Sorrow, Joy and Peace - John 16:16-33

Expositions by H. A. Wilson

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Memory Verse — Philippians 4:6-7

Jesus spoke of three things in the conversation with His disciples recorded in John 16:16-33. He spoke of the sorrow which they were to suffer through separation from Him. He spoke of the joy which would be theirs in His resurrection and in their reunion with Him. And He spoke of the peace which they might have through believing in His Word. In each of these three things the disciples' experience presents a picture of some spiritual experience of God's children. Their sorrow in separation from Jesus speaks to us of the sorrow which comes to the soul of the believer when he loses sight of the Lord Jesus. The joy which was theirs in Jesus' resurrection and restoration to them speaks of the joy of the believer when his fellowship with the Lord is renewed. And the peace of which Jesus spoke to them testifies of the peace which we may enjoy through trusting the Word of God.


Vss. 16-31.

The disciples' sorrow was caused by their separation from Jesus after His death. There was little of peace or joy in their hearts during those dark days intervening between the Cross and the resurrection. We are given very few glimpses of the disciples during that time but those we are given in the Word of God show a picture of mourning and distress. The women coming to the tomb early in the morning of the first day of the week were laden with materials for preparing the body. Their hearts were borne down with grief and woe. The two disciples on the road to Emmaus could not restrain their sighs as they said, "We trusted that it had been He that should have redeemed Israel." (Luke 2.!.:2i.) Like them the believer who is separated from the face of his Lord through sin and backsliding is filled with sorrow. He is bowed beneath a burden of sin and woe and misery and wretchedness. Perhaps he plunges deeper into the things of the world in order to find relief from his soul's unrest. But it is all in vain. He is sick at heart and discouraged and defeated. Isa. 1:5-6; Rom. 7:8-11, 24.

The world rejoiced when Jesus was crucified and just so it rejoices in the weakness of God's children. The Cross held no sorrow for the world. The One Who had rebuked their sin was gone and they made sport of Him in His death. So when the Christian loses sight of his Lord it causes no grief to this sinful old world. On the contrary, unbelievers rejoice when a Christian falls by the way. Many times they do everything in their power to make him fall. They seek to make him forget his Lord. And when apparently, he has forgotten Him, and has plunged headlong into the sinful pleasure of the world, then they rejoice. They rejoice because a Christian who lives in close fellowship with God and who manifests in his life His holiness, is a rebuke to them, but when he has drifted away and has lost the keen joy of his salvation, v^'hen his testimony is silenced and his life has become defiled, then the rebuke is gone. Indeed, the world uses a worldly Christian as an excuse for its own sin. So as the world rejoiced in the crucifixion of Jesus it rejoices in the weakness of His followers. Ps. 22:1-8; Ps. 35:19-21.

The sorrow of the disciples was deepened by failure to understand the Word of God. When Jesus spoke of the coming separation and tried to explain it to them telling them that it was only for a short time and then to be swallowed up in an eternal joy, they could not understand Him. Thus the Christian who gets out of touch with his Lord has his misery deepened by failure to understand the Word of God. Some may think they are no longer His children because they have sinned. How much more readily they return to Him if they can only believe and understand that no amount of sin can make a man any the less a child of God after he has once believed in Jesus. Sometimes a backslider is inclined to think that his miseries are a sign that God has ceased to love him. What a blessing it is to know that those miseries which God sends in chastening upon the backslider are clear evidence of continued love for His poor, wayward child. Such understanding brings one to repentance and confession, and hastens the restoration of the joy of salvation. Ps. 51; Heb. 12:1-11.


Vss. 22-25

And surely great joy comes to the soul when one who has drifted from the Lord returns to Him and has his fellowship renewed. The disciples forgot the sorrow of the tomb in the joy of the resurrection. So the miseries of backsliding seem but an evil dream of the night when they are dispelled by the light of Jesus' fellowship. The joy far outweighs the sorrow. So David prayed from the depths of the misery caused by his sin, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me by thy free Spirit, then will I teach transgressors thy ways and sinners shall be converted unto thee." (Ps. 51:12-13.) The joy of our salvation is restored to us when we return to the Lord and obtain the consciousness that He has forgiven our sins. Lu. 15:11-24; Jno. 20:20; Gal. 5:22; I John 1:9: Psa. 16:11.

The best part about this joy is that it is eternal. It is true that so long as we are in this life we may lose our joy by again getting out of touch with God but there is a day coming when we will be with Him and then we shall be freed from the weaknesses of the flesh which now cause us to sin. Then we shall experience the joy which is the rightful heritage of God's children and that joy shall be a joy which shall never end. Rev. 22:3-5; Rev. 21:4; Isa. 35:10.

In order that ice may know the fullness of joy now we must appropriate it by faith and in prayer. Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive that your joy may be full." (Vs. 24.) When we were saved and had the assurance of it there was a joy which was ours. After we have drifted away from God and are again restored to fellowship with Him, there is a renewal of that joy. But if we try to rest upon the experience which we had when we trusted the Saviour, or when we were brought into renewed fellowship with Him, we will find that it does not satisfy-. As the children of Israel needed to gather the manna fresh every morning so the child of God needs to have his blessing renewed every day. This may be done as we yield to Him and seek His fellowship in prayer. Ex. 16:16-21; I Thes. 5:16; Lam. 3:22-23; II Pet. 3:18; Ps. 5:11.


Vss. 26-33

But one's peace and happiness cannot be stable unless founded upon the Word of God. If we rest upon our experiences we will find that they change and we will grow discouraged. If we trust our prayers we will find that sometimes we must struggle in prayer because the adversary opposes us and we will become dismayed. But if we simply trust in the Word of God and center our minds in Jesus, we have a secure foundation for our souls and will be kept in peace. "The Word of the Lord abideth forever," and Jesus Christ is "the same yesterday, and today, and forever." It is a truth which can easily be confirmed from observation that the Christians who depend upon some experience for their happiness are easily discouraged and have a very unsatisfactory and fluctuating experience. But the Christian who has learned to trust the Word of God even though for a time the experience is lacking, will be found to be the steadfast, dependable Christian. Isa. 26:3; Phil. 4. 16-7; Rom. 15:13; Heb. 12:3,

The peace which comes through simply trusting the Word depends upon the faitlifulness of God and not upon circumstances or upon environment. That is the only kind of peace which will endure in the face of persecution and tribulation. The soul which trusts the Word of God can keep poised and balanced even though all things around him be calculated to dismay him. The world will persecute us and we shall have tribulations while we are in it. But what sweet peace comes when we realize that Jesus has overcome the world. When we realize this and remember that we are in His hands and that He cares for us we can enter into the blessing of which He spoke in the words, "These things have I spoken unto you that ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer I have overcome the world." (Vs. 33.) Our peace is in Jesus. He is able to keep us even in the midst of unfavorable surroundings, — in a troubled world. II Thes. 3:16,