In John 13:33, the Son of God uttered some interesting words:
Greek: Τεκνία, ἔτι μικρὸν μεθ' ὑμῶν εἰμί· ζητήσετέ με, καὶ καθὼς εἶπον τοῖς Ἰουδαίοις ὅτι Ὅπου ἐγὼ ὑπάγω ὑμεῖς οὐ δύνασθε ἐλθεῖν, καὶ ὑμῖν λέγω ἄρτι.
ESV: Little children, yet a little while I am with you. You will seek me, and just as I said to the Jews, so now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going you cannot come.’
I now post comments pertaining to this fateful verse:
J. Ramsey Michaels (NICNT):
Only here in the entire Gospel does he address them as “Children,”⁴⁷ that is, as actual small children, not simply offspring. This is perhaps a corollary of their characterization earlier as “his own” (v. 2), whom he loved. The affectionate address softens the bad news, that “yet a short time I am with you,” that “You will seek me,” and that “Where I am going you cannot come.”
Craig Keener (The Gospel of John, Baker Academic):
Jesus addresses his disciples as “children” in 13:33 (cf. παιδία in 21:5), which figures in the Jesus tradition as well as being a standard title for disciples in John’s circle (1 John 2:1, 12, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21; παιδία in 2:14, 18). This title should not be thought to betray a confusion between the roles of Father and Son; apart from its application to Jesus, one would not even need to assume divine implications in Jesus being their implied “father” here. Fictive kinship terminology based on active rather than genetic relationship was common (e.g., Phaedrus 3.15.18), and “father” was a title of great respect. Ancients employed such fictive kinship terminology in an honorary manner, sometimes in direct address (e.g., 2 Kgs 5:13; 13:14; Diodorus Siculus 21.12.5); for example, they employed titles such as “father of the Jews” (2 Macc 14:37), “fathers of the world” for the first-century schools of Hillel and Shammai (Gen. Rab. 12:14), “father of his country” or of the state for the emperor, “fathers” for Roman senators, for triumphant generals, for other societal leaders or benefactors, for rescuers in battle (Polybius 6.39.6–7), and for older mentors. “Father” could apply to any respected elders; thus, for example, the honorary title “father of a synagogue.” Age by itself was grounds for respect, so from the earliest period younger persons could address older men respectfully as fathers, and older men could address younger men as sons, as could leaders their followers (e.g., Virgil Aen. 1.157). One could address even an older stranger as “father” (cf. 1 Tim 5:1–2).
After quoting numerous references, Keener concludes:
Thus Jesus’ use of the title “children” for his disciples is more the language of a teacher and mentor than of a surrogate for the Father (cf. 16:27); the author of 1 John employs the same language (1 John 2:1, 12–13, 18, 28; 3:7, 18; 4:4; 5:21; 3 John 4), and presumably elders in his community would do the same (1 John 2:13– 14; 2 John 1, 4, 13).
Compare the NWT 2013 study notes for John 13:33.
Robert H. Mounce writes:
As noted, the expression “my [little] children” reveals a special tenderness, and if the experience in the upper room is taken as a Passover meal, this designation would be especially suitable, since on that occasion parents explained to their children the meaning of the Hebrews’ deliverance from Egypt (Ex 12:26–27; 13:8).
Mounce, Robert H. John (The Expositor's Bible Commentary) (Kindle Locations 6851-6854). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.