This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.
“In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.” Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.” Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? I said in a little while you won’t see me, but a little while after that you will see me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy. It will be like a woman suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy. At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name. You haven’t done this before. Ask, using my name, and you will receive, and you will have abundant joy. John 16:16-24 (NLT)
I find it incredibly illuminating that Jesus used the illustration of a woman giving birth to explain what He is talking about in this passage. A woman in the midst of the birthing process cannot ignore what she is going through. The intensity of the pain and focused anguish is inevitable. The only way to avoid the pain is to abandon the reward at the end of its process. The birthing process requires pain and struggle, and the only way around it is to abort the reward we are seeking.
Jesus is not simply describing what His followers would encounter in the coming days as He passed from the crucifixion to the resurrection. He is defining a technology of the Kingdom of God. There will be pain. The pain and sorrow are necessary for the reward.
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said. Acts 14:22
Any religious system that teaches us we can take hold of the Kingdom of God and the greater realities of Christ without pain and struggle is defining a counterfeit process where the true reward is actually aborted. Such a system places our comfort and self-concern above the purposes of God.
Like the woman giving birth, we are called to see the beauty of the reward, which is God’s will established on earth as it is in heaven. That is what makes the pain and anguish of bringing it to pass more than worth it. We want our joy fulfilled, and when our greatest treasure is aligned to the desires of God, the birthing process is achievable – no matter the costs.
When Jesus described the transitions from joy to pain and then back to joy, He was describing His own birthing process about to unfold. It was never about simply getting us to heaven. He was about to birth a new reality into the earth, the age of the Spirit manifested through His people, the church.
He saw a people of God standing with the authority of God in the earth.
At that time you won’t need to ask me for anything. I tell you the truth, you will ask the Father directly, and he will grant your request because you use my name.
That authority was gained through the sacrifice of Christ but established through the birthing process technology of His people.