As people around the world are urged to distance themselves from others, to choose the way of isolation, the experience can offer insights into the story of Holy Week in which Jesus becomes progressively more isolated.
In Chapter 21 of Saint Matthew’s gospel, Jesus rides into Jerusalem and immediately goes to the Temple, yet he seems to do so without the support of the crowds who had cheered his arrival. Saint Matthew says that “Jesus entered the temple,” and that “he overturned the tables.”
Perhaps Saint Matthew felt it unnecessary to add further detail, perhaps there were a crowd of onlookers, but there is a sense of Jesus acting alone, a sense that he faced his opponents single-handedly. This sense of Jesus individually, acting without the assistance of anyone else is reinforced by Jesus’ words to those whom he drove out of the building, “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers.”
To act alone demanded courage. There were people who were delighted at his presence and at the actions he had taken, there were others who became very angry at Jesus, those who saw him as a threat to everything for which they stood.
There is a great imbalance of power between those who welcomed Jesus and those who were his enemies. It is the poor and the powerless, and especially the children, who are delighted at his presence. It is the influential and the powerful who are determined to destroy him.
The children are vocal in their welcome, but there is no record of adults speaking to support Jesus. Those to whom he had brought healing would have feared the priests in the Temple. Had the people had the courage to speak, they would have lacked the learning necessary to have been able to argue with the priests about the meaning of scripture.
Jesus stands alone against his enemies. “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies, you have prepared praise for yourself’?” How isolated must he have felt when he realises that the voices raised in his favour are those of children? Let’s be clear, this is still Sunday afternoon, this is still the day when the crowds cheered his arrival. Has the support disappeared so quickly?
Saint Matthew’s account of the day concludes, “He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.” Jesus goes to the house of his friends. What conclusions might he have drawn from the events of the day?
Feelings of isolation, feelings of loneliness, can easily cause feelings of discouragement, can easily cause a loss of confidence. What the Holy Week story teaches is the need to have confidence in one’s beliefs, even if one is in a minority of one. Being alone, being one person, being isolated from those around, does not mean that the truth is not what it always was. The truth remains, however many, or however few, people there may be.