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John51 – sorrow’s unending joy

“A little and you no longer observe me, and again a little and you will discern me.” (John 16: 16)
Above and below, John, the first century eye-witness biographer of Jesus of Nazareth continues to recall what Jesus said to his disciples the night before his AD 30 crucifixion in Jerusalem.

Up until this point in the evening, Jesus has not told them plainly what is to take place, starting with his arrest in Gethsemane within hours. They have been told that he is to return to his father above and he has told them many other things (see John43 to John50 on the website). 

The world is going to hate them, just as it has hated him. But he will send them another advocate – the holy spirit of truth - to be with them. Then Jesus speaks to them the cryptic statement in bold above. What did he mean?

So they - from his disciples - said towards one another, “What is this that he is states to us, ‘A little and you do not observe me, and again a little and you will discern me,’ and ‘Because I am going away towards the father’?” So they were stating, “What is this that he is stating, ‘A little’? We do not discern what he is speaking.” Jesus knew that they were desiring to ask him, and he said to them, “You are seeking with one another concerning this thing that I said, ‘A little and you do not observe me, and again a little and you will discern me’?”

Key to this is Jesus’ use of the oft-repeated words “observe” (Greek verb theoreo) and “discern” (Greek verb horao). The former means “to look upon”; the latter “to perceive” including perception by experience. Will they no longer look upon him and then, a little later, experience him? 

“Amen, amen I am stating to you, that you will weep and you will wail; in fact the world will be rejoicing. You will be sorrowing, but your sorrow will come to be joy.”

When they are no longer able to “look upon” him the world will rejoice. But….

“A woman, when she may deliver, has sorrow that her hour has come. In fact, when the youngster may be born, she no longer remembers the affliction, through the joy that a man has been born into the world. So, you also indeed are now having sorrow..."

The parallel which Jesus uses of a woman suffering in labour then rejoicing over her new-born child is applied by him first to himself, then to the disciples. He is heading for enormous suffering – but he will rejoice because through that suffering and death others will be born into his likeness and spirit. They are heading for great sorrow over their loss of him in whom they trusted. 

“... - in fact, I will self-discern you again, and your heart will be rejoicing, and no one takes your joy from you.”

Jesus beautifully expresses the two joys arising from the parallel – first for him and then for his disciples. He, following his suffering, will have great joy in perceiving them again, in knowing and seeing them follow him in all the living of their lives.

They, in their heart (singular, their unified heart), will greatly rejoice  following their devastating loss of him to death and the grave. They will discern that he is discerning them. They will discern him in his great joy and glory. And that will last forever because their joy in knowing and having him – through the advocate, the holy spirit – within each one of them - will never ever end. 

“And, in that day, you will ask me nothing. Amen, amen I state to you, anything you may ask the Father in my name, he will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask and you will lay hold, in order that your joy may be filled full.” 

Immediately above is perhaps one of the most remarkable statements ever made to human beings. It is prefaced by "Amen, amen…"

The disciples have become used to asking Jesus about everything and for everything. They will all – following the event which parallels the woman in labour - be able to ask the father above direct (in Jesus’ name), for one good reason. They will all have become his sons, through this Jesus, and in this Jesus.

Truly, truly, they will have been born again, born from above, into the family of their Almighty father above.

Sinner Syvret

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