In John’s gospel, the long farewell discourse of Jesus to his disciples revealed many Theological truths and future events that would happen to him and to his disciples. Jesus gave them this heads up so they could prepare for the challenges ahead and to keep up their hope for the eternal reward. Jesus also gave them the privilege to ask anything to God the Father in his name. He assured them he would grand their requests in faith for the Kingdom of God’s nourishment.
(John 16:16) “A little while and you will see me no more; and then a little while, and you will see me.” (17) Some of the disciples wondered, “What does he mean by ‘A little while and you will not see me, and then a little while, and you will see me’? And why does he say ‘I go to the Father’?” (18) And they said to one another, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not understand.” (19) Jesus knew that they wanted to question him; so he said to them, “You are puzzled because I told you that in a little while you will see me no more, and then a little while, and you will see me. (20) I am telling you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy. (21) A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the baby is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy that a child is born into the world. (22) So it is with you; you feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again; and your hearts will rejoice and no one will take your joy from you. (23) When that day comes you will not ask me anything. Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you. (24) So far you have not asked anything in my name; so ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.
In his last discourse to his disciples, Jesus prepared them for the challenges that he and they would face. Though Jesus was ready to accept the imminent passion and death, he had to prepare his disciples. They were lacking clarity on Jesus’ mission and might get lost in the middle of their master’s most humiliating “failure” and crucifixion. Jesus, who promised crown through the cross, was preparing them to understand his cross as a means of his glory.
(John 16:16) “A little while and you will see me no more; and then a little while, and you will see me.”
A little while and you will see me no more.
Jesus knew that after his Last Supper, his enemies would arrest, question, sentence, torture, and crucify him to death. The disciples would flee from him, though Peter and John would accompany him for a while. Thus, they will separate after over three years of living together and intimate relationship. That separation would not be long, but only for “a little while.”
And then a little while, and you will see me.
Jesus promised the disciples that he would return to them after his death and resurrection. However, he did not specify how this would take place. All what the disciples could understand was that Jesus was going away from them somewhere and would return to them soon. Jesus had a clear picture of everything. We can take these reappearances of Jesus in three senses:
A little while
Jesus used “a little while” seven times within the brief passage to give hope to the disciples. The grief filled their hearts (John 16:6) because Jesus had shared his and their hardships to follow. However, they must look from a wide angle to understand that the sufferings are transitory, and the glory and joy will follow.
(17) Some of the disciples wondered, “What does he mean by ‘A little while and you will not see me, and then a little while, and you will see me’? And why does he say ‘I go to the Father’?”
Only Jesus had a clear picture of what would happen. Jesus’ statement confused the disciples. They were reluctant to ask him direct. If Jesus was referring to his death, they could not imagine how they would see him again. They did not comprehend Jesus’ resurrection. How could they ask of his death when he was only 33 years of age! Some discussed the issue among themselves.
Why does he say, ‘I go to the Father?’
Jesus had mentioned before that he would go to his Father. The disciples knew that when Jesus mentioned of his Father, he was referring to God the Father in heaven. If Jesus would go to heaven, how could they see him again? In John 16:10 Jesus had said, “I am on the way to the Father, and you will not see me.” They could not connect these with their limited knowledge.
(18) And they said to one another, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not understand.”
They repeated their lack of understanding on Jesus’ phrase, “little while.” When was the separation going to take place? How long would it be? They were trying to understand if any of them got what Jesus meant.
(19) Jesus knew that they wanted to question him; so he said to them, “You are puzzled because I told you that in a little while you will see me no more, and then a little while, and you will see me.”
Jesus’ teachings were confusing to the disciples. They were reluctant to ask for clarification. So, they discussed the topic among themselves. Jesus saw their reaction and understood that their confusion was on his usage of “a little while.” He was gracious to clarify their doubt.
(20) I am telling you the truth, you will weep and mourn while the world rejoices. You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
Amen, amen, I say to you.
Though the Israelites used amen at the end of a prayer, blessing, curse, or a statement expressing the endorsement of what they said, Jesus used it once or twice to start a statement. This was an affirmation that what followed in his statement was a solemn or important truth compared to the usual statements.
You will weep and mourn.
