I'd like to speak tonight on a topic that has been on my mind for quite some time, and that is, The Loneliness of Christ. Every person at some stage in their life, will experience the feelings of loneliness, and perhaps some more than others. Loneliness threatens all people, young and old, married or single, rich or poor. And to the Christian it can be something which either debilitates us or strengthens us. And as we shall see, loneliness, and being alone did not escape our Savior. In fact, perhaps our Lord experienced loneliness as no other man has before. Throughout His life we can see instances where our Lord was alone, even while surrounded by those He loved.
He is so commonly known as the One who was "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief", and what are the next words in that verse? "...and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not." We are so familiar with this verse, but do we really grasp the depth of its meaning?
In all His sorrows and grief, the Lord Jesus was found alone. We find in the Scriptures, that His family and His disciples didn't understand or believe in Him, thus leaving Him alone to carry out His mission here on earth. His own mother and father on occasion appeared aloof as to who He really was. But the loneliness of Christ was consummated at the Cross. In the Garden of Gethsemane He had to suffer alone while His disciples chose to sleep. At His arrest, they forsook Him and fled, and then to the breaking of His soul, His Heavenly Father forsook Him as He paid the price of sin. If ever there was a time for company and help it was then, but any help was far from Him as He suffered alone.
And it is these things that I want us to briefly consider this evening.
Firstly, I want us to just look at a few verses.
18 Now when Jesus saw great multitudes about him, he gave commandment to depart unto the other side.
19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.
20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
Now these words are generally taken to refer to His extreme poverty. He who was rich became poor. And with poverty often comes dismal loneliness.
The Lord Jesus had no-where to lay His head; He who had created all things was homeless in His own world and among His own people.
We see first how well provided for are the creatures of this earth.
The foxes have holes; they have a place where they can find shelter when the hunter seeks their lives; but the Lord Jesus has no such shelter.
The birds of the air which take no care for themselves, are taken care of, and they have nests or roosting places where they can find rest and refuge. But there is no place of rest and refuge of our Savior. The Lord had no place to settle, no place of repose, no house to call His own.
In the book of Psalms we hear the voice of the Lord Jesus speak.
Psalm 102:6-7, "I am like a pelican of the wilderness; I am like an owl of the desert. I watch, and am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop."
The pelican generally is a water bird, not a bird of the wilderness; and the owl is generally a bird of the forest, or of the farm-yard, but not necessarily of the desert. You see both of these birds are out of place, they do not belong.
And neither did the Lord Jesus belong; He was of the heavens, His earthly experience was unnatural to Him. He was out of place.
But more to the point is the remainder of this verse, "...I am like a sparrow alone upon the housetop."
Firstly, He was as a sparrow, and a sparrow is something of little or no value. But more importantly, He was alone. The sparrow is a social bird, and it is not often that you see a sparrow alone. But if you do, you can see that when alone, it is a most pathetic figure. And the Lord Jesus was alone, He had no company when he needed it most. Throughout His life, and indeed His sufferings we see Him as the lone sparrow, looking for comforters, but finding none.
And secondly, we see where this lone sparrow is. It is upon the housetop. A lone sparrow, crouching upon the crest of the roofline, is exposed to all the elements, the wind, the rain and the cold. And this speaks not only of no company, but of no protection. And thus it was at the Cross, there was none to help Him, none to protect Him from the wrath and fury of God against sin. Christ was dealt with the full blow, and there was none there to soften it.
Now when someone suffers from loneliness, there are usually three groups of people from whom we should expect to find some form of help or comfort. And in regards to Christ, I want us to now briefly consider those people.
The first group of people that we can expect to find support from is our parents. It is them who brought us into this world and who nurtured and cared for us as they brought us up from childhood.
We all know of the birth of the Lord Jesus and what events took place surrounding His birth to a godly young Jewish couple, Mary and Joseph.
Mary and Joseph experienced a birth like no other, a miraculous birth that was heralded by the angels. Yet it still seems that both of them still did not quite appreciate who their Son was, or what His purpose was here on earth.
And I would like us to just look at one event that took place in His childhood which suggests this.
