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The Irony of Loneliness. Easter week. March 27

The Irony of Loneliness.

“Isn't it ironic . . .

An old man turned ninety-eight

He won the lottery and died the next day…” and so the song goes.

Jesus and the disciples have just shared the first Lord's Supper--eleven of them at least, as Judas has just been 'outed' as the Lord's betrayer, and has fled the upper room.  It is a solemn, intimate time shared that night, when just before dinner in the ultimate act of servitude, Jesus washes the dirty feet of his men.  Yes, he models the heart of a true servant, forever leaving for us an example to follow--to take up the "towel and basin" and serve others. 

But then--the disciples start arguing about which of them is the greatest!  Don't you find that tragically ironic?  The Greatest among them--the Greatest of all--serves them in this last free night before his arrest.  Power, not service, dominates their thinking.  Here at the end of his ministry, these he had called, trained, loved, and lived life with, were so easily caught up with themselves that they forgot him.  It saddens me so to think how lonely Jesus felt right then.  First, there was Judas, but then--so quickly the Eleven showed their weakness too.

Why do I describe Jesus as lonely?  Why is anybody lonely?  Loneliness is an absolutely foundational, fundamental human experience. Because we send out these little tendrils of ourselves, and hope they grab onto something and grow, but nothing happens. They reach only into air and so they wither.  So the sense that I am never going to be really connected, at my deepest and most true point with anybody else is why there's loneliness and this is just a generic statement of loneliness.  There is more.

How many people do you think in Jesus' own life really understood what he was all about? Who understood Jesus' way of looking at the world, really? I think of Jesus’ reply to Philip, "Have I been with you all this time Philip and you still do not know me?"  How many people was Jesus able to share his vision of life with—who really got it?   Nobody.   Was Jesus lonely?  I suspect an enormous part of his life was lived in a felt sense of isolation... especially since he was separated from his beloved Father.  Loneliness launched Jesus’ ministry in the wilderness, when he fasted for 40 days and was subjected to the tempter’s sneers, and loneliness would mark the end of his ministry as he prayed in the garden alone while his closest friends slept nearby.  Loneliness was his companion as he was flogged, taunted, tortured and tried by men he had created; and loneliness was his on the cross when God turned away, as all of our sins were on Jesus. 

But on his last night with them, Jesus doesn't tell the disciples how they made him feel--but they must have thought about it all later . . . no, instead, Jesus tells them that their faithfulness to him will one day be rewarded with authority in his coming kingdom.

All of us have felt lonely at times, or will--especially in different seasons of our lives.  I'm sure there is no greater loneliness than a wife losing a husband, a young child losing her mother . . . Many are alone, longing for a companion who ‘gets’ them, wants to be with them above any other—sometimes even though married.  Sad for sure.  There is the loneliness that is coupled with abandonment—like when a husband decides he just does not want to be married anymore—maybe because someone else better suits him now, maybe because he just wants to ‘batch’ it again.  But, remember again that there is no pain you will ever experience that the Lord does not understand.  He has experienced it all. 

If you are there now, I offer this prayer for you-- 'Dear Father, would you comfort my sister, my friend, _____, and give your child a sense of your presence? Grant them your peace.  And, thank you for being willing to experience the incredible loneliness you endured for us.  Give us strength . . . Amen’


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