A certain young man accompanied him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They grabbed hold of him, but he wriggled out of the cloth and ran off naked.’ (Mark 14:51-52)
Sometimes when you read the bible, you come across a surprise in something you thought was familiar. Reading Mark’s gospel recently, I discovered a character in the gospel story that surprised me. Who was the man present at the arrest of Jesus, who is described as running off into the night naked?
Well, it appears that question has fascinated scholars across the years. Although no definitive answer has been given, the general consensus of opinion favors John Mark, the gospel writer, as the mystery person. It’s an intriguing thought, isn’t it – both heartwarming and inspiring to think that someone who could be so desperate to disassociate himself from Jesus could, in a few years, become the writer of what most regard as the earliest of all the gospels, eagerly testifying to his faith in the risen Christ.
If the assumption is correct, was this, I wonder, the first time that Mark had faced up to the incident? Presumably so, for why else refer to it so indirectly? It seems he still couldn’t bring himself to fully admit it. Yet, he wanted to testify to what must have been the most marvelous truth in the already special gospel message. The fact that Jesus had changed him, turning his life inside out and upside down. The same testimony and a similar sense of wonder can be ours! No one is outside the transforming power of his saving love, and no mistake is beyond forgiveness. He is constantly at work in the lives of all who will receive him, to redeem, renew and restore. Whoever you are, Jesus can change you!
Ask yourself, have you learned to let go of former mistakes, recognizing that they are past history? Are you open to the difference Jesus could make in your life? Paul reminds us in his letter to the church in Colossi of the life-giving power of God in Jesus when he says, ‘You, who were dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, he has brought to life with him, having forgiven all your sins.’ (Col. 2:13)
Perhaps it is part of our human nature that makes it hard for us to forgive ourselves and more challenging than we think others can forgive us. Hardest of all to believe that God can ever forgive me. Yet time after time, God demonstrates that lives can be changed not just by forgiving the past mistake but by renewing lives from within through the Holy Spirit.
Turning to my prayer mentor and guide, Nick Fawcett, perhaps our prayer this week could be, ‘Lord Jesus Christ, help me to always remember that you are able to change not just other people’s lives but mine too, and so renew me day by day through your redeeming grace. Amen’ (Nick Fawcett)
Shalom to you my friend,