John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”
Christ promised tribulation in this world because the ruler of this world is against Christ. And if against Christ, he will be against us who call on His name. In His discourse in John 16, and in everywhere else, Christ chose His words carefully. He said He chose these words that they may have peace in the midst of tribulation.
So, His words ask us to go deeper. Why did He compare their sorrow with the pain a woman experiences while in labor, and the joy she has when she sees the face of her child in John 16:21?
This comparison is important for us because it is important in redemptive history. There is a reason why childbirth is so painful for a woman. In fact, it’s one of the most painful things a person could ever go through. That pain comes from the second darkest part of human history: the fall of humanity in the Garden of Eden.
Genesis 3:16 – “To the woman he said, ‘I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain, you shall bring forth children. Your desire will be contrary husband, but he shall rule over you.’”
In the Garden, we fell. The physical and spiritual consequences of their action continues to be felt to this day in a Post-Fall world. Work is hard; childbearing, painful. And men and women have been battling over control ever since. Worst of all, humans are now by nature spiritually dead, at enmity with the Creator, the One true and living God.
God promised pain to Eve as a result of her sin, but through that pain, He showed incredible mercy; life would be brought into the world. And because of that life, the mother would have joy when she looked into the face of the human she helped create.
Christ chose that illustration, that same one that was a result of the Fall, to compare with the pain the disciples would experience during the darkest moment in history: when they would watch the very Son of God, dying on the cross at the hands of wicked men.
But after those three days, when they saw their Savior again, face to face, in His resurrected body, just as with the mother, so too did the disciples weep tears of joy that Salvation through Christ alone has been born into the world.
His words of promise kept them from falling away when they would be put out from the synagogues and be ostracized from their community, His promise of the coming Holy Spirit who would guide them into all the truth, His promise that He would see them again, His promise that the Father loves them, His promise of tribulation, and His promise to take heart, were all because He had overcome the world.
That is what gives us heart. Christ is not dead; He is alive. He defeated death. He overcame the world. And God proved Christ’s words true by raising Him from the dead.
This tribulation is not a surprise. The stain of sin still stands. Loved ones get sick, grow old, and die. Christians get ridiculed, accosted, tortured, and martyred. Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life will face persecution. But that tribulation was promised by Christ. It is not fruitless. Everything Christ does He does for a purpose. That tribulation reminds us this world is not our home, and the ruler of this world is judged by the One who overcame it. In this, we rejoice.
Though that curse still stands, the disciples’ sorrow, our sorrow, gives way to joy as we look to our precious Redeemer who rose from the grave. And that fulness of joy none can ever take from us; because indeed, Christ has “overcome the world.”