Sunday of the Passion

by Crossings

The Clothes We Wear
Mark 14&15
Sunday of the Passion
analysis by Bruce T. Martin

. . . 14:51[In the evening, just after of Jesus’ betrayal,] a certain young man was following him, earing nothing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, 52but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. . . . 15:24And they crucified him, and divided his clothes among them . . . 37Then Jesus gave a loud cry and breathed his last. 38And the curtin of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. . . . 46Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb. . .

DIAGNOSIS: Shrouded in Death

Step 1 – Initial Diagnosis: Hiding From Others
In Mark’s gospel, Jesus’ passion (14:34 “deeply grieved, even to death”), is punctuated by events that could easily be ignored were it not for their supreme irony. Our crossing here concerns the metaphorical clothes we wear, or don’t wear; the clothes that conceal, or the clothes that heal. In 14:51, the “young man” is often conjectured to be Mark himself, but could easily be me or you. He is wearing a “fine linen cloth” (Greek, sindon), exactly what Jesus is wrapped in as his burial shroud (Greek, sindon) in 15:46. For this young man, though, the linen cloth is at first blush merely a cloth. But when the cloth is torn from him by the pursuing guards, he is suddenly found to be “naked”: embarrassed, ashamed and afraid; so he runs off. A comical event, were it not so true-to-life. Evidently, this “follower” of Jesus is embarrassed by his arrest and flees the scene for fear of sharing in Jesus’ presumed guilt. He doesn’t want to face the accusers; nor, it seems, even the accused. Like all the disciples and all would-be followers of Jesus, he has “run off, naked.”

Step 2 – Advanced Diagnosis: Naked Before God
But we cannot run away from God. Naked is what we all are, before God, even us would-be followers of Jesus. God sees through our fine clothes (and everything else that hides the truth) to our real nakedness, deep in our heart. There, we can no longer hide, no longer cover ourselves or pretend to do so. In contrast to the naked Jesus upon the cross (later clothed with a death shroud) we are found, by God, not to be followers after all, not true believers, not ones who wish to be crucified side-by-side with Jesus. Ultimately, we do not believe that he is God’s word clothed in human flesh, nor that his crucifixion is “the way” to eternal life. Running off naked, we show ourselves to be unbelievers after all, since not to wear the linen cloth is to refuse crucifixion with our Lord.

Step 3 – Final Diagnosis: Shrouded in Death
Jesus, on the cross, shows us what we truly are before God. What God finds in our heart and condemns to death, is sin (though we cannot possibly see this until we are crucified with Jesus; call that faith). Jesus became exactly like us, naked before God; but he, having nothing to hide, did so willingly. His crucifixion demonstrates that our desire to hide ourselves from God has failed. Apart from Jesus (not trusting in him and following him to the cross), our “nakedness before God” shows us to be “clothed in sin and death”; for, the truth about the linen cloth is as a shroud. Our end is, like the apparent end of Jesus, wrapped in a shroud of eternal Death.

PROGNOSIS: Clothed in Life

Step 4 – Initial Prognosis: Clothed with Christ
If we are indeed naked before God with nowhere to hide, there is only one place for us truly to flee: to the cross and burial of Christ, where God has come to join us in death. There, God has clothed himself in our sin and our death, symbolized by the linen cloth (now a shroud) with which Jesus is wrapped. There, God is so united with us, with all of us, that “humanity is taken into God” (Athanasian Creed) and thereby redeemed. Evidenced by Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, God-in-Christ has destroyed sin; death no longer shrouds him. Though we are wont to run away from God, God has insisted on coming to us in our deepest misery. Being united with Jesus and he with us, we are clothed as it were with Christ himself, protected against the cold grip of death and lifted up by the resurrection promise. (Upon Jesus’ death, another cloth, the temple curtain which protected the ark of the covenant from any taint of uncleanness, was torn in two, thus removing the last symbolic barrier between heaven and earth. — note: the curtain, or veil, was a tapestry depicting the stars and constellations of heaven).

Step 5 – Advanced Prognosis: Clothed in Faith
Those who would follow Jesus believe that he has joined them in death and that they will join him in resurrection. We now have Death behind us and life before us. We now live, trusting that Christ the Lord will not abandon us, that Death has been sentenced to death, that “nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.” The Father now sees us as he sees the Son. Clothed in such faith, we are no longer naked before God, no longer embarrassed for Jesus or ashamed of ourselves, but clothed with Christ and his righteousness.

Step 6 – Final Prognosis: Clothed in Promise
Those who have Death behind them are now free to follow Jesus to the littler crosses, free to love — even our crucifiers. Clothed with Christ and therefore with faith-in-Christ, we are sustained to the end, never again to be found naked before God. Though we may and undoubtedly will — by way of those littler crosses — become naked (as it were) among the naked, sinners (as it were) among sinners, dying (as it were) among the dying, we bring with us the resurrected life of Jesus. When we share the misery of others, taking that misery also upon ourselves, we bring with us the word and promise of God with which we are clothed. Now we are free to hide no more.


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