It’s very clear from this passage that all that Jesus was saying was weighing heavily on the disciples, mostly because they were so focused on the idea that Jesus was leaving. As a result, it overshadowed everything else he was saying. Instead of hearing all that he said about the Spirit and the good things he had in store for them, the only thing they could think about was, “Jesus is leaving. What are we going to do?”
And so Jesus both warned them and encouraged them, saying,
I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. (20-22)
All this was realized in Jesus’ death and resurrection. When Jesus was crucified, his enemies rejoiced while his disciples fell into utter despair. But when they saw him alive again, triumphant over the grave, their grief turned into joy. And despite all the persecution and hardship they endured, no one was able to take away their joy, and because of that, they changed the world.
But I think the same is true of us in may ways. Until Jesus returns, we will face many troubles in this world. Now is our time of grief.
Paul puts it this way,
We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. (Romans 8:22-23)
But when Jesus comes again and we see him face to face, we will rejoice and no one will be able to take away our joy.
Until he comes, however, because of Jesus’ work on the cross, we now have direct access to God. And because of that, we can ask anything we wish of him in Jesus’ name and he will give it to us, and we can find joy here and now. (John 15:23-24, 26-27)
I think we spend too much time making disclaimers about Jesus’ words here. Yes, our prayers need to be according to God’s will. Yes, God reserves the right to say no if we’re asking for a scorpion, thinking it’s a fish. But we spend so much time making disclaimers, that we become afraid of asking at all. And our Father wants us to ask freely. How much blessing do we miss out on because we don’t ask? How much is our joy incomplete because we fail to ask for the things we desire in our hearts? So let us ask. And again, remember the words of Paul who said,
In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will. (Romans 8:26-27)
Sometimes in our human weakness, we do not know what to pray for and sometimes even pray for what is bad for us. But during those times, the Spirit intercedes for us and prays for what’s good. That’s why Paul can say,
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)
So let us rest in these things:
- That no matter how bad things are now, Jesus is coming back and will make all things right.
- That because God loves us, we can ask of the Father anything, knowing the Spirit intercedes for us and will only give us what is good.
- That God is working all things out for our good and for his purposes. And no power on earth can stop him from doing so.
With these things in mind, I think Jesus’ words ring even more powerfully.
I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world. (33)