John 16:20
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.

Verily, verily! say unto you, that ye shall weep and lament.
Family Churchman.
I. THE FORETOLD SORROW, arising, i.e. —

1. From their own sense of loss and bereavement. In the death of Jesus these men lost for a season their dearest, most honoured, and trusted Friend.

2. From their sympathy with their Lord's sufferings. His betrayal, humiliation, agony, crucifixion, went to their hearts.

3. From the disappointment of their hopes. Looking forward to the establishment of a Messianic kingdom, they were overwhelmed with dismay at what they saw.

II. THE FORETOLD JOY. This, when it came, was, perhaps, all the livelier and brighter by contrast with the gloom from which these sensitive and sympathizing natures emerged. It was the joy of —

1. Renewed friendship. "Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord."

2. Hope revived. The cloud was dispersed, the sun shone again. Once more they trusted that He would redeem Israel.

3. Victory. Their Lord was Conqueror, and in triumph there is ever gladness and rejoicing.

4. New humanity. In the resurrection of Christ was born the regenerated race. By the first throes of anguish came into being the Church of the Redeemer, the inheriter of earth and heaven.

5. Eternal, which none could take from them.

(Family Churchman.)

It is most instructive that the apostles do not speak of the death of our Lord with any kind of regret. The Gospels mention their distress during their actual occurrence, but after the Resurrection, and Pentecost, we hear of no such grief; on the contrary, there are many expressions which treat of the Crucifixion in the spirit of exalting joy. "God forbid that I should glory," &c. The "three hours' agony," the darkened church, the altar in mourning, the tolling of a bell, and all the other mock funereal rites of superstition, have not the least encouragement from the spirit and language of the apostles.


1. It was so, because to the disciples —(1) It was the loss of His personal presence. They felt that they would be sheep without a shepherd: orphans bereft of their best friend and helper. What would you think if your best earthly friend was hurried away from you by a shameful death?(2) The world would be rejoicing because their Lord was gone. You know when you are in sorrow, how bitter is the coarse laugh of an adversary who exults over your misery and extracts mirth from your tears. This made the disciples smart at their Lord's death.(3) His death was for a time the disappointment of all their hopes. They at first had fondly looked for a temporal kingdom. How can they be happy who have seen an end of their fairest life-dream?(4) Added to this was the sight which many of them had of their beloved Master in His agonies.

2. Now, even at the recollection of what our Lord endured, every Christian feels sympathy with Him. You cannot read the story without feeling that the minor key befits your voice at such a time, if you at all attempt to sing. One of the sharpest points about our sorrow is this — that we were the cause of it. We virtually crucified the Lord, seeing it was because we were sinners that He must needs be made a sacrifice.

II. THIS SORROW IS CHANGED INTO JOY. Not exchanged for joy, but actually transmuted, so that the grief becomes joy.

1. That Jesus died for our sins is a sharp sorrow: and yet this is the greatest joy of all. If each one of us can say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me," we are truly happy. Because God hath condemned sin in the flesh of Jesus Christ, therefore He will no more condemn us.

2. Jesus has now suffered all that was required of Him. That He should suffer was cause for grief, but that He has now suffered all is equal cause for joy. When a champion returns from the wars bearing the scars of conflict by which he gained his honours, does any one lament over his campaigns? Let us not mourn, then; for Christ's agony is all over now, and He is none the worse for having endured it.

3. Our Lord has survived His pains. He died a real death, but now He lives a real life. The Lord is risen indeed. He has lost no dominion, He claims superior rights and rules over a new empire. He is a gainer by His losses, He has risen by His descent.

4. The grand end which His death was meant to accomplish is all attained, viz. —

(1)The putting away of sin by the sacrifice of Himself.

(2)The salvation of His chosen.

(3)The glory of God.

5. The greatest possible blessings accrue to us, because He was made a curse for us. Through His death came pardon, reconciliation, access, acceptance, heaven.

6. Because He died there is a kingdom set up in the world, which never can be moved.

7. This joy is —

(1)Right hearty joy. Ours is no superficial mirth.

(2)Abiding joy. "Your joy no man taketh from you."

III. THE GENERAL PRINCIPLE INVOLVED IN THIS ONE PARTICULAR INSTANCE, viz., that in connection with Christ you must expect to have sorrow, But whatever sorrow you feel there is this consolation — the pangs are all birth-pangs, they are all the necessary preliminaries of an ever-increasing joy.

1. Since you have come to know Christ you have felt a smarter grief on account of sin. Let it continue with you, for it is working holiness in you, and holiness is happiness.

2. You have felt a keener sensibility on account of the sins of those around you, do not wish to be deprived of it, it will be the means of your loving them more, and seeking more their good.

3. Perhaps you have had to bear a little persecution, hard words, and the cold shoulder. Do not fret, for all this is needful to make you have fellowship with Christ's sufferings that you may know more of Him, and may become more like Him.

4. You sometimes see the cause of Christ as it were dead, and you are grieved about it, as well you may be. It is well, but in that very feeling there should be the full persuasion that the truth of Christ cannot long be buried, but waits to rise again with power.

