Irrevocable Joy

Easter Sunday

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).

An Analogy to Childbirth

In verse 21 he compares what is about to happen to him and to the disciples with a woman in childbirth. For a little while there is sorrow as a very painful loss occurs—the baby that has been so close and so secure and so comfortable is cast out in a painful, bloody birth. But again "in a little while" the pain is past and the loss is not really a loss at all, but an amazing gain. The child is not lost, but present in a way that can now go on and on and on.

So it will be with Jesus. "In a little while" he will be lost in a painful, bloody crucifixion. There will be weeping and lamenting and fear in the disciples. But Jesus says, look at it like a birth. The child must be lost from the warmth of the womb to be gained as a person in the world. Yes I am dying. Yes it will be painful for you. But "in a little while" you will see me again, and your sorrow will become joy. It's like what he said in John 12:24, "Unless a grain of wheat falls in to the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit." You lose me in one sense, but gain me in one far greater.

Sorrow Now, Then Irrevocable Joy

So when we come to verse 22, we know what Jesus has in mind, namely, his death and resurrection. He says, "So you have sorrow now." And he means that his death is just around the corner and the loss and pain will be great for his friends. Then he says, "But I will see you again." That is, I will rise from the dead. And I will come to you. I will seek you out. (Note: After saying three times in vv. 16, 17, 19, "you will see me," he says in verse 22, "I will see you.")

Then he says, "Your hearts will rejoice." That's just what happened. It says in John 20:20, that on the first day of the week, the day Jesus rose from the dead, he came to them and "showed them his hands and his side." Then John says, "The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord." So Jesus' prediction in John 16:22 came true. "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice."

And then come the amazing words that we are focusing on this morning, "And no one will take away your joy from you." This joy is irrevocable joy. It cannot be destroyed. It cannot be lost. It is sure and firm and solid and certain even if everything around our soul gives way. This joy will not.

Why Will This Joy Not Give Way?

That's the key question: How can Jesus make such an unparalleled guarantee—unlike anything in this world? "No one will take your joy from you."

Let's look at two answers from this gospel.

1. The Resurrection Means Jesus Will Never Die

First, "No one will take your joy from you," because your joy comes from being with Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus means that Jesus will never die again; he will never be cut off from you.

He says, "I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice." This text doesn't offer any guarantees to people who don't enjoy being with Jesus. If Jesus says to you this morning, "I will see you again," and your heart does not rejoice in being with him, then this text is not a promise for you, it's an invitation. It's an invitation to love Jesus. Because if you don't enjoy Jesus, your joy will be taken from you. Jesus is the only permanent joy.

Notice the sequence of thought in verse 22: "I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice." Why will they rejoice? Because Jesus will be with them again. Then it says, "No one will take your joy from you." What joy can never be taken away? Joy at being with Jesus. That's the joy that's guaranteed forever. No other joy. If you don't have that, the joy you do have is very fragile indeed. More fragile and uncertain than downtown Minneapolis. And so this text is an invitation to people whose joy is mainly in money or success or family or hobbies or sex or being liked or games or sports or church. It's an invitation to see Jesus as the only joy that lasts forever. "I will see you again and your heart will rejoice." Forever.

And why will he last forever? Because he has been raised from the dead and will never be cut off from us again. He defeated death. Now he lives forever and has the keys of death in his own hands. So when he says, "No one will take your joy from you," he means, I will be your joy, and I can never die again, and therefore your joy will never die. As long as I exist in my resurrection life, that's how long your joy in me will be. No one can take it from you, because it is joy in me and I will live forever and ever.

That's the first answer to the question how Jesus can make such an amazing guarantee. Our joy is in being with Jesus, and because of the resurrection he will never be cut off from us again.

2. The Resurrection Means You Will Never Die

The other reason is this: "No one will take your joy from you" because your joy comes from being with Jesus, and the resurrection of Jesus means that you will never die; you will never be cut off from him.

You see, two things have to be true if your joy is never to be taken from you. One is that the source of your joy lasts forever and the other is that you last forever. If either you or the source of your joy is mortal, your joy will be taken from you.

And, O, how many people have settled for just that! Eat, drink, and be merry they say, for tomorrow we die, and that's that. Food doesn't last forever, and I don't last forever. So let's make the most of it while we can. What a tragedy!

If you are tempted to think that way this morning, please consider as seriously as you possibly can that if your joy were in being with Jesus, "No one would take your joy from you"—not in this life, nor in the life to come.

For two reasons: One because Jesus will never die again. And the other because you will never die. Look at John 14:18, 19. It is a saying very much like the one we are looking at here. Jesus says, "I will not leave you desolate; I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live you will live also."

"Because I live you will live also." The resurrection of Jesus means that not only will he live forever as the source of our joy, but you will live forever if he is the source of your joy.

Jesus said to Martha at the tomb of Lazarus, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die" (John 11:25–26).

So the two great reasons why "No one will take your joy from you" are that Jesus the source of joy will never die and those who have Jesus as the source of their joy will never die.

Someone may say, "But Christians do die." Yes, in one sense we do. But not in the most important sense, namely, the joy that a believer has in being with Jesus is never broken. "No one will take your joy from you." Not life or death, or angels or principalities, or things present or things to come, or powers or height or depth or anything else in all creation will be able to take our joy from us in Jesus Christ. Joy in being with Jesus is an unbroken line from now to eternity. It will not be cut off by his death or ours.

The Offer of Eternal Joy in Christ 

And so I commend Jesus to you this morning, whoever you are. If he is not the joy of your heart, he wants to be. He says in John 6:35, "I am the bread of life, he who comes to me shall not hunger and he who believes in me shall never thirst"—NEVER! An unbroken line of satisfaction in Jesus from the now to eternity.

This is the word of the risen Jesus to us this morning—to all of us who will take him as our joy! "You will see me . . . and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."

Shall we say it together one last time? Only this time let's not say, "No one will take your joy from you," but, "No one will take our joy from us." If you believe that this morning, make it your Resurrection Day confession of faith and say, NO ONE WILL TAKE OUR JOY FROM US!



The Lord is King
The Savior Reigns
And no one will take your joy from you.
Alleluia! Amen!