A Bible Lesson on John 16:16-24

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

This is a short lesson on part of what Jesus says to the disciples on the evening of the Last Supper.

John 16:16  “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.”

Jesus says, “a little while” and then “again a little while.”  The first “clearly” refers to the short time before His crucifixion, but then again, maybe rather to his ascension.  The second may refer to the resurrection, it may refer to the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, or it may refer to the second coming.  In all probability, Jesus means all of these things.  They all fit the facts and things that He said to the disciples.

17 So some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this that he says to us, ‘A little while, and you will not see me, and again a little while, and you will see me’; and, ‘because I am going to the Father’?”

The disciples are confused, and understandably so.  If it’s not absolutely clear to us (or especially to the best Bible scholars over 2000 years) it’s no surprise that the disciples, having no advantage of hindsight are perplexed.  He has said to them in John 14:12  “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.” and in  John 14:28  “You heard me say to you, ‘I am going away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.”   And He’s told them that He is going to be killed, but they can’t know what He means by verses 16 and 17, and they are confused and thereby troubled.

18 So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.”

The disciples don’t ask Jesus directly, but rather discuss among themselves.  They really want an explanation, they want to know.  But, in God’s sovereignty, it’s not for them to know.  The point is never to have foreknowledge of what’s going to happen, but to know Him who orders all things.

19 Jesus knew that they wanted to ask him, so he said to them, “Is this what you are asking yourselves, what I meant by saying, ‘A little while and you will not see me, and again a little while and you will see me’?

Surely the disciples want to know.  They want the details and the reasons.  They want a look at the script.  The whole uncertainty of it is getting to them.  It seems like things are coming to a head, and there are conflicting indications as to how it’s going to go.  On the one hand, this truly is Messiah they are following, and He has amazing power, and amazing relationship to the Father.  But then again, He seems loathe to use that power to put down His enemies.  And powerful forces seem bent on His destruction.  He’s been speaking of going to the Father.  The uncertainty is miserable.  Notice what Jesus gives them, not the script, but rather His promise.

20 Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.

There is genuine misery coming here, for Jesus and for His disciples.  From their perspective, they are not only going to see the death of their beloved Master and Friend, but also the apparent end of all of their greatest hopes and most pious longings.  They are going to have their world turned upside down in the next few hours.  They are going to see evil apparently win the day and pure goodness crushed.  They don’t get a detailed roadmap, and it certainly isn’t that they are spared this misery.  But it’s not all without purpose, and Jesus promises that it is only temporary, and that on the other side of it is joy, real joy.  In fact, the situation can be compared to one the disciples can understand for the great blessing that it is.

21 When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.

What the disciples were about to experience was completely gut wrenching.  But compared to what was on the other side of it, the misery was inconsequential.  That was true of them for the next few hours.  In the bigger picture, it’s true of the life of every saint.

2Corinthians 4:17  For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison,

You and I await the consummation of this great promise.  We will see Him, all things will be right, and He will be rightly worshiped and revered in the whole universe.

22 So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.

In the short run, there would be the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus.  They would see Him again briefly on earth.  And those experiences of the Apostles are the foundation of a Faith in a risen Savior that brings joy to every believer, regardless of the momentary afflictions they face.

23 In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.

“In that day” is probably referring to the period between the resurrection and His second coming.  The phrase “you will ask nothing” is ambiguous in the Greek.  It could be either “you will ask me no questions” or “you will ask me for no gifts.”  The meaning is most likely the first.  To this point, they’ve had physical Jesus to straighten out their confusion.  From the day of Pentecost, the Spirit of God will be in His people teaching them and straightening out their understanding of the truth.  Henceforth, their access to the Father will be direct, in His name.

24 Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

The truth about Jesus, revealed by the Father, understood, and declared, brings joy.  Remember how John opens the book of 1st John.

1John 1:1  That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life–

2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us–

3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.

4 And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

Here is a .pdf of this lesson.

Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.  Copyright 2000; 2001, by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.

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