Joy Comes in the Morning - John 16:16-22 - Fourth Sunday of Easter
[John 16:16-22] ….“Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”
Joy Comes in the Morning
I recently taught a Bible Study – not here – but in a nursing home in the area, on the Rich Man and Lazarus [Luke 16:19-31]. If you remember, the Rich Man is a man who feasts sumptuously every day. He wears fine clothing. He has a gated home. What gives him joy in life, he has. Until he doesn’t. He dies and is buried.
Lazarus, the poor man, with bad health – sores afflicting his skin – has nothing in this life which would give a person joy. Lazarus had been laid at the gate of the rich man’s house. He hoped to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Instead, Lazarus is left even lower than a dog. And the dogs come, licking his sores.
However, Lazarus’ name says it all. “Lazarus” means “One whom God helps” – He is a man helped by God, “Lazarus”. Lazarus dies. The angels carry him. All the sorrow of this life is left behind. He has his joy with God.
The rich man – who has no name – dies and is buried. All the things in which he sought joy are left behind. What is left for him is torment and anguish in flames, hoping for his tongue to be cooled with a drop of cool water – but he does not get it.
We concluded in this Bible study that at the end of our life, we all become very poor. Though you might seek joy in feasting sumptuously now – in hospice, on the morphine drip, the belly starves. Though we may work hard to find joy in the house of our dreams, after only a little while, our home is the nursing home and then the funeral home and then the grave.
We all become very poor in the end. If my joy was sought in this life, then my joy is lost as I lose the things of this life. And we lose many things – even people who were our joy. And if they were our ultimate joy, then how much joy is lost.
We lose it all and everyone. We go from here to God. If God has never been my joy here, then what do I have there but anguish and torment in His presence. But if I am a true “Lazarus” by name – if I am one whose help is God – then when I leave here and enter God’s presence, I will have found my help and my joy – together with many other “Lazaruses”.
Sorrow and joy. In our Gospel reading today, Jesus is speaking to His disciples. This is in the upper room, the night before the day when Jesus will be crucified. The disciples have found their joy in God’s Son, Jesus. They are about to witness an event that will make them think, for a little while, that their Joy and their Hope has died forever. They will have sorrow.
“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.”
When Jesus would die on the cross, His disciples would weep and lament. They would have great sorrow. He’s gone. Their hope has died. Their joy has been buried.
But the world rejoices on that day. The world was glad to be rid of the Lord. Because the presence of the Lord interfered with those things in life in which they sought their joy. Herod’s throne was now secured. Pilate’s headache of a problem was over.
Those crowds met the Lord face to face, and they yelled, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” “We have no king but Caesar!” [John 19:6,15] “Don’t make us think about God and God’s kingdom. We want our joy in the things of this world’s kingdoms.” “I’ll cling to this world forever.” But you won’t. You’ll become very poor.
The world which rejoices to be rid of the Lord – and you, if you rejoice to rid your life of the Lord to make way for your own ways – your joy, and the world’s joy, ends at the grave and sooner.
But, after just “a little while”, after just three days, the disciples found that the world was not rid of the Lord and that they had not lost Him. He is risen. He lives to never die again. After just a little while of sorrow, their joy returned forever.
“So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” If your joy is in God’s Son, Jesus, you will have sorrow for now. In an ungodly world you will have sorrow if God is your love and your hope. In my sin-broken, still-sinful-self, I have lament and anguish for now – because God’s righteousness is what I love, but I’m still a sinner. [Romans 7:15-25]
But this sorrow will only be for what our Lord calls “a little while.” In a little while, the Lord will return to you. In a little while, Jesus will take you out of this domain of darkness and veil of tears. In a little while, His kingdom will come. In a little while, you will be raised like Him.
In a little while, this world will be done and those whose joy is in the Lord will have Him – fully and completely – and then no one and nothing will ever be able to take your joy from you.
In a little while, guilt and sin are gone. We won’t be sinners anymore. In a little while, death will be swallowed up in victory. It won’t sting anymore. [1 Corinthians 15:54-57]
(Jesus died. And by dying for man’s sin, He forgave sin. And by forgiving sin, He cancelled the power of death, which arose from man’s sin.)
Jesus died, arose on Easter, ascended into heaven, and in what is truly just a little while – it is no lengthier for you than the brevity of your life – you receive the benefits, not of what you’ve done, but of what He has done.
“What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes” [James 4:14]. “For His anger is but for a moment, and His favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning” [Psalm 30:5]. “When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a man has been born into the world” [John 16:21].
Mothers have special insight into how long a little while can feel. A little while of labor. Similarly, the “labor pains” of this life, no matter how long, are what Scripture calls a “light momentary affliction” which is “not worth comparing to …the weight of glory… that is to be revealed to us” [2 Corinthians 4:17; Romans 8:18]. A little while.
No matter the pain of the labor, once the child is delivered and placed in the mother’s arms, her former pain is forgotten for the joy of the child she has received. No matter the pain or sorrow of life, when Jesus comes to see us again, face-to-face, the former things are forgotten and suddenly it was only a little while.
“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind” [Isaiah 65:17]. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away” [Revelation 21:4].
“A little while” and you will see Him. In the meantime, let us each be a poor “Lazarus” – “One whom God helps” – and God does help. Amen.