Irrevocable Joy

You have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

I want you to leave this morning with these words of Jesus ringing in your ears: “No one will take your joy from you.” I want you to see them for yourselves. Do you see them at the end of verse 22? “I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.” I want you to hear them not as the words of man but as the words of God. I did not make them up to make you feel good. I just read them out of God’s Word. If they make you feel good, that’s God’s idea, not just mine. “No one will take your joy from you.” This is the promise of irrevocable joy

Valentine’s Day in Minneapolis

Noël and I went downtown for a special Valentine’s Day dinner last February 14. It was one of the many dates I have botched over the 20 years of our marriage. The restaurant I had chosen especially for her was closed. It was cold as we walked around trying to find another one. We wound up at a fast food place in the center of the city sitting by a window overlooking 8th Street.

We sat there looking around at this great city. The street was dark and almost deserted. There was trash in the gutter. The little street level shops seemed worn and chintzy. The few people walking around gave the appearance that made you wonder whether more cocaine might be sold that night than chow mein and egg rolls.

The glitzy hotel facades looked pretty weak against the darkness—like they were hoping against hope that rich people would want to come down and spend some time here. The magnificent new lighting of the Norwest Bank building that gives a fairyland flavor to the Minneapolis skyline sheds no light on the streets beneath. The doors were locked.

I got the eerie feeling that this exploding downtown, this urban pearl and pride of the upper Midwest, with all its upscale shops and classy hotels and stunning skyscrapers, is built on sand. I got the sinking feeling in my stomach that the millions and millions of dollars that have been poured into downtown Minneapolis could, with just the slightest turn of popular displeasure, become a billion dollar boondoggle—a dark, sleazy, dirty downtown slum where nobody wants to be

The Fragility of This Life and World

I mention this just to illustrate how even the big enterprises of our life and culture are very fragile. We plan and we save and we build, and things look good and successful, and then it starts to collapse. And we can’t believe it. Nobody comes to shop. Nobody rents the office space. Retailers begin to leave. The streets are deserted. The hotels can’t pull the conventions. Restaurants close. The pushers move in. The gangs take over. And pretty soon the unthinkable has happened. The pearl is ruined. The Timberwolves don’t stay. The new convention center can’t fill its schedule. And all that’s left is cheap sleaze and empty buildings.

It has happened elsewhere. It could happen here. And it can happen in your own life. We are very fragile. Not much is sure and firm and solid in our lives. That’s why this word from Jesus is very precious to me. “No one will take your joy from you.” You’ve heard of unconditional guarantees—warranties that seem too good to be true? Have you ever heard of any product that says: “In this you will find pleasure and no one will take your pleasure from you”? If you read that on some box or bottle, you would smirk and call it marketing ballyhoo.

But that’s what Jesus says. Minneapolis may come “a-tumblin’ down” and all the money be lost and the dreams be dashed, but, “No one will take your joy from you.” How can this be? How can such a massive claim stand when the biggest things in our world are utterly uncertain and unstable? Let’s look at these words to make sure we understand them and how it can be that Jesus can guarantee our joy with such amazing absoluteness: “No one will take your joy from you.”


“In a Little While”: Jesus’ Death and Resurrection

Jesus is speaking to his disciples on the night before he was killed. He is trying to help them understand what is just in front of them. So in verse 16 he says, “A little while, and you will see me no more; again a little while, and you will see me.”

The Confusion of the Disciples

The disciples are confused by this and in verses 17–18 they discuss with each other what in the world he means by in a little while they won’t see him and then in a little while they will.

Jesus knows they are puzzled and so he says in verse 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’s he referring to? He’s referring to his death, when the disciples will have a deep and anguished sense of loss, and his resurrection, when their sorrow will become joy (John 20:20).



Abraham Smith

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