Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no-one will take from you. — John 16: 22
The joy promised by Christ at His return is a comfort and a joyful hope.
In His farewell discourses Jesus made His disciples aware of His impending suffering and death, but not of His resurrection. The disciples were at first bewildered. They did not understand His references to these events. Before they could ask Him any more about it, Jesus gave them further explanations about what was soon to occur: His suffering and death would produce sadness and grief within them, however, this sadness would be transformed into joy after His resurrection.
In order to make these references clear, Jesus used an image (verse 21): a pregnant woman gives birth to her child amid fear and pain. However, the joy of holding her newly born baby in her arms makes her forget about all her sufferings.
The first encounter of the Risen One in the circle of His disciples surpassed all previous experience: the disciples “still did not believe for joy, and marvelled” (Luke 24: 36–41). Jesus had to show them further loving care in order to dispel their grief and allow them to truly savour the joy He had promised them before His sacrificial death.
The admonition of Jesus in our Bible text, namely “and your heart will rejoice” also points to the fact that this joy was not merely an expression of human feeling. Rather, this was a matter of joy of faith over the victory gained by Christ over sin and death, as well as over the promise of eternal life founded upon it (John 11: 25–26).
The reality of life shows us that we not only experience pleasant and joyful phases of life, but must also endure various burdensome events and situations, for example in the form of:
- Unemployment and economic hardship. Such situations are often associated with anxieties and cares about the future.
- Illnesses, which can also produce fear of suffering and death.
- Grief and suffering, when a person dear to us passes away. Time does not always heal all wounds.
In such situations of life we also feel sadness. Trusting in God, however, we know that His protecting and strengthening hand is with us even in these circumstances (Psalm 139: 5). Ultimately He will intervene and usher in the great turning point at His return. This certainty of faith gives us quiet joy and comfort in our hearts, regardless of all other cares and needs.
The assurance of Jesus promises a kind of joy which no one will ever be able to take from us, in other words, an eternal joy. It will be fulfilled when:
- Jesus Christ returns, the dead in Christ resurrect, and the firstlings are caught up to God (1 Thessalonians 4: 16–18). On that day there will be no more questions (John 16: 23).
- God wipes away all tears after the Last Judgement. Then there will be no more death or suffering. The former things will then have passed away and the new creation will then be ready (Revelation 21: 1–5).
* Thoughts from the Chief Apostle adapted for service held on Sunday, 26 April 2015 at Midrand Congregation