Mark 15.6–47; Isaiah 53.3
It is difficult to imagine one hardship in our common life that Jesus did not suffer! Yet, I think that the most gruelling pain He endured was the all-round rejection, especially during His passion. And we do not think much of it. It is during times of trial that we most need the precious gift of friendship.
Isaiah foretold Jesus’ loneliness to the cross of Calvary,
“He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”
No one stood with Him in His agony, weighed down by our sins.
Psychologists have called loneliness today’s epidemic. Many of us quietly suffer loneliness even in church or amidst a crowd! Loneliness is no respecter of the comfort of our mansions or the plush offices we occupy or our marriages!
The first time I sorely felt loneliness was in Australia at church! I longed for friendship.
Jesus too knew loneliness. The passion of Jesus Christ poignantly speaks of His loneliness during His passion. He was friendless like we often feel.
The religious leaders never liked him. Their hatred and jealousy were intense for they wanted Him dead. On Good Friday, they worked the crowd into a frenzy to shout, “Crucify Him!” as Jesus silently watched their sham drama.
They condemned Him and then discussed how to fulfil their intentions.
From His birth the priests had a cold indifference toward Him. They scorned His ministry, despised His death on the accursed cross, and even on the day of His resurrection, they fabricated a lie to keep people from the truth. When He stood before them for trial, Jesus was in the company of enemies.
The crowds that followed Him were fair-weather friends, the kind we see in contemporary churches today. They followed as long as there were benefits to enjoy. Religious leaders feared them. They that hailed His entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday readily joined in the chorus, “Crucify him”, on Good Friday.
They loved His teaching and benefited from His Ministry but now turned up to condemn Him. As he hung on the cross it was safer for them to distance themselves from the Saviour! Where did their original zeal go? As Jesus had said of them before, “You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” He had no real friend among them!
His own disciples deserted Him, men who walked with Him for three years, who ate with Him and heard and trusted His words of life. They were brave as long as He appeared able to protect them.
Judas was the first to leave; when he got his morsel of bread, he went for his money! Jesus was worth 30 pieces of silver to him!
Peter put up a brave show in the Garden of Gethsemane, cutting off a man’s ear! He probably hoped Jesus would miraculously fight to defeat the invaders. When He didn’t, Peter kept his distance too.
John did no better. He left Jesus to face the music but turned up later using his influence in the High Priest’s family to let in Peter, as he himself mingled safely with the High Priestly officials. He never testified for Jesus. It was, “every man for himself and God for us all.”
John Mark bolted, leaving his garment in the hands of Jesus’ arresters. None of the men Jesus called ‘friends’ stayed with Him as He walked to Calvary.
Pilate, the brutal Roman Governor, had no moral authority to resist the evil schemes of the Jews. They freely blackmailed him,
“If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend.”
He ruled against every testimony, including his wife’s testimony and his conscience that told him not to condemn this innocent man. His injustice condemned an innocent man and acquitted the guilty! Jesus had no friend in Pilate.
Barabbas, the bandit, remains an enigma. His notoriety was public knowledge and he knew his guilt. He leaves us with many unanswered questions. He disappeared without trace. Where did Barabbas go? Did he consider that he could have been one of the other two bandits crucified with Jesus?
Did he eventually convert to Christ, or he went back to banditry? Ultimately we must conclude that his release was a thankless one. We believe he never became Jesus’ friend.
By far the most painful loneliness was to be forsaken by His Father. On the cross He cried,
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”
As He bore our sins, His Father withdrew His eternal fellowship from the Son, as Jesus bore God’s wrath for us. The Father forsook Him at His most vulnerable and most helpless moment. The Father’s unfriendly gesture was for our sake, for my sin and for your sin.
This was Christ’s lonely road to the cross to die for our sins. Consequently, if you give Him your sins, He gives you His life.