The promise of joy
“In a little while you won’t see me anymore. But a little while after that, you will see me again.” Some of the disciples asked each other, “What does he mean when he says, ‘In a little while you won’t see me, but then you will see me,’ and ‘I am going to the Father’? And what does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand.” Jesus realized they wanted to ask him about it, so he said, “Are you asking yourselves what I meant? 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. John 16:16-20
From the text, the Lord Jesus Christ was trying to provide comfort to His disciples. They have heard Him several times telling them about His imminent suffering and eventual death on the cross. But then He told His disciples that all these events will happen “in a little while.” He was referring to His death and then His resurrection. They will grieve because of His death but it will turn to eventual joy when He is raised from the dead. The disciples lacked understanding of His predictions when He made them, and it took the resurrection, in fact, to bring them full awareness of the meaning. Jesus admitted here that He had not been speaking in clear, literal words. He had been using language with a meaning below the surface and not easily seen. This was not because He wanted to hide anything from the disciples. Earlier He had predicted His death and resurrection in the simplest terms, and just as plainly, they had rejected the prediction. It was one of the things they could not bear as yet (see John 16:12). Now He was preparing them for the shock of His death by speaking in gentler terms of going away and coming back. But He said a time was coming when He would speak plainly. Their grief would turn to joy. They will be scattered but this will happen with a purpose. His resurrection would turn their despair to peace and victory, for Jesus would overcome the world in His resurrection (John 16:32, 33). What must accompany the fact of Christ’s death on the cross and eventual resurrection is faith. If a person does not believe, then what Jesus accomplished on the cross and His resurrection have no power in his or her life. This does not change the fact that Jesus died and had been raised, nor does it change the fact of the resurrection at the end of time when some will rise to eternal joy and some to eternal condemnation. But without faith now, the mere fact of the cross and resurrection leaves the grief of life unchanged and leaves the end of life without hope. There is promise of joy for eternity and it is by faith that we can experience it.