Alfred Place Baptist Church

14:50-52 The utter isolation of Christ

Mark 14:50-52 “Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

A police car overtook us in London last week; its lights were flashing and it stopped behind another police car. Two policemen were already standing each side of a man sitting on a ledge. They had seized and handcuffed him. I’d seen policemen talking to drunkards before, but I hadn’t seen a man’s wrists being manacled. It grieved me to see a human being with his wrists chained together.

1. THE SON OF GOD WAS SEIZED BY HIS ENEMIES.

We are told that “The men seized Jesus and arrested him” (v.46); John adds, “they bound him” (Jn. 18:12). The Bible is full of records of men being taken by other men. Jacob sent off his son Joseph with a message to his brothers, but when he arrived they seized him because they hated his status as Dad’s favourite son. They planned to kill him, to throw him in a pit where he’d die of thirst, but when a caravan of Midianite slave traders arrived they seized Joseph again and sold him into slavery. What could one teenage boy do against ten tough shepherds? In Egypt it was Commander Potiphar who seized him when his wife accused Joseph of trying to seduce him, and threw him into prison. What was a slave to do when pitted against the head of the armed forces of Egypt? The Egyptians seized the baby boys of Israel and put them to death. What could mothers do when a platoon of Egyptian soldiers kicked in their doors and killed their babies before their very eyes? The Philistines seized Samson after Delilah had cut his hair off, and they put his eyes out. Samson was powerless to resist. King Saul tried to seize young David and kill him, but he failed. When the officials of Nebuchadnezzar saw three men standing up instead of falling on their faces before the great golden image on the plain of Dura they seized them and threw them into the burning fiery furnace. How could three boys resist Babylonian soldiers? Saul of Tarsus seized Christians, men and women, and threw them into prison forcing them to blaspheme the name of Jesus.

The Bible is full of examples of evil men seizing the servants of God and binding them, but no scene is so striking as the one we see in this chapter, the taking and binding of the Lord Christ. Once when Jesus had preached in the synagogue of Nazareth the congregation was so incensed that they seized him and frog-marched him to the top of a nearby precipice to throw him to his death, but he slipped through their hands and walked away. Not here. “The men seized Jesus and arrested him” (v.46). Why didn’t he slip through these hands and make good his escape? What are mere men compared to the Son of God, the incarnation of Omnipotence? We are pip-squeaks aren’t we? We live and move and have our being in the Lord, and yet here men seize and bind the Lord. Imagine our grief and shame is we saw a mob bursting in on our Queen and rough-handling her and binding her. Now multiply by infinity. Who were they dealing with in Gethsemane? They didn’t know that this was the very one of whom Job spoke thus;

“His wisdom is profound, his power is vast. Who has resisted him and come out unscathed?
He moves mountains without their knowing it and overturns them in his anger.
He shakes the earth from its place and makes its pillars tremble.
He speaks to the sun and it does not shine; he seals off the light of the stars.
He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.
He is the Maker of the Bear and Orion, the Pleiades and the constellations of the south.
He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted” (Job 9:4-10)

The apostle John says that without Jesus Christ was not anything made that was made, yet sinful men put handcuffs on him and took him away. We all know the story of Gulliver’s Travels, how this fictional character wakes up one day in a foreign land and finds he cannot move because the Lilliputians – the tiny men of that country, just a few inches high – have bound him and staked him to the ground with thousands of yards of cotton. We have all seen pictures in our children’s books of those little men standing on his chest and looking at him. But their cotton couldn’t hold him, and with one bound Gulliver was free. So it could have been with mighty Christ – if he so willed it he could have sent them crashing to the ground again as he said, “I am he.” He could have snapped their chains as easily as a piece of cotton wool is torn apart, couldn’t he?

The Lord Christ himself tells us why he didn’t; why he allowed them to take him; “the Scriptures must be fulfilled” (v.49). This very hour, when men would take and bind him, had been determined by God himself. The Messiah, prophesying in Psalm 22, says, “a band of evil men has encircled me” (Psa. 22:16); Isaiah speaks of God’s servant, “by oppression and judgment he was taken away” (Isa. 53:8). That was what God had decreed in eternity, and so men chose it in time. God had made up his mind, “A day will come when Judas will lead a crowd armed with swords and clubs and they will seize my beloved Son.” Sinners will bind the hands of the one whose power made the heavens and the earth. The cosmos is all his handiwork, and yet sinners bound those hands.

