November 3 – John 16:16-24


Passage Intro

Dialogue in ancient writing can sometimes come across as kind of silly to us today. You’ll see this pretty regularly in the Bible, where Jesus will say ____, the disciples will wonder why he said ____, they will then ask him why he said ____, and he will then explain why he said ____. It might seem a bit exhaustive to us now, all this verbatim repetition, but if anything it can remind us how much of a barrier we cross when we read a text written in a different language about 2000 years ago.

Here in this section of Jesus’ final discourse he is preparing his disciples for the next few days, explaining that he will come back to them following the coming events of the crucifixion. Earlier he had said that he was going away to the Father (v.10), and now the disciples are having a hard time distinguishing between Jesus’ resurrection and the ascension. That’s why they ask something like, “Wait, so are you going to the Father or are you coming back to us?” I love the straightforward honesty of their comment, “We do not know what he is talking about.” That’s basically the disciples’ motto.

And notice that Jesus doesn’t really clarify the timeline much, and he doesn’t return to covering the ascension. What he does is he explains what the next three days are going to feel like in their heart. He prepares them to be overwhelmed by sorrow while being surrounded by rejoicing over his death. But he also prepares them to have their sorrow turned into joy. Notice that their sorrow isn’t replaced by joy, it’s transformed into it.

And this is an incredibly fitting anthem for the Christian life, “Your sorrow will turn into joy.” The cross, what was an object of sorrow, has become an object of joy because it represents our libration from the bondage of sin. Death, the ultimate source of sorrow, has become a gateway to eternal joy with Christ. This is something the rest of the world can’t offer you; it can distract you from sorrow, replace it with pleasure and happiness, but it can never transform it. And speaking of the world, what Jesus said is certain, “No one will take your joy from you.” The resurrection has happened and can never be undone; the foundation of our joy rests assured.

A quick note about applying “your sorrow will turn into joy” to our lives. The sorrow and joy here are specific, the sorrow being over sin, death, and separation from God, the joy being over Jesus’ death and resurrection for us and securing us for himself for eternity. Notice how it highlights the brokenness of the world and how true, lasting, unshakeable joy can only be found in Jesus. So to contrast, if you experienced sorrow over losing $20 and hoped to have joy over finding that $20 again, this passage is not for you.

Questions for Discussion

•Can someone read John 16:16-24 for us?

•What stood out to you from this passage?

•What were the disciples trying to make sense of in this passage?

•Jesus was warning his disciples about their coming experience in the next few days. So how can we relate to this passage?

•How can “your sorrow will turn into joy” help us understand what it means to follow Jesus?

•Look at verse 22. What’s you reaction when you read Jesus’ promises here?