John 16:12-22 – Unassailable Joy

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John 16:12-22

“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 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. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.

Jesus Body of Christ Discipleship16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 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.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

“A little while,” Jesus says, “and you will see Me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see Me.” On this side of the Cross and Resurrection, we know what Jesus meant by, “A little while.” But the disciples have no clue. They can’t figure it out. So Jesus explains it to them. “A little while and you won’t see Me because I’m going to be bloodied and buried in a tomb. The result of this is that you will have sorrow but the world will rejoice. But then a little while and you will see Me because I’m going to rise from the dead. The result of this is that all your sorrow will turn into joy that no one will be able to take from you.” So, what Jesus is saying here is that the sorrow and the joy of Jesus’ disciples is bound up to how it is with Jesus.

This is also true for you. Your sorrow and your joy is bound up to how it is with Jesus. And because your sorrow and joy is bound up to how it is with Jesus, you should always be joyful. Now, to be joyful doesn’t mean that you aren’t ever sad or that you never cry. Jesus was sad; He cried when Lazarus died (Jn. 11:35). It is good to be sad when a loved one dies. It is good to mourn when God’s good gifts are taken away. Being sad about those things teaches us to long for the Resurrection when all sadness is taken away and creation restored.

But in the midst of our sadness we should always have joy because Jesus has risen never to die again, and He now lives and reigns to all eternity. “Rejoice always,” (1 Thess. 5:16) because Jesus is always with us in His Word and in the Sacraments. “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Php. 4:4). But we aren’t always joyful, and that is because of sin. Think through this with me.

Start with this question: What brings you joy? Think about that for a moment. I hope a lot of things come to mind because there are so many good things that God gives to you. What brings you joy? Your family, your home. Hopefully, your work, your hobbies. The things you taste and touch and smell all these good things bring you joy.

Now, I want to ask you a different question: What would rob you of your joy? Here is the kicker because when you answer this question, you will find out what your idols are. What would rob you of your joy? Would getting cancer or some other sickness rob you of your joy? Then you are idolizing your body and health. Would losing your house rob you of your joy? Then you are idolizing your property. Would a certain candidate getting elected this November rob you of your joy? Then you are idolizing the government.

Small Catechism - Ten Commandments Cloud IconThink through the Ten Commandments with me for a minute. Normally, we think of the Commandments as God putting restrictions on our behavior. That is one of the things the Commandments do. But by giving the Commandments, God protects you and the things He gives you. So consider the Commandments in reverse order:

10 – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s. God gives you contentment in the relationships He has given you.

9 – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house. God gives you contentment in the things He has given you.

8 – Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor. God protects your reputation with the truth.

7 – Thou shalt not steal. God protects the things He has given you from people who would take them away.

6 – Thou shalt not commit adultery. God protects your covenant relationship with your spouse so that you can have a joyful, happy marriage.

5 – Thou shalt not kill. God protects your body and the very life He has given you.

4 – Honor thy father and thy mother. God gives and protects order in this world by giving the gift authority.

3 – Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. God gives His Word and preaching so that you can hear the voice of God.

2 – Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord thy God in vain. God gives you the gift of prayer. You use God’s name to call upon Him in every time of need.

1 – Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me. This is the big one. This is where God gives you Himself. God the Father who created you, God the Son who redeemed you, and God the Holy Spirit who has sanctified you, He invites you to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. He also invites you to find your joy in Him alone.

A pastor friend[1] of mine used this analogy, and I think it is very helpful. Imagine, you are settling new land. You live by a pond that provides you with water. Eventually, that pond dries up. Now, you have two choices: you can lay down and die, or you can follow the stream that fed that pond and see what happened. Well, you do follow that stream and find another pond. But then that one runs dry. So you follow the stream to another pond and it runs dry. Nine times this happens. Finally, the ninth pond runs dry and you follow the stream and you find the source that never runs dry.

That is how it is with the Commandments. If you look for your joy in the gift of contentment that God gives in the 9th and 10th Commandments, that will be taken away. Or if you find your joy in your stuff that God gives in the 7th Commandment, that will be taken away. If you find your joy in your life, in the 5th Commandment pond, eventually that will be taken away. If you find your joy in the 3rd Commandment, in worship and the gift of hearing God’s Word, that, sometimes is taken away too. Even the joy in the 2nd Commandment, the gift of prayer, that dries up too.

