Mark 14: 50-51
“All of them deserted him and fled. 51 A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.”
Why did Jesus die, according to Mark? Because of the failings of his closest followers. Judas betrayed him . His inner circle of disciples were too weak to keep awake and wait with him. Peter, despite his promises and protestations, denied him in his moment of trial.
Mark even gives us the vivid image of an unknown young follower fleeing naked into the night from the scene of the arrest — his cowardice exposed for all to see. And it seems that it is with him that I identify today.
It is true that Jesus died because he was betrayed, deserted, and denied by his followers. Come to all three parts of the Thursday, Friday and Saturday unfolding and you will feel even more reasons, but in this early part of Holy Week, this is enough for me. For now.
This poem emerged for me today from the betrayals and from the story of the fleeing, naked man in Mark’s story:
White Loin Cloth
I am the one who fled naked.
My name is we.
They were taking Jesus and I panicked so I fled. I was wearing only one white cloth around my body which uncurled as the centurion took its end and I twirled like a ballerina pirouetting round and round and round like the spinning of the planet or a wooden top from its owner’s pull on the string. I twirled and twirled as my cloth was taken and held fast, along with my Lord.
Then the white was gone, guttering behind me in the distance like a flag of shame, of surrender. But not mine. His.
What they did with the cloth I do not know. They say it gets folded and unfold on an altar somewhere. ironed and washed by a lady named Diane. Hers is the name of the hunted.
So now I have stopped spinning and the cloth is long gone, slid as it is between marble and silver.
I am dizzy and all I can hear is a crowd screaming and a man so loudly silent.
The silence is what I hear now as I stand naked and
the lies disperse like the smoke from a blown out candle.
The silence is now my cloth. The silence is now my white covering, bustling around my body and soul, cleaning the old hurts, sopping up puss and blood from old wounds, wiping the mud from old fights, soothing old bruises, stopping the bleeding from a gash in my own side from the knife of friends who should have been there when they were not.
And Jesus is out of sight today. Waiting. His own white cloth around his parts. For now. And soon that too will be torn from him.
And We will be naked together, eyes meeting across that mound. He will see me, naked and alone and I will see Him naked and alone. And he will be beautiful and I will be too. And He will look at me with those eyes of love and all my guilt and pain, my betrayal and the betrayals against me will melt like the ice around a rose in the sun. And the water will feed me, bless me, soothe me, wash me, clean me, feed me, baptize me.
And though I may never be able to look away from those eyes again, they will close in a few days. But only to open and reveal a new heaven and a new earth in which I will no longer feel naked and never will again.