16 Jesus went on to say, “In a little while you will see me no more, and then after a little while you will see me.”
17 At this, some 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’?” 18 They kept asking, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We don’t understand what he is saying.”
19 Jesus 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’? 20 Very truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. 21 A woman giving birth to a child has pain because her time has come; but when her baby is born she forgets the anguish because of her joy that a child is born into the world. 22 So with you: Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy. 23 In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 24 Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.
(John 16:16-24 NIV)
Jesus and His disciples are walking from the Upper Room across the Kidron Valley to the Garden of Gethsemane. As we learned yesterday, Jesus’ disciples were overwhelmed with grief and sadness that Jesus kept talking about going away (v.6, v. 12). Jesus tried to console His disciples by telling them that He will send the Holy Spirit as Comforter and Advocate in His place (vv. 7 – 15).
As we begin today’s passage, Jesus and His disciples are approaching the Garden of Gethsemane. The familiar olive trees, the lingering scent of olive oil in the presses, and the crisp evening air were all familiar sights and smells for Jesus and His disciples.
Jesus loops around once more to the same subject: His leaving the disciples. This time, however, Jesus says He will be gone and then come back (v. 16).
Jesus’ disciples are confused. John captures the moment in verses 17 – 18: the nervous glances, the whispered questions between one another, the confused and bewildered looks, the repeating of Jesus’ words over and over. What is Jesus saying? Not a single one of them dared ask Jesus what He meant.
In verse 19, Jesus knows their questions as well as their apprehension about asking Him what He is telling them. He then repeats their question and proceeds to ignore it for the moment.
In verses 20 – 21, Jesus begins by using His signature “pay attention” phrase – “Very truly I tell you”. Jesus tells His disciples how they will feel when He goes away and then returns. Jesus uses the familiar illustration of childbirth to indicate the intense pain they will experience, followed by indescribable joy.
Notice the promise Jesus makes His disciples in verse 22: grief followed by joy when He sees them again. And Jesus’ ultimate promise: “And no one will take away your joy.”
In verse 23, Jesus uses His signature phrase again: “Very truly I tell you.” What is the truth Jesus is reinforcing? “my Father will give you whatever You ask in My name.” This promise is the same assurance that Jesus had told them a few minutes before (chapter 15, verses 7 and 16).
Jesus finishes today’s section with a commitment: “Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.”
While Jesus made those promises to His disciples, they are true for us today as well. We have access to God the Father through His Son Jesus. We can talk to God directly through prayer. And He speaks to us through His Word, the Bible. And no one can take away our joy.
While we will experience periods of grief and pain when we follow Christ, we also can experience peace and contentment in following Him.
And no one can take away our joy.