From Sad to Glad
Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
John 16:16-19 (Holman) “A little while and you will no longer see Me; again a little while and you will see Me.” Therefore some of His disciples said to one another, “What is this He tells us: ‘A little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’ and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” They said, “What is this He is saying, ‘a little while’? We don’t know what He’s talking about!” Jesus knew they wanted to question Him, so He said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘a little while and you will not see Me; again a little while and you will see Me’?
It is no surprise Jesus’ words stumped the disciples. His words are still puzzling. The problem centers around His claim, “You will see Me.” When will this be? After the Resurrection, at Pentecost, or at the Second Coming?
I think He meant His post-resurrection appearances. The first “little while” refers to the time between the Last Supper and Jesus’ trial. The second “little while” refers to the time between His crucifixion and resurrection. I offer this possible interpretation humbly.
We cannot be dogmatic. Even the disciples were baffled. They could not understand why He would leave them and then return. “For them all was mysterious. If Jesus wishes to found the Messianic kingdom, why go away? If He does not wish it, why return?” (Godet).
John 16:20a “I assure you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful. . .”
They would soon be trapped in a funeral scene, devastated by losing the One they had left everything for, and had expected so much from.
The disciples’ weeping and wailing would be worsened by the fact unbelievers would be celebrating at the same time. Events breaking the disciples’ hearts will be reveled in by their enemies.
Extra bitterness marks the coarse laugh of a foe who exults over our misery and extracts mirth from our tears. The attitude of the religious leaders rubbed salt in the wounds of the downcast disciples, but God had the final word.
John 16:20b “. . .but your sorrow will turn to joy.”
Their sorrow will not be replaced by joy, but will turn into joy. The same events that at first caused sorrow later became a source of joy.
At first, the cross broke the disciples’ hearts, but once its full meaning was known, it became the center of their rejoicing. What seemed our darkest hour became the shining light of our faith.
John 16:21 “When a woman is in labor she has pain because her time is come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world.”
To illustrate His point, Jesus used childbirth, at one and the same time a source of pain and joy. Labor yields distress, but once the child is born, distress is forgotten.
The cross will be labor pains; the resurrection will be a birth. We grieve over the fact our crimes were the nails used at Calvary, and our unbelief was the spear. Yet we rejoice over the cross, because our sins were washed away there.
John 16:22 “So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy.”
At times, being a believer seems to bring only sorrow, while being an unbeliever seems to bring only happiness. But a day always comes when these roles are reversed. The world’s flippant happiness vanishes; the Christian’s temporary sorrow turns to joy.
The world’s roses are always surrounded with thorns. The pleasure of sin quickly curdles into grief.
The wine of transgression sours into the vinegar of remorse. The sparks of sin that delight people inevitably kindle flames of misery.
John 16:23 “In that day you will not ask Me anything. I assure you: Anything you ask the Father in My name, He will give you.”
“Not ask Me anything” means they will ask Him no questions. The disciples will receive a clear understanding of Gospel truths. They will not know everything, but will know what is essential.
John 16:24 “Until now you have asked for nothing in My name. Ask and you will receive that your joy may be complete.”
To this point the disciples had asked for things directly from Jesus or the Father. A new mode of operation in prayer will now go into effect. Henceforth the Father is to be petitioned in Jesus’ name.
Their prayer life may have been hampered by the ever visible presence of their strong Helper. From now on they would have to learn to depend on prayer for power.
It is no coincidence prayer and joy are mentioned in the same verse. The two always go together. They are closely connected.
John 16:25 “I have spoken these things to you in figures of speech. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.”
Jesus’ sayings before the cross had been “figures of speech,” sometimes hard to decipher. He had to veil His words because they could not be fully understood until defined by the light of Golgotha and the empty Garden Tomb.
John 16:26-27 “In that day you will ask in My name. I am not telling you that I will make requests to the Father on your behalf. For the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me and have believed that I came from God.”
We are sometimes tempted to think God the Father is angry with us, and that we need Jesus to plead with the Father for us. Jesus’ deeds on our behalf are often portrayed in ways which seem to imply they changed the attitude of the Father toward us. Not true. The cross did not make the Father love us. Jesus did not die to change the Father into love, but to tell us He is love (John 3:16).
Jesus’ pleading on our behalf does not increase the Father’s love for us. It is rather a reminder of Christ’s advocacy on our behalf. Christ’s substitution is ever present before the Father. Jesus’ suffering in our place is the judicial basis on which the Father can shower goodness on us, and yet be righteous.
We are God’s children (Romans 8:15). Our heavenly Father loves us with a love that characterizes the ideal relationship between an earthly father and his children.
Though Scripture is clear about this, the wrong thoughts Jesus feared would happen did happen. The Father’s love is often underestimated.
When we go wrong in our thinking about God’s love, everything goes haywire. Priests and departed saints are asked to pray for us because God and Jesus are viewed as remote, as if the former love us more than the latter do.
This whole scheme of layered pray-ers nullifies the essence of prayer. Jesus is our contact.
His incarnation is God’s concession to our weakness. In Jesus we see One like us, and thus feel a little less fear whispering to Him than we do to God unfleshed.
Jesus’ incarnation is a wondrous gift, given not because there’s a problem in the Father, but due to a problem in us. Our sins make us cowards in the presence of the One we were created to be bold before.
Because Jesus prepared the way for us, forgiven sinners can now come boldly before the throne of grace. Jesus restored for us our original birthright.