Several factors intensified the grief of the apostles. Their weakness to be awake with Jesus at the Garden of Gethsemane, Judas’ betrayal, the arrest of Jesus, Peter’s denial of Jesus three times, the public and private questioning of Jesus, the physical and mental torture he faced, people’s clamor for Jesus’ crucifixion, their preference to release Barabbas in the place of Jesus, his sentence to death, his humiliating journey carrying the cross to Calvary, his extremely painful crucifixion and death, and their absence at his burial would add the gravity of their sorrow and make them weep and mourn. Because of the fear of their own arrest, they were hiding. However, they have been tracking what was happening to their divine master through the lady disciples and the admirers of Jesus.
While the world rejoices
Jesus made a contrast of the deep grief of his disciples to the cheerfulness of his opponents and their supporters. The Jewish leaders were successful in reversing the clamor of the people who sang, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” to their crying for his crucifixion. All who demanded his crucifixion rejoiced at his humiliating and extremely torturous martyrdom. The High Priests, the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the Scribes, and the Herodians had been plotting and waiting for that to happen. So Jesus foretold their rejoicing at his crucifixion. That would add to the grief of his disciples.
You will grieve, but your grief will turn to joy.
Jesus predicted a reversal for the disciples’ grief. However, Jesus was not clarifying why they would experience such a sudden reversal. He meant that their grief would turn to joy when they would see him returning from the grave. Though Jesus had predicted his resurrection from the dead before, the disciples did not remember that.
(21) A woman in childbirth is in distress because her time is at hand. But after the baby is born, she no longer remembers her suffering because of such great joy that a child is born into the world.
The Bible often compares the pain of a woman in labor to the faithful’s suffering that would later gain victory. “As a woman with child writhes and moans in her pain when her time is near, so were we in your presence, O LORD.” (Isaiah 26:17). “Before being in labor, she gives birth; before birth pangs came upon her, she delivers a son.” (Isaiah 66:7). The woman had been foreseeing both the hours of her anguish and its joyful outcome. Jesus also expected such hours of suffering and joy for him and his disciples. That example was giving hope to the disciples, though they could not grasp fully what would happen.
The mother rejoices also because she could contribute a child to the world. The child is hers and that of the world. So also, the victory of Jesus and his disciples would be meritorious for the entire world.
The mother ignores the pangs of childbirth when she sees the child she gave birth. The victorious outcome helps us to forget the hardships endured to achieve it. Such was the experience of the disciples and their successors by the end of their lives. When we are working for Jesus and his church, we too might also face tribulations. However, let us be hopeful of the victory to follow.
(22) So it is with you; you feel sorrowful now, but I will see you again; and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.
I will see you again; and your hearts will rejoice.
Like the pangs of childbirth, Jesus’ suffering and of the disciples were at hand. The suffering, death, and burial would cause extreme grief for the disciples. However, that would be temporary because Jesus would rise from the dead on the third day and return to them, resulting them to rejoice. Unlike the temporary happiness of the world, the heavenly joy of the disciples would be permanent.
Everything happened as Jesus prophesied. The disciples saw the Risen Lord on and off for forty days. Then he ascended to heaven to sit at the right hand of his Father. As promised, he sent the Holy Spirit to guide the disciples. Jesus continues to lead the church as its head. Though he ascended to heaven, and spiritually present among the disciples, the church is awaiting his second coming to reward his righteous with eternal joy. That would be the end of the evil in this world.
No one will take your joy from you.
Satan took away the joy of Adam and Eve in paradise by tempting them to act against God’s command. The devil and the demons continue taking away the joy of God’s people in this world by tempting them to commit sins. With the reestablishment of the Kingdom of God in its fullness at Christ’s second coming, the influence of Satan will end, and the joy will return to its fullness. Satan can no longer tempt the redeemed or take away their joy.
(23) When that day comes you will not ask me anything. Truly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name, he will give you.
When that day comes you will not ask me anything.
