This week I have been invited to do the homily at the daily mass at St Aidan’s today, tomorrow and Wednesday. I am presenting 3 meditations based on small characters that appear in Mark’s Gospel. Today we are going to think about the man in the garden who runs away naked as Jesus is arrested. On Tuesday we will look at the character of Simon of Cyrene and on Wednesday, Joseph of Arimathea.
As you read these stories, imagine yourselves there, ask God to speak to you, how are these stories also your own story?
Here is today’s meditation:
A short piece of scripture from Mark’s Gospel:
Then Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me as though I were a bandit? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not arrest me. But let the scriptures be fulfilled.’ All of them deserted him and fled.
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.
Here is that man’s story:
I was there that night in the garden. It was a warm, sultry evening. I’d finished my own Passover meal with my family and I had heard the singing coming from the garden, singing of the psalms of my people, so I went to listen, watching from the sidelines. I knew of Jesus, I had seen him cause a near riot on his entrance to Jerusalem only a few days before. I’d also heard him teach in the Temple and I wanted to follow him. So there I was, in the garden, humming along with the singing, such a hot night I only had a light linen shirt on. After the singing, the atmosphere changed, Jesus went off and I think he was praying. The other disciples were lounging around, lots of them slumped up against the trees sleeping. Then Jesus stood up. It was like he knew something was happening and suddenly the garden was full of men from the temple guard with torches and clubs, barging through the quietness of the garden. A man approached Jesus and hugged him – but it was a strange hug and straight away these rough guards grabbed Jesus. Then it was chaos: shouting, swords were drawn, but then all Jesus’ friends had gone, they just ran. I don’t think the guards had seen me. I was still there. I was still there. I wanted to follow this Jesus. So I held back and followed at a distance. Then I felt a hand on me, grasping at my shirt. Filled with sudden terror, I twisted out of my shirt and ran away, naked.
I wanted to be a friend to Jesus. I wanted to be there for him when his other friends were not, but there, in that moment, my resolve failed and I let him down like all the others.
I chose to run away naked rather than be seen with this man. I chose the shame of walking home naked. Later, I watched ashamed in the crowd as Jesus was stripped naked for his crucifixion. I knew that he was stripped and beaten because he had chosen it, it was what he came to do to set us all free. He took my nakedness and shame and turned it into something else.