This Easter is weird.
It’s weird because it’s not what we’re used to. It’s not something we’re familiar with. It’s something new. This Easter is weird because we can’t gather as God’s people in the churches we’re part of, or celebrate meals together with friends and family, or head away on long weekend holiday adventures like usual.
Instead, we’re at home. We’re at home with those in our household, isolated from others, and perhaps going a bit stir crazy by now too. But all of this is for that important cause, the cause the government has called us into. This Easter we’ve been called to save lives by staying at home.
Living this isolated life is but a momentary trial, and while Easter may have a unique shape for us this year its meaning and significance does not change. Easter is still central to the Christian calendar, it still speaks of God’s display of sacrificial love to the world. It still reveals to us a God of grace who puts his life on the line for us, cleanses us from sin, and gives hope and peace to our anxious hearts. The meaning and significance of Easter doesn’t change despite the circumstances we may find ourselves this weekend.
And yet in reflection I wonder whether this gives us an opportunity to enter into the ‘aloneness’ of Jesus. Despite Jesus being surrounded by people, particularly for the three years he was with his disciples, there are indications that Jesus too felt isolated in what we now know were his final 24 hours before his death.
First, in his final meal with his disciples Jesus eats with his knowing betrayer. Judas, one who has followed him for a number of years, is about to gain 30 pieces of silver for delivering Jesus into the hands of the Romans. We read in John 13:21, “…Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified [to his disciples], “Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me.” The act of betrayal is sure to feel isolating for Jesus as a relationship he invested in has turned against him.
Second, his disciples still don’t understand what Jesus has been talking about. In Luke 22:14-30, still in the context of the final Passover before Jesus’ death, the disciples begin to argue with each other about which one of them is the greatest. After hearing Jesus explain the significance of their final meal and the betrayal to come they end up selfishly disputing their own importance. I imagine Jesus throwing his hands up at this point, exasperated at his own disciples incompetence. An isolating feeling for any leader of any thing.
Third, at the time of his arrest Jesus’ disciples scatter far and wide. The disciples have experienced Jesus for three whole years teaching, performing miracles, and showing himself as the Son of God. Yet, in a matter of moments his disciples disappear. When Jesus is arrested we read of this disciple dispersion in Matthew 26:55-56,
55 In that hour Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. 56 But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples deserted him and fled.
If Jesus didn’t feel isolated and alone up to this point, he surely did now.
Fourth, as Jesus succumbs to his death on the cross we read of his isolation from God. You may remember that moments before Jesus dies on the cross he cries out to God, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46; Psalm 22:1-2). Jesus is essentially quoting the opening two verses of Psalm 22–words he would’ve known by heart. And as he calls out to God in this way he is in a place he had not experienced before, isolated and alone, apart from God. Smarter people than I can explain how this might work within the context of his humanity and divinity, what it means for the Holy Trinity at this point. But whatever the case, as Jesus takes the sin of the world upon himself the Father turns away from him, and places his rightful wrath and judgement for the sin of the world upon him.
The isolation of Jesus is vivid, real, and powerful.
As we enter into Easter this weekend perhaps it is worth considering the isolation and ‘aloneness’ of Jesus. We may resonate with feelings of isolation and aloneness as we sit at home with our friends, partners, family, or simply by ourself. All our social distancing measures mean we lack touch, we talk to friends through screens, and we only go out for essential needs. Our isolation is vivid and real for us.
At no time do I want to suggest that our isolation is similar to that of Jesus. We may have similar feelings but the circumstances are certainly different, aren’t they? Yet due to our experience of the Easter season we may approach this time in a way that we’ve never considered before.
As you remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus this weekend may you be reminded of the One who has saved your life. Jesus, the one who has given his life for your sake, enabling the forgiveness of sin, peace for your soul, and an everlasting relationship as part of the family of God.