Fourth Sunday after Easter
"Come, and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up." Hosea 6:1
Prophet Hosea shows how God's paternal chastisement happens for man's repentance, when man accepts God's merciful chastisement. God had tried often and much to chastise the children of Israel; sometimes by war, sometimes by famine. But He often had to lament that they did not accept chastisement, from which it is also seen that man is not such a creature, that he accepts chastisement. An ox flees before a whip sooner than man does. How often has God chastised mankind with war, famine, and hard times, but through that outward chastisement, repentance has not come. Instead, mankind has just hardened more, the more that the Lord has whipped them. However Prophet Hosea exhorts the children of Israel to return to the Lord after that severe chastisement which they had to suffer outwardly when their kingdom was destroyed and their city was burned and the greater part of the people were killed, and those that were left were taken as prisoners into a pagan land. Prophet Hosea exhorts the people to return to the Lord and begin to worship Him more faithfully than before, when he preaches in the aforementioned passage: "Let us return to the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us, He hath smitten, and He will bind us up." (Hosea 6:1)
If the Christians of this time would now take one edifying example from these words of the prophet and would think of what good work the Lord has done to them, when He has inflicted them with both outward and spiritual chastisement. Namely, first through awakening, when the Lord has scourged them through distress of conscience; with that iron rod with which Christ rules the pagans, and also through outward chastisement the Lord has begun to chastise us, If Christians would take heed of this merciful chastisement and would return to the Lord and would entrust with all their heart, both the body and soul into the care of the Lord, then such great temptations would not come to them, nor fear of temporal distress. But those who struggle with unbelief are not able to believe so much that God draws unto Himself through outward chastisement also, and wants to tear their hearts loose from the world. But as a child turns again to the parent's lap although the parent has switched him, because he has no refuge elsewhere; so also must a Christian turn again to the Heavenly Parent's lap every time the Father has chastised him. If he could yet kiss the switch of the Father and thank for the good chastisement, then the Parent would take him Into His lap and give him a kiss and would allow him to suck from His grace-flowing breast. To this Hosea encourages also In the sixth chapter, first verse: "Come and let us return unto the Lord: for He hath torn, and He will heal us; He hath smitten, and He will bind us up," Christians do not anyway have refuge elsewhere than with the Heavenly Father. And now when the Parent has begun to chastise His disobedient children with hard times, and Chris ians have to suffer want and shortages along with the heathen people, then there is no other counsel for the Christians than to return to the Parent's lap as a child that has been switched, and to pray that these trials of the last times would be shortened for the elect's sake. We have that hope and confidence In God that He will not place a heavier burden upon us than we would be able to bear. Hear, Thou great Ruler of heaven and earth, the sigh of the sorrowful, penitent, and those in distress. Our Father which art in heaven, etc.
The Gospels John 16: 5-15
In today's Holy Gospel, Jesus speaks of His going away to the Father, for which reason the disciples' hearts are filled with sorrow, but He promises a Comforter to them, who will lead them in all truth.
Following that, we must at this moment of grace, through God's grace, examine: How the hearts of the disciples become filled with sorrow when Jesus intends to leave them.
The first consideration shows how the disciples become sorrowful when Jesus goes away. When the disciples have begun to follow Christ in that hope that through Christ they will become fortunate in the world, then it is to be surmised that they will become sorrowful when He goes away. It happened then in a visible way, that Jesus went away to the Father through death. The disciples' hearts were then attached so firmly to the world, that they could not be without mourning when their earthly refuge died. Jesus died and left the disciples in great sorrow. This matter happens now in this way, that when Christians are attached to the world, then Jesus dies in their hearts, and sorrow comes to the disciples from that. Or, as the Saviour says in the Gospel, their hearts are filled with sorrow when they notice or feel that Jesus has died.
