The traitor had departed; the foul act was being perpetrated. It was night, not only in the streets of Jerusalem, but also in the soul of Iscariot. He would clutch the blood-stained coins to his breast, only hours later, in horror, to hurl them at the feet of his paymasters.
In the quiet solemnity of the upper room the disciples had heard the Lord say, "Whither I go, ye cannot come" (13.33). They, who had followed Him, could not do so through what lay ahead. He was going, and even the outburst of Peter, "Lord, why cannot I follow thee now? I will lay down my life for thy sake" (13.37), did not meet His approval. He was the centre of their lives. In the years since they had met Him He had become everything to them, and now He was leaving them. Agitation gripped them; fear overshadowed them. But, in the midst of their despair came His assurance, "Let not your hearts be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me" (14.1). They may not follow Him now, but they would do so one day when He would receive them into His Father's house, into the joy of heaven.
Through the confusion that filled them came His words, "If it were not so, I would have told you". These, surely, were words of compassion. They had come to know Him over the years. They had seen Him control wind and seas to bring them peace, and had witnessed disease retreat at His command. His compassion shone out as He taught, then fed, thousands. Yes, they knew Him; how they knew Him. And that compassion was still in evidence as, facing the cross, He felt for them and spoke to calm the turmoil raging in their hearts. There was no need to fear. They knew that if it were not so He would have told them.
Yet these were also words to give them confidence. They had come to know that His words were reliable. They had heard His call to leave all to follow Him, and over the years He had never disappointed them. They had seen more than they could ever have anticipated. They had heard Him say, "Said I not unto thee, that, if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (11.40), and then call Lazarus from the tomb. He had sent them forth to preach and told them to take no money or provisions, and all their need had been met. Yes, experience had taught them to have confidence in His words. He was not the purveyor of false hopes. His was not the message of an empty dreamer. Neither Peter nor the other ten present with Him in that room had been deceived by "cunningly devised fables" (2 Pet 1.16). He had said that they would follow Him afterwards, and they knew that if it were not so, He would have told them.
But His words were also designed to give them courage. Between His going and His coming for them they had to go into all the world with the purpose of preaching the gospel. The task was immense, the field was the world, and yet they were only a few. But He had given them a promise of His coming back again that would sustain them in the struggle, a bright beckoning light in the darkest of circumstances. Despite all that would take place as they left the upper room, He would still be in control. In the storms of service, when facing prison bars or enduring the lashes of the whip, when loneliness pressed in and hope was almost gone, they would remember that He was coming again. When they compared what He had gone through during that dark night of betrayal to what they had to bear, it would give them courage. One day it would all be seen to be worth while. They knew that if it were not so, He would have told them.
In the circumstances through which His servants pass, we also must listen to His words. They show His compassion, and they give us confidence and courage. When the Adversary seeks to invade our souls with the virus of doubt and despair, when there seems to be little light on the horizon, let us hear Him again give His promise which calms our hearts and stills our souls. We need nothing more than His word. All that He has promised will come to pass, for He said, "If it were not so, I would have told you".