I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. - John 15:12
We've been hearing John's "Farewell Discourse" over the past number of Sundays. It is the final teaching and farewell that Jesus gave to his disciples before being taken by the authorities to be crucified. In it, he reminds them to love one another and to trust that he will be in them, and that they will be in them, just has he is in God and God is in him.. The discourse is rather long and theologically complicated, and in the end, Jesus has to stop filling their heads with so many challenging concepts and thoughts. He concludes by telling them that he still has many things left to tell them, but knows that they cannot bear them now.
I remember back in September of 2001 after the World Trade Center was attacked, there was a whole lot of public discussion about how to share this shocking news with our children. We were all concerned about how much to share with kids so as to be honest without scaring them too much. Similar conversations have happened after each school shooting. Big, shocking news that will change everything is sometimes tough to digest, especially all at once. We can only take little bites at a time to absorb it.
This is true in many ways. When you are trying to learn a complicated piece on the violin, you can't simply learn to play it all at once - you have to do it in small sections over time. When you want to pick up a new sport, you know you won't be a pro the first day - you have to work at it over time to improve. When you get a 2 pound box of chocolates, no matter how delicious they are, you can only eat a few at a time. When you suffer a tragic loss - the reality of it takes a while to sink in, and acceptance comes only in layers over time. It takes time to absorb big, difficult or complicated things. digesting it a few bites at a time.
Jesus knew that he could not make the disciples understand the importance of the events of Holy Week in advance. And not only that, he knew that they would only begin to grasp their meaning little by little over time well after he was gone. So he told them to love one another and to remember they were safe with God. But this doesn't mean that Jesus left his disciples hanging with unfinished teaching. He knew that the Holy Spirit would take up where he left off.
On Pentecost we hear about the arrival of the Holy Spirit, that aspect of God that lives and moves and haves her being right here among us on earth. The Holy Spirit guides us, teaches us, showa us what we need to know, little by little, as we can absorb it. It is said that "when a student is ready the teacher appears." Well, in the Christian tradition, we see that as the Spirit at work. Jesus did not leave us alone or defenseless. The Spirit, our constant and present advocate and guide, is never further away than our own breath.