From Sadness to Gladness

He showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. John 20:20

The first Easter did not look like a typical Easter celebration.

Before Jesus’ resurrection was discovered, the day was marked by tears, devastation, and bewilderment—not joy, hope, and praise. The disciples were gathered out of fear, to protect one another, not to sing “Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia!”[1] They sat in sadness; their story had come to a grinding halt, with the next page blank.

Or so they thought.

The Bible does not attempt to deny or idealize the grief felt by Christ’s followers after His crucifixion. They didn’t understand what had happened, and they certainly didn’t know what would happen next. Their sadness reveals humanity’s limitations in knowing the bigger picture. Despite the Old Testament prophecies and Jesus’ own foretelling of His death (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33-34), John’s Gospel tells us that they “as yet did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead” (John 20:9). They didn’t understand that when Jesus said from the cross, “It is finished” (19:30), He was not expressing defeat but declaring victory.

This victory meant resurrection. And as the resurrected Savior came to the disciples in their darkness, fear, and sadness, He brought transformation. Their unbelief turned to belief and their sadness to gladness. That gladness was rooted in the fact that they understood that Jesus had risen from the dead. Their faith and their future returned and were rooted in this wonderful reality. The darkness of their despair made the light of the resurrection all the more glorious.

If you are looking for a god that will just make you glad, you shouldn’t look for the God of the Bible. He does make us glad—more so than anyone or anything else—but He often starts by making us sad. We are saddened by this broken world, saddened by our own sin, saddened that on the cross Jesus died for our wickedness, disobedience, and disinterest. It is only through truly feeling such sorrow that we can fully understand the gladness that comes with our account being settled, our debt being paid, and our wrongs being forgiven.

We can know the gladness of a love that loves us even though we are not worthy of it—that loves us when we don’t want to listen. What kind of love is this? It is the love of God for men and women, for you and me! Today, look away from yourself and look at Him. This is love, and when we know we are loved in this way, we are able to see the healing in the harm and that sadness can be the soil in which eternal gladness grows. About which part of your life—perhaps a part full of pain, or regret, or anxiety—do you need to hear this today? Remember that whatever you are walking through, it remains true that Christ the Lord is risen. Hallelujah!

  1. Charles Wesley, “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (1739).

Devotional material is taken from Truth For Life: 365 Daily Devotions by Alistair Begg. Copyright © 2021, The Good Book Company, Used by Truth For Life with written permission.