This morning I’d like to draw your eyes, or better yet, your ears to our epistle reading. Comes from First Peter, chapter 2. And I tell ya, it’s awfully hard to out-preach Peter, the first among the apostles! He preaches a beauty of a sermon on Jesus’ resurrection, and the life of righteousness to which we are all called. He preaches on the radical freedom that we have in Christ, saying in our epistle this morning, “Live as people who are free, but not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.” Hear that? In Christ, you’re free. But in Christ also, you’re all just servants as well.
Last Saturday morning some folks here at LMC got together to read and study Martin Luther’s great treatise called “On the Freedom of the Christian.” In it he sets down two seemingly contradictory propositions. First, “A Christian is a perfectly free lord of all, subject to none.” And second, “A Christian is a perfectly dutiful servant of all, subject to all.” That is, we are perfectly free, subject to no one, and at the same time we are dutiful servants, subject to everyone. So wild stuff, right? How can you be free and bound at the same time? Lord and servant.
First off, Luther is saying your good works, your best efforts, ain’t going to save you. One thing and only one thing is necessary for the Christian life, for righteousness and for freedom. And that’s the Word of God, the precious Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.
It’s just as Christ says in John 11, verse 25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who believes in me will never die.” And John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free you will be free indeed.” Simple as that!
Believing that Word of God, having faith in this Gospel, sets us free. Free from the law. Free from all judgment and condemnation. This holy Gospel sets us free even from our graves. Luther writes in his little treatise that we are the freest and richest of all kings. Possessing the riches of God’s kingdom, forgiveness, and the joy of eternal life. Death, devil, and hell even made to cower before us at the name of Christ our Lord.
And then comes the second proposition. At the same time we, as Christians, free as we are, are dutiful servants also, subject to all. Servants to everyone. Interesting that in Peter’s sermon on Christian freedom in our epistle, he just starts preaching about all the people we are subject to. Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution. Live as servants of God. Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Honor the emperor. Be subject to your masters. In other words, look out, because everyone’s got a claim on you, and for the Christian set free by the blood of Christ, that’s just fine.
You can see it for yourself in the Table of Duties at the end of your Small Catechism. Don’t gloss over that. You’ll find Scripture passages for various holy orders and positions, admonishing all of us to our duties and responsibilities.
You’ll find words for pastors and preachers. And what hearers owe their pastors. Scripture on civil government, citizens, husbands, wives, parents, and children. To workers, bosses, and employees. To young people, widows, and everyone.
We see here that Christian faith is a busy and active thing. A life lived in love, looking out for the benefit and advantage of our neighbor. But not to gain anything, no need for that, but because we are already so satisfied with the fulness and wealth of our faith – the joy just spills over. So Luther, in summary, teaches us that the Christian always lives outside of himself. In faith toward God and love for the neighbor.
Now let’s see what’s going on in our Gospel today. We’re back in that upper room before Jesus’ arrest and Passion. And He breaks some tough news: “A little while and you will see me no more. And again a little while and you will see me.” He’s speaking about His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. Because those disciples literally will not see Him when He’s stolen away from them, when He’s bound in chains, and crucified. They won’t see Him when He’s laid in a dark grave. But again, in a little while, they will see Him. Risen on the third day. And then their hearts will rejoice. All sorrow turning to joy. Obviously, Jesus is speaking about His death and resurrection, but all the disciples are totally confused.
“Look, it’s like this,” says Jesus: A woman when she’s in labor has sorrow because her hour has come. She’s in tremendous pain and discomfort. But all that unpleasantness doesn’t last forever. There comes a final cry. And when that little baby is laid upon her breast it’s all over. She looks into that baby’s face and her joy is total and complete. Her sorrow forgotten. Her heart swells with joy that a child has been born. Her little baby. All the pain, the discomfort, not even worth comparing to that bundle of joy whose beating heart rests upon hers. Jesus scans the disciples’ faces to see if they understand. That’s how it will be with you and me.
But then again you should know that Jesus isn’t just speaking about those difficult three days from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. He’s also laying before us all the little whiles between His ascension, when He’ll disappear from our sight, and the Second Coming, when we’ll see Him again, on Judgment Day, when we’ll be raised from our graves. On that day, you better believe it that we’ll see Him again.
So Jesus’ words this morning are directed toward you. Your life, your trials, all your little whiles of unpleasantness as you await His return. Like the travail of a mother in labor, your sufferings, your trouble, don’t last forever. They’re short. In fact, not even worth comparing to the glory that shall be revealed to us when Christ comes again.
Do you see what a wonderful message this is to us? It means that when you are brought to your breaking point, or brought to some fiery trial, or even to somewhat minor disappointments – like a C+ on an important exam. The fact remains. Christ is risen! Still raised from the dead, ascended, and reigning at the Father’s right hand. And He’s coming again to take you and all believers into His heavenly kingdom. This isn’t some sort of mystical escapism, it’s just the truth, and it helps us put everything we experience into the right perspective.
So when you go through a difficult trial you can say, “Oh yes, this is the little while my Jesus told me about. He told me to expect just this. But He comforted me. He told me to be patient. That He was with me through it all. That He would endure hell on the cross to set me free. And that I’d see Him again and all my sorrow would turn to joy. He assured me even that this little while of weeping would be replaced with an eternity of rejoicing in the presence of Christ, the crucified and risen Savior. And that no one would take my joy from me.”
Therefore, in the meantime, I’ll patiently endure every “little while” of this poor life of labor. I’ll let the light of His heaven fall upon me and the hope of the future life illuminate my heart. I’ll come to His Sacred Banquet and eat His body and drink His forgiving blood – and become intoxicated with the chalice of salvation. I’ll cheerfully endure every little while as one who has been set utterly free to serve God and my neighbor. And then I’ll gladly meet Him when I see Him again. In the name of Jesus. Amen.
OFFERINGS TO LMC
Please remember your gifts to LMC. There are a few options for giving:
- You can mail your weekly offerings to the church.
- You can also do an online bill pay through your bank account, which can recur each month. Your bank then sends LMC a check with your offering. There is no cost to you or LMC for this.
- You can set up online giving through an App called Tithe.ly. There is a small fee associated with this transaction. You may find this option at www.lmcusc.org/give