Then it was amazing to hear his extraordinary teaching, his gracious words, his knowledge, his understanding; to see him performing miracles, cleansing lepers, making the lame walk, giving sight to the blind, even raising the dead; and thus, imperceptibly, they had become entirely dependent upon him. I suppose the temptation in such a situation was that they would not stop to think, they just relied utterly upon him; and then, suddenly, he announced that he was going away, and at once they were filled with a sense of alarm and concern. Did that mean that they would have to go back to where they were before? Did it mean a reversion to their hopeless kind of life? “How can we do without him?” they thought. “If he is going, then we are finished, we are undone.” And our Lord recognized that they were thinking all this.

Or it may have been that they had recognized in him, rather vaguely and dimly, yet surely, the Messiah who was expected. They had their Jewish notions as to what the Messiah was to be and about the kingdom he was to establish, and it was largely political. They had been troubled because he had not set himself up as king; some had tried to force him to do so. They had decided to wait upon him, feeling that at some point not far removed he would declare himself. He would set himself up as king, make a great attack upon the Romans, and so rid them of the Roman tyranny and set up a wonderful kingdom. But here he was, announcing that he was going away! He had done nothing about bringing in the kingdom. So they were unhappy and had a feeling that they had been misled and somewhat deluded; he was not what they thought he was going to be.

Well, they no doubt had many such thoughts, but the important thing is that our Lord sensed all this in them. He saw that they had become disturbed and unhappy and that, above all, their trouble was in their hearts. Their hearts were “troubled,” and so, in a very characteristic manner, he dealt with their troubles and administered to them this glorious word of consolation.

There is one other preliminary remark that I must make at this point: it is vital that we remember at what time in his life our Lord did this. It was on the very eve of the cross. He knew what was coming; he had been earlier on the Mount of Transfiguration, and there Moses and Elijah had spoken to him concerning “his decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem” (Luke 9:31). He knew what was going to be involved on the cross; he knew he was being made sin for mankind. He knew that when God would lay on him the sins of us all, it would mean a terrible moment of separation from the face of God. He knew all that, and as he said later on in the garden of Gethsemane, his soul was “exceeding sorrowful” (Matthew 26:38); nevertheless he turned aside to comfort these unhappy followers of his. He was more concerned about their unhappiness than his own immediate problem, and thus we have this wonderful view that on the very eve of the cross, our Lord gave himself freely in comfort and consolation to others.

How typical and characteristic of him! He did the same thing on the cross itself, you remember, even after they had driven the cruel nails into his hands and his feet. There, dying on the cross, he had time to speak to that thief dying by his side. Bearing in his own body the sins of the world, he had sufficient compassion and love and sympathy and understanding to turn to the wretched man who was there being crucified with him.

Now I emphasize all this at the beginning because whatever else we may or may not learn as we consider this passage, let us realize that the one about whom we are speaking, the one about whom we are concerned, is one like that. That is Jesus, the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ whom we preach. He is the center of this New Testament message and gospel. He is the one who, though he is the Son of God himself, is ready and willing and able to meet us exactly where we are. He even takes the trouble to read our minds and thoughts in order to answer our questions before we ever ask them, and he gives us consolation before we even give expression to our need and unhappiness.