Loving Father, may I have the power to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge (Ephesians 3:18-19).
His disciples said, “Yes, now you are speaking plainly, not in any figure of speech! Now we know that you know all things, and do not need to have anyone question you; by this we believe that you came from God.” Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? The hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each one to his home, and you will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world!”
In her novel Middlemarch George Eliot wonders, “What loneliness is more lonely than distrust?” Is that the loneliness Jesus feels on this Maundy Thursday, knowing that He cannot trust even His closest friends? Jesus has talked for most of the night without one word about the terrifying agony into which He will be baptized before dawn. Everything Jesus has said has been with the intent that His disciples “may have peace.” He does not want them to be troubled or afraid of what the days ahead will bring.
But now, for just a moment, Jesus acknowledges that the disciples, His closest friends, will abandon Him. They will go their own way and leave Him alone to face the world’s darkest hour. Remember Jesus’ plea for human companionship in Gethsemane: “Remain here, and stay awake with me” (Matthew 26:38b). But three times He returns to them and finds them sleeping. Alexander Maclaren declares Jesus “the loneliest man” that ever lived:
“He knew the pain of unappreciated aims, unaccepted love, unbelieved teachings a heart thrown back upon itself. No man understood Him, no man knew Him, no man deeply and thoroughly loved Him or sympathized with Him, and He dwelt apart… A heart fully charged with love is wounded sore when the love is thrown back. (Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture: John)
The old African American spiritual talks about how nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen, nobody knows but Jesus. Jesus knows the loneliness of betrayal, of denial, of no one to trust. The loneliest man who ever lived has walked the path we sometimes walk.
There is likely sadness in Jesus’ voice as He says, “You will leave me alone.” Perhaps He pauses a moment, and then completes His thought: “Yet I am not alone because the Father is with me.” How many times in Jesus’ life He must have said: “The Father is with me…The Father is with me…”! In the Upper Room Jesus knows that everyone will leave Him, but Abba will stick with Him!
Jesus suffered unimaginable loneliness so He might be a compassionate companion to anyone who is lonely. He understands. The same Jesus who says, “You will leave me alone”, also says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).
I myself have known times of great loneliness, only to discover that Jesus was with me. Jesus can transform our loneliness into solitude as we experience the richness of aloneness with Him. If it seems you don’t have a friend in the world, look to Jesus who has promised never to leave you.
- Am I feeling lonely? If so, why?
- What might Jesus want to say to me when I am lonely?
O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know Thee more clearly, love Thee more dearly, and follow Thee more nearly, day by day.
Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)