“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’?” So they were saying, “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” 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’? ” (John 16:16-19).
A riddle is a statement or question or phrase having a double or veiled meaning, put forth as a puzzle to be solved. Upon hearing Jesus’ statements, which the Apostle John records in today’s text, the disciples were confused. To them, Jesus was speaking in riddles or nonsense. They did not understand what Jesus meant by what He said.
One of the evidences the Bible is the Word of God is that it accurately presents biblical characters as real human beings. The Bible describes people who follow the Lord as people who sometimes lie (Genesis 12:10-20), commit adultery and murder (2 Samuel 11), become furious in their anger (Nehemiah 5:1-6) and are sometimes confused when God communicates truth to them as today’s text reveals.
One commentator writes, “Among the many evidences that the four Gospels are accurate historical records is the Gospel writers’ willingness to describe the confusion of the disciples. If the Evangelists—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—had wanted to invent history for the Christian church, they undoubtedly would have portrayed the original disciples of Jesus in the best possible light. After all, these men would be heroes of sorts to Christian believers, and if the Gospels were fictional works, it would be in the interest of the authors to paint the best picture of the disciples and their faith and understanding that they could. A failure to believe on the part of the original disciples makes them less admirable as models of faith, so the only reason to include examples of their confusion is to tell the truth about Jesus and His ministry. That we find many examples of the disciples’ being confused (for instance, Mark 6:45-52) or not believing Jesus lends credibility to the Gospels as historical records.”
Jesus was not only speaking of His death and burial but also His resurrection and ascension. Jesus was telling the disciples that they would see Him alive following His resurrection and ascension. In fact, the only people who did witness the resurrection and ascension were Jesus’ disciples and apostles (Acts 1:1-11; I Corinthians 15:1-8).
The source of the disciples’ confusion lay not in Jesus being unclear about what was about to happen to Him, but rather by the disciples’ unwillingness to believe that it would happen. Sometimes we might want to refrain from telling someone the truth in order to spare them, and us, pain in the immediate. However, whatever discomfort we avoid by failing to tell someone the truth they need to hear only delays the inevitable reality they will eventually experience.
Jesus did not shy away from telling His disciples hard truths. Neither should we.
May truth and grace reside here.
Soli deo Gloria!