Is there a difference between being alone and being lonely? Because I have traveled a great deal by myself for ministry reasons, I have often been in big, unfamiliar cities. I have been surrounded by many people, people I didn’t know. I have waded through oceans of people in overcrowded airports. I certainly wasn’t alone, but I was far from friends and family. Sometimes I have felt very lonely in these situations. Yet a paradoxical thing often happens. When I finally make it to my hotel room and am actually alone, I can call home if it is not too late. If I can talk to my wife, I don’t feel lonely any more.
Jesus liked having companions with him. We are told that one of the reasons he chose the twelve apostles was so that he could “be with them” (Mark 3:14). He enjoyed attending festive social events like wedding feasts and banquets in the homes of his followers. When he was in Jerusalem, he did not stay at an inn. He stayed with his friends, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, who lived in nearby Bethany. On Thursday night of his Passion Week, Jesus met with these beloved disciples, saying, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). Jesus liked being with people.
On that same night, the night in which he was betrayed, Jesus went to an olive garden (orchard) called “Gethsemane” to pray with his disciples. I wonder, what all was going through his mind? Even as a man, he had been given the knowledge of the horror of the cross that awaited him in a few hours. He knew this would be a time when he would feel abandoned and terribly alone. Maybe this was the big reason he had cultivated this group of men to be his disciples. Maybe he knew how great his need would be as he faced the crucifixion, and wanted some friends to be with him. But they all fell asleep. They ran when the mob arrested him. One of them, Judas, even betrayed him with a kiss! He was so alone! He was utterly alone! No one stood by him as he was hauled away to face his trials. Later, he even observed Peter in the act of denying any relationship with him.
But Jesus was not alone. He had a lifeline: prayer. He “phoned home” and talked with his Father. God never abandoned him, nor would he. Knowing this, he was able to endure the cross and accomplish his greatest work, our salvation. And when we are most alone and lonely, we, too, may turn to God in prayer.
We are not alone.
Dr. Mark S. Krause
Nebraska Christian College