Your Sorrow Will Turn to Joy

John 16: 15-33

On the walk to Gethsemane
sometime between 11:00 pm and midnight,
the fifteenth of Nisan

DIG: What tones of voice do you hear in verses 17-18? If you were there, would Jesus’ answer encourage you, or confuse you more? What event is Christ referring to in verses 20-22? In what ways does the world’s joy (verse 20) contrast with the joy the apostles will experience (verse 22)? How is this similar to what Jesus said about dying (John 12:24)? About shalom (Yochanan 14:27)? What characterizes the relationship we can have with the Father because of the Lord (verses 23-27)? Do you think the Eleven really grasp what Messiah says in verse 28? Why? Why might the talmidim be both alarmed and relieved (verses 29-33)?

REFLECT: Both Yeshua and the world offer a form of shalom (John 14:27; 16:33); joy (John 15:11, 16:22-24) and love (John 13:34-35, 15:9-19). How have you experienced each type? What is different between them? How do you deal with change? Moves? Job transfers? Transitions from one stage in your life to another? How has pain helped you to grow up? From your experience, how could you comfort someone going through change? What contributes to lack of joy, failing love, and unstable shalom?

Christ’s last occasion for teaching His talmidim was drawing to a close. These final moments of tranquility among friends would soon give way to anguish in Gethsemane, injustice during two trials, cruel ridicule, brutal scourging, and finally suffering and death through crucifixion. Yet, despite His own desire for comfort and encouragement, the Lord comforted and encouraged His followers. A selfless Servant to the end, Messiah offered three promises to keep His apostles going as the looming shadow of the cross darkened their days. These promises can be reduced to three words that are no less helpful to us today: Joy (John 16:19-24), Love (John 16:25-28) and Peace (John 16:31-33).

Jesus offered His apostles a negative prediction followed by a positive promise. He went on to say: In a little while you will see Me no more, which predicts His imminent death on the cross, while then after a little while you will see Me [again], promises His appearing through resurrection (Yochanan 16:16). This prediction – promise formula establishes a definable pattern for the remainder of His discussion with the Eleven:

A prediction and a promise – Resurrection (verse 16)

The apostle’s reaction (verses 17-18)

A prediction and a promise – Joy (verses 19-24)

A prediction and a promise – Love (verses 25-28)

The apostle’s reaction (verses 29-30)

A prediction and a promise – Shalom (verses 31-33)

At this, some of His apostles said to one another, “What does He mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see Me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” They kept asking, “What does He mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what He is saying” (Jn 16:17-18). Without the permanent dwelling of the Spirit, the talmidim could only handle so much detail. So Jesus prepared them for the difficult hours ahead as best He could without revealing too much specific information and tried to keep it as basic as possible.1465

Joy: Jesus saw that they wanted to ask Him about this, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’ (John 16:19)? Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. Nonbelievers will rejoice at Yeshua’s death, just as they will rejoice at the death of the Two Witnesses (see my commentary on Revelation Dm – The Resurrection of the Two Witnesses: The Third Sign of Jonah).

Jesus followed His prediction with a promise. You will grieve, but your sorrow will turn to joy. The Lord illustrated His promise with the poignant image of a woman suffering the intense pain of childbirth – not coincidentally, one of the curses of the fall. As her pain grows, the change from sorrow to joy approaches. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but then, in an instant, when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. The affliction of the curse produces a new life. So with you: Now is your time of sorrow, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. Their sorrow will turn to joy. In that day (after His resurrection) you will no longer ask Me anything (because they will be rejoicing). The apostles would be His ambassadors and they had the right to ask the Father for whatever they needed to accomplish His will.The words in My name are not a blank check to get whatever the talmidim wanted. Instead, those words tied the requests to the ministry of the Son in carrying out the Father’s will (John 16:20-23).

Until that point the apostles had not prayed in Jesus’ name. But now with His imminent death, resurrection and ascension, they would be able to ask and receive because the Ruach HaKodesh’s coming would enable them to enter into God’s new program of the Church Age (see my commentary on Hebrews The Dispensation of Grace). And their joy will be complete because ADONAI will be at work in them (Yochanan 16:24).1466

Love: Then Yeshua predicted that the need for His teaching through figurative language would end soon. Though I have been speaking figuratively, a time is coming when I will no longer use this kind of language but will tell you plainly about My Father. The meaning of His words would become clear as events unfolded; He expected that His words would come to mind in critical moments and the apostles would know how to respond. In that day (after His resurrection) you will ask in My name. I AM not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father Himself loves you because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God. Then Messiah promised that after His resurrection, He would be the permanent bridge between mankind and ADONAI. Through Him, in His name, believers would be able to approach the Father directly. Jesus then summarized His earthly ministry in one sentence: I came from the Father and entered the world; now I AM leaving the world and going back to the Father (John 16:25-28).

