“In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.” 17Some of his disciples said to one another, “What does he mean by saying, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me,’ and ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”19Jesus saw that they wanted to ask him about this, so he said to them, “Are you asking one another what I meant when I said, ‘In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me’? I tell you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. John 16:20
The concern of the disciples is how long Jesus’ absence is going to last. Jesus had said,
In a little while you will see me no more,and his disciples had immediately picked up on that phrase
a little while. Their hearts clutched with fear, they said to themselves,
How long does He mean?
Their attention is on that as well as on His words,
because I am going to the Father. They said,
Why does this have to happen? What does He mean, ‘because I am going to the Father’? You can see that the focus of their concern is on when and why.
If you and I had been there, that is exactly what we would have asked! We are always concerned about how long a trial is going to last and wondering why we have to go through it. Are these not the questions we inevitably ask whenever we have trouble–
How long? But when Jesus answers the troubled disciples, He ignores the whole matter of time. His answer stresses the process and the result that is certain to follow. Jesus isn’t concerned with the
How long? but with the
How? and the
What? He makes clear to them that a period of sorrow is inevitable. He cannot spare them from it. There will be a time when they will weep and lament and be in sorrow and when the world around will be rejoicing.
But, He says,
your sorrow will be turned into joy. How long it takes is not significant; the inevitable result is the important thing.