Now we all remember the time when Mary and Joseph lost their Son, and having turned back to look for Him, they found Him three days later teaching in the temple.
And they said to Him in Luke 2:48-50, "...Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee, sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Knew ye not that I must be about my Father's business? And they understood not the saying which he spoke unto them"
His parents did not understand.
"Knew ye not that I must be about my Father's business". This reply of the Lord Jesus is perhaps a gentle rebuke to His parents. He was perhaps saying in effect, "Could you not trust Me? Have I ever done anything that would warrant you losing faith in Me? Can you not count on me doing only that which is right?
His reply was meant to remind His mother that He was no ordinary Person, and that He had come into the world to do no ordinary work. It was a hint that His mother was insensibly forgetting that He had come into the world in no ordinary way, that He was a miracle at birth, a Child who had no human Father.
She knew that He was the Son of God, she knew that His first allegiance was to be to His Heavenly Father. Why then did she not understand?
It was He who was both God and Man in one glorious Person, yet we read in verse 50 that they understood not. It was beyond their comprehension.
The Lord Jesus was to grow up entirely different from other children, and He was to grow into early adulthood with a mission and a purpose like no other person born. He was to be ridiculed, mocked and rejected by so many people throughout all the years of his life, both in His childhood, His teens and then His adulthood. But if His parents could not entirely understand His Person or His work, who then would there be to encourage and support Him when He suffered the rejection of others? If they didn't know their own Son, how then could they comfort Him in His trials?
The second group of people that we should expect to find support from is our family, our own brothers and sisters. But even here, our Lord was found neglected.
Psalm 69:8 prophecies, "I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother's children."
We read of this in John 7:2-5, "Now the Jews' feast of tabernacles was at hand. His brethren, therefore, said unto him, Depart from here, and go into Judaea, that thy disciples also may see the works that thou doest. For there is no man that doeth anything in secret, and he himself seeketh to be know openly. If thou do these things, show thyself to the world. For neither did his brethren believe in him."
The Lord's own brethren were here questioning His Messiahship, and they urged Him, perhaps sarcastically, to come to the front and demonstrate before the multitudes in Jerusalem that He was the promised King. There seems to be a sneer in their voice as they tell Him to go into Judaea, that others might see His works. What they said was said in sarcasm, for it says that they didn't believe in Him.
It must have been very painful for the Lord to have His own brothers doubt His words and His works. Yet how often it is that people finds their bitterest opposition from those who are nearest and dearest to them.
It was bad enough that His own people, "the Jews, sought to kill Him." But it was even worse that "His brethren did not believe."
If the Lord couldn't confide in His own parents, and couldn't confide in His own family, who then could He turn to for understanding and comfort.
3. Friends or Disciples
The third group of people whom we should be able to find support from would be our friends, or in the Lord's case, His disciples.
But even His disciples seemed to fail to understand who He was, and what He had come to do.
In John 14:9 He questions Philip, "Have I been such a long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip?" And likewise with the other disciples.
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, neither had they in the ship with them more than one loaf.
15 And he charged them, saying, Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, and of the leaven of Herod.
16 And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have no bread.
17 And when Jesus knew it, he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?
18 Having eyes, see ye not? and having ears, hear ye not? and do ye not remember?
19 When I brake the five loaves among five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? They say unto him, Twelve.
20 And when the seven among four thousand, how many baskets full of fragments took ye up? And they said, Seven.
21 And he said unto them, How is it that ye do not understand?
"How is it that ye do not understand?" There seems to be a pleading on the Lord's voice here. The disciples have been with the Lord Jesus for so long, and they had seen so many of His miracles, yet they still do not understand Him, rather they seem to be filled with doubt. Indeed, like so many of us today.
But being misunderstood by His disciples is not what hurt our Lord the most.
I'd like us to draw our attention to their words in Matt. 26:35 and 56.
Verse 35 reads, "Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples."
Comforting and encouraging words, but they were only words, for their actions spoke much louder.
A few hours later the multitudes came to arrest the Lord Jesus, and in verse 56 that one sentence stands out from the page, "Then all the disciples forsook Him, and fled."
