A Life of Victory
This passage wraps up four chapters of Jesus talking with His disciples the night before His crucifixion. So these are the very last recorded words of Jesus to His followers before going to the cross.
Verse 12 exposes the depth of emotion Jesus feels as He says, “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now.” He knows His death is imminent and necessary, but the disciples are still confused.
Jesus’ death causes us sorrow, but His resurrection brings us joy. (19–22)
Jesus recognizes this confusion and would like to tell them plainly what is about to happen — that He will be arrested that very night, die a sacrificial death tomorrow and return as victor over death in three days — but the resulting panic, anger and fear would overwhelm them.
Instead, He approaches the disciples through comforting, emotional language. In simple terms, something very sad is about to happen, but it will last only a short time, then joy will return.
Some scholars see this as a word to the greater Christian community awaiting Jesus’ return, but it is more likely His focus was to comfort the 11 disciples gathered with Him that evening.
The metaphor of childbirth was not uncommon in Jewish thought as a description of temporary troubles leading to greater joy. Though the disciples wouldn’t fully understand now, when the time came this would all make sense.
Our victory rests in Jesus, the One who came from God. (27–30)
Recognizing that the disciples still couldn’t understand, Jesus reminded them that they could trust Him completely. In their three years together they came to believe He had indeed come from God the Father. They could reasonably believe He would have to return to the Father eventually, and that time was fast approaching.
Even though He would be leaving them, they could trust that the Father would take care of them and see them through the coming trials. Jesus showed them God’s love, and because they responded to Jesus in love and obedience, they could be assured of the Father’s love.
On some level, this resonated with the disciples. They believed they understood now. Because they believed Jesus knew everything about the Father, they didn’t need to question Him anymore. Because Jesus was from the Father, they trusted He would carry them through whatever was to come.
We can live in peace and courage because of our victory in Christ. (31–33)
Because Jesus did know everything, He knew the disciples still had no idea of what was about to happen. He knew it would be devastating for them. They would be so shaken at His death that they would hide in their homes in fear and confusion.
Though it wouldn’t be in the forefront of the disciples’ minds, their actions would leave Jesus alone, both in His suffering on the cross and His three-day death. Yet Jesus assured them He would not really be alone, just as they would not be. The Father would be there with them throughout the ordeal.
After three days Jesus would come back to them as the victor, the One who has conquered the world. Then they would understand how terrible sorrow can be transformed into magnificent joy. Their three days of suffering would be overwhelmed by peace.
And for Jesus’ many generations of followers, suffering happens, but through Jesus, peace will always come too.
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.