Saturday, December 29, 2007

Mark 14:43-52. Friends Flee

The young man who ran away naked leaving his garment behind is always assumed to be John Mark, the author of the gospel, but he was no different from the rest. Verse 50 tells us that "everyone deserted him and fled."

We would have been no different.

Some of us would have been like Judas, betraying our friend for money. Many people have tried to justify what Judas did. Some say Jesus disappointed him; that the suffering servant was not his idea of a Messiah. He wanted a rebellion; an armed insurrection like that of Judas Macabees. Some say he wanted a negotiation with the Chief Priests. But the Bible says he was a thief. The Bible says that Satan entered into Him. The Bible finds in him no redeeming features. This was a man who had sat at Jesus' feet. He had heard the sermon on the mount. He had witnessed the miracles. Jesus had walked on water before him, turned water into wine, stilled the storm, made the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk. Jesus had raised the dead. In the parable of Dives and Lazarus, Jesus tells us that some would not believe even if someone came back from the dead. Much as we wish that everybody could be saved, we cannot force it. Some people think that Hell will only be peopled by Hitler, Stalin and Judas Iscariot. Would that it were so. We should have no illusions; there will be people in Hell who have heard Scripture preached faithfully, who have 'followed' Jesus, who have made an apparent 'commitment' to His cause.

Some of us would have been like Peter. We would have jumped in violently. There is a certain attraction to foolhardy resistance. Mark doesn't give us Jesus's admonition, but Matthew does, "Put your sword back in its place, for all who live by the sword will die by the sword." Jesus could have called on twelve legions of angels, but he had acquiesced to the father's will. Whatever did Peter think was going on in Gethsemane? Some of us have Peter's temperament. We act without thinking. Every time we open our mouth we put our foot in it. We see our selves as men of action when all we are is impulsive. There are times for the sword; Paul tells us that rulers do not bear the sword for nothing; he is God's agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. I should think long and hard before I decided that I was God's agent of wrath.

But I guess most of us are like Mark. We are likely to flee from danger and if anything we have clothed ourselves in will slow us down then we will leave it behind. There are some things we should happily leave behind - wealth and possessions, by all means. But we must cling to the cross and never leave that behind.

But there is consolation. To fall away is not to lose your salvation. Nor does it disqualify you from service. It isn't the last word. Mark was in the habit of losing his nerve. Paul and Barnabas fell out over him in Acts 15:37-40 because Mark had deserted them at Pamphyllia, and though Barnabas wanted to give him another chance, Paul wouldn't trust him. Yet in 2 Timothy 4:11 Paul, in prison near the end of his life writes, "Get Mark and bring him with you, because he is helpful to me in my ministry." Mark is restored in the last.

So may we be, despite our weakness.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Amen. And, Jesus, help me be more like Barnabas when someone like Mark is in my life. I need to remember we aren't that different.