SEEING JESUS TODAY
Now you are full of sorrow, but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and no one will be able to take your joy from you. John 16:22
THE disciples were about to have the worst day of their lives. They had anchored every fiber of their hope on Jesus this remarkable Son of God Who for three long years "went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him," but now their lives were about to come crashing down around them.
We are Monday morning quarterbacks. We know how the story ends. They did not! Jesus told them quite plainly that He would be handed over to the Gentiles, put to cruel death, and be raised again on the third day, but they could not take that in: even as we cannot take in many important things that God's word tells us for it seems like a distant echo.
We are like the twelve disciples in that sooner or later our lives come crashing down around us, too. It doesn't matter how well you live life, how much faith you have, or how hard you try, the sorrow the Lord predicts will always come. You are not exempt.
Why does this happen? Because of sin, of course. For one thing we must remember what Jesus says that, "all men will hate you on account of Me." We must bear in mind that the world, blinded by the Evil One, has a natural antipathy of Christ, His gospel and His chosen followers. If they persecuted Me, says Jesus, they will persecute you also.
Then there is the matter of our own sins that leave shame and sorrow in their wake. The world likes to denounce guilt as a needless burden and to chalk up sin's end result to other factors, but God's people should know the truth, that these aftershocks are God's mercy leading us back to repentance, back to faith and away from the road that leads to eternal sorrow, because there is nothing worse than that.
There are also the sins of others. You might be "standing around minding your own business" as people like to say, when someone else's sins come crashing into your life. You might be their intended victim or merely an innocent bystander, but the sorrow is the same.
Neither is that the end of the problem. There are the general consequences of sin as well. Natural disasters, poor judgment, bad engineering, blind spots, ignorance, weakness and the like, but in the unlikely event that you were to avoid all those pitfalls, even the most storied life finally ends in death. Even Jesus, the best life ever to appear in this world, was snuffed out by evil men, but before this happens our Lord comforts the disciples with the words of eternal life. "Truly truly ... you have sorrow now but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you."
"I will see you again." You should take those words most seriously Dear Christians. You should memorize them and recite them day and night, because true joy is not founded on the imaginary Jesus of the "contemporary worship" crowd, but on the living flesh and blood of the crucified risen and glorified Lord; on the Savior Who loved us to such a degree that He was willing to get His hands dirty for us, Who assumed human flesh, and the full human condition, and Who thus can sympathize with you. If there was such a thing as DNA testing then, the results would have found that the Lord shared the DNA of the Virgin Mother, and indeed of Adam himself. That's how up close and personal God's work of salvation is for His beloved fallen children. You are those children now redeemed by Christ!
When the Lord said, "A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me," He was referring to His death and resurrection. He was going to a place no man could follow, nor need follow, for He Who is true God begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man born of the Virgin Mary, was about to discharge humanity's cosmic debt, and to reconcile sinners to their God. The disciples could do nothing but wait on the sidelines as our Champion single-handedly gained the victory over sin and sorrow for us, but He also says, "... and again in a little while, and you will see me." the Lord was not speaking figuratively here, because the joy that the Lord promises us proceeds directly from the crucified, risen and glorified flesh of Christ. When the Lord saw them again He was cleansed from the worst that sinful man could do to Him, except for five wounds, which remain an everlasting memorial to the Incarnate Lord whose cross and resurrection redeemed us, and who raises us from the dead.
Before His resurrection He was dressed in human flesh full and sure, but after the resurrection they saw the glorified Jesus, the same Jesus we behold today on the altar, and whose body and blood we receive on our tongues! Before the resurrection He came clothed in human form, but now He clothes Himself in bread and wine, divine words, and in holy water, none of which are ordinary because of His promise, "I will see you again." These are the Lord's appointed means administered to us today by the church in Her Liturgy amidst solemn ceremony and celebration for our life and salvation. O taste and see that the Lord is good.
Therefore we must never try to find Jesus, or the joy He promises, apart from the water of holy baptism, the inspired word and the bread and wine of the Eucharist; in short, the Divine Service, and if you look for Him here you will find Him. Then like the disciples, you too will see Jesus, your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. AMEN.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras