6th Week of Easter
May 30, 2019John 16: 16-20
Nativity, Washington, D.C.
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘A little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while later and you will see me'” (John 16: 16).
|The Last Supper by Willem Key|
Some of Jesus’ words at the Last Supper are hard to make sense of. It seems to me that the passage set before us today might have 2 meanings. John’s Gospel is full of verses, even passages, with double meanings. One of the best known is Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus in which he tells his Pharisee friend that pneuma blows wherever it wishes. The Greek word pneuma means both “wind” and “spirit.” No wonder poor Nicodemus was confused!
So Jesus tells the apostles that in a little while they’ll no longer see him. That may refer to his approaching death and burial. “The world rejoices” (16:20)—we finally got rid of him! But then the disciples will see him again, when he’s risen and appears to them on several occasions—3 of which are reported in John’s Gospel. Then their grief at his momentary departure “will become joy” (16:20), and they’ll react by preaching the resurrection of Jesus to the whole world.
The “little while” when the disciples will no longer see Jesus and will lament his departure could also refer to the time after his resurrection and ascension—the time we’re in now. We feel his absence and lament it. We long for his return, the 2d coming, after this “little while,” when the faithful will rejoice to see him again.
In the scheme of human history’s thousands of years, this post-resurrection period is just “a little while later,” a short wait. What’s the entire span of our lives compared to eternity, when “we may perpetually render thanks for the resurrection of the Lord” because we will be fully “partakers in the redemption” that God the Father has planned for us (Collect) since he created the universe however many millions of years ago.
In Christ “the Lord has made his salvation known” (Ps 98:2). Our lifetimes are only a little while” during which we long to see Jesus, and we may grieve or lament that we don’t literally see him.
Yet we do see him—in his sacraments. We can speak with him—in prayer and in meditation on the Scriptures. Christ is present among us. He hasn’t left us orphans (cf. John 14:18) but remains with us—cause for us to be joyful and to share our joy with others.