What does that say of those places or relationships in which we feel ourselves to be pinned down? Men we don’t particularly like have authority over us in church, in our family, in the armed services, in caring for others, in our business, in our school. Perhaps we share a house with them, and we cannot do what we would so. What do we know for our comfort? “It is God who has bound me here.” That is what we say; “His very hands fashioned the chains that keep me here.” Paul in jail in Rome knew that he was a prisoner of the Lord. The chain that bound Paul to a Roman legionnaire was locked in place by God. The bindings of Joseph, and Samson, and Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and Stephen were all decreed by God. Whether God wills us to be thrown into slavery, or into the Nile, or into prison, or a fiery furnace, or to grind corn in eye-less in Gaza – whatever – the whole accomplishment is God’s. Men meant evil against us but God meant the binding for our good. The Lord reigns. He is in control of life and death, our liberty and imprisonment. For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter, and yet in all such things we are more than conquerors.

Jesus called Gethsemane and Golgotha ‘the hour of darkness.’ Can you see the angels around the throne trembling with longing to fly down and deliver their Lord? But it was not their hour. They must stand back. Their Lord wills that the angelic legions remain in heaven at this hour. “Fold your wings and be quiet ye heavenly hosts. This is the hour of devils not angels, of darkness not light. Michael, sheath your sword at this hour! Be a mere spectator of your Lord being seized and bound.” Can you sense the excitement in hell as one demon shouts the news to another. “They have seized Jesus and bound him. He’s not going to get away now. We’ve got him. We’ll destroy him!” What cheers in the place of darkness. The demons come and go at their will, but Christ goes on his way handcuffed. God gives the privilege to move freely to the pit but not to his own Son. It was their hour, but it was the Scripture that determined it. Hell could not choose the timing. If it had, it would have been when Herod’s soldiers entered Bethlehem and killed all the little boys. Strangle the infant Jesus in his crib! That would have been hell’s choice for his demise, but it is never hell’s choice. It is always God’s choice. The voice of devotion recognises that all the best choices are God’s:

“Choose Thou for me my friends,
My sickness or my health;
Choose Thou my cares for me,
My poverty or wealth.” (Horatius Bonar, 1808-89)

Scripture says that a band of evil men will encircle the Messiah, and so it has to be. God’s justice, God’s love, God’s truth, God’s revelation and everything included in the mighty God had designated that this hour is the hour in which Jesus will be bound, and so it is.

It was a totally new experience for Christ. You read his life and see his freedom even at twelve years of age when he decides to be about his Father’s business in Jerusalem letting his parents return to Nazareth without him. Then later he expresses his freedom from his mother when she seeks to control him, and from Peter when he seeks to control him, and from all the disciples. Christ goes where he pleases, when he please, and how he pleases. His most mighty enemies cannot control him, but now is the hour of darkness, and he is seized.

Couldn’t Jesus have broken those bonds? The answer is no, he could not. Couldn’t Jesus come down from the cross? No, he could not. I am not saying that he didn’t possess the power to do so. He can do everything he wills to do. Generally speaking the Lord can break all bonds. He could split the atom because he is the God who designed the atom, but such language describing what Jesus could do is unhelpful. We say, “generally speaking” he can do this or that, but generally speaking Gethsemane does not even exist. Generally speaking Golgotha is nowhere. It is fatal for us to travel into the realms Gulliver entered and say, “Let’s imagine if Jesus had broken the chains that bound him and escaped from these men . . . or, what if Jesus had come down from the cross and hadn’t died . . .” Get real! Nothing happens in general. Everything has a specific bearing. Here is the Garden of Gethsemane; it is located in a certain place on our planet on the Mount of Olives outside the walls of Jerusalem, and the binding of Jesus took place there about 1972 years ago. It happened once; it could happen only once. The things that happened there were specific, special, unique events. That is why we don’t try to rewrite history, our own history, or the history of Jesus. His bonds could not be broken. If they had been then our own bonds would never have been broken. We’d never have sung, “My chains fell off, my heart was free; I rose went forth and followed Thee.” We’d have remained as bound as the fallen angels – those who are reserved in everlasting chains in darkness awaiting the judgment of the great day. Christ’s own love won’t break the bonds that bind him; his love for us preserves his own handcuffs.