During Jesus’ public ministry, the disciples had many questions. The teachings and actions of Jesus confused them. Even after Jesus’ resurrection, the situation did not change much. However, when they received the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the Spirit cleared all their doubts, and they had no need of further questioning on the teachings of Jesus. “When he, the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not give his own message, but will speak only of what he hears, and he will declare to you the things to come. He will take what is mine and make it known to you; in doing this, he will glorify me.” (John 16:13-14). Jesus exposed the indivisible unity of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, the second and third persons of the Most Holy Trinity. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus would reveal everything they need to know. We see that reflected in Peter’s teachings on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14-41) and Stephen’s witnessing before the Sanhedrin (Acts chapter 7).
Amen, amen, I say to you.
Here again, Jesus used the same phrase “Amen, amen, I say to you” to give weight to what follows.
Whatever you ask
The disciples must seek the Kingdom of God and ask the Father for strength to continue Jesus’ mission. That will keep them connected with God, as Jesus did. They do not have to ask for worldly things. “So, do not worry and say: What are we going to eat? What are we going to drink? Or what shall we wear? The Gentiles busy themselves with such things; but your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. Set your heart first on the Kingdom of God and his justice and all these things will also be given to you.” (Matthew 6: 31-33).
This reminds us of King Solomon’s prayer in a dream at Gibeon after he offered thousand burnt offerings to God. God gave Solomon the freedom to ask anything he wanted. Solomon asked only an understanding mind to govern the Lord’s people with ability to distinguish between good and evil. His prayer pleased the Lord who gave him wisdom that “no one has had before you nor anyone after you shall ever have.” Besides, God gave him what he did not ask, including wealth, fame, and long life. (1 Kings 3:4-15). So, our prayers should not be for material prosperity but for God’s praise and for the growth of the church through our lives. Then God will provide whatever we need.
Ask the Father in my name he will give you.
We address our prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name. Jesus reveals here the Father and the Son’s unity. It is the Father who grands the request of the disciple based on the exalted name of his Son. Jesus had assured his disciples that he himself will also answer their prayers when they request in his name. “And everything you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me for anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14).
When we pray in Jesus’s name, we are acknowledging our faith in him as our mediator and recognizing our unworthiness to receive favors from God on our own behalf. As sinners, we are like the prodigal son who was unworthy to claim the lost sonship. We regained it through the meritorious work of Jesus. “Whatever you do or say, do it in the name of Jesus the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” (Colossians 3:17). “He is the one who made us acceptable to God. He made us pure and holy, and he gave himself to purchase our freedom.” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Jesus gave his disciples the assurance that because of his meritorious work pleasing to the Father on our behalf, we are eligible to make the request to the Father in Jesus’ name. So, the Christian prayers conclude by saying, “we ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.”
We are eligible to seek Jesus’ mediation only if we believe in him and obey his commands. Our prayers should be consistent with the will of God. “Through him we are fully confident that whatever we ask according to his will, he will grant us.” (1 John 5:14-15).
(24) So far you have not asked anything in my name; so ask and you will receive that your joy may be full.
So far you have not asked anything in my name.
Until the Last Supper, the disciples asked nothing from the Father in Jesus’ name. Once Jesus completes his mission through his passion, death, and resurrection, God would exalt his name. Then the disciples can pray in the powerful name of Jesus or on behalf of him. “He humbled himself by being obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and gave him the Name that outshines all other names, so that at the Name of Jesus all knees should bend in heaven, on earth and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:8-10).
Ask and you will receive.
Will God provide everything we ask in Jesus’ name? Jesus takes it for granted what a disciple should ask. The disciple is the Father’s child and Christ’s representative. He or she is seeking the Kingdom of God, as Jesus did. In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus taught us to pray, “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The Father cannot deny when we ask for strength and grace to endure for His kingdom. Like a parent, God will not give us anything that would be harmful to us or for his kingdom. With our limited knowledge, we do not know what would be beneficial. So, after presenting our desires, we surrender to the will of God.
That your joy may be full
When we seek the will of God to accomplish in our lives and for His kingdom, God will grand it. That will give us full joy. What we gain by material benefits is temporary happiness. Whereas heavenly joy is perpetual and complete. Jesus instructed his disciples on how they could enjoy complete joy: “You will remain in my love if you keep my commandments, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you all this that my own joy may be in you and your joy may be complete.” (John 15:10-11).