Sermon on John 16:16-24 – “Sorrow into Joy”

Sermon for Sunday, August 16th, 2020 at First Presbyterian Church at Unionville, NY (BPC)

Old Testament reading:

[Psa 30:1-12 ESV] 1 A Psalm of David. A song at the dedication of the temple. I will extol you, O LORD, for you have drawn me up and have not let my foes rejoice over me. 2 O LORD my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me. 3 O LORD, you have brought up my soul from Sheol; you restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit. 4 Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name. 5 For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. 6 As for me, I said in my prosperity, “I shall never be moved.” 7 By your favor, O LORD, you made my mountain stand strong; you hid your face; I was dismayed. 8 To you, O LORD, I cry, and to the Lord I plead for mercy: 9 “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise you? Will it tell of your faithfulness? 10 Hear, O LORD, and be merciful to me! O LORD, be my helper!” 11 You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, 12 that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

New Testament reading:

[1Th 1:1-10 ESV] 1 Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace. 2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, 3 remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. 4 For we know, brothers loved by God, that he has chosen you, 5 because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. 6 And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, 7 so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. 8 For not only has the word of the Lord sounded forth from you in Macedonia and Achaia, but your faith in God has gone forth everywhere, so that we need not say anything. 9 For they themselves report concerning us the kind of reception we had among you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, 10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.

Gospel reading and sermon text:

[Jhn 16:16-24 ESV] 16 “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy. 21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you. 23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.


One minister cleverly titled his sermon on this passage “Now you see me, now you don’t.”

Jesus says “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

And while this “going” and “coming” of Christ is important in the passage, the focus is more on “sorrow and joy.” Specifically we are looking at sorrow fading away and joy taking its place. And so I’ve titled my sermon “Sorrow into joy.”

So I want to look at each of those two points — sorrow and joy — before looking at the reason for their joy (Christ’s return) and then finally how this brings us joy today and should affect us each and every day.

First, there is sorrow.

I. Sorrow

a. Jesus says “In a little while you will not see me.”

He is going to the Father. This warning of his departure has been frequent in his dialogue with the disciples in his last evening with them.

b. And he says to them, “You will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice.”

The disciples—even with Jesus’ warning to them about his departure—will “weep and lament.” At this point they must be very used to having Christ around. He can answer all their questions. He is their rabbi—their teacher—and they’ve devoted their lives to him. His departure naturally then will create a void, an absence, in their lives. But, as we shall see, only for a time.

But while the disciples will “weep and lament.” The world will rejoice.

The wicked world sees Jesus’ death and says “Good riddance.”

The pharisees are glad for Jesus’ death as he can no longer trouble them with his brilliant knowledge of God and the Scriptures. And the Pharisees, with Jesus’ death, are less concerned about the Romans coming to destroy them.

Pontius Pilate and Herod must be glad for Jesus’ death as well as they viewed him as a rebel, an instigator, a troublemaker.

The world will rejoice. The people who cried out “we want Barabbas” and with respect to Jesus said “Let him be crucified,” they may have cheered on his death. They may have rejoiced in their evil.

c. As for the disciples, Jesus promises “You will be sorrowful.”

Sorrow will fill their hearts, pushing out every other emotion. Sorrow will dominate and take over.

This is Christ’s promise to the disciples. There will be sorrow.

But this sorrow will turn into joy.

II. Joy

This is the second half of the equation.

a. While Jesus said “In a little while you will not see me” he also said, “And again a little while and you will see me.”

b. And while he said ““You will weep and lament” and “You will be sorrowful,” he also said “Your sorrow will turn into joy.”

How is this possible? How can their sorrow turn into joy?

It is because they will know that Jesus has only left them for a brief period of time. He will return in his resurrection and also send his own Holy Spirit to be another comforter.

He gives this example:

“When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.”

The sorrow becomes joy. And it is not that one good thing happens to replace a bad thing, but that very event which was considered bad is now considered good. The birth of the child—struggle though it was—is now a great joy. And the death of Christ—horrific as it was—is now the grounds of our justification. That event which brings so much sorrow now brings so much joy as we see God’s love for his people in the death of his Son Jesus Christ.

III. The Resurrection and Pentecost.

The return of Jesus is firstly his resurrection. In a little while—after just 3 days—he appears again to his disciples. He has conquered death. Surely they brings them much joy.

And the return of Jesus is extended in his sending of his Holy Spirit who remains with all Christians. And no one can take away that joy that they having, knowing Christ is risen and having he Holy Spirit permanently working in them. Joy, of course, is a fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit.

IV. Asking in Jesus’ name.

Now, we come, at the end of the passage to an interesting part about “asking in Jesus’ name.” Praying in the name of Jesus. And maybe you’ve asked yourself before, “Why do we end prayers saying, ‘in Jesus’ name, amen.’” This is the reason.

First, the commentator William Hendriksen explains something important:

“[It is] Not as if the mere mentioning of the name would help any. Certainly, when a believer concludes his prayer by saying, ‘All this we ask in Jesus’ name,” he is not using a magic formula.”

Hendriksen continues, What he means is, ‘We ask all this on the basis of Christ’s merits and in harmony with his redemptive revelation.’”

That is, Christ is our mediator. We pray to God in his name. We do not need (or want) the intercessions of the saints or of Mary or the pope or anyone else. We go directly to God with our prayer through Jesus Christ our only mediator.

And it is on the grounds of Jesus that we pray. Not on the grounds of our own merit that we ask God to hear us. And this adds to our joy, that we can pray to God and He hears our prayer.

It is also important pause here to think about the fact that we can “ask” God anything at all. We, sinners we are, asking the Sovereign Lord for things? Yes indeed. That is the beauty of the Gospel. We are blessed by God with salvation, and we are even His friends, and He wants us to ask for good things from him. We are remarkable blessed. No wonder sorrow turns into joy. We have everything we need when we have the Lord.


So we have what I call “Big picture joy” because of the salvation promised in Jesus Christ. And when we rest on Him we have joy at every moment. But naturally, we as sinners have many struggles. We fall into much sorrow. In the little things of life (which maybe don’t seem so little as they occur) we struggle to have joy. I want to call us all to take that BIG PICTURE JOY that we know in Christ and use that as our basis of bringing joy into all of life, the little picture. Let big picture joy flow into little picture joy. Be joyful at all times, having joy flowing out of your heart as the Holy Spirit producing rivers of living water flowing from us.

Joy should mark our lives because we have Christ. We thus should live a life of joy.

I wrote this in the pastor’s corner in the bulletin: It might be easy to be joyful when good things occur, but it can be difficult to be joyful in life when so many difficulties come at us. Yet we as Christians have that advantage of joy in the Lord at all times. So even in our deepest struggles we may be joyful as we reflect on the Lord’s love for us and his promises to us. This is something unbelievers do not have. Their joy is dependent on their circumstances. Our joy is dependent on God regardless of our circumstances. Thus Paul can say “In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy.” (2 Cor. 7:4)


Now you see me, now you don’t. But the joy increases as we know more about God’s love for us. There were types and shadows in the Old Testament pointing towards the messiah to come. But now we know Jesus Christ come to earth. Jesus Christ who died on the cross. And Jesus Christ who is risen from the grave.

The joy that we have is great, even though Christ is not present here in his body. Though he goes away we have great joy because he is resurrected and he sends his Holy Spirit to us to be our comforter.

We will not be happy at every moment, but we will have the greatest everlasting joy. The joy we speak of is not like that of the world’s joy. The world’s joy is fleeting. It is one thing after another. Brief moments of joy. But we have continuous joy in Jesus Christ.

Look to Christ and you’ll find your sorrow turned into joy.