Author Topic: Let There Be Joy! John 16:16-33  (Read 3131 times)

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Zant Law

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Let There Be Joy! John 16:16-33
« on: September 09, 2011, 05:13:55 PM »
Let There Be Joy!
John 16:16-33

The following is by Warren W. Wiersbe

This section—John 16:16-33 —concludes the Upper Room Discourse and deals primarily with the emotions of the disciples. They were sorrowing, they were confused about some of Jesus’ teaching, and they were afraid. It is an encouragement to me to know that the disciples were real men with real problems, yet the Lord was able to use them. We sometimes get the false impression that these men were different from us, especially endowed with spiritual knowledge and courage; but such was not the case. They were human!
One of the recurring themes in this section is joy (John 16:20-22 , 24 , 33 ). The Eleven were certainly not experiencing much joy that night! But what Jesus said to them eventually made a difference in their lives, just as it can make a difference in our lives today. Tenderly and patiently, our Lord explained how His people can have joy in their lives.

There Is a Principle to Grasp
 (John 16:16-22 )

The principle is simply this: God brings joy to our lives, not by substitution, but by transformation. His illustration of the woman giving birth makes this clear. The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy. In birth, God does not substitute something else to relieve the mother’s pain. Instead, He uses what is there already but transforms it.
Every parent knows what it is like to have an unhappy child because a toy is broken or a playmate has gone home. The parent can do one of two things: substitute something else for the broken toy or absent friend, or transform the situation into a new experience for the unhappy child. If Mother always gets a new toy for the child each time a toy is broken, that child will grow up expecting every problem to be solved by substitution. If Mother always phones another playmate and invites him or her over, the child will grow up expecting people to come to his rescue whenever there is a crisis. The result either way is a spoiled child who will not be able to cope with reality.
The way of substitution for solving problems is the way of immaturity. The way of transformation is the way of faith and maturity. We cannot mature emotionally or spiritually if somebody is always replacing our broken toys.
Jesus did not say that the mother’s sorrow (pain) was replaced by joy, but that the sorrow was transformed into joy. The same baby that caused the pain also caused the joy! And so it is in the Christian life: God takes seemingly impossible situations, adds the miracle of His grace, and transforms trial into triumph and sorrow into joy. “The Lord thy God turned the curse into a blessing” (Deut. 23:5 ; see Neh. 13:2 ).
Joseph’s brothers sold him as a slave, and Potiphar put him into prison as a criminal; but God transformed that hopeless situation of defeat into victory. Egypt’s persecution of Israel only caused them to multiply and prosper the more. King Saul’s murderous pursuit of David only made him more a man of God and helped produce the psalms that encourage our hearts today. Even Jesus took the cross, a symbol of defeat and shame, and transformed it into a symbol of victory and glory.
Now that we understand this principle, we can better understand the problems and questions of the disciples.
In John 16:16 , Jesus announced that in a little while, they would not see Him; then, in a little while, they would see Him. It was a deliberately puzzling statement (John 16:25 , He spoke in proverbs [“dark sayings”]) and the disciples did not understand. This also encourages me as I study my Bible and find statements that I cannot understand. Even the disciples had their hours of spiritual ignorance!
What did Jesus mean? Possibly He was talking about the soon-to-occur events in connection with His death and resurrection. After His burial, they would not see Him for a little while; but then He would rise from the dead and they would see Him again. He had told them on previous occasions that He would rise from the dead after three days, but His words did not sink into their minds and hearts.
However, I think that Jesus was speaking primarily about His return to the Father (“Because I go to the Father”—John 16:16 ). This ties in with John 16:10 —“Because I go to My Father, and ye see Me no more.” The disciples did not live to see the return of Christ, but they did die and see Him when they arrived in glory. In comparison to eternity, the time that the church has been awaiting the Lord’s return has really been but “a little while” (see 2 Cor. 4:16-18 ). In fact, the phrase “a little while” is used in this very sense in Hebrews 10:37 —“For yet a little while, and He that shall come will come, and will not tarry.”
Instead of asking Jesus to explain His words, the men began to discuss it among themselves, almost as though they were embarrassed to admit their ignorance. However, you do not get very far by exchanging your ignorance! It is when we come to the Lord and ask for His help that we learn the important lessons of life.
Egypt was glad when Israel departed (Ps. 105:38 ), and the world was glad when Jesus Christ moved off the scene. Both the religious and political leaders of that day expected to see the early believers die out and the “Christian movement” disappear; but such was not the case. Jesus sent His Holy Spirit to His church, and the church is carrying the Word of His grace to the ends of the earth. The early believers even rejoiced when they were persecuted (Acts 5:41 ).
To the mother experiencing birth pains, every minute may seem an hour. Our concept of time changes with our feelings. Thirty minutes in the dentist chair may seem like hours, while hours fishing or dining with friends may seem like a very short time. The mother feels as though the birth is taking a long time, when really it may be only “a little while.” When the baby has been born, pain is forgotten as joy fills her heart.
The world today does not want Jesus Christ or His church. The world is rejoicing while we are suffering, longing for our Lord to return. In fact, all of creation is suffering “birth pangs” because of sin, awaiting His return (Rom. 8:22 ). When the Bridegroom is away, the bride mourns (Matt. 9:15 ). But, in “a little while” He shall return and we shall go with Him to heaven to enjoy the Father’s house.
While the immediate application may have been to the sorrowing hearts of the disciples, the ultimate application is to all of God’s people as they await the coming of Jesus Christ. To us, it seems like a long wait; but God does not measure time as we do (see 2 Peter 3 ). But while we are waiting, we must deal with our trials and hurts on the basis of transformation and not substitution, if we expect to mature in the Christian life.