Those soldiers left their barracks that evening and their officer ensured there would be weapons and lights and ropes to bind the prisoners. This rope had been woven in Jerusalem and now it is being used to bind Christ’s wrists, and all the powers of heaven cannot break these cords. God has bound them really tight. As a soldier grabbed him and held his hands together another man wrapped the rope round and round his wrists, really tight, and tied them, pulling on the ends of the rope so that the prisoner couldn’t undo them. But as he pulled, God in heaven was also pulling them tight. The knots were very secure. Christ was bound for our sins according to the Scriptures. Christ loved me and was bound for me according to the Scriptures. Behold the Lamb of God who was bound for me. Divine justice and wisdom and truth bound him and yet at the same time let the devils free for their hour.

2. THE SON OF GOD WAS ABANDONED BY HIS FRIENDS.

Our Lord saw everything that occurred in the Garden. I mean his large sensitive heart was aware of everything going on around him. He saw the disciples taking off into the darkness, crashing through the olive trees like startled deer. All this was part of the suffering of Christ. Nothing in Gethsemane was trivial; nothing was incidental; nothing was colourless. Everything that happened fulfilled Scripture. Smite the Shepherd, said Zechariah the prophet, and this will happen, the sheep will have no shepherd and they will scatter. These eleven disciples had seen Christ raise the dead. They had been with him in the boat and seen him command the winds and waves to be silent. They had been the objects of his pastoral care, and learners under his powerful ministry. These disciples were the very men who now ran off and abandoned him. The perfect number of twelve has already been shattered by Judas jumping ship to serve under the devil, but now all the others are offended at the sight of their Lord agreeing to be bound and arrested. What did they do? They ran off.

Now do you remember that Jesus has said to the arresting official, “If you are looking for me then let these men go” (Jn. 18:8). Going on your way is one thing. I drove past that man being arrested and handcuffed by the police in London; I went on my way. The police had nothing on me. I went on my way calmly, and sadly. There can be a time when a company of soldiers in a battle are facing overwhelming odds and losing many men. They organise an orderly retreat. That is not running off, but these disciples fled for their lives. Fed by an adrenaline rush of fear they raced away from Jesus.

Running away is never an option. It is never a Christian act. Joseph heading for Egypt with Mary and the baby Jesus to escape from Herod is not running away. It was an act of obedience to a messenger of God who told them to do so. A wife who leaves the family home where her husband is using her as a punch-bag is not running away. She is preventing a man breaking the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill,’ with herself the victim he is murdering. Such actions are a retreat; they are conducted in the strength of the Lord, after much prayer, by faith, and to God’s glory. The Pilgrim Fathers escaping from European persecution and sailing to New England was not a running away. Their eyes were continually on their Lord, but the eyes of these eleven disciples were on the clubs and swords and ropes of the soldiers. Their flight was without faith. If they had trusted in the Lord they could have walked out of Gethsemane like Jesus once walked calmly through the crowd on the edge of the precipice in Nazareth with none able to lay a hand on them. They could have made an orderly retreat like warriors of Christ, their heads held high, no one able to touch them.

Jesus had chosen them so that they would keep walking with him all their lives, but before that could happen he needed first to make atonement for their running away, for the cowardly have no place in the kingdom of heaven. After all these apostles had experienced shouldn’t they have trusted him? Shouldn’t they have remembered the words they’d heard two hours earlier, “Let not your hearts be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in me”? Where was their faith in the strength of Christ? Was this tide of soldiers coming for them? No. There is no indication that they were in any danger yet. Here was their Lord who had opened the Red Sea and then closed it on their enemies. By their nationality they had been baptized into Moses, but not until Pentecost were they baptized into Christ. Where was their faith? It was dwarfed by the clubs and swords waving in front of them. They feared the ropes that had tied Christ more than they feared the God who had strung up the Milky Way. So the sheep were scattered in judgment, and the Good Shepherd was totally isolated. All alone Christ will lay down his life for the cowardly sheep.

