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Old Life To New Life

In John 16, Jesus attempted to console His followers by evoking the image of a pregnant woman.

John 16:20-22 -- I tell you the solemn truth, you will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice; you will be sad, but your sadness will turn into joy. When a woman gives birth, she has distress because her time has come, but when her child is born, she no longer remembers the suffering because of her joy that a human being has been born into the world. So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you.



Now, let us come to a halt. Let us examine the setting and context of these verses. Jesus is once again informing his followers in this verse that He is about to go. In John 16:16, He has said clearly that He is going to the Father. 

John 16:16-17 -- In a little while you will see me no longer; again after a little while, you will see me." Then some of his disciples said to one another, "What is the meaning of what he is saying, ‘In a little while you will not see me; again after a little while, you will see me,’ and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?"

He had informed them throughout John 14, 15 and 16 that it is critical that He departs — because unless He departs, He would be unable to return and live in them through the Holy Spirit. He had also informed them that He would be betrayed, crucified, and resurrected three days later.

Of course, the disciples had no context for these Truths. This was not the case according to Jewish tradition derived from the Old Testament. That should have been the case. However, it was not. The Jews, including Jesus' followers, anticipated a Messiah who would physically reign and govern from Jerusalem's temple. 

Because the disciples recognised Jesus as the Messiah, they anticipated the establishment of the kingdom at any moment. From them, Jesus was going to expel the Romans and assume His rightful position in the temple to reign and govern — with them at his right hand.


Jesus had been emphasising to them that their conception of the kingdom was not accurate. He informed them immediately of His impending crucifixion. He also used parables to explain the real nature of God's kingdom. 

It would be a spiritual kingdom in this age - Jesus would come to live WITHIN THEM. However, they were unable to comprehend Him. Despite His continuous teaching that things would not unfold as they anticipated, they failed to comprehend what He was saying.

As the day of His death and resurrection came closer, Jesus informed them more and more that He would be leaving them. That is the scenario in which He depicts a woman in labour. This alone provided them with the reason for lamentation. 

Jesus was aware that the disciples were aware that something was about to happen – He had informed them He was going to leave them – but they were unaware of the specifics. What did occur was going to take them by surprise — and throw them into a massive catastrophe.

The disciples did not anticipate a crucified Messiah. They expected Jesus to reign and govern alongside them. Their whole future was predicated on this assumption. That was their motivation for following Jesus. Indeed, they gave up and sacrificed their lives for this tremendous dream.

The disciples' modest trust in God was rooted in their anticipation of the kingdom. However, Jesus was well aware that everything was about to collapse — and so wanted to encourage them. As a result, He tells them, "Your experience now and in the coming days may be compared to that of a woman in labour — a mother who is in excruciating agony as she delivers a child." 

However, take comfort, because this ordeal does have an upside. There is another side to this heinous sensation – to this death-like feeling that is going to overtake you – and it is not death. The other side of this ordeal is a birth - it is a birth into LIFE.”


Women who have given birth have had first-hand experience with this – and can connect to it far more than males can. Women have reported labours lasting up to twelve hours or more. And while she is in labour, the woman is anticipating the arrival of this beautiful child. However, she wishes for it to end when she is in labour. 

That is true in every season of suffering. If we find ourselves in a circumstance that causes us sorrow and suffering — if we find ourselves in a challenge — we are spiritually labouring. And we are ready for it to end. We want an end to the suffering. 

We want freedom from that circumstance. That style of thinking is natural for us.

"I understand your desire to be free of suffering," Jesus is saying. However, keep in mind that the agony will pass — that there is another side to this ordeal; that there is a result; that there is a birth. 

This birth is LIFE — this birth is something you may not have a frame of reference for at the moment. However, it is a birth that arises from your anguish.


Naturally, Jesus was speaking to them about the current circumstances in which the disciples were going to find themselves — the loss of their teacher; the loss of a friend; and, ultimately, the loss of their trust in God. 

They were going to fall as a result of their anticipation of a material dominion immediately. Notably, this kingdom was not a separate expectation from their individual trust in God. No, absolutely not. Their trust in God was what they had. 

They were correct in believing that Jesus was the Messiah. However, they had no idea how God was going to bring that kingdom into being. As a result of Jesus' betrayal, they were thrust into terrible anguish. 

It was really catastrophic. It was a colossal moment of crisis. All of their aspirations, ambitions, and trust were invested in what they saw God be doing. However, it was doomed.


Have you ever experienced an incident in which you really believed God was accomplishing something – and placed all of your trust and hopes on it – only to see it die? Have you ever been exposed as someone who placed a higher premium on what you saw God be doing than on God himself? 

The disciples made this mistake. And it is often the case that many Christians do the same mistake.

Jesus is addressing these disciples' current circumstances. However, He is speaking in general terms about the spiritual experiences that Christians will have. I like this image He is portraying of a woman in labour — since it is one that we see everywhere in the Bible. 

Jesus is implying that a woman in labour has sadness as a result of the pain — as a result of the suffering — but rejoices as a result of the birth of life. And suddenly she grasps the implication. 


In Galatians 4:19, Paul made a similar statement. He stated to the Galatian church, which had lost sight of the living Christ and was living under the law. 

Galatians 4:19 -- "My little ones, of whom I labour in birth again till Christ be formed in you." 

I have explained many times how the term "formed in you" implies "to be realised and manifested internally" in New Testament Greek. So, Paul laboured until the Galatians had this tremendous birth - he laboured for them to enter into inner awareness of Christ so that Christ might be represented internally in and through them.

The Galatian church had gone back to the law, its rituals and ceremonies thus bringing themselves under the cure of the law. Paul addresses them as ones who have been under a spell or bewitched.

This was Paul's agony as a woman ready to give birth for the Galatian church. However, if Christ is to be created in each of us, we will all share this experience. Despite the fact that it takes much toil, pain, and suffering to reach the moment of birth, when "the child is born," we will forget the agony because we will see "the child" and realise that it was all worth it. 

How many realise that coming into inner awareness of Christ – coming to a place where we really know Him – will make us free? 

It will transform us and bring us into alignment with God — and nothing will ever be the same again. After the travail and birth pangs come the birth - LIFE. The other side of adversity is LIFE; it is seeing Jesus – because He has now been manifested inside us.



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