"A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." (John 16:32)
What 'time' is Jesus referring to?Jesus is speaking words to his disciples, who had been following Jesus as he preached throughout the countryside, towns, and temples throughout Judea.
Because his disciples were following him together, it is clear that being scattered and each going to their own homes means they will be essentially returning to their families and roles held prior to becoming one of Jesus' students.
And why will this happen? What is the "time" that "is coming and in fact has come"?
That "time," as we find evidenced later, is Jesus' arrest and persecution. Most of his students - other than Mary Magdalene and his mother Mary - abandoned him to avoid their own possible persecution. The reason that he said "and in fact has come" is that Jesus is just about to be arrested when he said this.
Following his arrest, they would return to their homes and deny being one of Jesus' followers - just as Peter did three times.
But then Jesus adds an important point: He says, "You will leave me all alone." In other words, many of them will abandon Jesus.
Why is Jesus saying they will abandon him?Jesus is speaking of them abandoning him during his persecution.
To abandon someone during a critical time does more than just leave them alone. It leaves them in the moral sense: in the sense of dedication. It illustrates that the person was not as dedicated as they may have portrayed earlier. 'When the going gets tough' many will give up. And in this case, Jesus' persecution tested his students' devotion and commitment to him.
In this way, their fleeing following Jesus' arrest illustrated their lack of dedication and commitment to the service of their teacher and to God.
Yet Jesus is clear that their abandonment of him during his trial and persecution will not leave him alone because he knows that God will be there for Him. He knows that his beloved Supreme Being will never abandon him.
Yet Jesus is so dedicated to the Supreme Being that he is prepared to do what few would ever consider: Give up his physical life in the service of the Supreme Being.
Can Jesus' sacrifice save us?This sacrifice of Jesus - this very dedication - has the ability to save those who come to understand the above.
It is not as though Jesus' crucifixion is some kind of automatic button that as soon as we press it we are saved.
Rather, a person can be saved as they realize within their hearts the complete dedication and commitment Jesus had to the Supreme Being. That Jesus was so in love with God that he was willing to give up his physical body in order to please God.
In other words, Jesus' sacrifice provides a glimpse into the complete love that Jesus had for God.
Some might compare this sort of dedication to when we hear of a person who dies trying to defend their country. We say something like "they gave their life for our freedom."
And yes, we can understand that Jesus "gave his life." But this was not an impersonal sacrifice, as Jesus clearly indicates here: "Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me." This indicates a personal relationship existed between Jesus and God. It indicates Jesus' reliance upon the Supreme Being.
In other words, Jesus' sacrifice served to teach us that loving and serving God is what will ultimately make us happy. That giving our lives to God will give us complete fulfillment.
When a person realizes the incredible dedication and love towards the Supreme Being required by Jesus to allow this to happen to him, that realization has the ability to change our heart - from being self-centered to being God-centered. And it is this change of heart that saves us: Dedicating ourselves and our lives to God is salvation.
We must remember that Jesus' mission was to teach loving service to the Supreme Being. This was his primary teaching, and also what he showed us with his actions. And his service to God was teaching this.
Understanding that Jesus was so committed to his service to God that he was willing to give up his physical body has the ability to save us because it provides the ultimate example of that loving service.
And it is because this is the ultimate example of dedication and devotion, Jesus did not expect that his students were advanced enough in their dedication to God that they were willing to risk their own lives.
But as we find in the texts to follow, he and the Supreme Being would continue to help them develop that dedication - and many of Jesus' students, such as James and Peter, went on to pass his teachings on to many in the coming years.
The bottom line is that Jesus' life and his coming persecution executed his most important teaching:
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matt. 22:37-38)
*Here is the translation of Jesus' statement from the Lost Gospels of Jesus:
"A time will come – and has now come – when you will be scattered, every man to his own, leaving me alone. Yet I am never alone, because the Creator is with me.” (John 16:32)