So all you are left with is the source – the first Commandment. There, God says, “Let everything else go. I am your God.” And that, brothers and sisters is where your joy comes from. And when you have God as your God, when you have the source, then all of those other ponds are full. All of those things that God gives and protects, you know are from the God who says, “I am all you will ever need.” And even if those other ponds dry up – even when God’s good gifts are taken away – you still know that God is your God. You have the source of all good things. You have the fountain of all joy.

As Psalm 37:4 says, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” Today, we repent. Repent of finding your joy anywhere else but in God. Repent of those idols that give only fleeting joy. Turn back in faith to your God.

Jesus tells the disciples, “You will not see me. You have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” Remember, your joy and your sorrow is bound up to how it is with Jesus, your God.

Blessings from the CrossHere is how it is with the God who says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me.” He died for you. He was crucified for every commandment you have failed to keep, for every time you have found false joy in something other than Him.

And now, Jesus takes joy in forgiving you all of your sins, and that forgiveness is unassailable. Jesus now finds His joy in you – in calling you His own. So take your joy in Him. Because He lives and reigns to all eternity, no one and nothing will ever take your joy from you. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Thanks to Pr. Bryan Wolfmueller for this analogy.

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John 10:22-30 – Hear Your Shepherd

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John 10:22-30

22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” 25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

1   The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2           He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.

3           He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

4   Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,

for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

Jesus is just a few months away from being crucified. The Lamb of God will soon be led to the slaughter. Jesus in the Temple Colonnade of SolomonAs Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is walking through the Temple, some of the Jewish leaders come to question Him. And their question reveals that they are not Jesus’ sheep. They do not know the green pastures of the Good Shepherd. All they can see is the stony colonnade of Solomon. The waters are not still – they are frozen wintery solid. As they walk through the valley of the shadow of death, they fear every evil because even though the Good Shepherd is with them, they deny His presence. And so they know no comfort.

If Jesus was their Shepherd, they would not want – they would lack nothing. But not only do they want, they are dying in their want. Not only are their souls not restored, they are in torment. Our translation says they ask Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense?” Literally, they ask, “How long will you lift our souls from us?” In other words, “We are dying to know. If You are the Christ, tell us plainly, boldly.” Which is downright absurd because everything Jesus has been doing reveals that He is the Messiah.

Demons are confessing that He is the Christ. His works point to the fact that He is the Christ. His teaching reveals that He is the Christ. But these Jewish leaders have absolutely refused to believe. If they believed, they would be Jesus’ sheep and would know the peace and comfort of Psalm 23. But these Jews, probably the scribes and Pharisees, who come to question Jesus are not simply doubting that Jesus is the Christ. Instead, they are unbelieving. Now, there is a difference between doubt and unbelief. To be in unbelief is to be damned. To doubt is different.

Brothers and sisters, as God’s own sheep, we all suffer doubt because we have two minds – an old and a new – constantly warring against each other. The new mind is faithful to God, and the old mind constantly tries to push us slowly and persistently back toward unbelief.

Doubt grows when we do not listen to God’s Word. If we are not drinking from the still waters and refuse to eat in the green pastures, the voice of the old, sinful mind will get stronger and stronger. Assailed by DemonsAnd the devil knows this about us. He knows our old mind is constantly pushing us, driving us, back to unbelief. So Satan feeds that doubt in very subtle, very tricky ways.

That is why Jesus teaches us to pray the 6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation.” “We we pray in this petition that God would so guard and preserve us that the devil, the world, and our own flesh may not deceive us nor lead us into error and unbelief, despair, and other great and shameful sins; but that when so tempted, we may finally prevail and gain the victory” (Small Catechism).

How does God guard and preserve you? What will make you prevail and gain the victory? Well, dear sheep, let me tell you. Hear your Shepherd as He speaks to you. Your dabbling in doubt does not frustrate Him. Instead, He lovingly speaks words of comfort to you. It is His tender words that make you recognize His voice. Follow that voice even though you may have a head full of doubt.

