The Lord wasn’t talking about seeing them again after He rose from the dead (16:16). You’ll notice He said He’d see them again “because I go to the Father.” He was talking about seeing them again in the Spirit (John 14:16-19). When the Spirit healed the sick it was the Lord healing the sick. They could see His power in the Spirit.
You can’t see the Lord’s power in the Spirit’s power to work miracles today, however, for He isn’t working any. If you want to see the Lord’s power today, you have to see it in His Body, not in His Spirit. When you forgive someone who sins against you, that’s the Lord forgiving them. If you think the Lord’s power was demonstrated more powerfully in the healings He did, you’ve probably never been greatly wronged and somehow had to summon up the power to forgive.
Saying that He had to go away led to quite a discussion among the 11 (16:17,18). If this sounds familiar, it is what we do every Sunday and Thursday—discuss things that the Lord said that we don’t understand! This is why the Lord didn’t make the Bible easier to understand. He likes it when we talk about His Word!
This isn’t the first time He said He’d have to leave in “a little while” (7:33; 12:35; 13:33), so why are they acting like it is the first time they’ve heard it? Well, as any teacher will tell you, you sometimes have to teach something often before people get it!
It seems they struggled mostly with the “little while” part (John 16:18). When it comes to believing things you don’t like hearing, it is easy to believe it, but believe it is far off (Ezek.12:27). Maybe you believe you’ll have to stand before the Lord and be judged (IICor.5:10), but it may not be as far off as you think! So remember, it is in this context that Paul tells us to live for the Lord (v.15).
The disciples close Verse 18 by saying that even after a discussion they still couldn’t figure out what the Lord meant. When I don’t understand the Word as I prepare a message, I discuss it with commentaries and with Dave Stewart. If that doesn’t work, I pray the prayer of Psalm 119:18. That’s another reason why the Bible is not easy, God wants us talking to Him about it!
So you’d think once the 11 decided they didn’t understand what the Lord meant that they’d ask Him! I mean, He was standing right there! But before you wonder what was wrong with them, do you always ask the Lord to help you understand His Word?
So why were they afraid to ask about His future if they weren’t afraid to ask about the future of the temple (Mt.24:1-3)? People like to study prophecy because it doesn’t demand anything of them, but the Lord’s leaving would mean they’d have to learn to live without Him.
Did you notice the Lord answered before they asked (John 16:19)? That’s because this is a picture of the kingdom (Isaiah 65:24-25) when the Lord will be available to answer any and all questions and prayers.
The apostles wept when He died (John 16:20 cf. Luke 24:17) but the religious world rejoiced. But the Lord promised that their sorrow would be “turned into joy” when they saw Him in the Spirit, and it was (Acts 2;46).
Notice He didn’t say their sorrow would be replaced by joy, He promised it would be “turned into” joy (John 16:20). When your pet goldfish dies you sorrow, but you can replace your sorrow with joy if you get another one. But if your pet caterpillar dies by spinning into a cocoon, your sorrow is turned into joy when the butterfly appears! Or, as the Lord put it, a woman in labor sorrows but the sorrow caused by the baby inside her is turned into joy when it is born (John 16:21).
This joy could not be taken from them (v.22) because it was the joy that comes in knowing that the Spirit rested on them (I Peter 4:14) and that they could not lose their salvation.