Jesus said: “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’ words are spoken to His closest disciples. The Eleven who had followed Him from
The Evangelist records his thoughts and the thoughts of the other disciples in that room: “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”?’” The disciples do not know what to think about Jesus’ words. They are confused by them. For the Eleven understand the concept—they know what it means for someone to depart—but they do not understand why Jesus will leave them.
With His words—“A little while, and you will see Me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see Me.”—Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection for the final time. It is His last description of what will happen as He brings salvation to the world. This becomes easily understood from Jesus’ explanation of His statement. John records Christ’s explanation: “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. 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. 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.” In these words, Jesus unfolds the trauma that His crucifixion will bring: it will be anguish for Him and for His closest followers. They will be troubled by what they see. Their hearts will be devastated.
But what does Jesus also promise? That after He undergoes His great suffering and death, the agony of crucifixion, and after His disciples grieve and mourn, there will be a time of everlasting joy. Jesus promises: “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.” There it is—the promise of reunion, of meeting again! Jesus gives the guarantee to the Eleven: after I have departed from you, I shall return to you. He says: “I will see you again.” That reunion will bring joy that overwhelms all the sorrow that Christ’s death brought to His disciples. And as the Church has heard the accounts of Jesus’ appearance to His disciples—in the locked room on Easter night, in the same locked room eight days later, on the lakeshore in
But the joy that the disciples have at their Lord’s resurrection appearances is not limited to them. Jesus’ statement to the Eleven included a very important sentence: “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 speaks about you in that statement. You are included in His words “the world will rejoice.” What brings that joy? What is Jesus speaking about here? He predicts His crucifixion and says that His disciples “will weep and lament” because of it. But in that same prediction, He says that “the world will rejoice.” Jesus says that His crucifixion will be a source of joy for the world!
How is the killing of the Son of God a source of joy? That seems completely backwards, illogical, impossible. But it is true. It even has Jesus’ own “truly, truly” spoken about it. It is true, because the world will recognize that the death of Christ is what it deserves. The world should be beaten, tortured, and killed. Why? Because it has violated every command that the Lord God has ever imposed. The world has rebelled against its Creator. This was true from nearly the beginning. Man does not want to be steward of Creation, but Ruler. He wants to be like God. He wants to impose his own law, his own design for his life. The Creation that was limited by the Lord’s creating word wants to go beyond its bounds. That is seen in the natural disasters all around, especially as witnessed in recent times.
But lest you think that this is only sin in general, it is also applies to specific sins in your lives, too. You have your own transgressions. Think of the “deadly sins” that the Church has spoken of: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, gluttony. You are skilled in their performance. And yet they are all contrary to the Lord God’s will. Your rebellion against the Lord God’s Law has effects. It is to mean your eternal punishment, an everlasting death. That is your accomplishment in life.
Yet, what happens for you? The Son of God in the flesh, the Lamb of God in whom there is no blemish, is crucified in your place. He dies among criminals, dying among your sins. But not only does He die; He rises to life again. Around His neck is put your guilt. Spoken against Him is your condemnation. He suffers it. He bears it. He endures it. And afterwards, He leaves the grave with all your sin left behind. Jesus becomes the Living One, and gives His life to you. The crucifixion of Christ should cause eternal, great sorrow. But because of the “joyous exchange” it becomes a source of great joy. Christ’s death and His subsequent resurrection gladdens the hearts of the Eleven and you. This is what Jesus means when He says: “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.”
Every time that you ponder the crucifixion of Christ, you are confronted with the seriousness of your sins. You see the wrath of God on display. You hear of the sufferings that you have earned. But that wrath is poured out on Christ instead. The sufferings are endured by Him for you. The gravity of your sin is unavoidable. But even more so, the enormity of everlasting life that Christ has brought to you overwhelms your guilt and contrition, surrounding you with joy and celebration.
What Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection has achieved for you, what it replaces for you, is described in today’s Epistle Reading. The same Evangelist John who heard His Lord speak about sorrow turning into joy hears His Lord’s Father make a great promise: “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” The Father speaks of sin’s effects: sorrow, death, pain. But these things will have passed away. Why? Because the Crucified and Risen Christ has overcome them. The corruption of man’s fall into sin has been replaced with the perfection of man’s righteousness, not just any man, but the Son of God who for us and our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.
Recall what Jesus says about the joy that His followers will have. He declares to the Eleven: “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.” Regardless of what Christ’s disciples would face in their lives, even the hatred and persecution from those who had rejected Christ, they would not lose the joy of seeing their Risen Lord. The Resurrection changes everything. There is a great promise made about everlasting life waiting for them. Having seen the Risen Christ, they are sure of it.
But you have not seen the Risen Christ standing in your presence. Yet, you know that He lives. Your Lord says: “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet still believed.” You have heard the things Christ has done and you have been called to believe them. His promise about the Holy Spirit is for you: “He will glorify Me, for He will take what is mine and declare it to you.” It has happened, so that you have life in Christ’s name. And so, His further promise applies to you. You will not see Him again, but you shall see Him with your eyes for the first time! What Job says about the resurrection shall be true for you: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. My heart faints within me!”
That is the joy Jesus discloses. Despite your sin, your God has made His dwelling place with you. His promise is based upon what happened in the past: the Incarnation of Christ. Despite your guilt, your sorrow will be removed. His promise is based upon what happened in the past: the crucifixion of Christ. Despite your living in this world of sin and death, you have joy that no once can take from you. His promise is based upon what has happened in the past: the resurrection of Christ. The promise is made to you: “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.” This the Lord Jesus has spoken, the Spirit of Truth has declared to you, and the Eternal Father has promised, and so it shall be.
T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.