The Loneliness of Jesus
A glimpse of our Lord's life
Almost the first concern evinced by our Lord on entering upon His public ministry was for companionship. He gathered round Him selected companions, "that they might be with Him" (Mark 3. 14). His choice was made mainly from the working classes, men of action, men who toiled for a living with their hands, men who had no resources apart from what they could earn, men who had looked life in the face and knew its hardest facts.
He had little interest in rich men as such, nor in the complexities that riches bring. He desired simplicity, "plain living and high thinking" but above all, He sought fellowship, for His life was lonely. Human relationships had been discarded; "My brother, my sister and my mother," said He, "are they who shall do the will of My Father in Heaven" (Mark 3. 35). Apart from such, He had no intimates in life. How lonely is a life without a soul with whom one may converse in loving intimacy; such human loneliness was Jesus' lot. Did He find fellowship in those He called about Him; did they fill His need, understand Him, and sympathize? Were they not, on the contrary, self-centred, self-occupied and self-concerned?
Hear them as the storm raged about them on the Lake of Galilee: "Do you not care if we perish?" Listen to Peter, as with astonishing self-complacency he remarked: "Lo, we have left everything and followed you. What then shall we have?" (Matt. 19. 27). Was there ever such a speech made to One who had left the glory of Heaven for the sake of sinful men? Towards the end of His ministry, after more than three years of fellowship, precept and holy example, what must He have felt as He came upon them quarrelling among themselves who should be the greatest?. No, He had no 'brother, sister or mother' fellowship; to the last he walked a lonely path. How often we read: "He was alone upon the land" (Mark 6. 47); "Jesus was left alone" (John 8. 9); "Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself" (John 6. 15). Not that the disciples meant to withhold from their Lord the fellowship He so much desired. Indeed when many went back and walked no more with him, the twelve refused to go away, and He gladly recognised this. "You are those who have continued with me in my trials" He said. They continued with Him, but, oh, how self-occupied even in that companionship!
At length they set off on that last sad journey to Jerusalem. The end was in His view, though not in theirs. Must He face this alone? Tenderly He opened the subject to them as they went together.
Surely this would draw out their loving sympathy, so He told them what was about to happen, that He must "suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised." (Matt. 16. 21 RSV), but He was met by a rebuke; they refused to believe the news. It was so utterly opposed to all their hopes. Was such a calamity to end their cherished visions of a glorious Messianic reign in which they were to share? Impossible; it would not be! So our Lord was left alone to His thoughts and sorrows, and they walked with Him wholly out of fellowship with what so moved His heart.
With infinite patience later on He tried again (Matt. 17. 22-23). He unfolded the coming betrayal and the dreadful killing, and then the rising again. They listened in silence, and deep depression fell upon them all; "and they were greatly distressed" sorry that, after all, the calamity must come, that it must be accepted as inevitable, that their prospects were an illusion, and hope was gone. They did not understand; they were so taken up with themselves that they did not enter into what it meant to Him.
Again a third time (Matt. 20. 17), Jesus took them apart in the way and told it all again, adding this time the mocking and scourging, as though appealing to their hearts for sympathy. Did they extend it to him? They had had time to think and talk together, and a new aspect of the matter dawned on them. All was not so dark; He would rise again; the Kingdom would come after all. They had not followed Him in vain, and while He dwelt on the betrayal, the mocking, the scourging and the death, their self-centred hearts were occupied with their place in the Kingdom that would follow! At such a time as this, two of them actually came forward with a request for first place. Jesus continued His path to the 'valley of shadows' alone, with no human heart to sympathize or understand or share His sorrows.
"The hour is coming, indeed it has come," said He to them on the last evening of his earthly life, "when you will be scattered every man to his home, and will leave me alone, yet I am not alone for the Father is with me" (John 16. 32). One heart fully understood and cared and sympathized with the Saviour, and one heart alone — the Father's.
When the three who were nearest to Him went with Him to the garden they failed Him even there. They could not watch one hour. He withdrew Himself; He was alone. Thus the Lord sought fellowship with His own who were in the world — is own whom He loved to the end, the uttermost; yet whose response was so meagre, and whose love so cold. Such was His experience then; what is it now?
Jesus still seeks the fellowship of his people; we who are called into the fellowship of Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1. 9). Does He receive the fellowship He seeks, or do we fail to give it to Him? Is our contact with Him after all, mainly selfish? Do we seek Him only for what we can get ourselves, pardon, protection, help, guidance? Is our need our first concern, or is our real objective that of Paul, "that I may know him and the fellowship of his sufferings"? Are we prone to forget that our Lord seeks something from us and that apart from us He is still alone in relation to men? He longs for our co-operation in His plans and purposes, even to the extent of our suffering on behalf of others, as He set us an example. Like the disciples of old, we can be so taken up with ourselves, even though, like them, we have left all to follow Him, that His thoughts and purposes and yearning desires take a minor place, and our needs and hopes fill all our thoughts, and even our prayers. We are so selfish in our spiritual outlook that even our most holy things are sometimes tinged with it. How often it is we seek our own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ's (Phil. 2. 21). The Lord looks to us often in vain for that understanding, sympathy and fellowship with Him in His world plans, in comparison with which our little personal concerns, hopes and fears are insignificant indeed.
May He forgive us, and teach us how to enter into a life of real communion with Him in the days that yet remain to us.