As Jesus told His disciples that He would be leaving them and returning to them, He saw them whispering to each other in puzzlement; so He answered the questions they were not brave enough to ask Him themselves.
“I said in a little while you won’t see Me, but a little while after that you will see Me again. I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn over what is going to happen to Me, but the world will rejoice. You will grieve, but your grief will suddenly turn to wonderful joy!“It will be like a woman, suffering the pains of labor. When her child is born, her anguish gives way to joy because she has brought a new baby into the world. So you have sorrow now, but I will see you again; then, you will rejoice, and no one can rob you of that joy.” John 16:19-22 NLT
The disciples were already reeling from Jesus’ declaration that He was leaving them. And as the events would unfold that terrible night, their troubles grew and multiplied. Within less than a day, Jesus, their beloved Teacher, Master, and Friend, after a long period of anguished prayer in the garden, would be betrayed and arrested. There followed no less than three trials before the various authorities, marked by the savage determination of the religious leaders to have Jesus executed, by whatever crooked means necessary. He was stripped, mocked, humiliated, and flogged; and finally, He was led away to suffer the most cruel execution imaginable.
I can’t really imagine their overwhelming grief, coupled as it must have with their self-condemnation for having fled from Him in the garden, leaving Him to face His arrest alone. Then too, there was the fear that the chief priests would be coming for them as well; the next days must have been terrible, hiding behind locked doors, grieving over Jesus’ terrible death and their own sense of having failed Him.
So, when Jesus appeared in their midst after His resurrection, when they finally realized that it was, in fact, Jesus, alive and real in His resurrected body, standing there eating fish and honeycomb with them–they were filled with a wonderful joy. Jesus had conquered death– not just by raising others to life again, but He Himself, having been completely dead, was now alive again. Nothing would be able to take Him from them again. Nothing could happen to them when they were with Him. The fear of death no longer had a hold over them. Nothing could rob them of the wonderful joy that was theirs at the resurrection of Jesus, their Teacher, Master, and Friend!