GSFA Devotional: Bread for Our Journey
Lenten Devotion (6)
6 April 2022
THE YOUNG MAN WHO RAN AWAY (Mark 14: 43-52)
“And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen clot h and ran away naked.” (Mark 14:50-52)
We are about ten days from Good Friday. I have been dwelling on the record of Christ’s passion in Mark’s Gospel (Chapters 14-15).
As I gaze upon the Saviour’s love for a sin-darkened world and for a wretched sinner like me, I could not help but note the different characters that help me check the condition of my own heart:
the murderous malice of the religious officials (14: 1-2)
the pure love of the woman who anointed Jesus (14: 3-9)
the awful treachery of Judas (14:10-11)
the bloated confidence of Peter (14:26-31)
This Lent, I was particularly arrested by the account of the young man who fled (14:50- 52). The scene is of the arrest of our Lord in the garden of Gethsemane after Judas betrayed him with a kiss. When it became clear that Jesus would not resist the arrest and there was grave danger to his followers, all his disciples fled – including this young man who was seized by the armed detachment. His desertion caused me to ask three questions of myself.
1. How deep is my love for Jesus?
My love for Jesus is not revealed by my professing words, nor even my actions in the normal times of pieties and promises. It is revealed by my actions in times of crisis when there is a heavy cost to be paid- as when tested by the fires of persecution and pain of deprivation. The young man actually continued to follow Jesus in the midst of the general desertion, but he lost his nerve and fled for his life when he was discovered and seized by the arresting party. Will I go all the way and follow my Lord no matter what is at stake?
2. What is at the core of my being?
The young man followed Jesus until his person was seized. To save himself, he ran ignominiously for his life. It was a self too precious to lose or deny. Jesus had given him (and all others) clear notice: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Mark 8:34). But when the moment of testing came, he could not rise beyond his love for “self.” This causes me to ask if “love for self” OR “love for Jesus” is at the core of my being. No outer ‘clothing’ or façade can hide who I truly am before God. I have a long way to go.
3. Is there hope for me to become a true lover of Jesus?
YES! – because the power for such unswerving loyalty is not in my love for Jesus but His love for me. As I yield more & more to Christ’s love for me, my love for Him will grow and in the moment of testing, the communing love between us will not give way. He will hold me fast!
This young man was not the only one who prized his self more than Jesus at the moment of testing. All the disciples fell to pieces when the armed contingent pounced on Jesus and he offered no resistance and condoned no violence. They fled for their lives. Even Peter who followed Jesus after the arrest into the High Priest’s courtyard fell into even greater disgrace. He denied the Lord three times. But Peter was restored after Christ’s resurrection (Mark 16:7; Jn 21:15-17). And filled with the Holy Spirit, he would go on to fearlessly proclaim Christ and be an under-shepherd who would eventually also lay down his life in the service of Christ.
It is quite plausible that Mark the author of this Gospel has inserted himself anonymously into the story via this account of the young man. If this is so, then there is further encouragement for you and me. Post-resurrection, Mark is with the apostolic band of Paul & Barnabas to take the Gospel to the Mediterranean world (Acts 13: 1-13). There is again probably a failure of nerve on Mark’s part as he abandons the mission team (Acts 15:36- 41). But the final mention of Mark in the New Testament testifies to his recovery and growing strength when Paul in prison asks for him: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me.” (2 Tim 4:11).
Jesus never gives up on those whose love for him does not measure up. He will work upon your heart and mine if we keep yielding to him. Jesus knew that all his followers would scatter when the power of darkness struck with such venom and suddenness at Gethsemane. But nevertheless, He would go to the Cross for them and the likes of them. He would purchase our pardon and secure for us a power not our own. It’s the power of the Holy Spirit immersing us and captivating us with the love of Christ.
“Death in the world is death indeed, but death in Christ is life forever!” (Walter Wangerin Jr. RELIVING THE PASSION. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, p 73).
Prayer: As I gaze upon you my Lord on the Cross, I ask you to take my life and replace the self in me with Thine own self. Enable me not to shrink back nor desert you when the cost is high. Live in me more and more each day. Let me serve you faithfully all of my days and ‘closely walk with Thee to heaven.’ For Thy glory. Amen
The Rt Revd Rennis Ponniah
Hon Director, GSFA Secretariat
Hon Fellow, St Peter’s Hall (Diocese of Singapore)