We will end our service this morning by singing those beautiful words, “And then from death awaken me, that these mine eyes with joy may see, O Son of God, thy glorious face, my Savior and my Fount of grace.” This is the aspiration every Christian shares. Every Christian can say, “This is the goal of my entire life, that I and all whom God has given me, will awaken from the dead to see the glorious face of the Son of God, my Lord Jesus, who has loved me and given Himself for me, who though I have often strayed, despite all my pride and my sin, though I have not deserved it, has never forsaken me, has stayed true to His promise, has been patient with me, has remembered by the wound in his side and the scars in his hands that He has suffered for me and spilt His blood for me, this Son of God who has guarded and protected me from my mother’s arms, who has comforted me in my distress, who has joined Himself to me in my Baptism and called me a son of His Father and guided me by His Spirit and taught me His commandments, who has daily forgiven me my sins, who has fed me with His own body and blood, to see Him with eyes unclouded,” this is my goal, this is your goal, this is the Christian’s goal. Every other goal you might have – long life, prosperous retirement, good career, happy family, a full church, a successful school, financial security, every other goal can only be a tributary, a little stream, flowing into the river of faithful expectation that rushes to eternity, to this great goal, the day you and yours see Jesus’ glorious face.
It’s for this that we labor. Jesus compares it to a woman in childbirth. Your life as a Christian. It’s looking forward to an inexpressible joy at the same time as you suffer through a world of sin and temptation and pain and cancer and death and heartbreak. So before we see Christ we have to go through labor. And of course the labor of childbearing, the pain itself, is a curse, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing. In pain you shall bring forth children.” So God said to Eve. All suffering, of itself, is a curse – it entered into the world as a direct result of our sin. But our God is so gracious, so good, that he takes what is so obviously a curse, this suffering, this pain, this fear of death, and he turns it into a blessing for those who will receive it. There is, in fact, no greater example of virtue and self-sacrifice than a mother, who for the joy set before her, the joy of seeing her baby, is willing to suffer and go through pain no man understands. And it is through this suffering that she becomes the more fiercely committed to her child. It’s as Rudyard Kipling writes, “She who faces death by torture for each life beneath her breast, may not deal in doubt or pity, must not swerve for fact or jest.” She’ll fight for her baby, come hell or highwater. She’s suffered for it and she’s learned through her suffering what that baby’s worth.
Now this has nothing to do with earning salvation, nothing to do with earning a seat in heaven. Labor doesn’t earn a baby. The baby’s already there. It doesn’t become a baby once it’s born, as our anti-science science worshippers imagine. It’s a baby, before the woman labors, before she goes through any pain, the baby is there. And so it works with your salvation. It’s there on that altar; it’s there in your Baptism; it’s there in the Gospel preached to you. Jesus labored for it. No labor of yours, no exertion of your will, no strength of your works, no suffering you go through, nothing can change it, add to it, alter it, detract from it. It stands as an objective fact – Jesus the God-man bore the sins of the world, bore your sin, paid its price by His blood, prepared a place for you in heaven by his cross, and it is finished, as surely as He is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity. It is finished. This is the promise of your Baptism, the assurance of the Supper, the certainty of your absolution. And this cannot and will not fail, because it’s God’s promise sealed with God’s blood and God doesn’t lie.
But we do labor. We do work. We do suffer. Jesus tells us we will and every Christian experiences it. St. Paul preaches it to the saints in Antioch, “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.” We need to know this, that the trials of our life come by God’s permission, according to God’s plan. Jesus tells us beforehand, so that our faith will not fail us. And in fact He sends the suffering so that our faith will cling all the more to him.
