When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come, but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world.
The illustration used by Jesus in John 16:21 carries a far greater weight than a simple analogy to the disciple’s loss, which will take place in a “little while.” The birthing of this “anthropos/man” is the birthing of the New World. The resurrection is the new birth.
This woman is birthing a new humanity in Jesus Christ from the darkness of the womb to the light of the world; from the darkness of the tomb to the light of the world. The great reversal occurs. Those who wept will now sing and those who mourned will now dance. The resurrection brings joy to each disciple, but it also will bring joy to the world.
Just how “thick” is this image/analogy/concept in Scripture. One finds it clearly in the Old Testament. Isaiah 26:
17 Like a pregnant woman
who writhes and cries out in her pangs
when she is near to giving birth,
so were we because of you, O Lord;
18 we were pregnant, we writhed,
but we have given birth to wind.
We have accomplished no deliverance in the earth,
and the inhabitants of the world have not fallen.
19 Your dead shall live; their bodies shall rise.
You who dwell in the dust, awake and sing for joy!
For your dew is a dew of light,
and the earth will give birth to the dead.
Jesus spelled out how resurrection produces sonship in Luke 20:
34 And Jesus said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, 35 but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and to the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage, 36 for they cannot die anymore, because they are equal to angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
And then it is all over the New Testament.
So when Nicodemus asks, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” we now know the answer. It is given in John 16 and all over the rest of the Bible. A man can be born when he is old by dying and allowing the grave to give him second birth. That’s what Jesus did for us. He was born again from the grave and he transfigured the curse of death itself into a means to the new creation.