“You want the good news or the bad news first?” The question that movies and media have asked people for decades. According to studies done on sharing good and bad news, people prefer to say the good first and follow it with the bad. This concept is called “Priming emotion-protection”, which is a fancy way of saying that if I start with the good news and ease into the bad news, then maybe this won’t be so bad after all.
But in the same study, research found that the recipients of good and bad news prefer to hear the bad first, because of the worry factor. When knowing that bad news is coming, we worry and focus on that and don’t pay attention to the good news being shared.
In John 16, Jesus shares with the disciples what at-first seems to be bad news. In this chapter, Jesus is preparing the disciples for the sorrow that they would experience as they would watch Him be arrested, mocked, and crucified. The disciples had put their hopes and placed their futures in their belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel. The same Jesus that had rode into Jerusalem with people shouting “Hosanna, Hosanna” just days earlier was about to suffer and die.
Jesus warns the disciples in John 16:16 saying, “In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again”. This confused the disciples, and they began to ask each other what Jesus meant by this. Jesus knew their worry and confusion, so he explains that he was talking about his coming arrest and crucifixion, but also his resurrection and victory over sin and death. When he said, “in a little while you won’t see me anymore”, Jesus was referencing the torture and death that he was about to endure when he would be crucified and put into Joseph’s tomb. But when Jesus said, “A little while after that, you will see me again”, he was explaining that he would defeat death and the grave and appear to the disciples.
Jesus concludes this chapter with asking the disciples, “Do you finally believe...I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth, you will have trials and sorrows. But take heart because I have overcome the world.” Jesus delivered the bad news and the good news in the best way possible. He doesn’t sugar-coat and say that life in Christ will be roses and daisies, but he tells us to take heart.
Today, there are a couple different lessons that we learn from John 16. The first lesson is that we will have sorrows in this fallen world. At first glance, this seems harsh and unfair, but we find in this scripture that Jesus warns the disciples of the sorrow they would experience. When it comes to sorrow, we have to realize there are many different factors and causes of it. Similar to what the disciples faced in this chapter, maybe you’re experiencing sorrow from the disappoint of unmet expectations. Remember the disciples expected the Messiah that was prophesied about to be a political or militant ruler that would restore Israel to power. They would’ve been faced with disappointment and sorrow as they worked to reconcile their idea of the prophesied Messiah with Jesus and his death and crucifixion.
Maybe today you’re dealing with sorrow because of an unmet expectation. I want to encourage you with the second lesson we find from this passage. Our risen Lord Jesus turns our sorrows into lasting joy. In John 16:22 Jesus says, “So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then you will rejoice, and no one can rob of you that joy.” Notice what Jesus promised here. He doesn’t say that life will be easy. He doesn’t say that life will be perfect. Jesus said, I will see you again; then you will rejoice! The apostles were transformed from scared, defeated, and confused men into bold witnesses who were willing to suffer and die because they saw the risen Lord Jesus. We can be confident in knowing that our God defeated death and sin! We no longer have to mourn or be filled with sorrow because he offers us lasting joy.
Today I want to encourage you. If you’re struggling with sorrow, you’re not alone. Jesus says that we will have many trials and sorrows. But I want to challenge you to bring those feelings before the Lord. Go to God in prayer knowing that in Him, we find peace. When we do that, we can be confident and take heart knowing that our God has overcome the world!