‘A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me.’ Then some of his disciples said to one another, ‘What does he mean by saying to us, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”; and “Because I am going to the Father”?’ They said, ‘What does he mean by this “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, ‘Are you discussing among yourselves what I meant when I said, “A little while, and you will no longer see me, and again a little while, and you will see me”? Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.
“A little while” was mentioned seven times in this passage, during a discourse that took place after Jesus has washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. In the Bible, the number seven signifies perfection. Bearing in mind that the Gospel of John tends to convey deep truths through rich symbolism, what is John’s message to us in this passage?
The phrase “a little while” is translated from mikron in Greek. When used in a chronological sense, mikron means a short time, which certainly convey the literal meaning of text. However, mikron can also mean the littleness of something. Taken in this sense, what is the greater reality that awaits the disciples that dwarfs even the dying and rising of Christ that was to come? What is the greater reality that awaits you and I, one that is greater than even the dying and rising of Christ?
The physical reality of the Jesus dying and rising, no doubt a great miracle by itself, carries no greater meaning if it remains for us an amazing miracle. As we seen again and again in the Bible, miracles by themselves do not convert hearts. The parting of the Red Sea did not stop the Israelites from fashioning and worshiping the golden calf. Likewise, supernatural miracles such those in Lanciano Italy in 750AD and Fatima Portugal on 13 Oct 1917 did not sway many people into believing. Neither did many modern day miracle cures attributed to the grace of God that science cannot explained.
In dying and rising, Christ transcended the physical limitation of life and death and of time and space. In dying and rising, Christ points us to the heavenly reality that awaits all believers. In dying and rising, Christ washes away out all our inequities so that this heavenly reality can be our reality. Beyond the physical miracle, these are the greater reality that awaits us, a reality in perfection, as indicated by the seven times the Greek phrase mikron is mentioned. Viewed in the context of the greater reality, our earthly sufferings are not our final sufferings; neither is our earthly rewards our final rewards. As the Gospel passage aptly concluded:
“You will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy.” John 16:20