Bible Reading: John 16:16-24
“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 16:22)
As Jesus discoursed for the final time with His disciples moments before His crucifixion, His disciples were clueless as to what was about to take place. Jesus said, “A little while, and you will see me no longer, and again a little while, and you will see me” (John 16:16). Jesus’ disciples were perplexed at Jesus’ words. They questioned amongst themselves as to what Jesus meant.
Jesus knew about their confusion and answered, “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”. Jesus talked about the cross. His disciples had no idea about the profundity and seriousness of what was just going to happen. Jesus was going to be crucified. The Jews were about to rejoice at their victory over a “false prophet” threatening their position. The Romans were about to laugh and mock a weak insurrectionist who was nothing but a clown to them. But, Jesus’ disciples would mourn and lament over their friend and teacher’s death and humiliation.
Still, as these things played out, the disciples did not realise nor understand what was really taking place. They did not know that it was for their sins they should have mourned. They did not perceive that Christ was God’s unblemished Lamb, sacrificed to face God’s wrath for the sins of God’s people. They did not see Christ’s glory as God displayed Himself most evidently to man on the cross. They could not feel the radiance of His love nor behold the weight of His Holiness.
It was not until Jesus resurrected and opened their eyes did they realise what had truly happened. When Jesus opened their eyes through the Spirit, the disciples realised that Jesus was the Messiah. They realised He had died to save them from their sins. They realised Jesus lived a perfect life, died an unworthy death to bear God’s wrath for the sinless, and had redeemed and atoned His people, revealing Himself to be King of kings and ruler over the dominion of evil as He resurrected from the dead. The Spirit worked this newfound message into the disciple’s hearts, renewing their sin-hardened hearts with life and truth. Their sorrow turned into joy; their fear turned into peace, for they knew that they had been made right with God through the justifying sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
The Spirit continued to work to progressively reveal to them more of the cross’s glory and wonders. More and more, their hearts were sanctified from the world as they learnt what it meant to put Christ as King. Day by day, love and zeal for God grew. The Spirit gave them a new direction and purpose in their temporal life. They were commissioned to go and proclaim the good news that utterly changed their life. This was the new joy they found in their lives, and as Jesus promised, this joy would never be taken away.
The same Spirit that Jesus’ promised for the disciples is still alive and working today. He has preserved God’s church, opening up the eyes of believers, both Jew and Gentile, to see the reality of the cross. He has been removing hearts of stone and planting hearts of flesh. He has been turning sorrow into joy and fear into peace. The Helper Jesus promised to reveal the truth is at work today.
The unquenchable joy of the disciples is innate in those who believe. Have you believed and repented? “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). Have you believed and submitted under the truth of the cross? The Spirit is working in those who genuinely believe, turning sorrow in our lives into unquenchable joy.
Lord, open my eyes to see the glimpses of joy in the cross of Christ. I believe in You; help my unbelief. Make the joy and peace of the disciples mine, Lord. Let me taste and see Your goodness. You have died and made me right with God. My sins have been forgiven and forgotten. Help me trust in You. Plant in me a joy and zeal to live for Your truth. In Jesus’ name, amen.