When Jesus meets with the disciples before the crucifixion, John’s gospel has him deliver what is often called “the long discourse.” It isn’t just long. It’s long. Several chapters long. John includes many important teachings here as the final words of Jesus to his friends before his death.
So, why does he say somewhere near the middle of it, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now”? (John 16) He does indeed say many, many more things before the end of the discourse. What, then, are the things he doesn’t say, the things they cannot bear?
I suspect that they are similar to the things none of us can bear; the things we don’t want to hear or cannot hear even when they are said to us directly.
They (and we) cannot bear to hear that death and severe loss may be imminent.
They and we cannot bear to hear that we will fail at faithfulness.
They and we cannot bear to hear that we will somehow continue, after our losses and failures, to struggle on. To try again. To keep on living.
They and we cannot bear to hear that our lives will be changed deeply, over and over again, as long as we have breath. That life ahead brings terrible events that will darken the skies of our faith, and even our very existence. That even so, there will still be light—somewhere, though we may take a long time to see it, to experience hope.
This is exactly why none of us is given the “gift” of future vision. We sometimes wish we could see what is coming, so we might prepare, avoid, live differently. Instead, we only are able to see what is right here, right now.
Because if we knew everything that is coming, we could not bear it. Instead, we hope to receive grace enough to take things as they come, to survive another day, to live with faith and love, to share our lives with others.