It was a beautifully manicured patch of green in Llano Cemetery, where the county buried its unknown dead.
Who was “Infant Lara” I wondered, and why did she die alone?
And why did he whose bones were beneath the stone that said “Unknown” die alone?
I had been called to say words over another unknown. It was just me, a mortuary employee, and the deceased. Nothing was known about him. Not even his name. No known family or friend. He died all alone.
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In Gethsemane Jesus “began to be filled with horror and deep distress” (Mk 14:33). “My soul is crushed with grief,” he said to his three closest friends.
Was it because he knew that Judas, having sold out to his enemies, was on his way to deliver him to them? Or because he knew that all his disciples would soon forsake him? Or because he knew that Peter would deny him before the night was over? Or because he knew that the Sanhedrin would condemn him, Pilate would sentence him, and soldiers would flog, taunt, and crucify him?
But Bible scholar R.C.H. Lenski demurs: “We should not think that the rapid approach of physical suffering and death brought on this agony in Jesus’ soul. . . . the battle that Jesus fights in this hour he must of necessity fight alone.”
The Savior was being driven into isolation.
In times of fear and anxiety, we want someone to share the burden. When awaiting the surgeon’s verdict, we need company.
Jesus wanted—needed—companionship in these final hours. He asked Peter, James, and John, to stay close and keep vigil with him as he withdrew deeper into the garden to pray. When he returned, “They did not know what to say to him” (Mk 14:40), for they had neither watched nor prayed—they had slept.
“I have trodden the winepress alone . . . I looked, but there was no one to help, I was appalled that no one gave support” (Is 63:3, 5).
Betrayed by one disciple, forsaken by ten, and publicly renounced by another, he was all alone when he was led away to trials, floggings, and death.
Peter had reminded Jesus that they had left everything to follow him (Mk 10:28). Now they had left him. Maybe this was his deepest distress; when he needed them most they deserted him.
“You will leave me all alone,” he had told them. “Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me” (Jn 16:32). Soon he would lose even this, culminating in his agonizing shriek, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
His separation from God can be fathomed only by awareness of the nature of sin. Sin cuts the sinner off from God: “Your iniquities have separated you from God; your sins have hidden his face from you” (Is 59:2).
It was our iniquities that caused Jesus’ separation from God, for he took our sins upon himself (Is 53:6). “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor 5:21). “He changed places with us and put himself under that curse” (Gal 3:13 NCV).
The overwhelming grief of the Savior was the agony of being abandoned by those he loved; bearing the burden alone.
Alone he faced his enemies. Alone he faced his trials. Alone he faced flogging. Alone he faced taunting. Alone he faced suffering. Alone he faced death.
He faced it all alone, so that in life and in death we don’t have to.