The hearts of the disciples were entirely attached to the world when Jesus died, but after His death a heartfelt sorrow came to the disciples, which tore their hearts loose from the world. So it happens even now when Jesus dies in the hearts of the Christians because of love of the world,then sorrow and a great longing for the Saviour come to them. But if sorrow does not come to the disciples when they feel that Jesus dies in their hearts, then they will go entirely into the world. Unfortunately, it has gone so with many during this time, that Jesus has died in the Christiansí hearts, and sorrow has not come to them from that death, but they have been satisfied with that dead state. They have not wept and mourned in their longing for the merciful presence of Jesus. And their Saviour now lies in the grave. And some who have wept and lamented because of Jesus' death are no longer able to believe that He will arise. Such ones surely peer into the grave, but they do not find anything from there, either. What does it help you, Peter, that you jump into the grave and feel the sweat cloths, when you are not able to believe that Jesus is living although He has been seen by the women? What do you surmise, Peter, when the, women's Saviour is living and your Saviour is still dead? The women are in joy and you are in sorrow. The women believe but you do not believe that He is living. When you know assuredly that Jesus has died in your heart, but you do not feel assuredly that He is living. Although you would believe that He would be living, with this knowledge you must go to hell although you weep and lament, although you are very sorrowful, although you would wonder and think with your intellect how Jesus' body has come out of the grave. All of this wondering, jumping into the grave, and feeling the sweat cloths does not help you become saved as long as your Saviour is dead. Although you will not go into the world because of that great sorrow, you will not go to heaven because of your great unbelief.
The second consideration: How joy must come to the sorrowful disciples from Jesus' resurrection. We assuredly know that sorrow has come to all disciples of Jesus from Jesus' departure, but will joy now come to all from His resurrection? Yes, to all who have truly begun to follow Christ, but this Joy does not come to all at once. First Mary Magdalene who loved Jesus so much in the house of Simon the Leper, who had received so much forgiven and who poured precious ointment of spikenard upon His head. This old whore was first able to know and see that great Crossbearer and thorn-crowned King arisen. But do not think, you old whore, that you are always the best Christian, even though you have been able to see the Lord first on Easter Day. You do not have that power of spirit, that you could best help the kingdom of Christ forward. You are not the rock upon whom Christ has intended to build His congregation. But Peter is that rock upon whom Christ has intended to build His congregation, and John is that disciple whom Jesus loves. Although you are the first to whom Jesus reveals Himself, you are not, therefore, the best Christian. Although Peter and John now weep and lament and you are joyous, surely the Lord will show Himself to them, too, and their sorrow will end. The disciples become joyous by that, when they see the Lord. But Thomas, who still goes on his own journey, does not stay with the other disciples at the Christiansí meetings. When will he come to see Christ? I think that he will not get to see Christ before he comes to the disciples meetings. If Thomas abides alone and seeks Christ in solitude, will Christ come to seek him there? I think, Thomas, that you must first come to the Christiansí meetings before Christ will come to show His wounds. You will not, in any case, become a partaker of the grace of resurrection before you come into the congregation. No matter how you would read the Book in solitude and keep prayers at home, you will surely not become a Christian there. But come first to the Christian meetings and seek first the congregation before you will find Christ. And we have the hope that Thomas, who has a heartfelt and true sorrow from Christ's death, must see and believe that Jesus is yet alive when he comes to the disciplesí meetings and abides with them. But Nikodemus and his brothers in faith, who put Jesus' body into the grave of dead faith with their virtuousness, and go straight to God, nor do they come Into the house of those fools who weep and lament. No matter how unreproachable they would be before the world, and would not have agreed to the deed and counsel of the world's group who cry, "Crucify", Christ will not become alive to them In either this world or the world to come, but their Saviour remains in the grave now and forever. They do not have heartfelt sorrow from Jesus' death nor joy from His resurrection But those few souls who remain together weeping and lamenting when Jesus has died, longing for Jesus' merciful presence, they can feel the joy of resurrection; they receive the Holy Spirit, they receive power to preach the Gospel to all the created ones, and they follow Jesus' bloody footsteps to mount Zion, where they can see that great Crossbearer and enjoy blessedness from beholding Him now and forever. Amen!