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Sorrow Will Turn into Joy

16 “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying to us, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18They said, “What does he mean by this ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, ‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’? 20Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy. 21When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. 22So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.


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16. A little while, and you do not see me. Christ had often forewarned the apostles of his departure, partly that they might bear it with greater courage, partly that they might desire more ardently the grace of the Spirit, of which they had no great desire, so long as they had Christ present with them in body. We must, therefore, guard against becoming weary of reading what Christ, not without cause, repeats so frequently. First, he says that he will very soon be taken from them, that, when they are deprived of his presence, on which alone they relied, they may continue to be firm. Next, he promises what will, compensate them for his absence, and he even testifies that he will quickly be restored to them, after he has been removed, but in another manner, that is, by the presence of the Holy Spirit.

And again a little while, and you will see me. Yet some explain this second clause differently: You will see, me when I shall have risen from the dead, but only for a short time; for I shall very soon be received into heaven.” But I do not think that the words will bear that meaning. On the contrary, he mitigates and soothes their sorrow for his absence, by this consolation, that it will not last long; and thus he magnifies the grace of the Spirit, by which he will be continually present with them; as if he had promised that, after a short interval, he would return, and that they would not be long deprived of his presence.

Nor ought we to think it strange when he says that he is seen, when he dwells in the disciples by the Spirit; for, though he is not seen with the bodily eyes, 9999     “Combien qu’il ne soit point veu des yeux corporels.” yet his presence is known by the undoubted experience of faith. What we are taught by Paul is indeed true, that believers,

so long as they remain on earth, are absent from the Lord, because they walk, by faith, and not by sight,
(2 Corinthians 5:6, 7.)

But it is equally true that they may justly, in the meantime, glory in having Christ dwelling in them by faith, in being united to him as members to the Head, in possessing heaven along with him by hope. Thus the grace of the Spirit is a mirror, in which Christ wishes to be seen by us, according to the words of Paul,

Though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we know him no more; if any man be in Christ, let him be a new creature,
(2 Corinthians 5:16, 17)

Because I go to the Father. Some explain these words as meaning that Christ will no longer be seen by the disciples, because he will be in heaven, and they on earth. For my part, I would rather refer it to the second clause, You will soon see me; for my death is not a destruction to separate me from you, but a passage into the heavenly glory, from which my divine power will diffuse itself even to you.” He intended, therefore, in my opinion, to teach what would be his condition after his death, that they might rest satisfied with his spiritual presence, and might not think that it would be any loss to them that he no longer dwelt with them as a mortal man.

19. Jesus, therefore, knew that they wished to ask him. Though sometimes the Lord appears to speak to the deaf, he, at length, cures the ignorance of his disciples, that his instruction may not be useless. Our duty is to endeavor that our slowness of apprehension may not be accompanied by either pride or indolence, but that, on the contrary, we show ourselves to be humble and desirous to learn.

20. You will weep and lament. He shows for what reason he foretold that his departure was at hand, and, at the same time, added a promise about his speedy return. It was, that they might understand better that the aid of the Spirit was highly necessary. “A hard and severe temptation,” says he, “awaits you; for, when I shall be removed from you by death, the world will proclaim its triumphs over you. You will feel the deepest anguish. The world will pronounce itself to be happy, and you to be miserable. I have resolved, therefore, to furnish you with the necessary arms for this warfare.” He describes the interval that elapsed between his death and the day when the Holy Spirit was sent; 100100     “Et le jour que le S. Esprit fut envoye.” for at that time their faith, so to speak, lay prostrate and exhausted.

Your sorrow will be turned into joy. He means the joy which they felt after having received the Spirit; not that they were afterwards free from all sorrow, but that all the sorrow which they would endure was, swallowed up by spiritual joy We know that the apostles: so long as they lived, sustained a severe warfare, that they endured base reproaches, that they had many reasons for weeping and lamenting; but, renewed by the Spirit, they had laid aside their former consciousness of weakness, so that, with lofty heroism, they nobly trampled under foot all the evils that they endured. Here then is a comparison between their present weakness and the power of the Spirit, which would soon be given to them; for, though they were nearly overwhelmed for a time, yet afterwards they not only fought bravely, but obtained a glorious triumph in the midst of their struggles. Yet it ought also to be observed, that he points out not only the interval that elapsed between the resurrection of Christ and the death of the apostles, but also the period which followed afterwards; as if Christ had said, “You will lie prostrate, as it were, for a short time; but when the Holy Spirit shall have raised you up again, then will begin a new joy, which will continue to increase, until, having been received into the heavenly glory, you shall have perfect joy.”

21. A woman, when she is in labor. He employs a comparison to confirm the statement which he had just now made, or rather, he expresses his meaning more clearly, that not only will their sorrow be turned into joy, but also that it contains in itself the ground and occasion of joy It frequently happens that, when adversity has been followed by prosperity, men forget their former grief, and give themselves up unreservedly to joy, and yet the grief which came before it is not the cause of the joy But Christ means that the sorrow which they shall endure for the sake of the Gospel will be profitable. Indeed, the result of all griefs cannot be otherwise than unfavorable, unless when they are blessed in Christ. But as the cross of Christ always contains in itself the victory, Christ justly compares the grief arising from it to the sorrow of a woman in labor, which receives its reward when the mother is cheered by the birth of the child. The comparison would not apply, if sorrow did not produce joy in the members of Christ, when they become partakers of his sufferings, just as the labor in the, woman is the cause of the birth. The comparison must also be applied in this respect, that though the sorrow of the woman is very severe, it quickly passes away. It was no small solace to the apostles, therefore, when they learned that their sorrow would not be of long duration.

We ought now to appropriate the use of this doctrine to ourselves. Having been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, we ought to feel in ourselves such a joy as would remove every feeling of our distresses. We ought, I say, to resemble women in labor, on whom the mere sight of the child born produces such an impression, that their pain gives them pain no longer. But as we have received nothing more than the first-fruits, and these in very small measure, we scarcely taste a few drops of that spiritual gladness, to soothe our grief and alleviate its bitterness. And yet that small portion clearly shows that they who contemplate Christ by faith are so far from being at any time overwhelmed by grief, that, amidst their heaviest sufferings, they rejoice with exceeding great joy.

But since it is an obligation laid

on all creatures to labor till the last day of redemption,
(Romans 8:22, 23,)

let us know that we too must groan, until, having been delivered from the incessant afflictions of the present life, we obtain a full view of the fruit of our faith. To sum up the whole in a few words, believers are like women in labor, because, having been born again in Christ, they have not yet entered into the heavenly kingdom of God and a blessed life; and they are like pregnant women who are in childbirth, because, being still held captive in the prison of the flesh, they long for that blessed state which lies hidden under hope.

22. Your joy no man shall take from you. The value of the joy is greatly enhanced by its perpetuity; for it follows that the afflictions are light, and ought to be patiently endured, because they are of short duration. By these words Christ reminds us what is the nature of true joy The world must unavoidably be soon deprived of its joys, which it seeks only in fading things; and, therefore, we must come to the resurrection of Christ, in which there is eternal solidity.

But I will see you again. When he says that he will see his disciples, he means that he will visit them again by the grace of his Spirit, that they may continually enjoy his presence.




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