Jesus promises the disciples that He would go away very soon, but He promised them that in “a little while” they would see Him (v. 16). The disciples were confused by this statement “a little while” (vv. 17-19). Although there are differences of opinion as to what He meant, it seems that He was referring to His brief, forty day ministry on earth between His resurrection and His ascension. It could have referred to the brief time He spent in the grave after His death on the cross.
Jesus explains that the disciples would weep at His death, but the world would rejoice thinking that they were finished with Christ (v. 20). However, the sorrow of the disciples would be turned to joy through the resurrection. He uses the illustration of how pain in childbirth is followed by the joy of new life when a child is born (v. 21). The disciples were entering the process of pain, but the light of joy was just ahead. You may be very sad now, but later I will see you, and you will be so happy that no one will be able to change the way you feel (v.22). At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything (v. 23). You will be able to ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name (v. 24). Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy.
The principle He is teaching is that God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation. Most of us know what it is like to have an unhappy child because a toy is broken. If the parent always gets a new toy for the child each time a toy is broken, that child will grow up expecting every problem to be solved by substitution. We cannot mature emotionally or spiritually if someone is always replacing our broken toys. Jesus did not say that the mother’s sorrow (pain) was replaced by joy, but that the sorrow was transformed into joy. The same baby that caused the pain can also bring much joy.
I want the trials of my life to be transformed into joy. Just as an operation may be necessary and cause pain at the time, it will bring good health and joy later.
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View this passage in NIV (Bible Gateway) »
John 13:1-11Humbleness, Holiness and Happiness
John 13:12-20Happiness Comes by Serving Others
John 13:21-30Jesus Prediction of His Betrayal
John 13:31-38Christ’s Farewell Sermon to His Disciples
John 14:1-12Jesus Encourages the Troubled Disciples
John 14:13-14The Measure, Means, and Might of Prayer
John 14:15-24The Holy Spirit’s Dwelling in Believers
John 14:25-31The Disciple’s Question
John 15:1-11The Pruning Process
John 15:12-17The Commandment to Love One Another
John 15:18-27Why the World Hates Christians
John 16:1-11The Work of the Holy Spirit
John 16:12-24The Transformation of Pain to Joy
John 16:25-33Understanding God’s Word and Applying It
John 17:1-8Jesus’ Prayer For His Glorification
John 17:9-19Jesus’ Prayer for His Disciples
John 17:20-26Jesus’ Prayer for Unity of Believers
John 18:1-14Jesus’ Betrayal by Judas
John 18:15-27Trial Before Annas
John 18:28-37Pilate Questions Jesus
John 18:38-40Pilate’s Compromise
John 19:1-6Jesus Is Scourged
John 19:7-16Pilate Gives In Under Pressure
John 19:17-27Jesus is Crucified
John 19:28-37Fulfilment of Prophecy
John 19:38-42The Burial of Jesus