"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."
-- John 16:20
Romeo and Juliet were old school, according to their creator, William Shakespeare. They did not sleep together while they were dating, partly out of fear of God, partly out of fear of their feuding families. When late night came, Romeo went to his place and left Juliet at hers.
The silver-tongued Romeo had a slick way of saying goodnight, though. "Good night, good night, parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow." Juliet swooned. But what is so sweet about sorrow?
That's the question Jesus' disciples had in mind on their last night together. They had left the upper room and Jesus was about to leave them. The next stop would be the garden of Gethsemane. There was time for a few final words and a prayer before betrayal, denial and death.
It was not a happy moment when Jesus bid them goodnight. It was full of sorrow. But it was a sweet sorrow, for the sadness of death and loss would soon be overcome by the gladness of resurrection and a renewed relationship with God.
Jesus had been telling them for years that the reason He came to live in the world was to die for the world. To add a final insult to fatal injury, Jesus said, "The world will rejoice" when He dies, meaning the lost world of self-righteous Pharisees, self-serving politicians, and selfish people. Meanwhile, His followers, those who know Him and love Him and believe in Him, will "weep and be sorrowful."
There is nothing but sorrow in death, at first. The dead are gone and we cannot see them. We can see their shell, but we cannot see them. We loved them. We depended on them. We enjoyed them, their wisdom, their virtue, their good humor. Nothing is left but tears, at first.
The sorrow of death is an inseparable part of the telling of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We need to know that Jesus died. We need to feel that Jesus died. We need to understand why Jesus died. Jesus died because people hated Him. Jesus died because people sinned against Him. You and I, at some point, did these things, too.
Today's church is too busy being positive and entertaining to drink this cup. But it is part of the gospel, part of Christian worship, a major reason for partaking of the Lord's Supper. Take a moment to absorb and experience the sorrow of the death of Jesus Christ, then prepare yourself for the sweet.
We know Jesus did die, and we know that on the third day afterward, He rose from the dead, actually, literally, bodily, visibly, eternally. His disciples saw Him, on the third day after His death. What was it like to rejoice with Him?
Post-Christ Christendom cannot be exactly the same, since none of us were there two millennia ago. But it is effectually the same and it will be eternally the same. We see Jesus, with eyes of faith, crucified as Savior, killed by and for our sin. We see Jesus, in faith, resurrected as Lord, doing what only God can do, granting forgiveness, inputting righteousness, providing life.
One day, we will see the scars. We will embrace His living, breathing, glorified body with our own glorified bodies. We will escape the sorrows of this earth, forever and bask in the sweetness of the new heaven and new earth, forever. That's sweet sorrow.
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church in Hot Springs. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected]