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March 19, 2021
16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 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. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 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.
This is a classic example of how hard it is for the disciples to understand Jesus’ words. “What do you mean by ‘a little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me?’” That certainly sounds more than a little cryptic and raises all kinds of questions. The disciples don’t know what Jesus is talking about, but Jesus anticipates their questions. He knows what they are thinking. So he comforts them by telling them that even though they are going to experience sorrow like they have never known, their sorrow will turn into joy.
Jesus proceeds to use an analogy. Before the development of so many of our medical advances, the only way for a woman to give birth to a new baby and experience the joy of new life was to voluntarily choose to go through a dark tunnel of sorrow, anguish, and pain. But no matter how difficult or traumatic it might be, it was worth it! It was worth it for the joy of holding that new baby on the other side of the anguish.
Jesus is saying: that is what is happening to me as I make my way to the cross. I am going to go through the darkest of tunnels. I will undergo the most intense suffering ever. Talk about sorrow, anguish, and pain! I will experience the extreme limit of what any human being could endure – and even beyond the limit. But it’s worth it. It’s worth every bit of it – for the joy of being able to hold you in my arms on the other side. By suffering and dying on the cross, in your place, Jesus removes the barrier of sin and death so that you might be reconciled to God and so that nothing might ever separate you from God’s love.
In fact – Jesus goes on to say – the joy of welcoming you into my reconciled and redeemed family is so great, that I will not even remember the agony of the cross. As hard as it may be for us to believe, Jesus likens his death on the cross to nothing more than birth pangs. It is like labor and delivery leading to new life. Except that in this case, what Jesus is bringing to new life is the new creation.
Jesus prepares the disciples for the pain and struggle of the cross which will be followed by the joy of his resurrection. Though the sorrow will be intense, this is the only way in which God’s new world can be born. Jesus likewise assures us that our sorrow will turn to joy. Jesus does not mean to imply that his followers will never experience sadness, but rather our sadness is swallowed up by the incomparable joy of the new creation.
What are some of the reasons why Jesus’ resurrection unlocks joy in our lives?