Do you know something of isolation, when the children have left home, and your husband or wife passes away and one day you go back to a home all alone? You think to yourself that this is how it is going to be from now on. Did Christ feel it when they all abandoned him? Wasn’t he more loving and sensitive than ourselves? Wasn’t he a man who loved companionship, and sympathy? But one by one in the Garden Jesus saw them all disappearing into the darkness. There they go – Levi, and Philip, and Andrew. Maybe that’s not so surprising that the lesser apostles ran off, but now there goes John whom Jesus specially loved running off like a hare, and there goes his brother James at his shoulder, fear written all over his face. And who is this galloping off? It is Peter who said he would never leave him. None of them looked back. There seemed nobody left. They all tear themselves from Jesus’ soul; it broke his heart.

There was a time in the life of the apostle Paul – the greatest of all Christians – when the people in Asia whom he had led to Christ and built up in their faith forsook him. The spirit of anti-Paul had spread through the whole church, and they all left him. What did Paul do? He prayed in submission to his Lord who understood what Paul was feeling because he’d also experienced total abandonment.

“Touched with a sympathy within,
He knows our feeble frame;
He knows what sore temptations mean,
For He has felt the same” (Isaac Watts, 1674-1748).

What did Paul actually say when he prayed to God when the Asian Christians had abandoned him? “I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge.” In other words, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” He prays just like his Saviour.

3. A YOUNG MAN TRIED TO STAY WITH HIM.

“Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus.” (vv. 50&51). You see how Mark puts it so artlessly, that everyone deserted him, all the apostles and sympathisers. Yes, but there was one young man who hung around looking at everything. This one man looks to me like a foretaste, and a promise. You know this classical story found in many cultures; it’s about invading marauders suddenly coming over the hill and descending on a town, looting and destroying the entire community. They steal, burn, rape and finally kill everyone, but there is a little boy hidden away who escapes the massacre and remembers. The rest of the story tells of what happened to this boy later. It is a story of vengeance and justice, but here in Mark’s gospel is a story of grace because this boy in Gethsemane might have lived long and gone on to write this gospel, and 2000 years later men and women living in a distant land were studying what he had written. Isn’t that a thing of beauty? When Dutch elm disease killed the lines of elm trees in Plascrug then in that scene of desolation a flowering bush seemed beautiful. That’s this teenager. He will stick with Jesus and lovingly follow him when the giants, Peter, and James and John go crashing into darkness. So we have this intriguing scene, and God seems to say to me that one day the apostles will all be gone, but a new generation will rise and they will love and follow the Saviour. Is God saying even this, that Christ lost one apostle Judas but Christ’s been given another one to take his place? Alongside the apostles Matthew and John this man will also write a gospel. That’s how this little story tells the big story.

Who is this young man? We don’t know his name; it has been withheld from us. It’s obvious that he left his home in haste that evening because he is wearing nothing but a linen garment, but he couldn’t stay away from Jesus. He had to be where Jesus was; there actually seems from the Greek text in one or two manuscripts a statement of his love and sympathy for the Lord. That is the matter of the correct text of our verse, but obviously here was a man whose love for Jesus was stronger than his fear. He couldn’t take off with the other disciples when they all ran like deer chased by a lion. The first threats of the enemy, their arresting and binding Jesus didn’t drive him away, and Christ noticed him, just as he had noticed Nathanael sitting under the fig tree. Jesus responded to the sympathy and love of this man, as he was lit up by the torches of those who were taking him away to his death. His being there strengthened Jesus. It was a gift of God to Jesus; it soothed his isolation.

Who is this young man? Jesus knew, but we don’t know definitely. Different men have been alluded to, but the most popular is that this teenager was, as I have suggested, Mark the writer of the gospel – John Mark. We have already intimated that his mother probably owned the house where the Passover was held – the very house from which Mark had now come rubbing the sleep out of his eyes. There had been all the spiritual energy present in that home in the past hours, the servants taking water there for the washing of feet, Jesus’ voice distantly sounding from that upstairs room, Judas coming down the stairs and going out into the night early on, the sound of the psalms being sung, and then they all go out into the garden of Gethsemane. Young Mark can’t sleep; he is gripped by concern and love, and he follows the disciples quickly, not having time to put on all his street clothes. He watches the scene in the Garden, the three disciples go into the midst of Gethsemane, but Jesus goes on another 40 feet and throws himself onto the ground and he is praying aloud and in anguish; Peter, James and John fall asleep. Finally there’s the sound of a mob coming near, torches, voices, Jesus approaches them and he asks who they were looking for. Then the whole crowd of them fall back on the ground when Jesus said, “I am.” Then Peter charges waving his sword and cuts off Malchus’ ear and Jesus heals him. Finally, Christ is arrested and there are threatening approaches to the apostles who all run off. Mark gripped by all this; a night he would never forget, watching it all. The verses of our text are Mark’s monogram. They are a clue to the young man’s identity; they are saying, “This was me, Mark.” These verses are like the appearance of Alfred Hitchcock in most of his own films as someone standing in a crowd, a passer by, getting off a bus. But there is no vanity here. The message is, “I also ran away and left him, and it was without any clothes on; how undignified.”

