The Naked Man: pt. 3

Mark 14 52 - cropped

As Mark began to speak, his mother was unsure if he was talking to her, or to himself, his eyes still maintaining their distant look. “We had all retired for the night, and I must have drifted off to sleep. I was wakened by the sound of hushed voices and footfall on the steps leading down from the upper room. I drew back the covering from my doorway and looked out to see a group of figures crossing the courtyard and heading out into the night. Jesus was leaving! As I watched, some others from among his followers who had been sleeping in the courtyard got up and left with him. I stepped across my room to find my linen outer garment, shrugged it over my head and then looked for my undergarments.” A faint, almost bitter smile flashed across his face, as he looked directly into his mother’s eyes. “But where were they? A quick glance around the room did not reveal them and – concerned that I wouldn’t be able to find my friends – I just strapped on my sandals, ran across the courtyard and out into the street. I was just in time to see Philip and Andrew turn a corner, and sprinted down the road to catch up with them.” He lifted the wine cup to his lips before continuing.

“The group was quiet when I reached them, a few speaking in low voices. Jesus was leading them, striding purposefully through the Upper City. I tagged along at the rear, wondering where we could be going at this time of night. We passed through the Lower City, crossed the Kidron Valley and took the road out to the Mount of Olives. I could see Thomas just ahead and lengthened my stride until I was walking beside him. “Where are we going?” I asked him quietly. “I’m not sure,” he replied. He gestured towards Jesus. “The master did not say.” Mark reached across to take his mother’s hand. “I remember asking him if everything had been satisfactorily prepared for their Passover meal. You were so concerned that everything would be just right.” “Yes,” his mother smiled. “Your father and I considered it a great honor that the Master trusted us to host them – and to keep secret their coming back into the city. Do you remember the ‘secret sign’?” It was Mark’s turn to smile – though fondly, this time. “Yes. I’m still amazed that pitcher of water didn’t fall off my head and smash before Peter and John found me. I brought them back and you took them up to the guest room.” “Yes,” said Miryam. “They were very gracious, said everything was in order, and I left them to make their preparations.” Her forehead wrinkled in a frown. “But when I came down, you and your brothers were arguing in the courtyard.” “That we were,” said Mark, and his brow furrowed at the memory.

“I was excited that we were hosting Jesus and the twelve – such an honor for our family. But Benyamin and Daniel did not share that excitement.” “No,” said Miryam, “No, they did not. I first asked Benyamin to carry the water jar through the streets, but he refused outright. ‘That is women’s work,’ he said, before spinning on his heels and walking away. If that had been the real reason, I could have pressed him and he might have done it.” “But,” said Mark, “that wasn’t the reason, was it?” “No. It wasn’t,” his mother replied. “His friends’ fathers had made it very clear to him that people who knew what was good for them would keep their distance from – how did they put it? – oh yes, that ‘upstart, rabble-rousing rabbi from Galilee.’” She shook her head sadly. “And Benyamin still maintains that distance to this day.”

“And Daniel,” said Mark. “What was his reason for refusing his mother’s request?” Miryam smiled. “Besides being sixteen you mean? He gave the same answer as his older brother about it being women’s work, but Daniel meant it. He burned with revolutionary zeal even then, and the daily tasks of life were unimportant compared to ‘the cause.’ Especially if those tasks were normally assigned to women.” Mark held his mother’s gaze before saying, “And he still burns with that zeal, doesn’t he?” As she pictured that fresh-faced boy, and the hardened man he had become, her smile slipped away. “Yes he does. I do not see as much of him as I might like. I know there is blood on his hands…and he knows that I know, and what I think of that. And so he keeps his distance, for the most part.” She leaned across to cup her oldest son’s face in her hands. “My three sons. You look so alike, yet you are so very different. But I love you all.”

“I know you do,” said Mark. “You always have. I wish that were also true for us. But in many ways it was that night when the love we shared truly began to wane.” And his eyes became distant once more…

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