There Is a Promise to Believe
 (John 16:23-28 )

The central theme of this paragraph is prayer: “Ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full” (John 16:24 ). It is important to note that the text uses two different words for “ask,” although they can be used interchangeably. The word used in John 16:19 , 23a , and 26 means “to ask a question” or “to ask a request.” It is used when someone makes a request of someone equal. The word translated “ask” in John 16:23b , 24 , and 26b (“pray”) means “to request something of a superior.” This latter word was never used by Jesus in His prayer life because He is equal to the Father. We come as inferiors to God, asking for His blessing; but He came as the very Son of God, equal with the Father.
In John 16:23 , what period of time did Jesus mean by “in that day”? I think He was referring to the time after the coming of the Spirit. He promised them in John 16:22 that He would see them again, and He kept His promise. He spent forty days with them after His resurrection, teaching them clearly the truths they needed to know in order to take His place and minister on earth (Acts 1:3ff ). “That day” cannot refer to the day of His return for His church, because there is no evidence in Scripture that we shall pray to Him after we get to heaven.
Jesus knew that they wanted to ask Him a question (John 16:19 ). He assured them that a day would soon come when they would not ask Him questions. Instead, they would pray to the Father and He would meet their needs. This was the promise that they desperately needed to believe: that the Father loved them and would hear their requests and meet their needs. While Jesus was on earth, He met all the needs of His disciples. Now He would return to the Father, but the Father would meet their needs. Here is the wonderful promise and privilege of prayer.
Our Lord had mentioned prayer many times in His ministry, and He had set the example for prayer in His own life. He was indeed a man of prayer. In His Upper Room message, Jesus emphasized prayer (John 14:12-14 ; 15:7 , 16 ; 16:23-26 ). He made it clear that believing prayer is one of the secrets of a fruitful Christian life.
In John 16:25-27 , Jesus explained that there would be a new situation because of His resurrection and ascension, and because of the coming of the Holy Spirit. He would no longer speak to them in terms that demanded spiritual insight for their understanding. He would speak to them plainly and reveal the Father to them. There in the Upper Room, He had used a number of symbolic images to get His message across: the washing of their feet, the “Father’s house,” the vine and branches, and the birth of a baby. In the days that followed, these images would become clearer to the disciples as they would be taught by the Spirit of God.
The purpose of Bible study is not simply to understand profound truths, but to get to know the Father better. “I will show you plainly of the Father” (John 16:25 ). If our reading and Bible study falls short of this, it does more harm than good.
There would be not only a new situation in teaching, but also a new situation in their praying. He had already intimated this in John 16:23 . Jesus would return to heaven to be with the Father, and there He would minister as our High Priest, making intercession for us (Rom. 8:34 ; Heb. 7:25 ). He would also minister as our Advocate (1 John 2:1 ). As our High Priest, Jesus gives us grace to keep us from sinning. As our Advocate, He restores us when we confess our sins. His ministry in heaven makes possible our ministry of witness on earth, through the power of the Spirit.
When you read the Book of Acts, you discover that the early church depended on prayer. They believed the promises of God and asked God for what they needed. It would do all of God’s people good if they reviewed regularly what Jesus taught about prayer in this Upper Room Discourse. There is indeed joy in praying and in receiving answers to prayer. There is joy in meeting the conditions Jesus has laid down for successful praying. I think it was George Müller who said that true prayer was not overcoming God’s reluctance, but overcoming God’s willingness.
There is joy in prayer, and there is joy in realizing the principle of transformation. Jesus shared a third kind of joy, the joy of sharing His victory over the world.