Christians learn from our suffering how much Christ is worth. This is how God brings us to Himself, it’s why we turn time and again to our Lord Jesus for comfort, for correction, for instruction and learn to prize Him as our greatest treasure. Our own sin brings us grief and shame and so we run to Christ for forgiveness and we learn to love Him even more, because once again He doesn’t push us aside but welcomes us as His own. And when our trust in earthly happiness comes crashing down because of a bad diagnosis or the loss of money or job or of those we love, we run to Christ for correction, “You are anxious about many things, but only one this is needful.” “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all other things will be added to you.” And when we see the world rejoicing in unrighteousness, our own country making laws that attack marriage and support the slaughter of children, our own culture caving to obnoxious sins and the outrageous denial of creation and creation’s God in transgenderism and so-called homosexual marriage, as if God does not see, as if He is not in control, then we turn again to our Lord’s instruction, “Why do you say, O Jacob, and speak, O Israel, “My way is hidden from the Lord, and my right is disregarded by my God”? Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He is in control. He will give justice to the poor and the oppressed. As the psalmist says, “I have seen the wicked in great power, and spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more. Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found.” Every suffering we meet, Jesus answers. And through the suffering we learn what our Jesus is worth.
And the great beauty of it is that this Jesus, whom we grow to love and depend on and thirst for in our brief suffering on this earth, for whom we learn to fight and hold on to for dear life as the world rages around us, it’s His love for us that has been cemented by His own suffering. He promised His disciples that their suffering would be for just a little while. They would all abandon Jesus and suffer for their cowardice and denial and sin; they would all lose sight of Christ’s promise and imagine their world had come crashing down because their enemies had won the day and crucified their Lord; they would all see the world rejoice in the mocking of Jesus on the cross; they would huddle in fear and sorrow and wonder whether God was really in control. But their suffering, no matter how long it seemed to them, was only for a little while. And our suffering is but for a little while. Seven times Jesus says that. A little while. He’s not just stressing that our life on earth is short and then we’ll see our Lord Jesus. He’s stressing that even here on earth our sorrow lasts but a little while before Jesus meets it with joy that no one will take from us.
Because Jesus’ suffering, His going to the Father, as He says, His doing His Father’s will and enduring hell on the cross for our sake, this makes Him fiercely committed to us. He doesn’t abandon those for whom He suffers. Our suffering is but for a little while precisely because His suffering was the suffering of eternity, the eternal God suffering the eternal punishment for the sin of the world. And after that, there is no doubting His sincerity and His insistence to bring us the fruits of His passion. It’s for this reason, because we are the reason for His passion, that when the Lord Jesus rises, His immediate concern is His disciples, to put an end to their suffering, to forgive them, to speak peace to them, to teach them that He is in control, that He has conquered death, that all the vain plots of the devil have failed and will fail, that there is no reason to fear. But I will see you again, He says, and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take that joy from you.
And that is why this Sunday is called Jubilate. Shout for joy. We’ve been talking a lot about suffering, but the Christian life is marked by the joy of Christ that answers suffering. If you sorrow over your sin, see Jesus comes to you with forgiveness, peace with your God, intent on showing you that He is the Lamb of God who has taken away the sins of the world and your guilt and your shame are washed away by the very blood He now pours into your mouth. If you are burdened with anxiety and care, the One who cares for you tells you to throw your cares on Him, that while everything else may fail you He never will; he knows your suffering and knows when best to end it; wait His time and He will teach you that all will work for good for those who love Him. And if you see the world crashing down and insanity reigning, good, there’s nothing new under the sun, the kingdoms will totter and fail, stop trusting in them, but Christ’s Kingdom will stand and here is your true citizenship. And this joy is not ephemeral, it doesn’t last but a little while. It has staying power. It’s the only joy in heaven and on earth that doesn’t change or fade.
The joy of seeing a baby born, even that, will fade, but the joy of her Baptism, of her being born as a child of God, that lasts forever. Because the life that was just given to Anna Marie and the life that has been given to you in your Baptism is an eternal life, a life lived before God that begins now and lasts forever. The goal of our life is to stand before the Son of God and see His glorious face. And that’s because He is with us now, always, to the end of the age. And here is our joy through every single day of our life. He’s committed Himself to us now, and we live before Him knowing this will never change, that He will always love us, always instruct us in what is good, always teach us that His Father is our Father through the blood of His Son, and because He comforts us now in our distress, forgives us now our sins, teaches us now the truth, we know now the joy of seeing our Savior by faith, a joy that will be full when we see Him in glory. So shout for joy now. Shout in the hymns. Let no voice be silent in this holy assembly. Sing, shout for joy to the Lord. Alleluia. Christ is risen. Amen.