MAUNDY THURSDAY WRITEUP 1st April 2021: Revd Joseph Tembo

PEOPLE WHO TOOK PART IN THE PASSION OF JESUS CHRIST: JOHN MARK

Today is 1st April 2021, and it is Maundy Thursday again. The most significant focus in Lent is remembering the temptations and victory of Christ Jesus as he fasted in the desert for forty days and forty nights. This was part of Christ’s own personal spiritual preparation for his public ministry, which culminated in the events of the Holy Week, namely Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Day. During the Holy Week – the week of our Lord’s Passion, various people are mentioned in the Gospel narratives; and the person of interest to us this Maundy Thursday is John Mark.

The Identity Of Mark And His Christian Work

Mark’s full name is John Mark, so we read in Acts 12.25. His mother’s name was Mary, who lived in Jerusalem (Acts 12.12). Mark was related to Barnabas who was one of Paul’s constant missionary companions (Colossians 4.10). He was the writer of the Second of the Gospels. Mark did accompany Barnabas his cousin and Paul on their first trip to go and preach about Jesus(Acts 12.25; 13.5). Sadly, Mark deserted Paul and Barnabas at Perga in Pamphylia, the country now called Turkey, north-east from Cyprus. He left them and returned to Jerusalem (Acts 13.13). So, because of this desertion, Paul was very upset with him so that on another occasion, he refused to take Mark with them, choosing instead to travel with another follower of Jesus called Silas (Acts 15.35-41). That said, as it is the nature of our faith, whatever hard measure we take in Church to discipline someone, it is always intended to correct errors, and to reconcile them back to God and to the fellowship of the Church. Therefore, the separation of Mark from Paul’s ministry was only temporary as he was reconciled to him, and restored to his fellowship and friendship in the work of God (2 Timothy 4.9-11).

Mark In The Passion Of Christ

The narratives of the Gospels about the arrest of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane tell us that all of his disciples forsook and deserted him (Matthew 26.56 and Mark 14.50). However, of all his close friends, we mostly read about Simon Peter. The Bible in Mark 14.54 tells us that ‘Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.’ We also read about Simon Peter Following Jesus into the high priest’s courtyard, along with another disciple who was known to the high priest. This other disciple went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest. Peter however, remained outside at the door. The disciple known to the high priest went back to the door to have a word with the lady who was guarding the door to allow Peter in. All this is in John 18.15-17. Finally, in Mark 14.51-52, we read, ‘A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.’ Was this “young man” Mark? It is very likely that this was Mark, not naming himself as he wrote; and the reason for not saying any more than he has about himself was just to say that he was a first-hand witness of the beginning of the sufferings of Jesus.

Mark is here describing to us what happened to himself. It was a common way of writing, as we see John doing the same in his Gospel. Some reasons have been given for identifying Mark as the young man who fled naked: 

  • The Passover Meal or Last Supper on Maundy Thursday was at John Mark’s family home, and after the meal, Jesus went to the Mount of Olives from here.
  • The band of soldiers and others led by Judas Iscariot may have passed by Mark’s family home, and Mark decided to run on ahead to warn Jesus and the Apostles, and that he got himself too much in the middle of the troubles, so that the soldiers decided to arrest him too, but that he managed to slip out of their net by slipping out of his linen cloth, a very costly piece of clothing is clear in the narrative of the Passion of Jesus.
  • In Acts 12.12, this family home continued to be used as a venue where Christians met to pray.

Lesson

Whether the young man at the beginning of the Passion narrative, was John Mark or not, one thing is clear. The well-known disciples of Jesus fled, but this young man stood his ground,until it was necessary for him to flee with his life from the violent place. In our Christian calling, Jesus has called us to carry our cross each day and to follow him, but, if, however, we are persecuted in one place, we must run to another safer place. This is what being wise as serpents, and harmless as doves is. In fleeing, we don’t discard the cross, we run with it, we keep on carrying it. Throwing away the cross would be more than denying the Lord – it would be another betrayal – like Judas Iscariot’s at the Passover Meal – the Last Supper.

This Maundy Thursday, as we reflect closely on the sufferings of Jesus, and appreciate the reason for them, let us ask ourselves how we might each be betraying our Saviour the Lord Jesus Christ. We commit ourselves more to the holy God whose Son Jesus Christ suffered injustice, and died upon the cross to save all who believe, confess their sins and turn away from the things and ways of life that are abominable to God. Maundy Thursday invites us to decide whose side we are on; and to change if we are on the wrong side. One Hymn has very well questioned: “Who is on the Lord’s side, who will serve the King”? Take your side today, take your place like Mark in the Passion of Christ. Take salvation, keep salvation and if you must flee from danger, flee with the cross Christ has called you to carry and stay on the Lord’s side.

May the blessings of Easter be fully manifest, enriching your lives.

Revd Joseph Tembo.

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