The thirst of loneliness John 19 28-30
On the cross, Jesus plunges headlong into the abyss of loneliness. The darkness which covered the land; the hiding of the sun, of light and warmth was nature’s way of representing the utter helplessness felt by Jesus in the ‘darkness’ of being all alone on the cross. The dark feelings of loneliness did not happen in an instant. It was a progression; a succession of events which lead Jesus into the depths of loneliness.
We can follow this succession in Jesus passion. We can follow the events which led to the point of Jesus’ crucifixion and feelings of utter loneliness and darkness on the cross for our sin, when he cried out ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ We can see that one by one, people leave Jesus to die alone; only the nails that pierced his hands and feet are supporting him…every other support has gone; even his Father in heaven leaves because of his wrath against sin.
The progression into utter loneliness, known as the darkness of the soul, began with the kiss of a friend, a betrayal. Then, from that moment on, one friend after another, in turn, walked away from him, a succession of hurts, rejection, accusations, lies and murderous intentions lead Jesus further into the abyss of loneliness, even depression. In his neediest hour, when he is hurting most, suffering for the sins of the world, for you and I, his own mother had to leave him; given over to another son. Jesus said to his mother, “Dear woman, here is your son,” and to the disciple, “Here is your mother.”
Finally, the sun itself removed its light and warmth from Jesus, leaving the world in darkness, a darkness to match the darkness of his soul; the utter loneliness, to die for our sin. The horror of this moment is foretold in Isaiah ‘he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.’ Jesus thirsted for compassion, yet received only sour wine…the results of our sin.
Many of us, while never knowing the true anguish of Jesus, can certainly relate to the darkness of soul; utter loneliness; ‘depression.’ For some of us, our lives have been a succession of betrayals, of friends leaving us, of hurts or even sickness, which have led us to a point of despair. And this despair or depression is the ‘the darkness of the soul’ and is as real for us as it was for Jesus.
Kind David experienced it, saying in Psalm 88 ‘You have taken my companions and loved ones from me; the darkness is my closest friend.’ It is part of our human condition. It is the hallmark of sin and evil. You and I are born sinful and therefore born into a daily reminder, that in our suffering, in our sinning, we are in the grip of ceaseless futility and crushing, mindless darkness.
Yet a profound realization comes to us through despair. It is the realization that there is no meaning, no value, no worthwhile activity, nothing of any value within us or the material universe, no beauty, no love…none of these contain value in themselves. Meaning and value is above and beyond; it is in God alone. Meaning and value lay in the suffering servant Jesus.
While many of the believers had left Jesus at the cross because they could not see any sense in his suffering; while Mary his mother wept because of the hopelessness of it all; while Peter hid his face at the obscenity of knowing a man being crucified; there was one man who could see Christ as his saviour. He could see and receive Jesus because he himself was suffering. The thief of the cross.
He said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” His suffering taught him that everything, even life itself is futile. His pain, his darkness, his anguish, his recognition of sin led him to trust in Jesus, who was suffering in his place, who was his saviour, and Jesus never disappoints faith ‘”I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.“
To redeem us from our darkness, Jesus had to first conquer it for us. He had to be sacrificed to it and then in death strike a fatal blow to its heart. The cross is now a light that shines in the darkness. St Paul says ‘the cross is the power unto salvation.’
You may have previously suffered in the darkness of loneliness and despair, or you may be currently living in the midst of darkness of the soul, or it may come to you one day. At this very time, when we can’t see a way out, a purpose or meaning in our suffering, is when Christ comes to us and preaches a word of good news to us ‘In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” By faith we look past our suffering and darkness into the light of the cross. By faith, together with the thief we trust that when Jesus said ‘It is finished’, our darkness is only temporary, and that by his death he has won for us the victory of eternal life. Amen