They Forsake Him
The men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. . . . Then all the disciples deserted him and fled. (Matthew 26:50, 56)
He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. (Isaiah 53:3)
Are we in an epidemic of loneliness? Recent surveys reveal that about three in ten Americans feel lonely at least once a day. The rate is only slightly better for practicing Christians. What is going on here? Pandemic. Social media. Fractured families. People are longing for connection, understanding, and fellowship.
What about you? Loneliness can make you feel like no one understands; no one has your back.
Jesus understands loneliness. “All the disciples deserted him and fled.”
These same disciples, prompted by Peter, promised in the Upper Room, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” Once they realized that Jesus was not going to fight his arrest, that the crowds that cheered for him on Palm Sunday were not going to intervene for him, they fled. Not even the Father would intervene to stop the innocent Son of God’s suffering.
And so Jesus was alone. That aloneness pains us when we hear Jesus say on the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” We often forget the brutal suffering he endured without even a look of compassion from a friend, without even a nod of understanding from a faithful follower. The looks he saw contained anger, hatred, violence, and murder. Heartbreaking, isn’t it, friends? Because Jesus suffered for sinners. He suffered for the proud disciples who abandoned him. He suffered for proud disciples, like us, who still struggle to admit we know him or need him.
Good news. The pain of loneliness could not keep Jesus from going to the cross to suffer the pain of hell for your sins. His suffering and death is your peace with God, today and forever. Forgiven child of God, this Lenten season, take some time to be alone with your Savior in prayer. Confess your foolish pride. Confess your longing for fellowship with him. Rejoice in his eternal presence in Word and sacrament. Then go out and gather with a body of believers, family, friends, even fellow Christians you hardly know. Praise your Savior together. Treat them as your dearest friends in Christ.
Lord Jesus, you were willing to be deserted, to be brutally mistreated, and to die on the cross. Keep us always faithful to you, that we may receive forgiveness and eternal life. Amen.
Rev. Dr. John Boeder serves Martin Luther College as campus pastor and professor of theology.