as normal.

                Within a few minutes after the conclusion of the service, the two teenage boys sought out the elderly pastor who had spoken.  One of the boys politely spoke to the pastor:  “That was a nice story, but I don’t think it was very realistic for a father to give up his only son’s life with the hope that the other boy would become a Christian.”

                “Well, you’ve got a point there,” the elderly pastor replied, glancing down at his worn Bible.  Then a big smile broadened his narrow face as he looked up at the boys.  And then he continued:  “It sure isn’t very realistic, is it?  But I’m standing here today to tell you that this story gives me only a small glimpse of what it must have been like for God to give up his only begotten Son for me.  Because you see, I myself was that father in the story, and your pastor was my son’s friend.”

                In our Scripture reading for today, Jesus is speaking to some of his disciples.  In verse 22 he tells them: “Now you’re in a painful situation. But I will see you again. Then you will be happy, and no one will take that happiness away from you.”

                The disciples were perplexed by what Jesus was telling them, but it would soon be made clear to them.  They would see their Saviour arrested, tried, convicted, and crucified.  They would experience his death.  It would bring them great emotional pain, a pain they could not even begin to comprehend.  Their hopes would be dashed as they thought Jesus was defeated by death.

                But their sorrow would turn into an inexpressible joy when they witnessed Jesus physically as he rose from the dead.  They would have new hope, knowing that because death could not hold Jesus, it would not hold them either.  The joy they would be experiencing would be like no other.  They would surrender whatever defeat they felt with the victory Jesus had won for them.

                This past week I also have been experiencing sadness and grief of my own.  This past Tuesday, my mother passed from this life into life eternal.  The last sermon she heard was the sermon I preached a few weeks ago on Easter.  Even though she was no longer able to attend worship, she watched our services on television every week.  I preached about the sure and certain hope the resurrection gives us.  As believers, we know that our sins are forgiven through faith alone, and we will enter heaven according to Christ’s righteousness and not our own sinfulness. 

                My mother talked at length about the sermon.  She expressed to me that she had no fear of dying, and that she was looking forward to heaven that awaited her.  Sure she had questions about what heaven would be like, and I assured her that everything she needed for her eternal happiness would be given to her.  She certainly knew her Saviour and believed the promises he made to her.  She knew that all of her sins had been forgiven, and her eternity was guaranteed, sure and certain.

                On Tuesday, April 9th, I was at my mother’s bedside.  I kissed her cheek and told her how much I loved her.  I reminded her of Jesus’ promise to her, and the happiness that awaited her.  She would have no more pain or suffering, just eternal happiness in the mansion Jesus had prepared for her.  I prayed the Lord’s Prayer with her, and spoke the words of the benediction, that the Lord would give her his peace both now and in the life to come.  It wasn’t but a few minutes later that she breathed her last.  Her funeral is tomorrow.

                Whatever sorrow or grief I experience now will be replaced with feelings of joy.  The message of the Gospel, the forgiving love and hope of Jesus is what I firmly and personally believe, and that’s the Saviour’s love that I share with you.

                I can’t fathom what that elderly pastor was feeling as he was letting his son go in order to save his friend.  That had to be sorrow beyond what most people would experience.  But for someone to trust what Jesus has promised that completely speaks volumes.  He knew his sorrow would be turned to happiness.

                This promise is for you as well.  Irrespective of whatever sadness or grief or pain you experience now, you know that your Saviour has promised you an eternity in heaven.  This is the promise made to all true believers in Christ.  We are sinners deserving of only death and hell.  But thanks be to God who has given us his only begotten Son, so that through faith alone in him as our Saviour, we shall inherit a mansion in heaven that is just for us for all eternity.  As Dr. Luther says, “This is most certainly true.”