5. By and by will come your last sorrow. Look forward to it without the slightest alarm. Death is the gate of endless joy, and shall we dread to enter there? Conclusion: The world shall rejoice: "Ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy." Now, what is implied there to complete the sentence? Why, that the world's joy shall be turned into sorrow. There is not a pleasure which the ungodly man enjoys but what will curdle into grief and be his sorrow for ever.

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

Joy lives in the midst of the sorrow; the sorrow springs from the same root as the gladness. The two do not clash against each other or reduce the emotion to a neutral indifference, but they blend into one another; just as in arctic regions, deep down beneath the cold snow, with its white desolation and its barren death, you shall find the budding of the early spring flowers and the fresh green grass; just as some kinds of fire burn below the water; just as in the midst of the barren and undrinkable sea here may be welling up some little fountain of fresh water that comes from a deeper depth than the great ocean around it, and pours its sweet streams along the surface of the saltwaste.

(A. Maclaren, D. D.)

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.


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.


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.


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.)

Your Joy no man taketh from you.
I. THAT OUR HAPPINESS IS LARGELY IN THE POWER OF OTHER PEOPLE. is a conviction which we reach very early.

1. The child, the merchant, the thinker, the public man, are all illustrations of this. No man can shut his gates and say, "I will find my happiness only in myself, and what I find no man shall take away." It seems as if all our social arrangements and relationships were not more fitted to make us furnishers of joy to one another than they are to give to every man the chance to pluck away our happiness. Husband and wife, father and child, teacher and scholar, master and servant — how they all hold each other's pleasures at their will I This view of life, which is perpetually presenting itself, stands up face to face with the thought, which all self-reliant and strong men try to keep hold of, viz., self-suffciency. To have the sources of all happiness in our own lives is a thought which no man can wholly cast away. It never finds its realisation; it always meets the interference of our brethren. Practically, almost all men's lives vacillate between the two.

II. IN THE MIDST OF A BEWILDERMENT LIKE THIS CHRIST COMES IS WITH THESE WORDS. There is a limit to our power over one another; there is a chamber of our inner selves where we may turn the key and no one can come in. The very fact that there is such a limit interests us.

1. We can see how good it is that, while there should be great regions of happiness which are involved with what others are and do, there should be also others which no one but ourselves can touch. The completest house is one whose outer rooms are hospitably open, but which has inner chambers where only the master of the house and his household have a right to enter. The best stock of ideas which any man can keep is that which, while it is subject to the influence of others, yet has at its heart convictions, which are the man's own, and which no other can invade. It is the same with regard to happiness. There would be something terrible if each of us held his power of happiness untouchable. Think how much of the finest of our intercourse, how much of the purest motive for self-sacrifice would be lost if we had no power of interfering with each other's joy. It would be almost a world of chartered selfishness. The necessary condition of your filling your child's life with sunshine is the power of darkening it with a heavy cloud. What would you care for any man's sympathy or approbation if all the while you knew that that same man's sneer or coldness would not give you even a twinge of pain?

2. And yet we can see just as clearly how dreadful it would be if this power reached in to our deepest happinesses. All of us practically insist that there shall be some enjoyments with which no man shall interfere, and which no human malice can poison.

3. Now hear what Jesus says to His disciples.(1) Nature was not to be changed in their case nor even their relations with their fellow-men to be robbed of the power of painfulness. Still, if you stabbed them they would bleed, if you burnt them they would smart. But behind all this His words revealed to them a something which no fellow-man could touch. As I think about their after lives, I can see them letting other joys go and not hating the hands which robbed them of them in the consciousness of this inmost joy, which no intrusion could invade.(2) Jesus tells His disciples that the power of this secret joy is to be His presence with them — "I will see you again," &c. It is not that they are to develop some interior strength, or to drift into calm indifference where the influences of their fellow-men shall not touch them any longer. It is that they are to come to a new life with Him.(3) How natural this is! Only the association of some higher and stronger person can save one from the contamination of lower persons who are swamping and ruining his life. Suppose you have a boy who is being overwhelmed and lost by and through his faculties of companionship. Have you not learned that it is through these same faculties of companionship that he must be saved? It will not be simply by forbidding him to have connection with his base companions, nor by shutting him in upon himself, that you will save him. A stronger person must be his saviour. Now this is just what Jesus did. Some men make the influence of Jesus a mere sentimental thing. They dwell upon the love which He poured out upon His friends. Other men talk about the mastery of Christ. He gave His servants things to do. He shaped their lives into new habits. It was not either of these alone. Until we grasp them both into one thought we have not understood His power. He brings love, awakening love, and authority demanding obedience. Let us try to bear this in mind as we pass on now to speak of —


