Summary: Jesus comforts his disciples with the promise that they will overcome sorrow and persecution and by teaching that they are loved and accepted by the Father.
Jesus prepares his disciples for the crucifixion and persecution, and promises to send the Spirit who will teach and testify about what he has said:
A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. 17Then said some of his disciples among themselves, What is this that he saith unto us, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me: and, Because I go to the Father? 18They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.
They expected him to overthrow Rome and bring back the rule of David, so it doesn’t add up when he says they won’t see him. Is he leaving? What about his mission? What about the prophecies? How can he go to the Father? It just doesn’t make sense, so they wonder aloud to each other without making it known to him.
19Now Jesus knew that they were desirous to ask him, and said unto them, Do ye enquire among yourselves of that I said, A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me? 20Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy. 21A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. 22And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you.
Jesus knows what they’re thinking, so he gives them an answer without being asked. Keep that in mind because its significance comes up in verse 30. What he means is that he’s leaving the earth in a way that will make them mourn, and there will be a brief period in which they won’t be able to see him and they’ll think he is dead and gone.
However, a little while later (the Greek word is Μικρὸν, mikron) they’ll see him again and rejoice. Of course, we know now that he’s talking about the crucifixion and resurrection, and we’ve read about their reactions when they realized what was going on. The illustration he gives is that of a woman in childbirth. She groans from the suffering of delivery, but as soon as the baby is born she rejoices and forgets the pain. They too will have their share of sorrow, but it will turn into a joy that no man can take away.
We see this in action later when Peter and some others were flogged for preaching in his name, and they went away rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for him (Acts 5:41). No matter what anyone did to them after that point, the disciples were only more pleased and more emboldened to share in his sufferings at the hands of the world.
23And in that day ye shall ask me nothing. Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, he will give it you. 24Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.