Jesus continued teaching the disciples before His arrest and crucifixion. Although it was He would go through an ersatz trial, beatings, and torturous execution, His words were for His friends so that when they went through the grief of it, they would remember and have comfort. Verse 16 reads,
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”
The disciples didn’t know what Jesus meant. They asked one another and wanted to ask Him. I think by now they knew that Jesus said things the way He did for a reason and they trusted Him to clarify it in His way rather than interrupt Him and ask for explanations. And Jesus did, but not by saying, “Remember, I told you I was going to die and rise from the dead three days later.” They would remember that when the time was right. He instead talked about the anguish and heartache they would experience. Verses 20-22 reads,
“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.”
They were about to go through deep pain and they would react in that pain. Although of the eleven men there, only John stayed with his Lord throughout the trial and crucifixion, all of them wept bitter tears and felt the intense distress of losing Him. They cried from their homes or other places they hid. But Jesus said the world will rejoice.
I believe He meant it two ways. On one hand the immediate majority of people overcome by the mob mentality cheered and celebrated Jesus’ crucifixion. They didn’t think they had to deal with His rabble rousing trouble making ways anymore. But in the truest way, the world rejoiced because Jesus’ death and resurrection meant hope and salvation, it brought forgiveness and reconciliation with God. His sacrifice gave us life.
The disciples would most certainly hurt and grieve but that sorrow would absolutely turn into joy. The joy of Jesus death and resurrection is deeper, truer, and greater than any joy that exists. It is perfect and it is ours because of what Jesus did. Jesus used the analogy of childbirth to explain it. I’ve been told and I can imagine that the pain of childbirth is horrendous. But after the pain there is a new life, a child filled with potential and the love the mother has for that child turns her excruciating pain into exquisite joy.
When Jesus suffered and died on the cross, His pain was intense but He faced it with joy because He knew the purpose He served. The disciples’ misery was also intense, most of them had abandoned Jesus and they felt guilt, loss of hope, loss of a true friend, and loss of a leader. But then Jesus rose from the dead and their sorrow became joy. They knew then more clearly than ever before that Jesus was the Son of God, Messiah, and Savior. He forgave them for their desertion and betrayals. They were overjoyed. But then He ascended and gave them the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came into them their joy was complete it was a joy that was in their very cores, they understood the beauty and mystery of the Gospel, they were able to reflect Christ, think like Him, and act like Him. And Jesus told them that joy could never be taken from them. It is was theirs forever, regardless of the suffering they experienced.
Isaiah 31:1-3 describes it like this,
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me,
because the Lord has anointed me
to bring good news to the poor;
he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives,
and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor,
and the day of vengeance of our God;
to comfort all who mourn;
3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion--
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.”
And Psalm 30:11-12 says,
“You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,
12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!”
The pain in life is still there. God makes good come out of it, He turns your mourning into dancing, and gives you reason to praise. That same joy is yours, Believer. No matter what you go through you have God with you. He is in you making it possible for you to go through it, learn through it, and become more like Jesus through it. He saved you and gave you the ability to pass that good testimony on to others and share His joy with a world that needs Him.