The disciples so quickly forgot their confident assertions, made only a few hours before; they forgot that they had declared their willingness to die with their Master; they forgot everything but the danger that stared them in the face. And so they "forsook Him, and fled."
It was at this time that the Lord Jesus would begin to need His friends and family the most, for ahead of Him was the height of all sorrow and pain. And the sad thing is, that that sorrow and pain was multiplied by the absence of helpers and comforters.
The sheep have been scattered, and the Shepherd is left alone, in the hands of sinful men.
But between the two events just spoken of, is the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, and what happened there is perhaps one of the most painful and sorrowful events during the last hours of the Lord's life.
It was a scene of the deepest suffering and anguish, and although the disciples were with the Lord Jesus, He had to suffer there alone.
35 Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee. Likewise also said all the disciples.
36 Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder.
37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy.
38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me.
39 And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.
40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour?
41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done.
43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy.
44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
45 Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
46 Rise, let us be going: behold, he is at hand that doth betray me.
In verse 38 the Lord Jesus made a simple request, "Tarry here; and watch with me." "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death; tarry here and watch with me."
The Lord Jesus took aside three of His disciples who seemed to share in the closer things of the Lord, such as the Transfiguration and the healing of Jairus's daughter. These three were Peter, James and John.
And it is of these three that the Lord hopes to find comfort and companionship in this darkest hour of prayer. But in the Lord's sorrow, where do we find them?
The Lord came back from His first petition, verse 40, "And he cometh unto His disciples, and findeth them asleep; and he said unto Peter, What, could you not watch with me one hour?"
Just a short period of time, in this deep torment, the Lord Jesus asks for assistance, but His disciples chose rather to sleep. To sleep while our Lord was awake in agony. Where were they when He needed them?
But we dare not condemn the disciples when we think of our own prayer lives; for we sleep better than we pray, and our minds wander when they should be watching. Perhaps we are like the disciples when we come here to worship, dozing sleepily with a wandering mind.
The Lord Jesus wakes them and tells them to watch and pray.
And so He goes away to pray the second time, "O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me except I drink it, thy will be done."
"And he came and found them asleep again; .."
They were tired, and chose to rest, rather than to watch with their Lord. They did not realize what He was going through on their behalf, and so they failed to watch with Him in the hour of His soul's distress. Remember, our Lord was as much Man as He was God, and as a Man He longed for and desired human sympathy and understanding.
But as Psalm 69:20 says, "Reproach hath broken mine heart, and I am full of heaviness; and I looked for some to take pity, but there was none; and for comforters, but I found none." His dearest disciples failed Him, thus adding to His grief. And so do we.
The Lord Jesus was to suffer this bitter anguish alone, as His disciples chose rather to sleep and rest, in the night of our Saviour's agony. The Lord Jesus knew what lay before Him, and it grieved His holy soul as he looked forward to the death and forsakenness of the Cross. But He had to face death alone, there was no-one with whom He could share His grief.
And before we go to the Cross, I want us to remember again the promise of Peter, and then his denial of the Lord Jesus.
Peter was one of the disciples that was especially close to the Lord Jesus, and perhaps one with the most zeal and passion. We have read the verse in Matt.26:35, "Peter said unto him, Though I should die with thee, yet will I not deny thee."
Peter was going to be by his Lord's side, right to the end, even if it meant death.
When the Lord Jesus was arrested, Peter was first to jump to His aid, and with rashness, he drew forth his sword and cut off the ear of the high priest's servant.
But moments later, Peter, along with the other disciples, fled the scene, and the Lord Jesus along with it.
Yet it was one thing to flee for one's safety, but quite another to deny even knowing the very one whom you professed to love, serve and protect.
The Lord Jesus knew what was coming in His servant Peter, yet it still must have been a cruel blow when it happened.
We know that Peter denied his Lord three times to different people, people who were completely insignificant, and whom he had no reason to be afraid of.
The first person was to a servant girl, the second to another young maid, and the third happened to be to a relative of the servant, whose ear he had cut off.
But it is the Lord's feelings to this to which we make our point.
