June 5, 2015
""A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” 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’?”” (John 16:16–17, ESV)
Now you see me, now you don't. Soon you won’t, but then you will. I can try to imagine the confusion that Jesus disciples must have felt as He told them that in a little while that they wouldn’t see Him, but in a little while longer they would. Jesus had been preparing them for His leaving, and on this last night with them He was focusing on its immediacy and preparing them for their response. He had told them that He had to die. He had told them that He would rise again. He had told them that after that He would then leave to return to the Father. And, He told them that when He left that the Father would send the Spirit to continue in them what had been begun. When the Spirit was to come they would even do greater things He said.
Before going on to the next verses and having what He meant clarified, I enjoyed a moment of being impressed that these words could have easily been focused on either His death, burial, and resurrection or His ascension and their eventual reunion in His presence. In the immediate context Jesus was going to be crucified on the next day. That very night He was to be arrested, leading to hasty trials, rejection, beatings, and the sentence of death which was quickly carried out. He was taken down from the cross and His dead body was again hastily placed in a tomb so as to not violate the Sabbath rules. At that time it would be apparent to all that Jesus was dead. He was no longer there with them. They could not see Him, and this part of His words was clearly fulfilled. Then the most amazing thing and the foundation proving Him to truly be who He said He is was that on the third day He took His life back up again. It was then that He again appeared to His disciples and spent time with them over the next forty days. According to the words of verses 16 and 17 this truly was a season of in a little while you won’t see me, and then in a little while you will.
But there is this other sense that leads to their more permanent reunion—their eternal reunion. In Acts chapter 1 we read of Jesus’ ascension as He returned to the Father. This marked His last time that He was visible to those who believed this side of the grave, and it is in the presence of the Father that the Son remains today. It is in His presence that all of His disciples have now entered with their passing from physical life into eternity. For them there was a time of enduring great hardship, persecution, and even death until that time came to pass, and I imagine for them that this time might have seemed extremely long at times. But in the midst of all of this they were privileged to see God work in and through them by the power of the Spirit to accomplish the beginning of Christ’s church through the salvation of men from all nations. What seemed long to them, changed at the moment of their passing into what the apostle Paul called momentary light affliction in the face of eternity. For the disciples it was truly a little while that they did not see Him, and then they did and STILL DO!
For all who have believed since and who have now passed through death, they have also seen their hope fulfilled as God’s gift of salvation has led them into His presence. And for those of us who believe today, having never met Jesus as the man, we live with the certain assurance that He did come. He was crucified and buried, and He did rise again on the third day just as the Scriptures had foretold. Because of this, we also live with that promise that in a little while we will—we will see Him.