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May 03, 2020
By Rev. Peter Heckert

+ Grace to you, and peace, from God our heavenly Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. + Amen.

The text for our meditation for this fourth Sunday of Easter comes from our Gospel text where John records Jesus’s words, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Here ends our text; dear Christian friends…

Who doesn’t love a game of “peek-a-boo” with a baby? Not only is it downright adorable to see their reactions, including smiles and little giggles, but it’s actually mentally stimulating for them. Developmental psychologists have suggested that the game is actually important for the development of an infant, helping teach them about object permanence – the idea that an object continues to exist even if it is not seen, heard, touched, or sensed in any way. I’ve never been to Katmandu, but I know that it’s a place that exists. Right now, I’m not seeing all of your faces, but I know you’re there, listening (hopefully) to this sermon. So, there is much to love about a good ol’ fashioned game of peek-a-boo … but I wonder if the disciples were fans.

I say that because of the context of our Gospel text for today. It sounds like Jesus is playing a serious game of peekaboo! He tells His disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” We’re not exactly told about how they were feeling about this, we can say they were rather confused. “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’?” they ask one another. I’m sure this was disconcerting, but perhaps even alarming. After all, this comes in the wake of Jesus revealing that one of their number would betray Him, that another would thrice deny Him, and that the world was going to hate them. Though they should have known what was about to happen (given that Jesus told them numerous times what He was going to endure); they simply didn’t understand.

So, Jesus has to explain it 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’? 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. 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. 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.”

This is a crash-course in object permanence. Mere moments after Jesus said these things to the disciples, He would be betrayed into the hands of sinful men. He would be tried by the religious and secular authorities and condemned to death. He would be mocked, scourged, marched through the streets of Jerusalem up a hill to be crucified. And He would die. And they would see Him no longer. And they thought that was it. Their sorrow was genuine, their guilt for abandoning Him, no doubt, was all too real. Their fear of suffering the same fate was certainly palpable, enough to make them hide away in the upper room, thinking the Jewish authorities were coming for them, too. They thought He was gone for good. They wept and lamented as the world and the prince of this world laughed and rejoiced and made merry, thinking that they had won because the Son of God lay lifeless in a tomb.

But just as surely as a mother reveals her face with a gleeful, “peekaboo!” to the amazement and joy of her baby, so too was the joy and amazement of Jesus’s disciples as He showed up in their midst on that Easter evening with His words of comfort, “Peace be with you.” Their sorrow had turned to joy! Their hearts rejoiced, and no one could – or would – take that joy away from them!

Here’s the thing, though: this promise given to the disciples by Jesus … was unique to them. They had the honor and privilege of being with Jesus during His earthly ministry. They suffered the sorrow of actually seeing, with their own eyes, their Master crucified and killed. They knew that joy unfathomable of seeing Him risen from the dead, in the flesh, several times from that first Easter evening until His ascension 40 days later. That’s not for us. Does this text apply to us Christians today? Not really; contrary to the teachings of some, the Scriptures aren’t really supposed to be read as a self-help book.

That said, the Easter joy that belonged to the disciples does belong to us, as well! The same Lord who walked out of His tomb, risen, is still alive! This is the present reality, my friends – Jesus died once, is now raised from the dead, and will never die again! The world and its prince, who once laughed in gleeful perception of triumph, now cower in terror, knowing that Christ has won the battle and they are laid low in defeat forever! What’s more, our baptisms in His death and resurrection give us the assurance that that fate awaits us, as well! How incredible will our Easter joy be on the Last Day, when we, and all those who have gone before us (and after us), will be physically reunited in the presence of our crucified and resurrected King?! To live with Him and one another forever in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness!

It’s peekaboo, my friends! We may not see Jesus face to face right now, but we certainly see Him claim His own in the waters of holy baptism! We may not hear His exact voice, His tone or pitch, but we hear Him as He speaks His life-giving absolution! We may not be able to feel Him with us always, but when we gather together in person, we are able to taste our salvation in His Body and Blood in, under, and with the bread and wine! It’s object permanence; He’s present, even if we don’t see Him! And we have the promise that, at His return, we will see Him face-to-face! Peekaboo! That’s our Easter joy, our hope, until hope becomes sight in the life of the world to come!

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