Calvary Road Baptist Church


John 16.19-22 

A thousand years before the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ in Bethlehem, another from the tribe of Judah was born in that same little village of Bethlehem. His name was David, the youngest son of Jesse, the lad who slew the Philistine giant, Goliath, and the one who was anointed by the prophet Samuel to succeed Saul to become Israel’s second King.

At this point in his life, he ruled over the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. King Saul is dead, and his son, Ishbosheth, ruled over the ten tribes for seven years following his father’s death. But now he, too, is dead, and although David was anointed to be Israel’s second king, and although David has ruled over two tribes for seven years now, the harsh realities of life in a fallen world mean that becoming de facto king over the twelve tribes required hard work, a great deal of talking and negotiating, and the help of many allies.

First Chronicles 12.23-40 is the account of those allies who were active in perfecting David’s settlement upon the throne of the united kingdom of Israel, after the death of Ishbosheth, the son of Saul. I suggest you read that passage and reflect on it sometime. But for now, let me point out the smallest representation of the twelve tribes doing their part to seat David on Israel’s throne, the men of the tribe of Issachar.

Mentioned in First Chronicles 12.32, they were as influential on King David’s behalf as the vastly more numerous members of the other tribes. Their effectiveness was because of their valuable characteristics. They “had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do,” and they were leaders. “All their brethren were at their commandment.” Matthew Henry observes about them that “They were men of great skill above any of their neighbors,” and “They were men of great interests.”[1]

I am persuaded you and I ought to endeavor to be like the men of Issachar. Being like them would make us vastly more effective men and women on our Lord’s behalf, as those men were on David’s behalf. So many professing Christians of our day are unwilling to recognize that Biblical Christianity is a full-contact lifestyle. It is, from time to time, rough and tumble. And we need to be both ready and willing.

Are we (not just Christian women) to be of a meek and quiet spirit?[2] To be sure. However, let us not imagine that the Christian life does not get rough in the key. We must be prepared to endure. Consider these verses in the New Testament: 

Matthew 24.13:

“But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” 

Mark 4.17:

“And have no root in themselves, and so endure but for a time: afterward, when affliction or persecution ariseth for the word’s sake, immediately they are offended.” 

Mark 13.13: 

“And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.” 

2 Thessalonians 1.4:          

“So that we ourselves glory in you in the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that ye endure.” 

2 Timothy 2.3, 10:

3 Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.” 

10 Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sakes, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. 

2 Timothy 4.3, 5: 

3  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears;

5  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry. 

Hebrews 12.7:

“If ye endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not?” 

James 5.11:

“Behold, we count them happy which endure. Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.” 

1 Peter 2.19:

“For this is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully.” 

Is there not a parallel between what the men of Issachar did to see David rightfully enthroned as king over all Israel and Christians serving God and evangelizing sinners so that Jesus Christ will be acknowledged to be Lord of all? I am so persuaded.

Observe that one of the significant keys to being able to endure, to not coming unraveled when things get tough, is to possess a characteristic found in the men of Issachar. They “were men that had understanding of the times.” They knew “what Israel ought to do.” How is that possible? They paid attention to the world around them. They knew what was going on. They knew what steps had proved successful in the past, and, therefore, what ought to be done in the future. And if they were caught in events beyond their control, they had a pretty good idea how things would turn out. They didn’t lose it. They didn’t freak out. They did not become hysterical. They did not run around like a chicken with its head cut off.

If you think about it for a bit, in a certain sense, the Lord Jesus Christ was seeking to make His apostles into men of Issachar. Of course, He had been doing that throughout His earthly ministry, choosing them, teaching them, training them, etc. Only, on this night before His arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane, as they walked past Herod’s Temple toward the Mount of Olives, He applied the finishing touches.

In John 16.19-22, as an integral part of those finishing touches to prepare His men for what lay ahead, He spoke to them of their sorrow turning to joy, which was crucial to them enduring: 

19 Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?

20 Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.

21 A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.

22 And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. 

Let’s consider this passage a verse at a time: 

First, VERSE 19: 

“Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?” 

I would like, first, to focus on the beginning portion of verse 19: 

“Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him ....” 

Remember that the Lord’s men did not understand what He had told them about leaving them, first for a little while and then for a longer while. Remember that the Master Teacher explained to them better than anyone could explain to them.

