Reader: “You will grieve,”
Response: “but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy.”
Scripture: John 16:16-24
“In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.”
Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.”
Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.
Reader: “The word of the Lord.”
Response: “Thanks be to God.”
Once again we find ourselves in the middle of a conversation between Jesus and his disciples just hours before his arrest and crucifixion. They are having trouble following him in what he is saying. They have no idea what is about to happen. Previously Jesus has told them that he would be arrested and killed and rise on the third day. That never really registered with them. Jesus is preparing them for the extreme sorrow they will experience when he is killed even though the world will be happy thinking they have finally done away with Jesus. But with the resurrection comes overwhelming joy!
It is interesting that Jesus uses the example of labor pains and new birth. What he is about to accomplish is indeed a new birth. The old weight of sin and the law is defeated and the righteousness of the law is perfectly fulfilled. No longer will worship go through an earthly priest. But with the tearing of the curtain in the Holy of Holies in the Temple, the disciples can pray directly to the Father using the name of Jesus. What Jesus is describing to the disciples had not yet happened. He is preparing them for what lies ahead. Even with this preparation of what is going to take place, they will still scatter at the moment of truth and forsake Jesus.
In this account I am reminded of some similarities to the world in which we live. If we look at the immediate surface of things, it is not encouraging. There is social, racial, and political unrest. In the states there is concern of government intrusion and over extension of power. Judeo-Christian values are clearly under attack. It does not appear any of these issues are headed for a solution or even progress. Likewise, when Jesus was crucified it had all the appearance of a disastrous crushing defeat. Jesus’ talk of the Kingdom of God seemed to have come to a swift, fatal conclusion. The disciples were understandably in deep sorrow and discouragement.
Yet as it turned out, the crucifixion was labor pains resulting in a glorious “new birth!” What do we take from this? We go to the Father in prayer in the name of Jesus concerning our world realizing that he has overcome the world, even in the midst of temporary trials and sorrows. Do not lose heart brothers and sisters. Our Big Brother has gained the victory!
Music: “How Firm a Foundation” Sanctuary Choir, Dr. Terry Morris
Bring us, O Lord God, at the last awakening into the house and gate of heaven, to enter into that gate and dwell in that house, where there shall be no darkness nor dazzling, but one equal light; no noise or silence, but one equal music; no fears nor hopes, but an equal possession; no ends nor beginnings, but one equal eternity, in the habitations of thy majesty and thy glory, world without end. Amen.
―John Donne, 1571-1631, from Eerdmans’ Book of Famous Prayers, p.512