Luke 22:60-62, "And Peter said, Man, I know not what thou sayest. And immediately, while he yet spoke, the cock crowed. And the Lord turned, and looked upon Peter.....And Peter went out, and wept bitterly."
"The Lord turned, and looked upon Peter."
What words can possibly be used to express our Lord's feelings at that moment? He was being accused of wrong doing and blasphemy, and being hit and spat upon by a large group of people, and mocked and criticized shamefully, and yet there was one of His disciples offering no support, but rather denying he ever knew his Lord and Master.
As a Man, perfect though He was, the Lord Jesus still had human feelings and emotion, and in this time when He needed support, His disciple Peter chose to leave Him to suffer alone. Alone in the midst of a howling crowd, screaming for His blood.
However, all this time that the Lord Jesus was alone, throughout His life, He always had His Father to lean upon. The Father was ever present in His sufferings, and in His aloneness, even here in the Garden of Gethsemane, and while He was before the crowd, the Sanhedrin, Pilate and Herod.
But even the Father left His side in the darkest moment of His life. When the Lord Jesus paid for sin, He had to suffer completely alone, for not even the Father would comfort Him. This is something that you and I will never know of, but to the Lord Jesus it was all too real.
When we are alone and in trouble, we always have our God and Father to turn to, but on the Cross, the Father wasn't there.
And as with the scene in Gethsemane, what words could we possibly utter that would allow us to enter into the depths and the somberness of this moment.
Scripture doesn't elaborate on this scene, for we step upon a holy ground that does not entertain the thoughts or feelings of man. Even so, if Scripture did allow us to enter this scene, what could we possibly understand about its reality. For you and I can never, and will never, experience such aloneness and forsakenness. "It is a forsaking which none can fathom, save He who felt it." (JND)
Psalm 22 allows us a brief entry into this scene, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? Why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? O my God, I cry in the daytime; and in the night season, and am not silent."
Bishop Hall said this about our Lord's cry, "Our Lord said this under a deep sense of His Father's wrath unto mankind, in whose stead He now underwent that which was due for the sins of the whole world. When He said, 'Why hast Thou forsaken Me?' he implies that God had for the time withdrawn from Him the sense and vision of His comfortable presence."
Separated from the presence of God. Thus it was for our Savior; He who suffered alone throughout His whole life, suffered completely alone in His death.
And just in closing tonight, I want us to consider one last point.
We have seen as to the loneliness of Christ. His parents misunderstood Him, His brethren did not believe in Him, His disciples and friends doubted Him and denied Him; they fell asleep when He asked them to watch with him, and fled His side when he was arrested.
Then at the final point of His life, even God His Father departed from His side.
It was a lonely life which our Lord had to walk.
And I would venture to say tonight that the Lord Jesus is still lonely. For even His own redeemed people find little or no time for Him in the busy schedules of their most important lives.
We try and fit Him in on a Sunday, if going to church is not inconvenient, and if of course we find room in our church social life for Him.
He is ever there when we need Him, but so easily left when we don't, and we fail to realize that He is silently pleading for a moment of your time. He is desiring that you stop a while, and come into His holy presence to commune and have fellowship with Him.
God created man for the purpose of having someone on His own level with whom He could talk with, to walk with and have fellowship with. But man chooses instead to ignore Him, and sometimes, or perhaps often, it is the same with His own children.
He is pleading with us, as He did with His disciples that dark night, "Could you not watch with me one hour?"
How many of us would even spend an hour with the Lord Jesus in a day? Or perhaps just half an hour, or even ten minutes?
Does the Lord Jesus have a place in our lives, or do we leave Him lonely?
A few hymns come to mind that we so often sing:
"Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling,
Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He's waiting and watching,
Watching for you and for me."
"Have you any room for Jesus,
He who bore your load of sin?
As He knocks and asks admission,
Sinner, will you let Him in?"
"Room for pleasure, room for business,
But for Christ the Crucified,
Not a place that He can enter,
In the heart for which He died?"
"Room for Jesus, King of glory!
Hasten now, His word obey;
Swing the hearts door widely open,
Bid Him enter while you may."