1. The pleasure of energetic action, which makes life bright to the best men. Oh, the poor creatures whom their father's money or their own sluggish wills have robbed of the great human delight of action! But opposition, criticism, and ingratitude are the ways in which other men meet an active man, and make his work a drudgery. Here is a man in public life. The happiness of dealing with the state's affairs is what his soul is full of; he has dreamed of it while he was a boy, and now all his manhood triumphs in it. But other men have stepped across his path, and hindered him from doing what he meant to do; or have told the world and him how far what he has done is from what it ought to be; or those for whom he laboured have gone away, giving him curses instead of thanks. Now he may still work on from habit or duty, but the joy is departed. Is there any help for that? If not it is a dreadful world to live and work in. But now suppose that Christ had been with that man; that behind every other motive there had been the love of Christ. Would that have made no difference? Like an electric atmosphere poured around the shrine in which a jewel rests, so that no hand can be thrust through to steal it; so round the work, full of its joy, is poured the love of Christ, out of which no man can snatch it.(1) Suppose that some opponent hinders him in doing what he wants to do — he knows that no man can thwart his Master's will.(2) Suppose that men taunt him with his action's incompleteness. The incompleteness of his action is absorbed in the larger completeness of his Master.(3) Suppose that men turn from Him with ingratitude. Christ says, "Well done," and that is the only praise he really values. To every consecrated labourer who works for Christ there is a joy in working which no man can take away from him.

2. See how all this is true of Christian thought and the struggle after truth. These are the best joys of the best men. To make some few steps forward on the journey which stretches out into eternity; to add some new stone to the structure whose lines already prophesy an infinite height for the far topstone, — he has not lived who has not felt this pleasure. But yet every thinking man discovers that the joy of thought is one that lies peculiarly within the power of our fellow-men. And why? It is not that our fellow-men may contradict and abuse our opinions. If we do really hold it perfectly as true, that is a little thing. But the trouble is that the more one thinks and studies, the more he becomes aware how infinite is truth. The truth which he has learned on any subject, he becomes aware, is not the whole. Every time, then, that any reasoner impugns our truth it starts up this consciousness. We see how far we are, even upon the subject which we know best, from having reached the end of things and laid our faith securely. This is the reason why so many people, when their faith is once attained, keep it not merely as a very precious but as a very frail and brittle thing. They will not talk with any one about it. They will not read anything upon the other side. We know this is not good; and yet we very often do not see how it is to be escaped. The real escape, I think, lies here. The Christian faith is primarily a belief in Christ. All truth which we believe, we believe in and because of Him. We know that though we have taken Him for our Master, He is very far yet from having told us all that He has to tell. That knowledge does not decrease our satisfaction in believing Him; it increases it; for it binds us to Him not merely by what He has already taught us, but by the far greater truth which He is keeping for us, which it is a pleasure to wait for now, as it will be a pleasure to take it when the time shall come. Now, let a believer have this consciousness; and then let the unbeliever come up to him, to pluck away his joy. Always it is the surrounding of the doctrinal faith by the personal faith that keeps the joy of the doctrinal faith safe from attack or theft.

3. Follow our subject into the region of character. Can a man have such joy in his own character that no other man can take his joy away from him? Just as soon as we ask that, how our imperfections and sins start up before us! What idlest chatterer cannot pluck away our self-satisfaction, and steal the last trace of joy in our own characters? And yet, with all this true, it is not all the truth. There are two different conceptions of character, one of which looks at it in itself; the other looks at it as it is involved with the powers which are at work upon it to make it what it is capable of being. A block lying alone upon a hill-top may be uninteresting. The same block brought into a sculptor's workshop, though his hands may not have touched it, or may have only rudely blocked out his design, may be a thing to reverence. And can we not think that as it lies upon the hil-top it may be ready to accept everybody's disesteem; but when it comes into the sculptor's hands, it may gain such new sense of its capacity under that wise and loving power that no man's sneer can cloud the pleasure that it feels in the new revelation and hope of its true self which, under those hands, have come to it? Row read the parable. I am a poor, weak, wicked man; I know it; I do not need that you should tell me of it. Any small joy in myself which I have been able to conceive, your well-deserved scorn can steal from me in an instant. But now suppose that Christ takes me into His hands. I am a poor dull block still, but I am His, and His great hands have just begun to shape His purpose in me. Is not the whole thing changed? Now there is a joy in character which is not present consciousness, but certain prophecy.

(Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

I have been so long away from England that I do not know where our Queen is residing just now; but if I had the wings of a dove, and could mount into the upper air, I would soon find out. I should look for the royal standard. I should see it floating over Windsor or Osborne, and by this token I should espy the royal abode. Fling out the banner to the breeze when the King is within. Is the King at home with you, dear brother? Do not forget to display the standard of holy joy. Hoist it, and keep it flying. Ring the joy-bells!

(C. H. Spurgeon.)

John 16:20 NIV
John 16:20 NLT
John 16:20 ESV
John 16:20 NASB
John 16:20 KJV

John 16:20 Bible Apps
John 16:20 Parallel
John 16:20 Biblia Paralela
John 16:20 Chinese Bible
John 16:20 French Bible
John 16:20 German Bible

John 16:20 Commentaries

Bible Hub
John 16:19
Top of Page
Top of Page