Deserting Jesus


Every disciple abandoned Jesus the night of his arrest. In Mark’s account we read: “All of them deserted him and fled. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.” (Mark 14:51-52)

This man had initially left everything behind for this crazy idea that this Jesus could possibly be the Messiah. However, I think this moment is where he fully began to comprehend how crazy this whole thing actually was. The Roman soldiers seized Jesus and reality violently barged into this adventure.

“This used to be easy,” the man thought to himself. “We watched Jesus do so many amazing things. We were going to change the world!” Then reality creeps in. Doubt creeps in. The world knocks and reminds him that nothing has changed.

So he runs.

Going along with this crazy idea left him with nothing but a linen cloth on his back, and he throws it away and runs through the Mount of Olives.

It may sound odd but I have to confess, this is the disciple I most relate to. I grew up following Jesus. It’s all I knew for so long. Then I got old enough to question. But even with all my skepticism, I use to say “I would never leave you, Jesus,” just like the disciples said to Jesus the night before they deserted him. But when the miracles are over and Jesus doesn’t seem powerful enough to perform any longer, reality kicks in hard as I realize how utterly ridiculous all of this just might be.

And I run. I throw it all away and run through my own dark Mount of Olives, deserting Jesus behind me.

As I wake up feeling guilty in the morning, I try to put what’s left of my faith back on, but once again I find myself like the fleeing naked disciple, running away from it all when the night returns. How can I pray myself to sleep to a God that I hardly believe in? What if this is all B.S? What if I’ve wasted my life following a Jesus whose life really ended that night of his arrest?

Of course there are days where I do believe, but even then my faith feels like that thin linen cloth barely hanging around my body, ready to slip off the moment I think over things. And when the pressure is on, I leave my linen cloth of a faith in the hands of those who test me. I leave them holding onto what they thought I was, like that disciple left the Roman soldiers holding that cloth that they thought belonged to a committed follower of Jesus. They thought my faith was so strong. They never realize how easily it unravels as I run away into the night, terrified of vulnerability.

These are always the most truthful moments of my life though. When my cheap cloth of faith drops, all my imperfections, insecurities and brokenness are fully exposed as I run terrified through this world.

If Jesus really resurrected, all I can hope for this naked fleeing disciple is that he ran until he found Jesus on the other side of Jesus’ death.

I hope this because this is what I hope for myself as I run, terrified. I run with fear and doubt, hoping to find a Jesus who was not ultimately overcome by those soldiers; a Jesus who is willing to accept me naked, scared, doubtful and ashamed for deserting him so many times; a Jesus who waits there for me to wake up after running myself exhausted.

Every morning I start over and put my thin linen cloth of faith back on, hoping it stays on; hoping my doubt doesn’t get the best of me and hoping I have the courage to not run scared again like the night before.

A lot of us are running. A lot of us hold onto our faith like squeezing sand tightly in our palm. And we’re afraid to open it out of fear that it’s all seeped out with nothing left. So let’s show each other more grace and accept each other vulnerable when our faith can’t hang.

I don’t know what I’ll believe tomorrow. I don’t know if I’ll ever stop running. And when I run I don’t even know if there is a God chasing me or a God waiting for me on the other side. And even though people may not accept the flawed and shameful man underneath this thin faith, I have faith that Jesus would. So I’ll run until I’m brave enough to come to him naked and imperfect. I just hope he’s still alive when I stop running naked through this dark Mount of Olives.