Truly, truly, I say to you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful…
I. THE PROMISE OF A JOY WHICH IS A TRANSFORMED SORROW, "Your sorrow shall be turned into joy," not merely that the one emotion is substituted for the other, but, as it were, becomes the other. This can only mean that that which was the cause of the one reverses its action. Of course the historical and immediate fulfilment of these words lies in the double result of Christ's Cross upon His servants. That Cross, which for some few hours was pain, and all but ruin, has ever since been the centre of the deepest gladness and confidence of a thousand generations.
1. Estimate the value as an evidence of the historical veracity of the Gospel story, of this sudden and complete revolution in that handful of believers. A dead Christ was the Church's despair; a dead and risen Christ the Church's triumph.
2. This principle covers the whole ground of devout men's sorrows. Every thunder-cloud has a rainbow lying in its depths when the sun smites upon it. And our purest and noblest joys are transformed sorrows. The sorrow of contrite hearts becomes the gladness of pardoned children; the sorrow of bereaved empty hearts may become the gladness of hearts filled with God. Every stroke of the ploughshare, and every dark winter's day are represented in the broad acres waving with the golden grain.
II. THIS IS A JOY FOUNDED UPON THE CONSCIOUSNESS THAT CHRIST'S EYE IS UPON US.
1. "I will see you again," &c. Elsewhere the form of the promise is the converse — "Yet a little while and ye shall see Me." "Ye shall see Me" fixes attention upon us and our perception of Him. "I will see you" fixes attention upon Him and His beholding of us. "Ye shall see Me" speaks of our going out after Him and being satisfied in Him. "I will see you" speaks of His perfect knowledge, loving care, tender, ever-watchful eye.
2. And so it requires a loving heart to find joy in such a promise. He sees all men, but unless our hearts cleave to Him, then "I will see you again" is a threat. "I know thy works" brought no joy to the lukewarm professors at Laodicea, nor to the church at Ephesus. But to the faithful souls in Philadelphia and Sardis it was blessedness and life.
3. Is there any joy to us in the thought that the Lord Christ sees us? Oh, if our hearts are really His, then all that we need will be given to us, in the belief that His eye is fixed upon us. "There be many that say, who will show us any good," &c. One look towards Christ will more than repay and abolish earth's sorrow. One look from Christ will fill our hearts with sunshine. All tears are dried on eyes that meet His. If one could take a bit of the Arctic world and float it down into the tropics, the ice would all melt, and the grey dreariness would disappear, and a new splendour of colour and light would clothe the fields, and an unwonted vegetation would spring up where barrenness had been. And if you and I will only float our lives southward beneath the direct vertical rays of that great Sun of Righteousness, then all the dreary winter and ice of our sorrows will melt, and joy will spring.
III. NOTE HOW OUR LORD SETS FORTH HIS DISCIPLES' JOY AS ONE BEYOND THE REACH OF VIOLENCE AND INDEPENDENT OF EXTERNALS. "No man taketh it from you."
1. Much of our joy, of course, depends upon our fellows, and disappears when they fade. And much of our joy depends upon the goodwill and help of our fellows, and they can snatch away all that so depends. But no man but myself can put a roof over my head to shut me out from God and Christ. And as long as I have a clear sky over head, it matters very little how high may be the walls, and how close, that foes pile around me.
2. And much of our joy necessarily depends upon and fluctuates with external circumstances of a hundred different kinds. But we do not need to have all our joy fed from these surface springs. We may dig deeper down. If we are Christians, we have, like some beleaguered garrison in a fortress, a well in the courtyard that nobody can get at.
3. But remember, though externals have no power to rob us of our joy, they can interfere with that faith which is the essential condition of our joy. They cannot force us away from Christ, but they may tempt us away. The sunshine did for the traveller in the old fable what the storm could not do; and the world may cause you to think so much about it that you forget your Master. Its joys may compel Him to hide His face, and may so fill your eyes that you do not care to look at His face.
IV. THIS LIFE OF JOY IS MADE CERTAIN BY THE PROMISE OF A FAITHFUL CHRIST. "Verily! verily! I say unto you."
1. He was accustomed to use that impressive and solemn formula when He was about to speak words beyond the reach of human wisdom or of prime importance. He tells these men, who had nothing but His bare word, that the astonishing thing which He is going to promise them will certainly come to pass. He puts His own character, so to speak, in pawn. His words are precisely equivalent in meaning to the solemn Old Testament words which are represented as being the oath of God — "As I live, saith the Lord." So Christ puts His whole truthfulness at stake, as it were; and if any man that has ever loved Jesus Christ and trusted Him aright has not found this "joy unspeakable and full of glory," then Jesus Christ has said the thing that is not.
2. Then why is it that so many professing Christians have such joyless lives? Simply because they do not keep the conditions. If you know but little of this joy it is your fault, and not His.
(A. Maclaren, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.