The weeping of the disciples over the suffering and death of Jesus was transformed into joy: Jesus is risen! Back then, as today, suffering is transformed into joy. This is the message that Chief Apostle Schneider conveyed in a recent divine service.
Jesus told His disciples that He would suffer and die, but then rise again. He also told them that they would be sad, but: “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy” (John 16: 20).
There was great joy among the disciples
“And this is exactly what happened when the Lord died,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said at the beginning of the divine service in Lomé in Togo, on 25 March with reference to the Bible text. While the disciples grieved, the Lord’s enemies rejoiced that they had killed Him, that He was dead, that it was over. But it was far from over: Jesus rose and the joy was all theirs. Jesus told the disciples that the very thing that made them so sad would make them rejoice. “Later it was precisely because Jesus died and conquered sin that they were happy,” said the Chief Apostle. Initially, they were sad of course because Jesus had to give up His earthly body. But then their grief turned to joy because they realised that Jesus had given up His earthly body for the resurrection body. The Chief Apostle said that the disciples were sad because Jesus had to leave the world of the living. “But later they understood that by leaving the world of the living, He was able to bring the gospel to the dead too.”
Suffering is not a prior condition
“This word also applies to us, the church of today,” Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider said, bringing the two-thousand-year-old Bible passage into the present time. “Your sorrow will be turned to joy.” This does not mean that Christians have to be miserable as a matter of principle. He also said that Christians do not suffer more than others and that their suffering has no influence on salvation. “Jesus was speaking of spiritual suffering here. Only the followers of Jesus know this kind of suffering.”
Joy at His return
The Chief Apostle went on to develop the theme of spiritual suffering and explained how it will be turned into joy.
- Sin: Christians renounce sin and want to do good. “But then we realise that sin continues to rule the world.” That hurts. But one day the Lord will come again and then show who was right. And those who did His will, will enter His kingdom, the Chief Apostle said.
- Love for Jesus: “We love Jesus with all our heart,” explained the Chief Apostle, “and we suffer because we love Him but cannot see Him.” This not being able to see Him in His perfection and not being able to be with Him causes us great sadness. “But this sadness will turn into joy because those who love the Lord will be received into His kingdom. And then we will truly be able to see Him as He is.”
- Our imperfections: “We suffer because of our imperfections and sins,” the Chief Apostle said. He went on to say that even if we are sincere we cannot help it and must say like Apostle Paul did: “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” And this weakness, this imperfection makes us suffer, the Chief Apostle explained. It is our remorse that makes us sad. “But our remorse will turn into joy. Because thanks to remorse Jesus can forgive us.”
- The suffering of others: “We love our neighbour. We cannot be indifferent to his or her suffering,” the Chief Apostle said. “This love for our neighbour makes us suffer because we weep with those who weep. And we also suffer because we realise that even if we will to do good, we cannot prevent all the suffering around us.” But even this sorrow will turn to joy. “The love for our neighbour makes us suffer today, but it will be a source of great joy tomorrow because we will all be together in fellowship with Christ.”
- Indifference towards Christ: “We believe that Jesus can bring salvation to humankind,” the Chief Apostle said. “But we find that many do not want to accept this message.” It is sad that more and more people are turning away from God. The important thing is, however, that we continue to proclaim the gospel, the Chief Apostle emphasised. “Whether people accept our testimony or not, let us continue to proclaim the gospel. Let us continue to be witnesses of Jesus Christ in the apostolate. The day will come when Jesus will render our work perfect. And He will complete His work. And those who have continued to sow the gospel with joy all along will then also reap with joy.”