I wonder, if I were to sing (and don’t worry I won’t!) the first line of the chorus of a song, how many of us quote what comes next: “All by myself…. Don’t wanna be……”
Well, are you singing along yet? “Don’t wanna be all by myself… anymore!”
If you’re of the right age (or just a fan of far too many romantic movies), you’re probably hearing Celine Dion right now belting out words that somehow capture how we all feel at times. Songs often have a way of getting under our skin in a way that words alone struggle too.
None of us want to be alone – the truth is, whoever you are, that cry for companionship is a painful and passionate song within each of us.
Some of you may recognise this place:
It’s the car park next to the whitchurch centre – where (if you drive to church), you have probably parked here on many a Sunday morning…
Except that, when I drove down one day this week to pick up some essentials, the place was almost deserted. It was a very odd feeling, because at that time during the week – it’s usually pretty full! (That’s my lonely car parked in the middle!)
Probably most of us have had similar strange and disconcerting experiences recently, as we’ve found that places normally overflowing are now eerily empty.
Maybe for others of us, those places are closer to home – and the longer this crisis continues, we are left feeling not just alone, but increasingly lonely.
In John’s gospel (John 8), there’s a particularly long and nasty encounter that Jesus has with the Pharisees’ – that would have ended in violence, but it was not the time for Jesus’s death (John 8:20). The issue, as was so often the case, is over Jesus’ identity and authority. As the discussion turns to debate Jesus tells them:
“You judge by human standards; I pass judgment on no one. But if I do judge, my decisions are true, because I am not alone. I stand with the Father, who sent me.” (John 8.15-16)
And later on, He reminds them
So Jesus said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me. The one who sent me is with me; He has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases Him.” (John 8.28-29)
Jesus, even in adversity, lived in the awareness of His Father’s Presence around and within Him. “I am not alone!” “He has not left me.” For Jesus too, in His absolute purity and perfection, there was no sin to distract or detract from His awareness of the abundance of God’s presence – “for I always do what pleases Him.”
Which is why what happens at the cross is all the more painful. Far more painful than the flogging, or the thorns, or the nails was when the Father, who cannot look upon sin (Hab 1:13), turned His face away from His Son on the cross.
In the moment of judgement – Jesus must go from the abundance of God’s Presence, to utter abadondment. In that moment, the emotion and pain overwhelm Jesus’ heart, and these words escape His lips:
“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)
For Jesus to fully bear the judgement for our sin – He must experience the pure agony of abandonment. The consequence of the fall is that the God who created us to live with Him must now cast out of His Paradise. There is no clearer picture of the seriousness of sin than this – the punishment is our removal from God’s presence. And – standing in our place – Jesus, who “is Himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father” (John 1:18) faces the ugliness and darkness of the fully reality of God’s judgement on our sin.
He went there for you, so that you would never have to! He went through all of that, so that – in bearing the punishment that was rightfully ours – He might pay our penalty, and allow us to know the Presence of God, starting now and continuing forevermore!
As we approach the end of our own lives there are certain things that are embedded deep in our experience and memory that we cling onto. (For example, song of you will remember this story from earlier this week). Many people find that songs and scriptures become more important to them as other things slip away. This is true for Jesus too.
His cry: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” is actually a direct quote that comes from Psalm 22. Like us earlier, I wonder how many of those who heard it were able to quote the rest of it…
The Psalm is a stunning prophecy of the cross – prophesying even the method of Jesus death: “they pierce my hands and my feet.” (Psalm 22:16) a millennia before Jesus was born, and long before crucifixion had even been invented.
But the Psalm does not end this way. The song goes on…
“But You, LORD, do not be far from me.
You are my strength; come quickly to help me.” (Psalm 22.19)
“I will declare Your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise You!” (Psalm 22.22)
“For He has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one;
He has not hidden His face from Him but has listened to His cry for help.” (Psalm 22.24)
“All the rich of the earth will feast and worship;
all who go down to the dust will kneel before Him—
those who cannot keep themselves alive.
Posterity will serve Him;
future generations will be told about the Lord.
They will proclaim His righteousness, declaring to a people yet unborn:
He has done it!” (Psalm 22.29-31)
The song of prophecy sees beyond the suffering of Jesus – to the place of confident place that lay beyond it, even to the future generations (i.e. us!) who would share in His Victory! And this was the soundtrack playing in Jesus’ mind as he died – the song that got Him through it. What He held onto was the promise of God’s presence, and the knowledge of the future generations who would share in this Presence! In other words – He died thinking of us, of me, and of you.
That is how much you are loved – John 3:16 has your name all over of it. That love that held in the face of death, will hold you now, and will hold us forever.
You are not alone. Even at the very lowest point of our lives, we know that Jesus went deeper and faced the deepest darkness so that we would never have to! Even if the soundtrack to your life is really minor right now – keep going always remembering that it does not end this way.
For those of us trusting Jesus in pay the price for our sin – one day, the song of all of souls will finally join together in one song with all of heaven:
“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals,
because you were slain, and with Your blood You purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10)
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!” (Revelation 5:12)
“To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!” (Revelation 5:13)
The songs goes on! And that is a song worth holding onto – even on Good Friday.