“Word for Today” – John 16 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

April 7, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

clock-1It was my senior year in high school.  And every day, for the better part of four years by this point, at the moment the closing bell rang, I would always dart out the door and start running down the street.  Because, you see, the closing bell rang at 2:32 pm.  And I had a bus to catch at 2:36 pm.  Four minutes to run four blocks to the bus stop.  Not a lot of time.  But I was quick.  And, most of the time, I made it.  That is, until one January afternoon.

It was a beautiful January afternoon.  After a couple of days of snow in the Pacific Northwest, which is where I grew up, the sun had finally emerged from behind the clouds and was now slowly and persistently melting away the snow that was now thawing into a muddy slush on the front lawn of my high school campus.  And as I went running along on that muddy slush, I took a nose dive into that muddy slush.  Ouch.

As I emerged from my fall, a sharp pain shot up my right leg.  After taking a good 30 minutes to hobble the four blocks to my bus stop, I began to realize that something was terribly wrong.  When you coupled that with the fact that my leg was beginning to swell and turn purple, I knew that a visit to the doctor was inevitable.

Sitting in the doctor’s office, I received the bad news.  “Your leg is broken,” the doctor said.  “You’re going to have to wear a cast.  But don’t worry, you’ll only have to wear it for a little while and then you’ll be as good as ever.”  “A little while!” I shot back.  “How long is a little while?”  “About three months,” came the reply.  That didn’t sound like a little while to me.

“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me” (John 16:16).  These are Jesus’ words to his disciples in our reading for today.  And, like me with my broken leg, the disciples wanted to know, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’” (verse 18)?  Interestingly, this is a question that puzzled not only the twelve disciples, but countless numbers of theologians throughout the centuries as well.  Most scholars agree that the first part of Jesus’ sentence, “In a little while you will see me no more,” is a reference to his impending execution via crucifixion.  But then, the second half of Jesus’ statement, “And then after a little while you will see me,” has caused much more confusion and conflict.  Some theologians take this as a reference to Jesus’ resurrection three days later.  Not exactly a brief flash of time, but still a relatively short time period by normal standards.  Others, citing the context of this passage and Jesus’ promise that he will send “the Spirit of truth” (verse 12) after he “goes away” (verse 7), take this as a reference to Jesus’ Second Coming at the end of time.  And that time period lasts…well, we’re still waiting.  Three days.  2,000 years.  Both are “a little while.”

It’s fascinating how relative “a little while” can be, isn’t it?  For a doctor it’s three months.  For a resurrection it’s three days.  For a Second Coming it’s…I’m not quite sure.  And yet, for God, all of these are only “a little while.”  As Psalmist reminds us, “A thousand years in God’s sight are like a day that has just gone by” (Psalm 90:4).  From God’s eternal perspective, it’s all just “a little while.”

This perspective on time can be of great comfort to us, especially when we face trials, troubles, and persecutions of every kind.  Indeed, this is exactly how Jesus means to use his promise of “a little while.”  He says, “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice” (verse 22).  “Not to worry,” Jesus says.  “You may have trouble, but it will only last for ‘a little while.’  I’ll see you again soon enough.”

So, what trial, trouble, or persecution are you facing today?  Is it an organizational problem at work that you’ll have reconfigured by the end of the day?  Is it a financial difficulty at home that you’ll have resolved by your next paycheck?  Is it a sickness that has landed you in the hospital and may only be relieved by eternity?  Whatever your predicament, remember, from God’s perspective, all of our problems, even if to us they seem to drag on forever, are only a flash in the pan.  They only last for “a little while.”  For there will come a day, the Last Day, when God will overcome all of our trials, troubles, and persecutions and give us a perfect eternity with him.  As Jesus says at the end of this chapter, “In this world you will have trouble.  But take heart!  I have overcome the world” (verse 33).  So, whatever trouble you face, be it today or tomorrow, take heart!  It’ll only be for a little while.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – John 15 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – John 17 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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