The man came to the turbulent mob scene of Jesus’ arrest wearing only a linen cloth. It was right after the 12 had fled. What a time to show up.
And then he also fled, somehow losing the little bit of clothing he had.
I find that passage curious each year when we follow the Passion story from Mark. It seems like such a random insertion in the story. But I have heard of the external linen cloth as a comparison of internal preparation. He appeared in the deepest place of Christian faith unprepared and couldn’t endure.
The story of Christianity is a nice one to follow when you are reading about many of Jesus’ basic teachings. On the surface, I think most of us want to hear a teaching that God finds us valuable and that people should love, especially if it means others need to treat us that way. The idea of Jesus’ resurrection and of Heaven are also very nice. But the Passion of Jesus Christ is absolutely scandalous.
It seems every earthly organization projects power, success, wealth and ease. But not Christianity. Jesus really meant what He said about His suffering. The most powerful person in the universe appeared on earth poor, touched the unlovable and showed his solidarity with the lowly by accepting the death of a reviled sinner. And then He said our path to Him is through our transformation into suffering servants too.
How can we have the strength to endure that? Christianity is not for wimps. I think Saint Mark is saying you need to be spiritually clothed with more than a light cloth if you’re going to make it.
I heard the story on Palm Sunday, and I admonished myself for my lack of faith. As I have come deeper into relationship with Christ, I find I am not nearly as good at Christianity as I thought I was when I was younger. How could I have the endurance to continue into such a place of complete humility, selflessness and love?
As I thought of this, another verse popped into my head: “She is not concerned for her household when it snows— all her charges are doubly clothed (Proverbs 31:21).” And my despair turned to hope in Mary. It was such a perfect thing to think of her as Palm Sunday also coincided with the Annunciation, the day the angel declared Mary full of grace, and Jesus was conceived in her womb. Shouldn’t the one who was with Him from the beginning remain to His apparent end and into His glory?
I was in prayer to God when I heard her say, “You’ll have what you need.” And it ricocheted off many places of my heart:
“You know what I need?” (because even I don’t know what I need)
“You’re paying attention to me?” (because I feel alone sometimes)
“You’re providing consistently?” (because I feel so inconsistent)
I was deeply struck by her closeness to me and how much I could trust her to lead me into her Son’s will. And I considered how the only Apostle to endure the Passion without betrayal or cowardice was Saint John. He was there with Mary (John 19:26).
In the next few days, I am going to encounter Jesus at the Cross to consider His love for me and draw from His example. And I am not going to go there alone dressed in mere linen. I will go with Mary, who will be sure that I am doubly clothed.