John 16:16–33 (NKJV)
In this passage, Jesus predicts His death and resurrection. He is passionately preparing His disciples for the changes that will come.
16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”John 16:16-24
17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “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 go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”
19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. 24 Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.
Jesus gives a figurative explanation to His statement about His soon departure. He speaks of labor pains, and the joy that will follow thereafter once a child is born. This is not the end of His explanation, but is the more symbolic portion.
25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father. 26 In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; 27 for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”John 16:25-33
29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! 30 Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”
31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. 33 These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Jesus then speaks plainly that He will leave the earth and go back to the Father, and that the Father will supply them anything they ask in Jesus’ name. They then are pleased with the direct explanation of what will come shortly. He follows this up with a warning that they will be persecuted and scattered, but also encourages them that He has overcome the world, and that He will be with them. When our son was young, he had trouble going to sleep some nights. I would stay by his bed, rubbing his back, or simply touching him until I though he was sound asleep. Inevitably, when I would move away, or at least by the time I reached his bedroom door, he would raise up in his bed and ask me where I was going. I imagine the feeling I had at that moment was somewhat reminiscent of how Jesus felt when His disciples wondered where He was going. In the same way, Jesus offers them an explanation, as I did my son, and made sure they were certain of what the future would hold.
Some passages of the Scripture seem cryptic upon first examination. The Spirit must enlighten our eyes to understand the depths of God’s truth. However, some things are just plain and simple, and cut to the heart of a matter. God’s revelation is progressive. Some things He revealed in the beginning of the writings of Scripture, and the authors learned more and more from the Holy Spirit as time progressed. In the same way, we learn more the further we go in Bible study as a disciple of Christ. If you don’t understand a passage, do not be dismayed. Put in the time, effort, and–especially–the prayer time to understand what God is trying to say to you at that moment. In this, God will reveal Himself and bring you to a better understanding of what He is trying to help you know. We may not always understand where God is going with His revelation, but if we trust Him, we will eventually understand. The search for God’s truth is worth the journey!