The Joy of New Life

Read John 16:16-24

“A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her [hour] has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world.” (John 16:21)

In this passage, Jesus is patiently explaining to His disciples what they can expect when He is put to death. Surprisingly to me and maybe to you as well, He chooses to explain how both joy and sorrow will come from His death by using the metaphor of a woman in labor. 

First, He teaches us about joy. We can see that the joy Jesus is describing here, joy rooted in Christ, is very different from the joy the world talks about. This joy is not surface-level; it’s not an emotion like glee or happiness. Rather, it is deep and rooted, and it exists independently from circumstances. Verse 21 does not say that the woman’s pain and anguish go away after her baby is born, it says that she forgets her anguish; the joy of seeing a new child born into the world has supremacy over her suffering. And this is not 21st century childbirth that Jesus is talking about, with doctors and epidurals and NICUs and C-Sections and all of the marvels of the information age. This is 1st century childbirth, where a woman was literally putting her life at risk to bring a new child into the world. 

Second, Jesus is teaching us something about what His joy looks like. Maybe your translation of verse 21 says that “her time” has come, but it would be more accurate to the Greek to say thather hourhas come. This is the same word Jesus uses throughout the book of John to describe the time for His death on the Cross. In doing this, it seems as though He’s making a connection between the woman’s “hour” to risk her life for her new child and His ownhour to sacrifice His life for us—His children. Jesus chooses to use this metaphor and to identify with this woman to let His disciples back then and us now know that while there will be anguish, that anguish will be forgotten because of the joy of bringing each of us, His children, into new life. We are His joy! 

As Christmas nears, and as we hear the stories of that other brave woman, Mary, risking her life to bring baby Jesus into the world, may we remember that the joy of Jesus’ birth is only a fraction of the joy that Jesus experienced as He birthed each of us into new life on the Cross.  

For reflection: 

  • What does the fact that Jesus was willing and able to endure such horrific things as He did in going to the Cross, but still anticipated joy over the salvation He was bringing you mean to you? How will you respond to that?

by Liz Carver

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