We’ve come to the point in the Easter season where the names of the Sundays and the Readings don’t seem to line up. Today is named “Jubilate,” from the first phrase of the Introit in Latin: Jubilate Deo omnis terra, “Shout for joy to God, all the earth.” But then in the Gospel, Jesus says: “Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.” How do those things go together? Shout for joy—but the world is going to take delight in your misfortune. While there is sadness in this, it’s a reminder that our true rejoicing, our greatest shouting for joy is not in worldly things, but in the crucified and risen Jesus. And the joy He gives, no one can take from you.
But in this little while that we do not see Him with our own eyes, we know sorrow. For this little while, we await that Day when Jesus will draw us to Himself. Even though we have sorrow, we can rejoice because we know that Jesus is faithful and keeps His promises. We are already God’s children through Holy Baptism. We know what riches that gives us in this life and in the life to come. So, we wait. After a little while we will see Jesus again.
But that waiting is hard. We’re strangers in a foreign land. We live in a world that is, at worst, apathetic to Christ, and, at worst, openly hostile to Him. You don’t have to look far to see the attacks against Christians in foreign countries. It’s not that long ago that videos were circulating of Muslim men beheading groups of Christians. But even here at home we can see the waves of persecution starting to lap the shore. It’s not the full-blown tsunami that other countries see, but it’s not going to stay away forever.
But our opposition isn’t just outside. We all suffer personally, and much of it unknown to others. Maybe it seems like prayers are unanswered or ignored, or that the answer is always no. Maybe everything has come crashing down around you and you don’t know what way is up. You try to talk to others around you, to try to get sympathy because someone died, your spouse left you, your kids are fighting with you, you’re in arguments with family and friends, you’re sick, you’re in pain, you’re suffering, and all you get are trite and empty phrases. “Keep your head up.” “That’s too bad.” Or worse: “Isn’t Jesus supposed to make it all better?” “That faith thing sure doesn’t seem to be helping you out at all.”
All of this reminds us that this world is not our home. Adam and Eve were kicked out of Eden for a reason. God didn’t want them to eat of the Tree of Life and live forever in a world marred by sin. Our real home is with the Father. That’s why He has given His Son to die for us, and Baptism to give His victory to us. His home has been made ours, and it’s not this world.
That’s why the Church calls on us to be jubilant, even in the face of suffering and misery. We wait on the Lord, but Jesus promises that wait is only a little while. Only a little while that we do not see Him, only a little while until our faith is vindicated and our enemies silenced. Only a little while until our hearts are made glad and our joy made full. So we wait as strangers in a strange land. The Christian life is one of hardship and suffering and testing. We are pilgrims. And while we wait, Jesus feeds us with the Bread of Pilgrims, the Bread come down from Heaven: His own Body and Blood.
But we wait, but not as one abandoned. For in this little while, Jesus gives His Body and Blood as grace and strength to endure this earthly pilgrimage. In the Sacrament He shows Himself to you, making Himself known and gladdening your heart. In the Holy Communion, Jesus takes your burdens upon Himself as He says to you, “I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
In the Supper, as Christ’s death is proclaimed until He comes again, we proclaim that our sorrows were pierced through in His Flesh. Your fears, sins, and trespasses are put to death in Him upon the holy Cross. Your burdens are wrapped in the burial cloths and left, in the dust of the grave. For Jesus lives.
So if you feel beaten up by the world – hemmed in on every side by suffering – if you sense your brokenness and know you need healing, come, and receive the living Jesus. To all who are faint, He gives power in His Body and Blood. To all who are weak, Jesus renews your strength to endure all this world does to you. Jesus feeds you the sign, seal, and guarantee of your own resurrection.
The joy that the Introit sings isn’t just being “happy” because happiness comes and goes. Joy runs deeper. Joy knows how to frown and cry and is not fleeting. Your Joy is Jesus Christ. So long as you have Him, you have eternal life and a joyous ending at the finish of this life of labor. You will go home to your Father. The stress of conflict and the tension of endurance will not last forever. Jesus will appear and put an end to your sorrow and abuse. Your labor and struggle will be transformed by the grace and joy of Jesus, and then your enemies will experience their own sorrow. But your sorrow will be turned into joy. No longer will you wait or suffer but see Jesus face-to-face and dwell with Him for eternity.
So, take heart. The suffering of this life is only for a little while, and that little while is under the control of your gracious heavenly Father, who has overcome all things. Because Jesus lives again, He has overcome the world by His cross. Your sins are forgiven. You are given a joy and an inheritance that cannot be taken away from you. In a little while Jesus will come and take you to Himself. And there no one can take Jesus from you, or you from Him.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.