16. A little while, and you do not see me and again a little while,
and you will see me; because I go to the Father. 17. Then said some of
his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith to us, a little
while, and you do 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 saith, A little while? We know not what he saith. 19. Jesus,
therefore. knew that they wished to ask him, and he said to them, You ask
among yourselves about what I said, A little while, and you do not see
me: and again a little while, and you will see me. 20. Verily, verily,
I tell 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.
16. A little while, and you do not see me. Christ had often forewarned
the apostles of his departure, partly that they might bear it with greater
courage, partly that they might desire more ardently the grace of the Spirit,
of which they had no great desire, so long as they had Christ present with
them in body. We must, therefore, guard against becoming weary of reading
what Christ, not without cause, repeats so frequently. First, he says that
he will very soon be taken from them, that, when they are deprived of his
presence, on which alone they relied, they may continue to be firm. Next,
he promises what will, compensate them for his absence, and he even testifies
that he will quickly be restored to them, after he has been removed, but
in another manner, that is, by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
And again a little while, and you will see me. Yet some explain
this second clause differently: You will see, me when I shall have risen
from the dead, but only for a short time; for I shall very soon be received
into heaven.” But I do not think that the words will bear that meaning.
On the contrary, he mitigates and soothes their sorrow for his absence,
by this consolation, that it will not last long; and thus he magnifies
the grace of the Spirit, by which he will be continually present with them;
as if he had promised that, after a short interval, he would return, and
that they would not be long deprived of his presence.
Nor ought we to think it strange when he says that he is seen, when
he dwells in the disciples by the Spirit; for, though he is not seen with
the bodily eyes, yet his presence is known by the undoubted experience
of faith. What we are taught by Paul is indeed true, that believers,
so long as they remain on earth, are absent from the Lord, because they
walk, by faith, and not by sight, (2 Corinthians 5:6, 7.)
But it is equally true that they may justly, in the meantime, glory
in having Christ dwelling in them by faith, in being united to him as members
to the Head, in possessing heaven along with him by hope. Thus the grace
of the Spirit is a mirror, in which Christ wishes to be seen by us, according
to the words of Paul,
Though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet we know him
no more; if any man be in Christ, let him be a new creature,
(2 Corinthians 5:16, 17)
Because I go to the Father. Some explain these words as meaning that
Christ will no longer be seen by the disciples, because he will be in heaven,
and they on earth. For my part, I would rather refer it to the second clause,
You will soon see me; for my death is not a destruction to separate me
from you, but a passage into the heavenly glory, from which my divine power
will diffuse itself even to you.” He intended, therefore, in my opinion,
to teach what would be his condition after his death, that they might rest
satisfied with his spiritual presence, and might not think that it would
be any loss to them that he no longer dwelt with them as a mortal man.
19. Jesus, therefore, knew that they wished to ask him. Though
sometimes the Lord appears to speak to the deaf, he, at length, cures the
ignorance of his disciples, that his instruction may not be useless. Our
duty is to endeavor that our slowness of apprehension may not be accompanied
by either pride or indolence, but that, on the contrary, we show ourselves
to be humble and desirous to learn.
20. You will weep and lament. He shows for what reason he foretold
that his departure was at hand, and, at the same time, added a promise
about his speedy return. It was, that they might understand better that
the aid of the Spirit was highly necessary. “A hard and severe temptation,”
says he, “awaits you; for, when I shall be removed from you by death, the
world will proclaim its triumphs over you. You will feel the deepest anguish.
The world will pronounce itself to be happy, and you to be miserable. I
have resolved, therefore, to furnish you with the necessary arms for this
warfare.” He describes the interval that elapsed between his death and
the day when the Holy Spirit was sent; for at that time their faith, so
to speak, lay prostrate and exhausted.