We don’t know definitely that it was John Mark and it is unimportant, but this identification does fit in with everything in the gospel. What is important is that this young friend of Jesus is quickly driven away from Jesus. The one person left in Gethsemane who loved him is attacked; they grab his linen garment and there’s a struggle. He twists and pulls away and all they have is the garment and he runs off naked into the darkness of the night. What a brave young disciple to stay there in this garden with all its threats when the older men had already run off, but even he had to take to his heels. The prophet Amos spoke of the coming of the day of the Lord, a terrible time of judgment in the future in which “even the bravest warriors will flee naked on that day” (Amos 2:16). The arrest of Jesus announces the terrible judgments that are soon to take place in this world – God’s own Son, the Messiah, nailed to a cross!

So his last friend disappears, and Jesus is bound and surrounded by his enemies. He is absolutely isolated. That’s how this little story tells the big one. This young man never belonged to the apostles. He was not part of the inner group with whom Jesus had lived for these past years, of whom Jesus said, “Let these men go.” Young Mark was on his own here; he had no bodyguard but he stayed. His courage puts to shame the frightened disciples. Without the promise of any special protection Mark clung closer to Jesus. That is all he had, the person of our Lord. “Let me stay; let me but look to him; let me keep him in my sight.” That was his whole ambition, and this is a foretaste of what lies before the whole church. Look to Jesus. In darkness, and in danger, when there is never another Christian around and you are on your own, look to Jesus. When the end is near; when you draw one fleeting breath, when your eyelids close in death – look to Jesus!

But oh how harsh God can seem! How brutal our God can appear! Two weeks ago a family were returning from a Christian Singles’ Conference in Wyoming, a widowed mother, Kathy, her three daughters and a son. There was a car accident and the mother and son were killed and the girls injured one of them very badly. As I preach the three sisters are in a hospital in Wyoming. Last year they lost their Dad and now they have lost their Mom and brother. God gives us the wine of astonishment to drink. We are back with Job in his despair and longing for the faith he manifested.

How differently we would have written this story in Mark 14; we would have had this young man mingling with the crowd walking along near to Jesus, smiling at him, catching his eye, singing a psalm quietly, saying in body language, “I love you. I’m on your side.” But no sooner does this new shoot appear in the Garden than the great Husbandman slashes it off. God permits the soldiers to drive him way also, and Christ is alone in the presence of his enemies, surrounded by darkness. Not only does the sight of old friends running away, some of them specially loved, crush his spirit but the disappearance of a new friend. The kindergarten and the graduate school of Christ are both blown away for his presence by the wind of God. All are taken away. Our text says, “Everyone deserted him and fled.” They had all drunk the cup in the upper room (v.23), and they had all said they would never leave him (v.31), and now they all forsake him and flee for their lives. God was stripping every comfort from his Son. That’s the big story found in this little story.

This is the continuance of Christ’s journey into the anathema. The old and the new; the familiar faces and the novices; those who had drunk of his wisdom and those to whom he was just a wonderful figure whom they barely knew – they all abandoned Christ. The guests who sat around the Passover meal and the servants and family who lived downstairs – they all left him. O earth, steel your heart against your sinless Lord. We are sinners who have forfeited the right to any blessings. When Christ is the plaything of the soldiers he will be alone. When he stands before the Sanhedrin he will be alone. When he stands before Pilate he will be alone. When he meets Herod he will be alone. When he is crucified he is alone. He even cries “My God, my God why have you forsaken me – even you?” There is no reply. His lonely body is buried in a grave and a stone seals it. Our Saviour is learning to set his face like a flint against the world. The Messiah is in total isolation. No one was redeeming the world with him.

