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 Lord Jesus spoke these words to His disciples – although Judas had gone – before the events surrounding His arrest, trial, and death rushed in upon Him. He was instructing the disciples about His leaving them to return to the Father who sent Him, and He was preparing them for their experiences and their ministries to come.
Among the several matters that Jesus brought up was the sorrow and suffering that would inevitably come upon them because of their allegiance to and love of Him. On a personal level, it was going to be difficult to say goodbye to their friend and Master; although they did not yet know just how painful that was going to be. It was also going to be difficult serving Christ after He had gone. The world hated Jesus and it would hate them. There would be some who would even believe that in putting the disciples to death they were actually serving God! When it came to what we might call “positive reception of the world” these men had little to look forward to. They would “have sorrow.”
Yet alongside of their sorrow and their trouble they would also be blessed. For one thing, Jesus promised that it was to the disciples’ advantage that He was going away, for the Holy Spirit, whom He called “the Comforter” or “the Counselor” would come in His place. Because of the Spirit’s work with them they would learn and grow and do great things for God. The Holy Spirit would enable them to “abide in Jesus” and so be very fruitful.
As dependent as they would always be upon Jesus there was another promise that He left them with which must have raised their spirits. They would see Jesus again! This parting was not to be final. They would see their Lord and Savior and Friend and their hearts would rejoice. Moreover, no one would be able to take away their joy.
How does this speak to us? We have not seen Jesus. We have not walked and talked with the Master as the disciples did. True enough. But we have met Him. We are known by Him and by the Father, and we do have the Holy Spirit residing within us. This world is till hostile to Jesus and to His teachings. It will not welcome us with open arms if it detects anything of Jesus Christ about us. So we must face up to the fact that our sojourn down here will not be all chocolate and roses. But there is a reunion coming. And it will be a full reunion; a face to face meeting; a surpassing experience of relief and rest and, yes, joy. Our joy will last and will be unimpaired by regret or sickness or the remnants of sin fighting from within. Jesus has chosen us to serve Him here and now in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4). That is just for a time. But then there is a more permanent and delightful service to which He will call us. There is a Kingdom coming in which “the world” cannot share, and to which we belong. It is Christ’s Kingdom of unending joy.