Attentiveness: Alone? - Gordon Conwell

Attentiveness: Alone?

Dr. Scott W. Sunquist

President & Professor of Missiology

Jesus on the cross was all alone.

No one could die for him. In fact, He died for others.

Still, he was all alone. At the time of the greatest cosmic victory—the victory over death and all evil—Jesus was all alone.

His closest friends, out of fear—fear of the unknown and fear of death themselves—these close friends and relatives abandoned Him. Being alone can be a glorious choice that we make, but it is often a pain that is forced upon us.

This Holy Week Christians around the world are forced to think about two kinds of aloneness. First, Jesus’ aloneness occupies our meditations. This week we follow the footsteps of our Savior as he enters triumphant (or so it seemed) to Jerusalem with shouts of praise and waving palm branches. From the shouting crowds to an intimate supper, to the silent garden as the disciples faded away into sleep and disbelief.

In the next scene Jesus appears early in the morning (alone) to both religious and secular authorities who have no pleasant or positive plan for the real Authority: Jesus the King of Kings. He faced his fate, as we all do, alone. No one can die with or for us. We are alone in death, unless….

But this Holy Week, 2020 will long be remembered as the Lent and Holy Week of our being alone. We had no Maundy Thursday services in person. No Good Friday Services in person, and no Easter sunrise services in person. We sat alone at home and, with great restraint, we remembered and celebrated alone. Around the world, alone, we looked at flat screens.

We will remember that we were anxious. We were lonely (many of us). We were tense and angry (many of us). We were fearful (most of us). But we also remembered the cosmic Lord and Savior who was alone so that we would have communion eternal. Holy Week, 2020 was a time of being and reflecting on being alone.

However, let’s remember that some of the greatest minds and greatest spiritual guides have been alone, by choice. We should remember this. Monks in the deserts and women mystics and in their cells have been some of the great spiritual guides for us. Some of the greatest spiritual writings have been passed down to us as gifts from anchorites (completely alone) and coenobitic (alone but living in communities) monks and nuns.

We are invited this Holy Week to imitate their meditation on the Suffering Savior who was raised to be the Jesus of Great Joy. It is true. The pain and aloneness are temporary, the joy is eternal!

“Very truly, I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice; you will have pain, but your pain will turn into joy….So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you!” (John 16:20-22).

And so, by the time we get to the end of this week we realize that neither do we live alone, nor do we die alone. “If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him…” (II Timothy 2:11)


Scott W. Sunquist, the new President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, writes a weekly blog, “Attentiveness” which is posted each Monday morning on the Gordon-Conwell web site. He welcomes comments, responses and good ideas.