The issue for those men was that they were on one side of the cross of Calvary and the indwelling of God’s Spirit. They would not be able to comprehend what He had said to them until they were on the other side, until after the resurrection, and until after the indwelling of God’s Spirit and the beginning of the Spirit’s instructional and illuminating ministry. The takeaway from this portion of verse 19 is their Savior’s knowledge of what His men wanted but had not asked for. In our text, we will see that the Lord does not explain what He had said to them previously. After all, they could not understand. They could not yet grasp. So, He informed them that they would be sad before they rejoiced.

For now, I want us to focus on and draw comfort from the Lord’s knowledge of their desire. In this case, it was a desire to ask Him a question. But the larger issue is that the Savior comprehended their desire. Is there not a lesson in that for you and me? The Lord Jesus Christ knew their desire. If the Lord Jesus Christ knew their desire, He knows your desire. If He knew their desire, He knows my desire. 

Does anyone know anyone’s desire, beyond the surmisings of an insightful and experienced person, to know what people desire from clues that can be observed?

Comforting to the Christian is the knowledge the Lord Jesus Christ has of all things, most especially His knowledge of all men, and most particularly His followers. We see this from John 2.23-25 and throughout His earthly ministry: 

23 Now when he was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in his name, when they saw the miracles which he did.

24 But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men,

25 And needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man. 

Suppose you are informed about the Savior’s love for you, and the Savior’s motives to always do right by you, and His powerful ability to do whatsoever He intends to do. In that case, all that’s left for your comfort and joy is to know that He knows both what you want and what is good for you. And He does. Does that not comfort you?

Next, let me suggest something to you that is implied by John 16.19, though not directly stated, the spiritual prerequisite to being taught by the Lord. Would you be a student in the Savior’s classroom? Would you learn of Him and from Him? Then you need to know His prerequisite. It is humility. What I suggest is implied here is explicitly taught by our Lord’s apostles in their letters and also by the Lord’s example earlier in His earthly ministry. Four passages support what I think is implied in John 16.19:

The first of the New Testament books to be written was the letter written by James, the half-brother of our Lord and the senior pastor of the Church in Jerusalem. Consider what he wrote in James 4.6: 

“But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.” 

To be taught valuable truth by God is a gracious ministration, meaning we do not deserve to learn useful lessons for life, but we can be taught by God even when we don’t deserve to be taught if we approach Him with the right attitude. That attitude, of course, is humility and not pride. Want to learn something from God, from the Spirit of God, or the Son of God? Dump the know-it-all pride and approach Him with humility.

Early on in the Christian era, the most prominent of our Lord’s apostles was Simon Peter. In First Peter 5.1-4, the apostle directs spiritual leaders to adopt a humble posture toward those they ministered to, promising them a crown of glory when the Lord Jesus Christ returns. In the first half of First Peter 5.5, he turns his attention toward younger believers, directing them to submit to their spiritual elders. However, it is in the second sentence of First Peter 5.5 that the apostle provides his underlying reasoning for both the younger and the older to be humble: 

“Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.” 

There is almost too much about humility in Paul’s letters for us not to be overwhelmed, but Philippians 2.8 will serve us well enough: 

“And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” 

I am persuaded Philippians was written to address the issue of two women, Euodias and Syntyche, learning to get along with each other, their personality conflict arising because they were proud. Only by pride comes contention, Proverbs 13.10. Paul used the Savior’s example to challenge those two otherwise godly women to reflect on what they were doing towards each other and their congregation and humble themselves.

Then, of course, there is the Savior’s example in Matthew 12. Verses 1-14 narrate for us several things the Lord did on a Sabbath that infuriated the Pharisees, including healing a man’s withered hand. Turning His back on the enraged religious insiders to minister to the great multitude, verses 15-16, Matthew inserts into his narrative an excerpt from the prophet Isaiah to explain the Savior’s activity in light of both prophecy and the attitudes of those the Savior ministered to. Matthew 12.20 reflects what Isaiah had written seven centuries earlier about the Messiah, in Isaiah 42.3: 

“A bruised reed shall he not break, and smoking flax shall he not quench, till he send forth judgment unto victory.” 

The Lord Jesus turned away from the arrogant and proud and turned to those described as “a bruised reed” and “smoking flax,” in other words, the humble.

Consider, now, what the Lord asked His men in John 16.19: 

“Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me?” 

Is it not reasonable to conclude that, as prized as the attitude of humility in His people has been seen to be, the Lord asked this question because He detected in His eleven remaining apostles a spirit of humility? Therefore, He asked them (I paraphrase), “Would you like me to explain a bit more of what I said that was so difficult for you to understand?” A perhaps more excellent understanding of God’s will for our lives is best accomplished by seeking the truth from the Lord with an attitude of humility and surrender to His will. However, we must remember, “ye have not, because ye ask not.”[3] So, ask. But ask with humility.

