This text is used for the Lectionary Year C on May 22, 2016.
In the final section of his Farewell Discourse to the disciples, Jesus focuses further on the role of the Holy Spirit (literally, the Paraclete). Most of what is said in this section repeats themes that have already appeared: the gift of the Spirit to the disciples (church), the Spirit’s relation to Jesus, the Spirit being the continuing presence of Jesus, the Spirit of truth reminding the disciples of all Jesus had taught. Now we hear these themes again, but with nuances that take us deeper into their meaning.
What might Jesus mean by the phrase “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now”? We understand that Jesus can’t teach them everything he would like because his own time in the flesh is limited, but this saying puts the emphasis on the condition of learning that disciples are yet unprepared for. To bear means to carry, as in a load or weight. Metaphorically, it is tied to suffering. The disciples were not in a position to understand what Jesus might say to them about some things, since they had not yet experienced the suffering that would be coming for them. Suffering is a teacher. It opens one up to learning that could not be gained without it. The disciples still harbored hopes of Jesus’ messianic success that comported with their vision of the reign of God. In that vision, they would join in the prosperity of Jesus’ victory over the powers of the world. Only after suffering the loss of such dreams as a result of Jesus’ death, their own rejection by religious authorities, and persecution by pagan powers would they be in position to receive what Jesus wanted them to know.