15 May 2010

John 16:16-28

"When a woman is in labour she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world." (v.21)


Jesus is referring to his death and resurrection when he tells the disciples that "a little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me". But they do not understand what he means. Jesus is aware of their bewilderment but still does not give them a direct explanation. He uses instead the illustration of a woman giving birth. The pain of her labour is surpassed by the joy which she feels when her child is born. In a similar way, the suffering the disciples are now experiencing will be more than compensated for by the overwhelming joy which will fill their hearts when Christ sees them again.

Jesus initially talks about the disciples seeing him (John 16:1) and then turns this around to talk about him seeing them (John 16:22). It is when Christ sees them that they will be filled with a joy that no one can take away. They had looked longingly at Christ as he ascended into heaven and was hidden from their sight (Acts 1:9). And there would come a time when Christ would look at them and remain with them forever.

There will be a further element of joy to this encounter because whatever they ask for in Christ's name they will receive. They will not need Christ to ask on their behalf. They will be able to ask God directly since God loves them because of their love for Christ.

Jesus finishes this discourse with a concise summary of the Christian gospel (the good news of Christ): "I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and am going to the Father". He is coming close to the end of his earthly mission and will soon be returning to his home in heaven.

To Ponder

When have you experienced intense pain followed by deep joy?

Is it more important for you to see Christ or to be seen by Christ? Why?

What do you need to receive from God in order that "your joy may be complete"?

Bible notes author

The Revd Nicola Vidamour

Nicola is a Methodist minister, currently serving two churches in East Ham, London. Before taking up this appointment, Nicola spent six years as the associate pastor of Pskov United Methodist Church in Russia.