John 16:18
They said therefore, What is this that he said, A little while? we cannot tell what he said.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
16:16-22 It is good to consider how near our seasons of grace are to an end, that we may be quickened to improve them. But the sorrows of the disciples would soon be turned into joy; as those of a mother, at the sight of her infant. The Holy Spirit would be their Comforter, and neither men nor devils, neither sufferings in life nor in death, would ever deprive them of their joy. Believers have joy or sorrow, according to their sight of Christ, and the tokens of his presence. Sorrow is coming on the ungodly, which nothing can lessen; the believer is an heir to joy which no one can take away. Where now is the joy of the murderers of our Lord, and the sorrow of his friends?A little while - His death would occur in a short time. It took place the next day. See John 14:19.

Ye shall not see me - That is, he would be concealed from their view in the tomb.

And again a little while - After three days he would rise again and appear to their view.

Because I go ... - Because it is a part of the plan that I should ascend to God, it is necessary that I should rise from the grave, and then you will see me, and have evidence that I am still your Friend. Compare John 7:33. Here are three important events foretold for the consolation of the disciples; yet they were stated in such a manner that, in their circumstances and with their prejudices, it appeared difficult to understand him.

16-22. 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—The joy of the world at their not seeing Him seems to show that His removal from them by death was what He meant; and in that case, their joy at again seeing Him points to their transport at His reappearance amongst them on His Resurrection, when they could no longer doubt His identity. At the same time the sorrow of the widowed Church in the absence of her Lord in the heavens, and her transport at His personal return, are certainly here expressed. Still they do not understand what he meant. Who shall hereafter arrogate to man’s reason or understanding a power to comprehend spiritual mysteries? Had not the disciples reasonable souls? Will any say they had no mind to understand them? Certainly none can say so. Some lay the fault of the disciples not understanding these things upon the obscurity of our Saviour’s phrase, and his parabolical expression of them, others, in their ignorance of our Saviour’s resurrection from the dead; others, in their not understanding the circumstance of time: but certainly it is best imputed to the disciples inability to conceive of these things, and the prejudices of their national error concerning the temporal kingdom of the Messias. Let it lie where it will, the weakness of the disciples may be reasonably conceived not to be greater than is incident to the best of men; and if they were so dull of hearing and understanding, we may reasonably conceive that we are not free from the like impotency and infirmity. They said therefore,.... One, and all of them; the inquiry became universal;

what is this that he saith, a little while? it seems as if this phrase was the most intricate and perplexing to them; for whatever conceptions they might have of not seeing, and seeing him again, as expressive of his going from them, and returning to them, yet had no notion at all what he should mean by "a little while": and therefore add,

we cannot tell what he saith: they knew his words, but not his meaning.

They said therefore, What is this that he saith, A little while? we cannot tell what he saith.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
18. we cannot tell what he saith] More literally, we know not what He speaketh.John 16:18. Ἐλεγον, they were saying) Severally and individually. Inasmuch as they were perplexed when speaking among themselves, John 16:17, they were doubtful when thinking on it separately and apart.—τοῦτο, this) The pronoun in this passage is strongly demonstrative, as if they were to say, this in particular: there is nothing that we have less understood this long time, than this. We truly after the event readily understand: but not so they at that time.—οὐκ ὄιδαμεν, we know not) They lay aside all hope and the attempt to interpret His words.Verse 18. - They said, What is this little while whereof he speaketh? (λέγει; Vulgate, dicit). (The R.T. and Westcott and Hort invert the τοῦτο and τί, and thus greatly increase the simplicity of the passage.) What are these two short periods of which he speaks, so full of mysterious significance? We know not what he saith (λαλεῖ; Vulgate, loquitur). We do not apprehend the wonderful interchange of vision and blank darkness - of presence and absence and presence again! He saith (λαλεῖ)

Emphasizing the purport of the saying.

A little while (τὸ μικρόν)

In John 16:16, John 16:17, without the article. Here the article the or this little while defines the special point of their difficulty; this "little while" of which He speaks.

We cannot tell (οὐκ οἴδαμεν)

Rev., more simply and literally, we know not.

He saith (λαλεῖ)

Emphasizing the form of the saying.

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