Your sorrow will be turned into joy. He means the joy which they
felt after having received the Spirit; not that they were afterwards free
from all sorrow, but that all the sorrow which they would endure was, swallowed
up by spiritual joy. We know that the apostles: so long as they lived,
sustained a severe warfare, that they endured base reproaches, that they
had many reasons for weeping and lamenting; but, renewed by the Spirit,
they had laid aside their former consciousness of weakness, so that, with
lofty heroism, they nobly trampled under foot all the evils that they endured.
Here then is a comparison between their present weakness and the power
of the Spirit, which would soon be given to them; for, though they were
nearly overwhelmed for a time, yet afterwards they not only fought bravely,
but obtained a glorious triumph in the midst of their struggles. Yet it
ought also to be observed, that he points out not only the interval that
elapsed between the resurrection of Christ and the death of the apostles,
but also the period which followed afterwards; as if Christ had said, “You
will lie prostrate, as it were, for a short time; but when the Holy Spirit
shall have raised you up again, then will begin a new joy, which will continue
to increase, until, having been received into the heavenly glory, you shall
have perfect joy.”
21. A woman, when she is in labor, hath sorrow, because her hour
is come; but when she hath brought forth a child, she remembereth no more
her anguish, on account of the joy that a man is born into the world. 22.
And you therefore have sorrow now; but I will see you again, and your heart
will rejoice, and your joy no man shall take from you.
21. A woman, when she is in labor. He employs a comparison to
confirm the statement which he had just now made, or rather, he expresses
his meaning more clearly, that not only will their sorrow be turned into
joy, but also that it contains in itself the ground and occasion of joy.
It frequently happens that, when adversity has been followed by prosperity,
men forget their former grief, and give themselves up unreservedly to joy,
and yet the grief which came before it is not the cause of the joy. But
Christ means that the sorrow which they shall endure for the sake of the
Gospel will be profitable. Indeed, the result of all griefs cannot be otherwise
than unfavorable, unless when they are blessed in Christ. But as the cross
of Christ always contains in itself the victory, Christ justly compares
the grief arising from it to the sorrow of a woman in labor, which receives
its reward when the mother is cheered by the birth of the child. The comparison
would not apply, if sorrow did not produce joy in the members of Christ,
when they become partakers of his sufferings, just as the labor in the,
woman is the cause of the birth. The comparison must also be applied in
this respect, that though the sorrow of the woman is very severe, it quickly
passes away. It was no small solace to the apostles, therefore, when they
learned that their sorrow would not be of long duration.
We ought now to appropriate the use of this doctrine to ourselves. Having
been regenerated by the Spirit of Christ, we ought to feel in ourselves
such a joy as would remove every feeling of our distresses. We ought, I
say, to resemble women in labor, on whom the mere sight of the child born
produces such an impression, that their pain gives them pain no longer.
But as we have received nothing more than the first-fruits, and these in
very small measure, we scarcely taste a few drops of that spiritual gladness,
to soothe our grief and alleviate its bitterness. And yet that small portion
clearly shows that they who contemplate Christ by faith are so far from
being at any time overwhelmed by grief, that, amidst their heaviest sufferings,
they rejoice with exceeding great joy.
But since it is an obligation laid
on all creatures to labor till the last day of redemption, (Romans
let us know that we too must groan, until, having been delivered from
the incessant afflictions of the present life, we obtain a full view of
the fruit of our faith. To sum up the whole in a few words, believers are
like women in labor, because, having been born again in Christ, they have
not yet entered into the heavenly kingdom of God and a blessed life; and
they are like pregnant women who are in childbirth, because, being still
held captive in the prison of the flesh, they long for that blessed state
which lies hidden under hope.
22. Your joy no man shall take from you. The value of the joy
is greatly enhanced by its perpetuity; for it follows that the afflictions
are light, and ought to be patiently endured, because they are of short
duration. By these words Christ reminds us what is the nature of true joy.
The world must unavoidably be soon deprived of its joys, which it seeks
only in fading things; and, therefore, we must come to the resurrection
of Christ, in which there is eternal solidity.
But I will see you again. When he says that he will see his disciples,
he means that he will visit them again by the grace of his Spirit, that
they may continually enjoy his presence.