Listen to what He says, “I give you, My sheep, eternal life.” Jesus says, “My sheep will not ever, no never, ever perish – for eternity.” And your Shepherd promises, “No one will snatch them out of my hand.”

Jesus the Good Shepherd 1Do you hear what your Shepherd is telling you? He says to you that nothing and no one – not even death – can separate you from Him. Your Shepherd has already walked through the valley of the shadow of death on His own. He knows every step of that valley, and He conquered it. Your Shepherd now leads you guiding you with His nail-scarred hands. And you are held safely, securely in those very hands.

Your Shepherd says that God the Father Himself has given you to Jesus to be His sheep. That Heavenly Father is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch you from the Father’s hand. And Jesus and the Father are one. So, my fellow sheep, what is in store for you? God will

5   …prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

6   Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

John 21:1-14 – Familiarity

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John 21:1-14

1 After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way. 2 Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.” They said to him, “We will go with you.” They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.

4 Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Jesus said to them, “Children, do you have any fish?” They answered him, “No.” John 21 Catch Fish6 He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish. 7 That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea. 8 The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.

9 When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish that you have just caught.” 11 So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and have breakfast.” Now none of the disciples dared ask him, “Who are you?” They knew it was the Lord. 13 Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish. 14 This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Welcome to the third week of Easter. Can’t you just feel the excitement? Yeah, maybe not. We are peak and valley people. We trudged through the valley of Lent hearing over and over to repent. We were humbled by the Scriptures recounting what our Lord did for us during Holy Week. Then Easter Sunday, we were ready to burst out singing, “Christ the Lord is risen today!” The music, the flowers, the dresses, the ties. The time with family, the delicious ham dinner, hiding eggs full of candy and watching the kids hunt for them. Easter is exciting. We burst out with joy telling each other that our Lord has conquered death and the grave. He is risen, alleluia!

But then Easter Sunday passes. The Resurrection slips into the background. We go back to familiar things. The glow wears off, and the excitement dies down. Now, we can feel guilty about this – maybe we should. But we are no different than the disciples and the women; we’re no different than the very people who were living through the events of Easter.

Look back to John 20 where John tells us about what happened that Easter morning. Mary Magdalene sees the stone rolled away from the tomb. She runs back to tell Peter and John, who both take off running. John and Peter see the tomb empty and the linen cloths. They are excited, their adrenaline is pumping, things are happening. But then Peter and John lamely go back to their homes (v. 10), and the excitement dies down.

After this, Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene and talks with her, and she finally recognizes that it is Jesus. She clings to Jesus, and Jesus sends her to tell the disciples that she has actually seen Jesus which she does, but John doesn’t give us any indication about what the disciples do with this. So, we are somewhat let down again.

John starts up again in v. 19 saying that Easter evening, Jesus appears in the room where the disciples were. He says, “Peace be with you.” He shows them His hands and feet. He breathes on them and gives them the Holy Spirit and sends them out to forgive sins. But then Thomas, arrives having just missed Jesus. The disciples tell him, “We have seen the Lord! Man, Thomas, you should have been here.” But Thomas throws a wet blanket on it all. Thomas says that he absolutely will not believe until he can place his finger in Jesus’ hands and feet and place his hand in Jesus’ side. Talk about a killjoy.

The next Sunday (v. 26), Thomas gets exactly what he demanded. He sees Jesus. He sees the scars in hands, feet, and side. Jesus calls Thomas to believe, and he does. Then Jesus gives a blessing, “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Then in the last two verses of ch. 20, John writes what sounds like a nice conclusion to his Gospel. He writes, “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (Jn. 20:30-31). What a perfect way that would have been for John to end his Gospel. But he doesn’t. He writes these words of our text to tell us about the third time Jesus reveals Himself to the disciples. And Jesus reveals Himself in the most familiar way.

