John 15:1-17

One of the problems in life, today, is loneliness. And for people who are living on their own, who don’t see anyone else for days at a time, that’s quite understandable. Of course, some people live on their own by choice, but others . . . Well seeing and meeting others is just not part of their normal routine.

But then you don’t have to be alone to be lonely. Indeed, many people can feel lonely even in a crowded room, with people milling around them, and surrounded by people who want to care.

Loneliness, an inner emptiness, which is often accompanied by sadness, discouragement, sense of isolation, anxiety, and an intense desire to be wanted or needed by someone, can be a real problem. Yet it’s not a modern phenomenon.

Indeed, in the Old Testament, Jacob, Moses, Job, Nehemiah, Elijah, and Jeremiah all suffered from loneliness. And even in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul called out from prison for company and support. Consequently if you have ever felt lonely, you’re in good company, for some of the greats of the bible have also felt the depths of loneliness.

And while even the bible acknowledges the problem of loneliness, it does tend to take a much more positive view. Indeed, from a base of loneliness, it takes us on a journey for the need of communion with God. And for Christians, the emphasis is on the need to love, help, encourage, forgive, and care for one another.

Now perhaps, you can see where this is leading . . . Because there’s one character that I didn’t include in my list of lonely people from the bible. And perhaps I should have because it is Jesus himself. Indeed, Jesus typifies someone who can be surrounded by people but can still be terribly lonely.

Imagine! Jesus was walking on the road to Jerusalem, one last time, knowing what was in store at the end of the road. And as he walked along, telling his disciples what he was about to go through, were the disciples listening? Were they consoling him? Were they sticking with him every inch of the way? No! It’s like they were off in a world of their own. They hardly heard a word that Jesus was speaking. And, as a consequence, we get this image of Jesus, surrounded by people, but as lonely as can be.

But Jesus was determined not to let his loneliness get the better of him. He also knew that his disciples would go through the same thing. So, forgetting about himself, he used the opportunity to teach his disciples something of what true friendship meant.

He Jesus reminded them that he was their friend. And if he hadn’t shown them enough up to that point, he spelt it out all over again: “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you” (9). He said. “There is no greater love than this: That someone should lay down his life for his friends” (13). He then continued, “I no longer call you servants, because the servant does not know what his master is doing. But I call you friends, because everything I have heard from my Father, I have made known to you” (15).

Now what Jesus was describing was friendship. But not just any friendship—not the kind that could be picked up or dropped whenever it suited. No, this was a friendship based on commitment—commitment to his friends. But commitment based on the same principles, and at same level, as God the father was committed to him.

But in return for his friendship, he expected something in return. And his expectation was that the disciples would offer the same level of friendship and commitment to him, as well as to one another.

Jesus’s words: “Remain in my love. You will remain in my love if you observe my commandments, just as I have observed my Father’s commandments and remain in his love” (9-10). “This is my commandment: That you love one another as I have loved you” (12). “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (14). “This is my command to you: Love each other” (17).

Jesus’s words leave no room for loneliness. On the contrary what he expects is a life full of activity and meaning.

The solution to the problem of loneliness, then, is a growing relationship with God and a growing relationship with each other. We need them both. Miss one of them out and it doesn’t work. Because being committed to God, without fellowship with each other, is a recipe for loneliness. And so too is a commitment to others, but where God is ignored.

Posted: 28th May 2020
© 2020, Brian A Curtis