Our consideration of John 16.19 focused on the Lord’s awareness of His men’s concerns, illustrating His omniscience and implications of their humility, which made for a teachable spirit. 

Next, VERSE 20: 

“Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 

The opening statement, “Verily, verily, I say unto you,” which is “Truly, truly, I say unto you,” or “Amen, amen, I say unto you,” is an announcement that the following statement is essential. The Lord Jesus made sure He had His men’s attention.

He followed in typical Semitic fashion with parallelism, two statements that are very similar, with the differences designed to highlight essential truths: 

“... That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice:

and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.” 

Notice the comparison and contrast of the two statements made to His men. The eleven shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice. This is an allusion to events that would unfold in the next few hours when the Savior was taken into custody, unjustly tried, brutally tortured, and cruelly crucified. Oh, how the establishment would celebrate and rejoice, while the eleven and the rest of the disciples will never have known such despair.

The second part of the parallelism refers to what will happen in a subsequent time frame. They will be sorrowful, but their sorrow will be turned into joy. What accounts for this transformation? When their sorrow is because of His crucifixion, the resurrection is transformed into joy because of His conquest over death. Providing them with insight into the outcome, a peek into the future when they have joy, makes them more like men of Issachar, having something of an understanding of the times and knowing what they ought to do; endure.

That is the beginning of, and the foundation for, the Christian’s joy from that day to this. 

Do we not have enough understanding of the times to endure? 

Third, VERSE 21: 

“A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world.” 

Here the Lord Jesus Christ likens what the apostles are about to face to a pregnant woman’s delivery of her child and the delight that washes over her causing her to forget the pain of contractions and delivery that is overwhelmed by her joy of having delivered her child.

Not one of our Lord’s men was unaware of that process, with his mother bearing siblings, his wife bearing children, or a sister bearing nieces and nephews. Pain followed by joy. Thus, to help prepare them for the next three days, our Lord reminds them of what they had no doubt been aware of throughout their lives. 

Finally, VERSE 22: 

“And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” 

What truth, comforting truth. “And ye now therefore have sorrow,” is our Lord’s preparation of His men for what will happen very soon, indeed. Oh, what sorrow they will experience, though it will be nothing compared to the sorrow He is facing.

But what is God’s plan for His children? What is the Savior’s promise for His followers? 

“but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.” 

Three things for them to remember and for us to apply to our lives:

First, “I will see you again.” And He did. And for us, He will come again.

Next, “your heart shall rejoice.” Rejoicing from the joy produced by the indwelling Spirit of God, by the triumph of the resurrection, and by the glory of their Lord’s exaltation. Again, this applies to us, as well.

Finally, “your joy no man taketh from you.” Since joy is not given by any human being, it cannot be taken by any human being. Since joy is not the product of any circumstance, it cannot be forfeited by any adverse circumstance. Application to those men, and applicable to us, as well. 

Those eleven men were facing a challenge they had not imagined. Though the Lord had spoken to them of His crucifixion on several occasions, and they knew the Jewish religious leaders wanted Him dead, what He said to them did not penetrate their firmly established prejudices about what ought to happen to the Jewish Messiah. They lived in the universe of “ought to be” instead of the universe of “is.”

Circumstances and harsh realities would soon force them to abandon their reliance on “ought to be” as they stared the existence of “is” in the face of the crucifixion of their Lord Jesus. It was only when their notion of “ought to be” was stripped away by the brutality of their Lord’s crucifixion that they began addressing the realities of “is.”

On the other side, after the crucifixion, after the resurrection, after their indwelling by the Holy Spirit, they enjoyed great joy. Acts 5.41 records that they rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for Christ’s name. And Paul wrote to the Romans about “rejoicing in hope” in Romans 12.12.

Our experience is different than those men’s that night before the crucifixion. They faced the crucifixion without the indwelling Spirit of God to provide a depth of understanding and to be a source of joy. But we have the Spirit of God who are believers.

Like the men of Issachar, we can be people of understanding. But even more, we are indwelt by the Spirit to enhance our understanding of the big picture, and to produce within our hearts joy, so that we can endure.

This is what led the Apostle Paul to write, in Philippians 4.13, 

“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”


[1] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary On The Whole Bible, (Bronson, MI: Online Publishing, Inc., 2002), [email protected]

[2] 1 Peter 3.4

[3] James 4.2

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