The disciples have left Jerusalem and are back in familiar territory – the Sea of Tiberias which is also known as the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 6:1). And they seem, quite frankly, lost as to what to do. Jesus is risen from the dead. The Teacher they had been following for three years has done everything He said He would do. He has been crucified, dead, buried, and risen just as He said He would be. But Jesus isn’t with them all the time. So Peter decides, “Well, I don’t know what to do, so I’m just going to do what I used to do. I’m going fishing.” And the other disciples say, “Let’s go with you. Why not?”

So these fishers of fish, who had been called to be fishers of men by Jesus who has conquered death, return to the familiar. They go back to being fishers of fish. But they aren’t very successful, in fact they stink. The whole night, they catch nothing.

Day is breaking. The best time to catch fish is past. And here comes Jesus standing on the shore. The disciples had no idea who it was. So, in their minds, there’s a heckler on the shore, “Children, do you have any fish?” “No.” “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” Why they actually did it, I don’t know. But their nets are filled with so many fish, they can’t haul it into the boat.

Pause here. I hope this sounds familiar to you because this is almost identical to what happened in Luke 5. There, Luke records Jesus calling the disciples. Now, many Christians think that Jesus simply calls the disciples, “Follow Me,” and they do and have this three-year adventure. But Jesus actually calls the disciples at least two, and I would argue that Scripture is very clear that Jesus calls them three, times. You can ask me about it later.

Luke 5 is Jesus’ final call for them to be fishers of men. And it is almost identical to our Gospel text. The disciples have been fishing all night and have caught nothing – just like in our text. You start to wonder how the disciples made a living because they never seem to catch anything. In both of these texts, Jesus tells them to let down the nets. In both texts, they catch a lot of fish – in fact too many. In Lk. 5, they fill two boats so full of fish that they start sinking. In Jn. 21, they cannot pull the nets up onto the boat, so they have to drag it behind them.

With all the familiarity, there are differences between these two texts. In Lk. 5, Peter sees this miraculous catch of fish, and you might think that he would offer Jesus a contract to be their fishing guide. But he doesn’t. He says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” Here, Peter frantically does everything he can to get to Jesus as quickly as possible. In Lk. 5, Jesus comforts Peter with forgiveness, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Here in Jn. 21, just after this text, Jesus forgives Peter again, but in a different way. Peter had denied Jesus three times, so Jesus asks Peter three times, “Peter, do you love Me?” And Peter answers Jesus three times, “Lord, You know that I love You.” And Jesus restores Peter, “Feed My lambs, tend My sheep, feed My sheep.”

John 21 BreakfastBut there is more familiarity to be found here. This text should bring our minds back to the shores of this very sea, about one year earlier when Jesus used five loaves of bread and two fish to feed 5,000 men plus women and children. Remember how afterward, the disciples carried off twelve baskets of leftovers for themselves (Jn. 6:1-14). Here in our text, Jesus is sitting on the shore by a fire, and again He provides fish and bread. But Jesus has also provided 153 extra large fish. What is the significance, why does John tell us there were 153 fish? Because that’s how many there were. Jesus takes the bread and gives it to them. Jesus takes the fish and gives it to them. Just as He did before.

John writes, “Now, none of the disciples dared ask Him, ‘Who are you?’ They knew it was the Lord.” They knew because Jesus was doing what was familiar.

You know the phrase, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” It sure can. But when it comes to Jesus and your faith, I hope that the familiar brings you a calming peace because your needs don’t change. Of course, you grow in your faith and in your maturity, but you will always need the same forgiveness. Every Sunday, you come here and you confess your sins with the same words and hear God’s absolution with the same words. Jesus told His disciples, “Take, eat. Take, drink. This is My Body and Blood shed for the forgiveness of sins. Do this in remembrance of Me.” To remember Him, we keep eating His Supper because we know He is there.

Jesus the Good Shepherd 1Jesus said to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth. So, every sermon you will hear me preach will essentially be the same: you are a sinner, Jesus died on the cross for your sin, He is risen again, and you are forgiven. There is no new material. Sure we might get tired of hearing it, but I hope instead, you recognize the voice of Jesus in the familiar.

Keep hearing those familiar words because in those words you don’t have to wonder, you don’t have to ask, “Who are you?” because you will know there is Jesus. He keeps doing for you what He has done for you, bringing you to eternal life with Him.

Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.