Jesus was preparing to leave his disciples. He would die on the cross and ascend to heaven. This was scary for the disciples. They had left everything to follow him. They had centered their lives around Jesus for the last three years. No doubt they were feeling like they were being abandoned. What would they do without him to guide them?
I’m sure you’ve all felt abandonment too. I’m sure you’ve felt like the disciples did — like orphans. That’s a scary thing. Orphans have no one to care, defend, or provide for them. They are left to handle things by themselves. Maybe you’ve said goodbye to a dear friend as they move somewhere else. That’s not easy. Maybe you’ve had to leave a child, or you yourself were left at college for the first time all alone. Maybe you’ve stood at the bed of a loved one as he or she breathed one final breath. Abandonment is real.
And the feeling of abandonment or of being an orphan doesn’t have to come from physically being abandoned or literally being an orphan. Maybe you’re watching the bills pile up, but have no means to pay them all. Maybe you’ve just been diagnosed with a serious health problem. Something like cancer. Maybe you’ve made bad decisions. Maybe you’re guilt-ridden, or feeling the consequences of poorly chosen actions or words. Any one of these situations can make you feel like you’re left alone to care for yourself. They can make you feel like you’re an orphan, that you’ve been abandoned with no one to care for you.
The disciples were feeling it. They were feeling like they were being left alone. But that’s not at all what was going to happen. It was the opposite. Sin had destroyed man’s relationship with our heavenly father. We needed salvation. Because of sin we were living as orphans. We were alone and being daily afflicted by sin, death and the devil. We needed that relationship with God restored so that we could have a good and right relationship with our heavenly father.
Jesus was not and has not abandoned anyone. We may not be able to see him here in his body, but we know that he is here. He has not left us. Christ said “I will not leave you as orphans.” He went to the cross to ensure that we would never be abandoned. He died and paid the price of our sin with his own blood, enduring the father’s abandonment on the cross, all for our sake. The father abandoned Christ so that he would not abandon us. In this dark world of sin, so full of danger and evil, even as the problems of this world arise, our earthly comrades may leave us, our earthly parents abandon us, whether willingly or maybe as a result of death, we know that even then, we are not abandoned. We are not without help.
Rather, God is with us through all suffering. And we do suffer. God told us that we would suffer. As the bills pile up, as we watch our loved one die, as we hear the heart-breaking diagnosis from the doctor, and as we live with the guilt of bad choices and sin, we are not abandoned. We suffer, but the suffering of a child of God is for the refining of the child. It is not suffering for no reason. God works through the suffering to purify you and strengthen your faith and trust in God. Only in God, our heavenly father, do we find comfort from our suffering. And he has promised he will never leave you. You are not an orphan.
He treats us as children of the heavenly Father. He provides all that we need. He protects us, comforts us, and cares for us. In our baptisms, we have been adopted by our father in heaven. In that baptism he provided for us the Holy Spirit, who daily and richly blesses us with faith that clings to the promises of God and enables us to live as children of the heavenly father, and trust his promises.
We live as not-orphans. We have a father and he is eternal and all-powerful. He knows all there is to know about you. He knows your struggles and your weaknesses and he answers your prayers. He cares for you in every way. He loves you so much he sent his one and only son to the cross. He loves you so much that he abandoned his one and only son Jesus on the cross. He didn’t answer his prayer. He didn’t save him from death. He didn’t comfort him. He left him alone. He did that so that he would never have to leave you alone and could be the father that forgives you.
Three days later, he raised Jesus from the dead. And because he lives, you too will live. You have been joined to Christ in your baptism. You were joined to his death. In his death the old Adam in you, all your sin, died. But you are also joined to Christ’s resurrection. You too will be raised to life everlasting, just as he lives and reigns forever with the father.
He loves you more than any parent has ever loved you. Your heavenly father has provided for you an eternal home. He has promised to save you, and he kept that promise. Christ has saved you and will bring you to the father where you will live as a not-orphan forever. You will never be alone. You will never be without a father. You are safe and saved in the father’s love and care.
Rev. Logan Landes is assistant pastor at Grace Lutheran Church. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.