Not the end of the story

I was reading the Gospel of John yesterday, and came across these words from Jesus to his apostles, the night before his death:

Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.  When a woman is in labor, she has pain, because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world.  So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.  (John 16:20-22)

Those words really got to me.  As a mom, they certainly speak to me, and I like that Jesus brings in the female perspective here.  But on a broader level, they make me think about Holy Saturday, and what those who loved Jesus must have been feeling on the day after his death.

Did they remember these words, and take comfort in them?  Or were they too lost in grief, pain, confusion, disappointment?  To be honest, I think the second scenario is far more likely.   The visionary  in whom they had put their faith died on a cross and was sealed in a tomb; to put it in modern terms, the apostles probably felt that they’d backed the wrong horse.  Even worse, they’d just lost a close friend.   It’s hard to imagine them feeling anything but a visceral, all-consuming grief, the kind that makes you wonder how you will ever find your footing again.

The challenge for them — for all of us, really — is to believe what Jesus promised.  The story doesn’t end with pain.


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