John 16:20 “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.”
What makes you happy and what makes you sad? According to John 16, your relationship to Jesus will have a big effect on the answer to this question. The emotional responses of the “you” in this verse, i.e., Jesus’ followers, the ones that loved Him, were diametrically opposed to the responses of “the world,” which in this verse means those people of the world who are not His followers. The event that stirred these opposing passions was His own death. In just a few hours after Jesus spoke these words, He knew that the religious leaders and people that followed them would delight in his betrayal. They would be crying out for His death and rejoice when Pilate agreed to condemn Him. The Roman soldiers would be gleeful at His suffering, mocking Him, spitting in His face, and gambling for His clothes. “The world” would rejoice because they were finally going to shut up this person Whose righteous life and holy words condemned their sin.
On the other hand, the thought of Jesus’ death filled His followers with dread and sorrow. They loved Him and couldn’t imagine this miracle worker, this One Who had never committed a sin, being condemned to die like a common criminal.
Vastly differing reactions to the things we see in our world today likewise differentiate believers from unbelievers. The world amuses and entertains itself with movies, music, and tv shows that mock righteousness and glorify sin. The world exults when Christians’ voices are silenced, especially those voices that would speak out against the sin that so characterizes our day. Christian love on the other hand, “does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (I Corinthians 13:6). Sin in the society grieves the Christian’s heart. The believer’s heart mourns at anything, even if it’s in his or her life, that doesn’t exult and glorify Christ.
The wonderful thing for the believer is that someday all this sorrow will be turned to joy. This was true for the believers in the first century, as the crucified Jesus rose from the dead. And it will be true for all believers of all time when they meet Jesus face to face. On the other hand, the “joy” of the world will turn to eternal terror – “weeping and gnashing of teeth” at this same moment (Luke 13:28).
So, while there is still time, the Lord implores us as follows: “Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Be wretched and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you (James 4:8-10).”
May the Lord help us to be both mournful and joyful about the right things.