The Grace No One Wants

Running Man by Michael Cook

Regret is the grace no one wants, but only those who have grown beyond a mistake receive it. That’s one consolation. Those who don’t learn, or change, never experience regret. It’s a perspective on the past we only gain as we grow. The Passion of Saint Mark contains the most potent of regrets, a shame and sorrow candidly confessed yet easily missed.

The Passion Narratives were probably the earliest portions of the Gospels to be written, and Mark’s was the first of those. In composing their narratives, Matthew and Luke would have drawn upon Mark, but they deleted a detail, perhaps because it had no significance for them. The incident is only found in Mark’s Gospel, and it has all the signs of a remembered sorrow, a deeply personal regret. Indeed, it’s so unsettling, and so particular, that it adds to the very credibility of the account. Praying in the garden, Jesus and his disciples were confronted by “a crowd with swords and clubs.” The master met them with Isaiah’s face of flint, but his disciples “all left him and fled.” Mark alone adds:

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Now a young man followed him
wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.
They seized him,
but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked (14: 51-52).
 

Is it possible that the exposed youth was the evangelist himself, that he couldn’t help but to confess the regret with which he lived?  The young man was an intimate of Jesus. He was among those who went with him to the garden. And yet when terror comes, faith and fellowship crumbled. All his disciples fled, but someone remembers a particular, deeply personal humiliation. Which is the greater shame? Running away naked, or fleeing when the shepherd has been struck?

Yet how would we know of the scandal without someone allowing regret to become a grace? If this is the evangelist, he has confessed both his shame and God’s mercy. As a young man, he fled in terror. As an adult, he becomes the herald of salvation.

Regret is the grace no one wants, but if we change because of it, it is the wound that gives life. 

Isaiah 50: 4-7  Philippians 2: 6-11  Mark 14: 1-15:47

Running Man by Michael Cook used by permission of the artist.

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