Jesus never answered what He meant by ‘a little while’1,2. Instead, He emphasized to the Apostles that their sorrow about His departure would be minimal relative to the joy they would experience with His return2,3. Jesus knew that His departure was quite literally in “a little while”. His death was just hours away and His ascension would be just days away.
However, He didn’t know when He would return4…and yet He still said this would also be in “a little while”. Was Jesus speaking out of turn or just assuming? Of course not! So, how do we reconcile Jesus’ use of “a little while” as a literal time marker of hours/days, and then immediately using the same expression to quantify the timing of something He had no knowledge about?
First, we can recognize and include this as yet another example of expressing God’s time in relation to man’s. The link demonstrates that expressions like “a little while” are consistently used in Scripture to express time in a way that respects God’s dimension of timelessness while fulfilling our hyper-dependency on it. But second, and more importantly, we should pay heed to His answer. He wanted His disciples to be focused on their own faithfulness until His return…whenever that might be. He wanted them to be urgently and diligently seeking to complete their “joy”3 – just as John would later write about to his readers5.
Jesus’ return in “a little while” will be unmistakable! Are you ready? Have you been baptized into the joy of salvation??