but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you (John 16:22).
Jesus gives three details about the joy they would have when they would see him again. He says that their joy will be connected to his presence, that it will be permanent, and that it will be maintained and enhanced by prayer in his name to the Father. We will think about his presence in this reading.
So their joy will be connected to the company of Christ. In their case, it would be due to the appearance of the risen Jesus, although Jesus does not mean that their joy was dependant on him always being there. He merely states that his re-appearance would be the beginning of their renewed experience of joy. And it would be connected to their new-found ability to understand what had happened (Jesus’ words, ‘In that day you shall ask me nothing,’ suggests they would cease asking for explanations). What would they understand?
First, they would understand that the cross was not a disaster. It would become clear to them that Jesus had died as their substitute, that he had taken their place of the cross. They would realise that he had dealt with the problem of their sins, that through his work of atonement they could have their sins forgiven. This is a reason for great joy, to know that through the cross-work of Jesus we can be pardoned all our sins.
Second, on that day of reunion on the resurrection day they would realise that Jesus was the conqueror of death. They had lived in a world that was permeated with death, now they were going to live in a world that was permeated with the power of the risen life of Christ. Instead of death being a petrifying despot that conquered all in its way, Jesus had destroyed it in the sense that it was no able to overcome him.
Third, their joy would have been increased as they experienced the graciousness of Jesus on the day he arose from the dead. As they heard his compassionate and gentle greeting of peace as he entered their presence (John 20:19), they would have realised that he did not hold their failures against them.
Fourth, their joy would have come from knowing that the risen Christ, although absent from them once he had ascended to heaven, would continue to be active. His activities – sending the Spirit at Pentecost, representing them in heaven, preparing a place for them in heaven, returning in the future and raising them from the dead – will each bring joy to them as they meditate on them.
These four reasons are not limited to the original group of disciples. They should be ours as well.