Were you there?

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” 50 And they all left him and fled.

51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. – Mark 14:42-52


One of many beautiful cactus blossoms growing at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. Photo taken March 2017.

I had a very weird experience when I was in college, but still living at home with my parents. One night I dreamed/imagined that my dad called me and asked me to come down stairs and help him move the swing set in the back yard so that he could mow around its legs (I had my own phone in my room with my own phone number). So I got up, wrapped a sheet around me, tromped down the stairs and out the front door, into the side yard, and looked into the back yard. “He’s not here!” I said in exasperation and frustration. I was back half way up the stairs to my room – wrapped still in my bedsheet – when my mom came to the bottom of the stairs.

“David! Are you just now getting in?!?” she demanded. It was, 2 a.m. after all.

“No, Mom. Dad called me!” I replied and stomped on up the stairs to bed. That was some vivid dream. But whenever I read this account of the man wrapped in a sheet following Jesus to see what was going on, I remember that night.

Only Mark records this event, and some believe that Mark included it as a sort of a signature: he was there. He saw what was going on. Running away naked in all his shame he was, nevertheless, present. He was there.

He saw the shameful treatment that Jesus endured. He saw Jesus being taken to Pilate even as the others fled the scene. He may not have witnessed the arrest, or the ear of the slave falling to the ground. But he alone was with Jesus at this time.

The hymn asks, “Were you there?” None of us can claim to have seen Jesus die. But we do have eye witnesses to these events. Whether it is Mark who ran away naked from this melee, or someone else, we have the witness of those who were. Their witness is that Jesus was the subject of a mock trial and a quick rush to judgment, leads to his suffering and ultimately to his death.

This is all part of God’s plan, and as we watch Jesus move toward the cross. I was not there to see it, but I am thankful for the witness of those who were, and even more thankful that Jesus allowed these to take him captive, and fulfill Scripture for our sake and for our salvation.

When you see a bad accident, a violent situation, or dangerous turn of events do you move toward it or away from it? In this case we are invited to draw near to Jesus in anticipation of his ultimate favor and blessing.

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