Then Jesus’ apostles said: Now you are speaking clearly and without figures of speech. Now we can see that You know all things and that You do not even need to have anyone ask You questions. This makes us believe that You came from God (Yochanan 16:29-30). The talmidim has at last come to the point of simple, childlike faith (compare to Matthew 18:3). Nevertheless, Yeshua does not allow them to bask in it but at once calls their attention to its inconsistency.

Shalom: Although the apostles were sincere in their childlike faith, Yeshua knew their limitations better than they did. Do you now believe? Jesus replied (John 16:31). They did believe but it was not a complete faith or strong faith until after the resurrection and the coming of the Ruach HaKodesh at Shavu’ot. At the moment you feel certain your faith is strong. But a time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered (Zechariah 13:7), each to your own home. In spite of their loyalty, faith and love, the talmidim soon failed miserably. Then Messiah’s prediction: You will leave Me all alone, was fulfilled by all of them deserting Him (Mattityahu 26:56), when He was arrested, and by Peter’s denial (Yochanan 18:17, 25-26). Yet the Father had not forsaken Him, “I AM not alone, for my Father is with Me” (John 8:29; Psalm 23:4, 73:25-26). He had said the hour was coming and indeed already there. At that moment, the mob gathered by Judas had already begun their march. Soon, they would surround Gethsemane.

I have told you these things (Chapters 14-16), to sustain you so that in Me you may have shalom. In this world you will have trouble. Despite the chaos of living in a hostile world, we may enjoy tranquility. Yet this too is conditional. We must choose it. The life of a believer in Christ is not the proverbial rose garden, except, perhaps, for the thorns. Nonetheless, Yeshua encourages us when He says: But take heart! We can choose shalom when we choose to believe that He has overcome the world (John 16:31-33).

By the end of His walk to the garden of Gethsemane, Christ had said, in effect, to His apostles, “I promise you, life in this world is going to be difficult. But I have overcome the world. Nevertheless, you can be more than conquerors through My power” (Romans 8:37). The Master showed them how to persevere with joy, triumph in love and live in shalom.

Do you have a joy that cannot be taken away? Do you have confidence in God’s love? Can you rest confidently in His wisdom and say to Him, “Lord, You know everything, so I’m not questioning You any longer?” When life comes crashing down, the qualities of joy, love and shalom are ADONAI’s gift to keep us going. But like a full bank account, they do us no good if we fail to draw on them. These gifts require faith. Failing to trust in the promises of God leads to lack of joy, failing love, and unstable shalom.

Lack of joy: We lack joy when wickedness gains the upper hand and we worry it will become permanent. But what if we knew beforehand that each trial would become the means of receiving a great blessing? Suppose you lived in a world in which each lost job led to a better, higher-paying job; each illness led to increased health and a longer life; each financial setback eventually resulted in a higher salary. How would you handle each trial? With dread or a sense of anticipation? With sorrow or joy?

While the world I have just described above obviously does not exist – God has not promised to make us healthy and wealthy in this life – HaShem has promised that He has overcome evil and we will receive far greater blessing than we can imagine in the life to come. Affliction here on this earth will give way to perfect health, limitless wealth, and eternal life in heaven. Here on earth, the blessing we gain from suffering is healing for our souls and increased spiritual health. The difference is faith.

Failing love: The kind of love Yeshua taught is selfless. We cannot obey His command to love one another if we are concerned primarily with our own needs and wants. When the Sadducees sought to trap Christ with a ridiculous theological question regarding marriage in heaven, He stunned them with His answer. Marriage will be obsolete after the resurrection (see Ja – Whose Wife Will She Be at the Resurrection?). In heaven, intimate, selfless, caring love will be shared among all who live there. Here on earth, however, we struggle to maintain that kind of love relationship with just one person! How many marriages are strained by people manipulating one another to get their needs met? They resort to manipulation, control, sulking, yelling, and blame, really anything that will work, to get what they want because they don’t trust their mate to care for them.

Let’s face it. We don’t love others because we don’t trust them to return our love. We live under the false idea that if we don’t take care of ourselves, no one will . . . not even God. Therefore, most of our energies go into taking care of ourselves rather than trusting the Lord as we give priority to the needs of others. It all comes back to trust. When we fail to trust ADONAI to take care of us, we fail to obey His most basic command: love one another (Yochanan 15:17).

Unstable shalom: Messiah contrasted His shalom with the world’s trouble (16:33). To have Yeshua’s shalom is to have a life of completeness and wholeness. This shalom with the Lord will most certainly result in estrangement and persecution from the world; however, this tribulation will ultimately give way to overwhelming blessing.

While we have this shalom as a by-product of the grace of ADONAI, our ability to experience inner shalom depends completely on our faith/trust/belief in His sovereign care and steadfast goodness. Jesus has promised trouble. But He has also promised that the victories of the world are short-lived. He has overcome the world; therefore, we may endure short-term suffering with the certainty that God will ultimately triumph. But once again, that takes belief.1467

 

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