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John 16:16-24 Study Guide: Sorrow to Joy

Community Group Study Guide — From Sorrow to Joy
John 16:16-24

Study Information:
If you played youth sports you may have had a moment similar to this. I remember playing soccer as an 8 year old and getting excited to get to the ball and in the confusion and scrum of the play I was able to break away and shoot and score my first goal. Excitement followed, with fist pumping and me looking over to the sideline for praise from the coach only to realize that I scored on my own goal. This has become a reminder that what looks like victory can actually be defeat. In our passage Jesus addressed how the world would voice at his death but what looked like a victory to the world was actually defeat. Likewise, the disciples of Jesus would experience the death of Jesus with sorrow, but really it was for their good so they could be reconciled to God. Their sorrow would be for a moment, because Jesus would be raised from the dead and they’d experience joy. 

From Sorrow to Joy
John 16:16-22
The disciples and Jesus go back and forth in our passage about what Jesus meant by “a little while and you will see me no longer, and again a little while and you will see me” (John 16:16). Was Jesus referring to his crucifixion and resurrection or how he’d leave and go back to the Father and come again in his second coming? Context indicates that he was referring to the cross and his post resurrection appearances with them because he told them about the necessity of prayer and seeking joy from the Father at the end of this passage (John 16:24). The disciples experienced sorrow because there was a gap of 3 days, from when Jesus died on the cross until he appeared to them resurrected. The sorrow of the disciples was rooted in not knowing what God was doing through the events of the cross. Jesus prepared them before it all happened so that they’d know that he was good and faithful and would return for their joy, but the disciples were lost and did not understand. To illustrate how sorrow can turn to joy Jesus used a feminine illustration about how their emotional state could change. The gap between the cross and resurrection would be similar to childbirth. A woman who has given birth knows better than anyone else the pain and sorrow of childbirth, but also the effect of when you hold a newborn baby how that previous sorrow is pushed back to embrace joy. The new child does not negate the pain, but sorrow gives way to joy (John 16:20-21). So too the disciples would experience sorrow giving way to joy as they realized why Jesus went to the cross and how the resurrection changed everything. They would no longer be stuck in their sin, or clueless about what Jesus was doing, instead they’d be set free from sin, given new life in Christ and called to a mission of proclaiming what God has done. 

We all interact with times of sorrow and often those times can feel like there is no point. God uses sorrow and pain for a purpose and the promise of this passage for followers of Jesus today is that even in the “gap” times where we do not understand what God is doing, that there is a promise of joy and because of the work of Jesus we can find joy in God. That is why Jesus  pointed them to the necessity of prayer. We do not get a lot of info about what the disciples did during those three days but Jesus reminded them that they were not alone and that God had not turned his back on them and that they could pray in his name. 

Praying in Jesus Name
John 16:23-24
This is the 4th time in the upper room discourse that Jesus told his disciples to boldly ask in his name (John 14:14, 15:7, 15:16, 16:23). We’ve been told to boldly ask for things that would glorify Jesus, be part of our abiding in Christ, bear fruit and now we’re told to ask for things that would bring us true and lasting joy in Christ. 

To pray in Christ’s name is to come to God based on his merit and his standing with the Father. As a follower of Jesus you’re given a new identity and a new standing with God based on the work of Christ. The cross provided a way for their sin to be covered and for their forgiveness to lead to reconciliation with God. Because of the crucifixion and resurrection they could pray in Christ’s name because of their union with Christ, who according to Paul, is our life. Christ is seated at the right hand of God ruling and interceding for us (Colossians 3:1-4). Praying in the name of Jesus is to pray in accordance with what honors him and brings him glory and leads to our joy. This is not a command to pray for our earthly desires, but to pray with certainty for things that will lead us to go from sorrow to joy in Christ knowing that God will hear and respond. 

What do you find yourself praying for most? Do you pray that your joy in Christ might be full? This is an encouragement to pray for help in fighting sin and finding contentment in Christ during the times were we live in the gap between sorrow and joy. We have a new access to God and a new access to joy because of the work of Jesus. 

At your community group:
Take 15-20 minutes to share about how God has been at work in your life, prayer concerns and pray for one another.

How did God speak to you through the scripture and the sermon this week? 

Discussion Questions:
Read John 16:16-24

How did the world respond to Jesus’ crucifixion? How did the disciples respond and what ultimately led to their joy?

The disciples went through three says of intense sorrow that turned into joy at the resurrection of Jesus. For many of us these seasons of sorrow feel longer than they actually are. What are some reasons times of sorrow can feel like they stretch out? 

What are some reasons Jesus would spend so much time in the upper room discourse (John 13-17) encouraging his disciples to pray boldly? What were they going through and what does he tell them to pray about?

How do you personally find encouragement to pray during times of sorrow?