16:16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.”
17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “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 go to the Father’?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is saying.”
19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Most assuredly, I say to 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. 21 A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you.
What can we learn from a passage where we already know the answer to a situation that is causing the disciples so much confusion? Jesus us going to die. They won't see Him for a little while and then He will rise and they will see Him again. This sequence of events will cause them sorry followed by joy while causing joy followed by fear and panic for the world. Pretty basic even though at the time they had no idea what was about to happen.
Their blindness was caused by generations of false teaching. Generations of refining and polishing a picture of the coming Messiah that completely ignored the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world. So detailed and deeply etched was the picture that Jesus' plain words "I am going to die" had no ability to penetrate through their preconceived ideas. I believe it was for this reason that Jesus took a new approach. Rather than openly discuss His imminent death He simply built a time line. "Something bad is going to happen which you really won't like followed by something awesome that you will love just like a woman giving birth."
Sometimes we have to find new and creative ways to frame a message in a way that people can hear it without immediately throwing up a wall of resistance.
In summary there are two practical lessons to be learned from this passage. The first is to know the mind of your audience and find a way to speak to them that will create bridges of understanding instead of walls of resistance.
The second practical lesson is to be aware of your own preconceived ideas that prevent you from truly listening. We all have them. Generations of refining an expectation does not necessarily make the expectation correct. Group consensus does not necessarily make it correct either. Emotional resistance to an idea we hate is very real and we must learn to guard against.
Sometimes the very path we are resisting is the only that path that leads to the happy ending we all desire.