The Rev. Jeremiah Williamson
The Passion according to Mark
In the end, on the cross, he was alone. Just utterly and completely alone. Everyone else, all those who promised to stay, left and he died alone.
It wasn't always that way. There used to be crowds – not mocking crowds, not gawking crowds. Adoring crowds, at least fascinated crowds. They used to follow Jesus and listen to his words and marvel at his authority, his charisma. Days earlier, just a few days earlier, when he entered Jerusalem, they greeted him like a Messiah, like their Messiah, with palm branches and shouts of joy. They celebrated him. But not now. The city of his triumphal entry is also the city of his passion and death. Some of the same people are still around – but now they are yelling out insults, making fun of this, making light of something infinitely heavy. They are there but they are no longer with him. He is alone.
It wasn't always that way. He recruited a team. He was their rabbi, their teacher, and they were his disciples, but also, he thought, his friends. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends.” He said that – to them. He lived that for them. And they left. When the crowds became hostile, when things got tough, they left. They left him alone – to face the passion, to face the cross, to face the mockery, to face execution. They left him hanging; they left him to die alone.
It wasn't always that way. When he first called them, they left everything. Laid down their nets and just walked away – to be with him, to be with Jesus. Until he really needed them. In the garden, in his most desperate hour, in a cruelly ironic twist, the last follower to abandon Jesus leaves everything to get away. After his disciples flee, one man remains, a mysterious young man, in the garden. He runs away naked – a soldier left holding the young man's linen robe. Whatever it takes to get away, to get away from Jesus, to leave him alone.
It doesn't make it less painful, but he knew it would happen. He predicted it: All of you will have your faith shaken; strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be dispersed, he said. They denied it of course; the disciples argued with him but he knew, he knew they would leave.
He knew it would happen. He predicted it: one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me, he said. They denied it; but he knew, he knew one of his own, his friends, one with whom he shared his Last Supper, would betray him.
Judas gets the bad wrap, but everybody left. Judas gets the bad wrap, but everyone betrayed him, everyone left him, everyone abandoned him.
Everyone. The crowds left. The disciples left. And finally God left. With his final anguished words, Jesus cries out from the loneliness of the cross: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Pain so complete that it is incomprehensible. The loneliness cut much deeper than the thorns of his crown ever could. Everyone left and he died alone.
This man of sorrows bears your sins. And he bears your hurt. But also he bears your loneliness; he bears that pain too. He carried it to his cross. And there he stretched out his arms – an invitation – ready to embrace us: the sinners, the hurting, and the lonely.