Betrayed! Running Away…

Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away.  One young man following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt. When the mob tried to grab him,  he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked. – Mark 14:50-52 (NLT)

Betrayal.  Not a very pretty word.  It’s an even uglier experience, and as an action, it is uglier still.  It’s likely, at some time in everyone’s life that we have felt the sting of betrayal.

Perhaps your first time was in elementary school and your best friend chose to sit at the cafeteria table with the cool kids, leaving you with your peanut butter and jelly sandwich, all alone.  Maybe it was that boyfriend who asked that pretty blond girl to the prom instead of you.  Later in life it was not getting that promotion you had worked so hard for, in favor of a person with far less seniority or experience.  Betrayal comes in many forms…philandering spouses, rebellious children, disloyal friends.

Simon Peter vowed to Jesus, “Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death.” (Luke 22:33)    In the coming hours he would sleep while his Lord agonized in prayer, flee the scene of the crime in the Garden of Gethsemane, and profanely deny even knowing Jesus, not once, but three times before the Sun came up.  And yet it was not only Peter, but all of the friends and followers of Jesus who turned away during crisis.  Mark is the only writer of the Gospels who tells about the young man who fled naked, leaving his clothes behind, rather than stand with his Lord.  His accounting leaves us to believe that the young man was Mark himself, confessing to his own cowardice.

Do we think all of this escaped the notice of Jesus?  How are we to believe that He did not feel these things deeply and along with the rest of His suffering, also suffer from a broken heart?  It makes me glad that it was not me who had to endure the whip, the thorns, the accusations, the scorn, and the Cross.  I might have asked myself, “Where are my so-called friends now?”  In the face of such utter betrayal I might have been inclined to say, “They’re on their own.  I’m out of here!  They deserve whatever they get!”  But of course, thank God, that was not what was on Jesus’ mind and that was not what Jesus did!

As we read the manner in which the Lord was abandoned by those closest to Him, I wonder if we ever stop and ask ourselves what we would have done if we had been in their place?  It might be easy for us, sitting quietly in our chair with our Bible in our lap, to judge them rather harshly.  “How could they have done such a thing after all they had seen from Him…after all they had been through with Him…after all He had done for them?”

This past week, since Easter, I have returned several times to Mark’s accounting of the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ.  This very morning I read again about the young man, seized by the mob, fleeing so desperately that he left his garment behind and ran away butt naked!  It caused me to reflect on the number of times in my own life, when given the opportunity to stand up for my faith in Christ, I chose the option of flight over fight.  How many times would I rather explain my state of naked sin, rather than stand clothed in the glory of Christ, even in the face of ridicule and scorn?

Was Mark a coward?  Was Peter?  Were the other disciples?  The answer is not perhaps.  The answer is absolutely!  But the question reflected in their cowardice is and must be….”Am I less guilty of betrayal than they?”  “Have I ever denied my Savior?”  The answer is not…the answer must not be, perhaps.  The most honest and confessional answer can only be…absolutely!

Having understood our equal culpability with those who turned away from Jesus during His darkest hour, here is the most difficult part.  We are called to be, not like Mark or Peter or any of the other disciples.  We are called to be like Jesus!  And what was Jesus’ response to His betrayal?  GRACE!  MERCY!  FORGIVENESS!  “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

Have you been betrayed?  Probably.  Have you been the betrayer?  Most likely.  Here’s the more profound and pertinent question, “Are you a believer?”  If the answer to that question is yes, then our options are narrow.  As hard as it might be, our response must not reflect our own attitude, but that of the One in whom we believe.  That leaves us with two choices:  We stand and continue to follow, or we run away naked and leave our linens behind.


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