1997-10-30 - Sorrow to Joy
The Cross Series, Part 15
John 16:16-22 "A little while, and you will no longer behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me." 17 Some of His disciples therefore said to one another, "What is this thing He is telling us, 'A little while, and you will not behold Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me'; and, 'because I go to the Father'?" 18 And so they were saying, "What is this that He says, 'A little while'? We do not know what He is talking about." 19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, "Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not behold Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'? 20 "Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy. 21 "Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 "Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you.
One more time Jesus must sound like a broken record to Himself, and maybe to those around Him. But for all His best efforts to tell His disciples, they haven't gotten the picture completely. A few of them have a glimpse of it, but it is so radically far from where they expected their King to be headed, total grasp eludes them. Once again, they suspect but can not understand. And the question is so frightening that they can only speak it in whispers for fear of the answer. Jesus again asks the question for them. Jesus warns once more of great sadness that is just around the corner for all of them. But the picture painted is not bleak. If you have ever had the joy of being in a delivery room when a child is born, you may have seen or experienced the shift from distress and physical exhaustion to abject elation as that new cry is heard. There are few things in this world to compare it to. I was there for the birth of both my sons. I will never forget those times. The first was a horrific 19-hour ordeal followed by a cessarian section. The pain I watched my wife endure was crushing and emotionally draining to me. I can hardly think of what it cost her. Shortly after we settled into the recovery room and my wife was given something for the pain to allow her to rest, our new son was brought in for a visit. The new mom did not stay conscious for long, but she shared the moment. Her mother and I spent the next two or three hours holding that tiny little bundle. The inexpressible feelings come rushing back just thinking about it. They are part of me, and I could not forget them if I wanted to do so. Even in the hardest times of life, those memories are comfort and strength. The picture Jesus uses is very powerful and appropriate to attempt to express His thoughts.
John 21:23-27 "And in that day you will ask Me no question. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you shall ask the Father for anything, He will give it to you in My name. 24 "Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be made full. 25 "These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; an hour is coming when I will speak no more to you in figurative language, but will tell you plainly of the Father. 26 "In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I will request the Father on your behalf; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from the Father.
Jesus had once chastised His followers as they attempted to cast out a demon and could not. He scolded, "if you have faith as a mustard seed" they would do unthinkable works. Here the Master makes reference to the time when they will be reunited after His resurrection, and His friends would have the faith to question nothing He said. Jesus often spoke in parables, especially to the crowd that followed Him. At times Jesus would take a moment to clearly explain what He said to His disciples when they were alone. When their faith was completed by the joy Jesus is speaking of, they would have the faith to take His words at total face value and the parables would be needed no more.
Matt 17:20 And He said to them, "Because of the littleness of your faith; for truly I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it shall move; and nothing shall be impossible to you.
John 21:28-33 "I came forth from the Father, and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again, and going to the Father." 29 His disciples said, "Lo, now You are speaking plainly, and are not using a figure of speech. 30 "Now we know that You know all things, and have no need for anyone to question You; by this we believe that You came from God." 31 Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe? 32 "Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 "These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."
Jesus answered them, "Do you now believe?" Jesus' time to teach them before the crucifixion is about to expire. And the disciples faith is starting to take its first shaky steps alone. Like that tiny baby who finally lets go of the sofa and heads toward the middle of the floor. We as parents encourage those steps, knowing the child will fall many times before mastering the art of walking. It is not to be cruel, walking is so fundamental to so many things that the lesson must be learned. Just like Jesus knows there is a day coming very soon when He will greet His friends who are in hiding, we know that walking can be learned. We encourage our children to walk, so they will know the joy and independence of walking. A child walking back and forth from parent to parent giggles and laughs with joy at his accomplishment. Until this time, even when they cast out demons and healed the sick, they had been holding Jesus' hand. The time was fast approaching when their faith would have to mature so they could stand with Jesus.
Similarly, Jesus is telling His companions that there is a huge bump coming. Something none of them could have really expected. Know that it is coming may have softened the blow a bit. But it was one more time when Jesus was showing them His power and control. When this happens don't lose heart. I knew it was coming and warned you. Rest in My peace. I will see you again and your joy will be beyond what words can convey. I will be the victor, "I have overcome the world.", even when it looks like defeat is final and complete. I will come and pick you up, and dust you off and console you. And I will send you on My way again.
Many of the most valued lessons we learn and the most memorable victories come out of the darkest valleys we walk. If you are walking one of those valleys now, and don't know Jesus, He is walking with you even now. If you are willing to let go of the rope of your own understanding, you can lean on Him. The struggle may still be there, but you will never be alone again. Even in times of struggle, when you know you are not alone, there is a joy in the journey.
All verses are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.