Therefore some of his disciples asked one another, “What does he mean when he tells us, ‘In a little while you are not going to see me, and again in a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going away to the Father’?” 18 So they kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he’s saying.” 19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you trying to determine with one another what I meant by saying, ‘In a little while you are not going to see me, and again in a little while you will see me’? 20 Amen, Amen, I tell you: You will weep and wail, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth has pain, because her time has come. But when she has delivered the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, because of her joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 “So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. 23 In that day you will not ask me anything. Amen, Amen, I tell you: Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be made complete. 25 “I have told you these things using figurative language. A time is coming when I will no longer speak to you using figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in my name, and I am not telling you that I will make requests of the Father on your behalf. 27 For the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. 28 I came from the Father and have come into the world. Now I am going to leave the world and go to the Father.” 29 “Yes!” his disciples said. “Now you are speaking plainly and not using figurative language. 30 Now we know that you know everything and do not need to have anyone ask you anything. For this reason we believe that you came from God.” 31 Jesus answered them, “Now do you believe? 32 Listen, a time is coming, in fact it is here, when you will be scattered, everyone to his own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not going to be alone, because the Father is with me. 33 I have told you these things, so that you may have peace in me. In this world you are going to have trouble. But be courageous! I have overcome the world.”
In our previous lesson Jesus told his disciples he had much more to tell them that they couldn’t bear to hear at the moment. (See John 16:12) We can see evidence that the disciples were already reaching the limit of what they could take in at that time. Jesus told them that in a little while they wouldn’t see him anymore, but then in a little while they would see him again. What did Jesus mean by a little while? Where was he going? How long would he be gone? When would they see him again? Didn’t Jesus realize how much his followers needed him? Jesus saw their confusion. He saw they needed some encouragement. Jesus gave them the truth they so badly needed to hear. It is a truth we continue to need to hear today.
Jesus once again used an earthly example to get his point across. When a woman goes into labor it can be an extremely painful experience. Until her child is born there seems to be no end to the pain she is experiencing. But once the baby is born her pain is quickly forgotten. She is filled with happiness as she holds her new child in her arms for the first time. Jesus’ disciples would be filled with agony as Jesus died on the cross. Think of John who stood at the foot of the cross and watched Jesus’ life slip away. All the while John must have felt great pain knowing there was nothing he could do to help Jesus. But imagine the joy John and the other disciples felt when they saw Jesus alive again. Their joy couldn’t be taken away. It was necessary for Jesus to die to fulfill the task given to him. But once he rose from the dead, he can never die again.
Notice that Jesus used a double “Amen” twice in our Scripture reading. He is saying “Yes it shall be so” twice to emphasize this will happen. Nothing can stop his promises from being fulfilled. The first double “Amen” made it clear that the disciples sorrow when Jesus was taken away would only be temporary. They would soon see him alive again and their joy would never end.
The second double “Amen” is followed by this promise: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask, and you will receive, so that your joy may be made complete.” This doesn’t mean that you can ask God to make you the wealthiest or the most powerful person in the world and he will give it to you. What Jesus is saying is that by his death and resurrection he is forgiving your sins so you can to come directly to your heavenly Father in prayer. Your Father in heaven will graciously hear your prayers. He will always answer by giving you what is best for you to have. This will make your joy complete. God never gives a bad answer to our prayers. God’s answer is always perfect. His answer will provide you what you need to remain on the path to eternal life that Jesus won for you.
Notice the results of the explanation Jesus gave his disciples. Their confusion was cleared up. They believed that Jesus came directly from God. He is the Messiah that God promised to send. They still had much to learn. Jesus told them this. A severe trial was waiting just ahead of them. They would all abandon Jesus in his time of need. But they didn’t need to despair. Jesus would triumph. His victory would be their victory as well. They would soon have the peace of knowing that eternal life in heaven was made certain for them by the work of Jesus.
We can take heart also. Jesus gives us the warning that we will often have trouble in this world. This will be true of all who follow Jesus. But be courageous. Jesus has overcome the world for you. He has taken away your guilt. Heaven is your home. Be at peace knowing that soon your joy will be made complete. Jesus will return to take you to the eternal home he prepared for you.
1 – How would the disciples’ grief soon be turned to joy?
The day after Jesus spoke these words he died on the cross. But their grief would be short-lived. Soon after Jesus would rise from the grave with the sure promise that all who trust in him as their Savior have eternal life in heaven.
2 – How does Jesus turn our grief into joy today?
Sin will cause much pain for us. Especially sin condemns us and tells us we have no place with God. But our Lord turns our grief to joy with the assurance that all our sins are paid for. Nothing can happen in this world that can ever separate us from God’s love for us in Jesus Christ.
3 – What change did Jesus bring in our relationship with God the Father?
As sinful human beings we had no right to approach God. We had no place in his presence since God his holy and we are not. But Jesus made us holy as he took away our sins. He has opened the way for us to approach God in prayer. We don’t need to approach him in terror. We come to him boldly and confidently as children can approach a beloved father.
4 – What assurance does Jesus give to us when we suffer in his name?
Jesus has already triumphed over the devil, the world, and our sinful flesh. Because he triumphed, we will triumph also. We stand on Jesus and the salvation he brings. This is a sure foundation that God’s enemies cannot overcome.
If you have any questions about the Word of God we studied in this lesson please contact Pastor Greg Tobison. You can send your questions to