Roses come with thorns – Thursday, 6th Week of Easter – Acts 18:1-8/John 16:16-20

Read also based on the first reading taken from the Acts of the Apostles.

Turn a page of the Bible and Jesus will be facing his betrayer in the garden of Gethsemane. The suffering that he was to endure for the salvation of the world was just hours away. Even though his spirt was troubled (13:21) our Lord has not stopped teaching; in fact, he did not stop teaching even from the cross.

Our Lord was not detached from humanity; he was both human and divine. He could clearly sense that his teaching had left his disciples with many questions and at the same time left them tongue tied with doubt. (16:5). He acknowledged that sorrow that had filled their heart (16:6) because he told them that he was to go and where he would go they could not come (for the time being) John 13:33. Now he cements that reality when he says, “a little while and you will no longer see me, and again a little while and you will see me.”

In our text, Jesus is preparing the disciples for the overwhelming sorrow that they would experience in the next few hours as they watched Him be arrested, mocked, scourged, and crucified. Their world would come crashing down around them. They had put their hopes and staked their futures on their belief that Jesus was the promised Messiah of Israel.

Jesus tells his disciples that they will weep and mourn while the world rejoices; that they will experience pain but pain, death, sadness is not the last word for Christ will turn all of that into joy.

While any major loss is emotionally painful, it’s crucial that we learn how to work through such losses biblically, because we’re all going to face them. Peter (1 Pet. 5:8-9) indicates that it is precisely in times of suffering that the devil seeks to destroy our faith. I’ve seen many believers who have wiped out spiritually because they didn’t know how to face suffering biblically.

Our Lord does not protect the disciples from the pain and sorrow that they will experience as a consequence of his passion and death on the cross. He does not insulate the disciples just as he does not insulate us from the wrath of this world for standing up for him. What our Lord does is to assure us that he will turn our pain into joy. Note those words carefully, “you WILL have pain BUT your pain WILL turn to joy.” (John 16:20). There are promises of both; sadness and joy rolled into one statement. While we would truly only wish for joy, we know that roses come with thorns.

Christ does not replace our pain with joy but rather he turns our pain into joy. A mere replacement of our pain might suggest that Christ takes away pain and replaces it with something that could distract us for a while. This is not his intent. He permits us to experience the pain that is wrought into our life but through that comes the strength of endurance, through that comes an understanding of the joy of perseverance. God does not want to ‘replace’ sorrow temporally, he wants to turn our pain into joy permanently.

This was precisely the experience for the disciples. Seeing their master humiliated on a cross was painful. Having to deal with their own failings of denial and betrayal while he was suffering was painful. Yet, having experienced that pain, joy came on that Easter morning; He is risen as he said!

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