“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.” (John 16:20-22)
When God’s Word gives us particular and specific promises, it is very wise to pay attention to what God says. Such is the case in today’s text when Jesus gave His disciples, the night prior to His crucifixion, several precious promises. What makes these promises that much more significant to observe is that they are given in the anticipated reality of the disciples’ deep despair because of Jesus’ death on the cross.
First, let us make sure we observe that once again Jesus invoked His own authority when He spoke these words to the eleven. He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you.” He spoke with the authority of God, for so He is.
Jesus then told the disciples that they would weep and lament. To weep means to cry and to lament means to mourn for the dead. The weeping and lamenting by the disciples would specifically be because of Jesus’ death. However, by contrast Jesus said the world would rejoice. The fallen world system, which hates God and rebels against Him and His Word anytime it will and can, would be glad that Jesus would die.
The disciples would be sorrowful and distressed by the crucifixion, but their sorrow would turn into gladness and great happiness. In other words, joy! We know this is true because of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the grave.
Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth to a child. While in labor, a woman experiences labor pains. They can be quite painful. However, the pain while giving birth to her child is soon replaced by the birth of her child. Whatever pain and sorrow she felt is exchanged by the great joy and happiness of a living and healthy baby.
Jesus acknowledged the disciples were sorrowful in the present but also that they would soon rejoice within their souls in the future. They would see Jesus alive again. Their joy would soon replace their sorrow and no one would take their joy away.
Dr. R. C. Sproul explains that, “Today’s passage records for us what our Savior said about the disciples’ grief. First, Christ told them their sorrow would be temporary. They would lament and weep for a time, but then they would be joyful (vv. 20–21). Why? Because while He would leave them temporarily in His death, He would be restored to them in His resurrection. They would see Him again and experience a joy that no one would be able to take away (v. 22). Of course, Jesus did not mean that they would never experience sorrow again. His point was that they would have an abiding joy because they would know Jesus had conquered death and hell. We can endure every trial knowing that we will live eternally in the new heavens and earth (Rev. 21).”
Whatever sorrow we have experienced, whether due to the death of a loved one, the loss of a job or friendship, or pain because of illness, Jesus gives us a lasting joy which no one can take away. Hallelujah!
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!