As I was reading through the narrative of Christ’s passion in Matthew’s gospel last weekend, I was struck by the utter aloneness of Jesus.
After spending three full years of eating meals, taking walks, listening to teachings, witnessing and performing miracles, enjoying friendship, and just doing everyday life with Jesus, his closest friends left him in an instant. Once the guards and multitudes arrived to take Jesus away in the garden, we read:
Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.
— Matthew 26:56
Except Matthew includes a little postnote about Peter two verses later:
But Peter followed Him at a distance to the high priest’s courtyard. And he went in and sat with the servants to see the end.
— Matthew 26:58
Really, Peter? You followed at a distance, snuck into a courtyard, hid among a cluster of servants — in order to see how it would turn out?
It feels so sneaky. And that note about Peter really heightened my sense of Jesus’ aloneness in all of this. Even his closest friend could do no more than sneak around in the background on him, staying on the periphery. He wasn’t willing to come near. He wasn’t willing to be with Jesus.
But then the aloneness just gets worse.
Everyone in the high priest’s court testifies against him. There he stood, in the middle of all assembled there, while person after person brought their case against him. Then they took turns abusing him — they spat in his face, beat him, and taunted him, hitting him from behind and then goading him to prophecy who had done the hitting each time.
The next day, on the day we observe today as Good Friday, the receding continued.
Against his better judgment, Pilate delivered the death sentence and then scourged him. His soldiers twisted a crown of thorns and crushed it into the brow of Jesus, then dressed him up in royal robes and mocked him. They, too, spat in his face and hit him on the head from behind with objects.
Once Jesus hung on the cross, the soldiers hung out at his feet on the ground below the cross and gambled with each other for his clothes. People walking by the cross wagged their heads at him and sneered: “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. Save yourself!”
Even the two thieves, the ones hanging on his right and left, abandoned him. The scriptures say they reviled him as they hung there next to him (Matt. 26:44).
He hung there all alone. Everyone left him. No one could stand to be with him in his final hours.
And then the world turned black.