Truly, truly, I say to you, That you shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and you shall be sorrowful…
Our Lord gave his apostles to understand that he was no enemy to the emotions that are characteristic of humanity. By becoming his disciples men did not exempt themselves from the common sorrows, nor did they forfeit the common joys, of human life. But these emotions were to be excited by greater and worthier occasions than those met with in ordinary experience. To be a Christian is to know profounder sorrow, and to rise to loftier joy, than falls to the lot of the unspiritual. And our Lord's first disciples were to prove this at the very outset of their spiritual life.
I. THE GRIEF OCCASIONED BY THE LORD'S ABSENCE. Probably had the twelve been perfectly informed, perfectly sympathetic, and perfectly patient, they would not have undergone all the distress which came upon them when their Lord was seized, insulted, and crucified, and whilst his body lay in Joseph's tomb. But as it was, their experience was more like our own, and therefore more instructive and helpful.
1. The disciples sorrowed because of their own loss. Jesus was everything to them, and they were about to lose him; this they knew, and the consciousness of this loss, which was imminent, seems to have occupied and absorbed their souls, to the exclusion of considerations which might have brought consolation. Thus it has often been with all of us; grief is so close to the heart that it shuts out the vision of aught beyond.
2. The disciples sorrowed through sympathy with the sorrow of their Lord. He was to be hated, to be persecuted, to lay down his life. Yet he was not only innocent, he was the Friend and Benefactor of men. The treatment he received from the world was a proof of monstrous ingratitude. Those who were nearest to him, and who knew him best, could not but sympathize with him, and in some measure, though very imperfectly, share his grief.
3. The disciples sorrowed because of the cloud which gathered over their hopes. These hopes were to some extent indefinite; yet they looked forward to a Messianic kingdom of which their Master should be the Head, and in which they should hold place and sway and honor. They trusted that he should redeem Israel; and they could not understand how such a fate as that which was, according to his own words, about to overtake him, could be reconciled with the prospect which they had been cherishing. Hence their weeping and lamentation.
II. THE GLADNESS TO BE CREATED BY THE LORD'S RETURN. There was only one antidote to sorrow such as that which was oppressing the apostles' hearts, and which was to deepen into anguish and terror. If their Lord was all to them, their minds could only be relieved by the prospect of reunion with him.
1. Jesus promised that after "a little while" his friends should again behold his form and hear his voice. How this prospect was consistent with the assurance that he was about to be slain, these inexperienced and bewildered friends of Jesus could not see. But events were to teach them. That the Resurrection came upon them as a surprise, the narrative makes abundantly clear. But the disciples were "glad when they saw the Lord."
2. This fellowship for a brief season to be accorded to the disciples was an earnest of a spiritual communion never to cease, and of a final and perfect reunion in a higher state of being. There were in our Lord's last discourses and conversations many intimations of this glorious prospect. Very inadequately did these simple learners grasp truths so great and so new, that only time, experience, and the Holy Spirit's teaching could possibly bring them home to their hearts. The revelation was too grand to be grasped at once. Yet it was a revelation which was to nourish the faith, impel the consecration, and inspire the patience, of the Church of Christ through the long ages of the spiritual dispensation. What joy the spiritual fellowship with the unseen Savior enkindled in the souls of his faithful people, we know from their recorded experience and from their confident admonitions. "Joy unspeakable and full of glory" was, in the view of the apostles, the proper portion of those who believed in Jesus. "Rejoice evermore!" was the exhortation with which gloom was rebuked, with which privilege and hope of immortal progress were indissolubly connected. - T.
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.