‘Last Supper Lessons’ Meditations: 27. More on Joy
Jn 16:22 “Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
I suspect if we were given the power to dictate the sort of lives we were allowed to live, most of us would opt for pain-free, worry-free, and upset-free. Those of deeper spirituality declare that maturity comes with pain and upset, and I begrudgingly agree with it. I don’t like it but I do believe I am a more understanding person because of the bumps in life I’ve been through. I wish I hadn’t been through them because if they weren’t caused by me the pain was often my inadequacy at coping with them. Whether we like it or not, the Cross did involve pain, lots of it, physical, emotional and spiritual.
At this point in time in history when Jesus spoke in that upper room at what we call the Last Supper, Jesus reiterates what he has already said, that they will grieve (v.20). What is going to happen to him will be a source of grief for them. The trouble with the paragraph of v.19-24 is that it is a mix of talking about grief that runs into assurance about asking things of him. (v.23,24) At first sight that feels odd but when we look more carefully we see that three times Jesus uses the word ‘joy’. In other words they will come through this time of grief into a time of joy when after the resurrection all becomes clear and when the Spirit comes they will be an army that goes forth to take the kingdom, and part of that will involve interaction with heaven when they ask things of God (e.g. Acts 4:29,30) and the Father answers.
So to recap, living in this fallen world grief can be guaranteed – sometime. But we must hold on to this truth: it will be limited. We may seem to lose sight of Jesus in the midst of our grief sometimes, but he is always there and we will sense him again and then be able to rejoice once again, and when that happens, it doesn’t matter what others may say, that joy will be sure and certain and will act as a resource to carry you on. Resurrection life WILL follow apparent death, and the joy will come with it.
Did you take in the certainty that comes at the end of our verse today: “and no one will take away your joy.” Having struggled through the arrest-trial-crucifixion phase in deep anguish, the joy came when they were confronted by the risen Jesus, joy – yes mixed with amazement (Lk 24:41) – a joy that could never be taken away. They knew the truth – he was alive! – and that truth, fuelled by the infilling of the Holy Spirit brought immense joy, especially as they ministered in his name (e.g. Acts 8:9) even in the face of opposition (e.g. Acts 13:52) and saw lives changed (Acts 16:34). The new day is a day of joy. Hallelujah!