The Naked Man: pt. 5

Mark 14 52 - cropped“A short while later we came to a grove of olive trees with its own small oil press, hence its name, Gethsemane. Although I could sense the tension in the air, I found myself stifling a yawn. It was late, and I was tired. Once more Jesus turned to us and spoke, ‘Sit here, until I have prayed.’ Together with Peter, James and John, he walked off through the trees. I leant back against a gnarled, venerable olive tree to wait with the others.

“As they found their own trees to lean against, or reclined on the ground, I looked around at the faces of men I had grown to love, many of whom I would never have even spoken to – let alone befriend – had it not been for Jesus. But that was his way – to make friendships between people who would not ordinarily be friends. Three of the fishermen among the Twelve had walked off with Jesus, leaving the fourth – Andrew, Peter’s brother – reclining on an elbow in quiet conversation with Philip. James, with his brother Thaddeus was talking to Thomas and Bartholomew. The most unlikely pairing was the tax collector Matthew Levi and Simon, the Zealot. Levi had made his living collecting tolls for Herod Antipas on the main trade route near Kefer Nahum. Simon had been a fierce nationalist and in the beginning could barely look at Levi. But having walked in the dust of their rabbi for three years they were now brothers.”

“But the last of the Twelve was missing,” Miryam said. “Yes,” Mark replied, “Judas of Kerioth had not followed Jesus that night. I think I registered his absence before my eyes began to close and I drifted off to sleep. The next thing I knew, I was being rudely awakened by someone kicking my side, as – in my semi-conscious state – what I thought was a fiery snake approached through the trees. I jumped to my feet, and realized that the “snake” was in fact a procession of men carrying torches, the flames flashing off the helmets and metal breastplates of the Temple guard. I looked around with alarm for Jesus, hoping against hope that I wouldn’t find him, but there he was, standing in our midst. I saw in his face an expression I’d never seen there before – anguish, perhaps even horror. We gathered around him, several of us putting ourselves between Jesus and the advancing crowd. I glanced back over my shoulder, and watched as the anguish on his face seemed to ease into a look of acceptance. He moved between us until he stood in front, awaiting his fate.”

Mark pushed himself up from his reclining position and spoke earnestly. “He had told us that he would suffer at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the scribes – that they would kill him. And now, here they were, with the Temple guard and others armed with clubs and swords. As they reached the grove, one man stepped forward and strode across to Jesus. It was Judas. As he reached Jesus he said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Before we knew what was happening, the guard rushed forward and seized Jesus, knocking us out of the way. I fell to the ground, and as I did I saw the flash of firelight on a naked blade and heard a scream. I would later learn from Peter that he had fumbled his sword out of his belt and slashed at the nearest person, one of the high priest’s slaves, slicing off his ear.

“As the guards gripped Jesus’ arms and held us at bay with their weapons, I saw Jesus looking above the soldiers’ heads to the shadowy faces of the chief priests and elders behind them. We all heard his voice carry across the grove to them. ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest me like a bandit? Every day I was with you in the Temple, teaching, and you did not seize me then; but this is happening that the scriptures might be fulfilled.’”

Mark’s shoulders slumped. “And then, as if by some unseen signal, everyone ran. Everyone. The Twelve and the others who had followed Jesus from our home earlier that night. They all ran. I was in such shock, my legs wouldn’t move. Suddenly I felt hands grasping for me. They closed on my linen robe, and as I pulled away in fear, the robe tore, and I slipped from their grasp, naked. I ran blindly uphill, the thin branches of the olive trees slashing my face and limbs. When I realized no one was following, I paused to catch my breath, and looked down the hill to the grove. The first face I saw was Judas’, lit by torchlight. To my surprise I saw that his face mirrored Jesus’ earlier expression – that of horror. As I watched, he pushed his way through the crowd and disappeared into the night. And then I saw Jesus. Surrounded by leering, jeering faces. Alone. Utterly alone.” Mark looked briefly into his mother’s face, before turning to stare off into the distance once more, the pain of the memory etched upon his features…

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