There Is a Position to Claim
(John 16:29-33 )

In John 16:29-30 , the disciples suddenly moved out of their spiritual stupor and made a tremendous affirmation of faith. First, they claimed to understand what He had been teaching them, though this claim was probably presumptuous, as their subsequent actions proved. They seemed unable to grasp the meaning of His promised resurrection. They were bewildered even after His resurrection as to the future of Israel (Acts 1:6ff ). I am not criticizing them, because we today have just as many blind spots when it comes to understanding His Word. All I am suggesting is that their affirmation was a bit presumptuous.
They not only affirmed their understanding, but they also affirmed their faith and assurance. “Now we are sure . . . by this we believe.” It was quite a statement of faith, and I believe the Lord accepted it. In His prayer recorded in the next chapter, Jesus told the Father about His disciples and reported on their spiritual condition (John 17:6-8 ). Certainly He knew their weaknesses, but He was quick to approve their growing evidences of faith and assurance.
But it is possible to have faith, understanding, and assurance and still fail the Lord. Unless we practice that faith, apply that understanding, and rest on that assurance, we will fail when the time of testing comes. That is what happened to the disciples, and Jesus warned them that it would happen.
He had already warned Peter that he would deny Him, but now He warned the entire band of disciples that they would all forsake Him. John does not quote the Old Testament prophecy (Zech. 13:7 ); it is quoted in Matthew 26:31 . This statement from the Lord should have been a warning to Peter not to follow Jesus when He was arrested. “Let these go their way!” was our Lord’s word in the Garden (John 18:8 ). He knew that it was not safe for them to tarry.
Jesus has promised never to leave us alone (Matt. 28:20 ; Heb. 13:5 ); yet His own disciples left Him alone. Peter, James, and John went into the Garden with Him, but then fell asleep. Jesus knew that the Father would be with Him. “I am not alone, but I and the Father that sent Me” (John 8:16 ). “And He that sent Me is with Me. The Father hath not left Me alone” (John 8:29 ). What an encouragement it was to the Son to know that He was doing the Father’s will and that He could depend on the Father’s help.
At one point, however, Jesus did feel the absence of the Father: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Matt. 27:46 ; Ps. 22:1 ) When He was made sin for us, He was separated from the Father. He was alone that we might never be alone. He was forsaken that we might never be forsaken.
John 16:33 is the summary and climax of the Upper Room message. Why did He give this message? So that the disciples might have peace in a world of tribulation. Note the contrast between “in Me” and “in the world.” In Christ there is peace; in the world there is tribulation. This is the position we need to claim: we are in Christ, and therefore we can overcome the world and all of its hatred.
George Morrison defined peace as “the possession of adequate resources.” In Jesus Christ, we have all the resources that we need. But peace depends also on appropriate relationships, because spiritual resources depend on spiritual relationships. “In Me” is the key. In ourselves, we have nothing; but “in Christ” we have all that we need.
Every believer is either overcome or an overcomer. “And this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith” (1 John 5:4 ). The world wants to overcome us; this is why Satan uses the world to persecute and pressure believers. The world wants us to conform; it does not want us to be different. When we yield ourselves to Christ and trust Him, He enables us to be overcomers. We must claim our spiritual position in Christ and believe Him for victory.
“Be of good cheer!” is one of our Lord’s repeated statements of encouragement. Literally it means, “Cheer up!” There is the “good cheer” of His pardon (Matt. 9:1-8 ), His power (Matt. 9:18-22 ), and His presence (Matt. 14:22-27 ). Here in John 16:33 , He announces the “good cheer” of His victory over the world. We are overcomers because He has first overcome for us.
As we review this section, we can see how these three explanations our Lord gave all fit together. He revealed a wonderful principle—God transforms sorrow into joy. But this principle will not work in our lives unless we believe His promise and pray. God has ordained that His work is accomplished through believing prayer. But we will not be able to pray effectively if we do not claim our position as conquerors in Jesus Christ.
But John 16:33 is also a preface to His great High Priestly Prayer. He had taught them the Word; now He would pray for them. The Word and prayer must always go together (Acts 6:4 ). He used the word world nineteen times in this prayer, for in it He shows us how to overcome the world. He Himself was facing the hatred of the world and the devil, yet He would be able to endure the suffering and win the victory.
There is joy when we permit God to transform sorrow into joy. There is joy when God answers prayer. There is joy when we overcome the world.
Let there be joy!

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