There are two worlds facing us.

i] The first is heaven, and that is a world of love, where there is no isolation at all. All the Lord’s people are present, every single one of them, and a hymn on the lips of one is soon transferred to the hearts and lips of others. There are no fluctuations of love. No one has any secrets from another; no one hides any inner resentment or bitterness or lust or jealousy from those near to him because such sins are banished from that place. There is affection and cooperation; all that glorious world sings in perfect harmony. No one walks to another place in heaven to avoid seeing anyone else. There is no embarrassment in conversations in heaven. There are no guilty memories of past behaviour in glory.

Such fellowship begins now. One of the disciples who ran away from Gethsemane abandoning Jesus was John. He never forgot running through the trees in darkness full of blind panic. He went as far from Christ as his lungs and legs would take him. How different he was after the resurrection, and after Pentecost. For the rest of his life he remembered all his closeness to Christ: “we saw him with our eyes, we kept looking at him, and we touched him with our hands,” he said wistfully, the Word of Life. Then he tells them, “We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete” (I Jn. 1:3&4). Fellowship with one another; fellowship with God. The church is called to be a world of loving and belonging and acceptance, where no one should be isolated or lonely or ever seeking a friend. Christ was isolated that we might know fellowship. That is the world of grace.

ii] The other world is hell, and there everyone hates everyone else. In hell no one desires to be with anyone else. If there were daggers in hell they would be constantly plunged into everybody else there. There is consequentially everlasting loneliness in hell. Everyone is isolated from everyone else for ever. No one in hell has a friend; there is no companionship in hell; no love in hell. It is a place of total hatred and contempt. All this despair is unrelieved from one age to the next with no possibility of it ever being changed.

In the Garden of Gethsemane Christ is passing from this one world to the other. From being with God since the beginning to being absolutely alone. He comes from the glories of the transfiguration and his Father’s voice owning him as his beloved Son, and moves on to the fellowship in the Upper Room and his praying for those he loves. He still enjoys pure divine loving fellowship. Then Jesus moves on, into the Garden, and the beginning of his loneliness. His disciples sleep rather than watch, and alone he prays about the cup. Then they are all running away and he is surrounded by those who hate him. From heaven to hell Christ is traveling. The disciples isolate him because of their fear and unbelief, but here is one person, this modest young man. Will there be comfort here? He wants to be with Jesus; love draws him to Jesus. He is the first fruits of the future people of the new covenant. Many like him are going to come. The passion of Christ will not be in vain, but then he is also torn away from Jesus. God’s sword is aroused against the man who is Christ’s fellow. Smite the Shepherd! Smite the Shepherd! And young John Mark this trembling lambkin is driven away, away from the Good Shepherd. How all consuming is the divine sword raised high by God against the Shepherd.

All our salvation is in Jesus Christ alone. Our entire and total and complete salvation is found in him and in no one else. It is not in Abraham and Moses and David. It is not in Peter, nor James nor John. It is not in Paul. It is not in Mary. It is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone, who was absolutely alone, and see how God sets that before us from this moment on. Even the young disciple is driven away and our Saviour is terribly alone. God required it from him. The cup was full of the loneliness of hell and Jesus had drunk it. He will endure it in their stead. He will be the means of their coming from the one world to the other.

Christ created a new humanity, the people of God, the church that is his body, the new covenant community. Christ created it by what he alone achieved; it was all by himself. No one else was with him helping him. The disciples were overflowing with unbelief and fears from within, and they broke up and disappeared in all directions. There was also a demonic force threatening them from without and destroying all men. There was no power there to gather a church together. It was a scene of utter black desolation until Christ acted with his tremendous determination, and his unsurpassed obedience to death even the death of the cross.

How does that salvation become ours? We begin here, by confessing to Christ, “I forsook you too. You were the lover of my soul offering to become my Bridegroom and Husband, and I ran from you.” Have you seen that? “For thou wert long beforehand with my soul; Always Thou lovedst me.” We were all once fleeing from him, but then he was bound and isolated for us that we might become the free and loved children of God. Make me one of those. Give me the inner witness that I am one of those. I die without that.

June 2005 GEOFF THOMAS