The scene is the Last Supper and Jesus’s final conversations with his disciples. He wants to share many things about himself with them, though in fact they are too distracted to understand what he is saying.
Thus Jesus wishes to let his friends know that, although he will soon be leaving them, and even though this departure will bring them grief, he will not leave them orphans; he will come back to them, but in a different way. He will send them someone who will be their Advocate, their Counsellor, and who will continue doing what Jesus wanted to bring about in them.
These words of Jesus make no sense to the disciples. Their hearts are weighted down with sorrow on his imminent departure, and confused by what he has said about there being a traitor in their midst. They are disturbed and can think of nothing else.
Jesus uses the metaphor of childbirth. A woman in labour and about to deliver is wracked with tension and pain. But once her child is born, she is full of joy. So too the disciples. They are confused and full of grief now, but once the resurrection takes place, once they receive the fullness of the Spirit, there will only be joy and enlightenment, courage and peace of mind. These “birthpangs of the Messiah”, as the Prophet Isaiah described them, are necessary, but only temporary. When the Spirit comes, “you will be joyful” says Jesus, “and that joy no one will ever take away from you.”