John 16:16-22 is one of the passages in the Bible that has limited immediate application to us today, simply because the event of which it speaks has already occurred, is now history, and will never recur. Another such passage is Luke 24:49. Jesus told His Disciples to “tarry” or wait for the Holy Spirit, because the Day of Pentecost had not yet come. Then it came and went, and the Holy Spirit came and stayed. He will never be withdrawn for so long as His Church is on earth. To tarry for the Holy Spirit today, is much like waiting on a bus that is waiting for you, and refusing to get on because you are waiting on it to arrive.
In John 16:16-22, Jesus is about to be crucified. He would be violently taken from them. They will all be traumatized by the event as they helplessly watch him abused by His creation. They will be ushered into a state of extreme depression, and especially so, because they either do not know, do not understand, or do not believe what He has been telling them all along. Jesus understands that frustration is a function of expectation. If they understood and believed that His Kingdom was not to be a political kingdom on earth on the occasion of his first visit; if they understood that as the spotless Lamb of God, He and he alone could atone for the sin of the world, and that this could be done only by shedding His blood and dying; if they understood these things, they would not be so despondent. For then they would also believe that His death would be short-lived, and that three days later, he would be raised from the dead. But they did not understand, much less believe.
It is against this background that Jesus speaks to them. The vivid analogy of a woman in labor is irrelevant to us today, because the baby is already born. But there is a part that is relevant… actually two parts.
The first is the latter part of John 16:22 – “…but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.”
We are now living in that period of “rejoicing” because Jesus has fulfilled His promise, and has returned to us permanently in the person of God the Holy Spirit. And for its Theological value, be reminded that Paul clearly equates Jesus with the Holy Spirit in 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.
There is something insidiously dangerous in deferred gratification, although in another context, it is an excellent basis for frugality and fiscal responsibility. However, in the majority of situations, it is very expedient for us to enjoy the moment, if for no other reason, because we do not know what tomorrow may bring forth. When we die, or when Jesus returns we will see Him and we will be with him forever. In the meantime, He has given us work to do on earth that only we can do, and that we can do only while we are on earth. It is therefore counter-productive to invest even a small percentage of our time longing for that which we cannot hasten, while not giving our full attention to doing today what we cannot do tomorrow. Jesus has also made yearning to be with Him to be redundant, by taking up residence within us, and always being with us.
Finally, it is emphasized that Jesus knew what they were thinking. Though it may seem obvious, let us always remember this fact and ask Him to sanctify our thoughts.
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