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Testimony Tuesday - Joe

From Shame to Shine in Resurrection Power

Hey guys! I just wanted to share a little bit of my story and the amazing role that Jesus has played in my life. I like to think about it using the phrase ‘resurrection power’. Resurrection power is probably a phrase you’ve heard before but what do you actually think it means? Romans 8:11 says,

“If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you”

So it’s like the power that raised Jesus from the dead (well that sounds powerful), but also Paul says that the same power dwells in us? Well that’s pretty cool. Does that mean we can raise people from the dead? Hmmm? One thing we can know for sure is that the bible says it will give us life. Let’s explore this.

The Thursday before Easter Sunday is called Maundy Thursday. In the past few years it has been a day that has had many ups and downs for me. It was also a pretty eventful day for Jesus and his disciples. Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples on this night, a meal that came to be known as ‘The Last Supper’. After the meal Jesus and his disciples went to pray, and it was whilst praying that Jesus was betrayed by Judas and he was arrested. In the Gospel of Mark’s account of this event we hear a funny story about a youth who has no clothes on!! It says:

43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders. 44 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” 45 Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 The men seized Jesus and arrested him. 47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. 48 “Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then everyone deserted him and fled. 51 A youth, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, 52 he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

- Mark 14:43-52

Now you’re probably thinking, why is there a random naked guy in this story. But don’t worry we’ll get back to him later.

Before I went to university I had the most amazing and intimate relationship with Jesus. We would spend our evenings chatting for hours. When I got to uni I left that all behind, I dropped Jesus and pursued the things of this world. This, as you can imagine, went very badly for me.

During the Maundy Thursday of my third year, two years ago (2018), I had a mental breakdown. I hadn’t left my house at university for two weeks, which doesn’t seem so bad in this Covid age, but I was up all night and I was sleeping all day. I was having regular panic attacks and couldn’t face any human contact. I was stuck.

Fast forward a year to the same day in 2019, this was another important time for me. Things were going better (after retaking the year) and I was putting the finishing touches on my dissertation, ready to be handed in on Easter Monday, 5 days early! My dissertation was about a youth (Neaniskos) in the bible who roughly 2000 Maundy Thursdays ago had ran away from Jesus when Jesus was being arrested. But not only had the young man ran away, he had ran away leaving his clothes behind (YIKES!).

The painting attached is a painting by 16th Century painter Giuseppe Cesari called ‘The Arrest of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane’. To the left of the painting you can see the young man fleeing. There has been much debate about the identity of the man since Μark just refers to him as `young man᾽. Some people think it's Mark himself, or Lazarus, or James Jesus’ brother. In my dissertation I found that the much more interesting question was looking at why Mark decided to include this funny moment in his story. And the conclusion I came to was that Mark used him to symbolise the desertion of the rest of the disciples. Much like the young man, the disciples had fled from Jesus, but not only did they flee but they ran away in shame and nakedness, leaving everything they had (Jesus) behind.

I realised after writing my dissertation, that this young man was also a symbol of my life over the previous few years. (I mean I didn’t physically run around naked) But I had run away from everything that I had, I deserted the life and calling that Jesus desired for me and pursued my own desires. I felt in complete shame. How could I have abandoned my everything?

Now my mental health struggles weren't a punishment for deserting Jesus but it was the direct result of running away from him and putting my identity and life into the things of this world, things that would not satisfy and things that showed no mercy.

How do you think the youth would have felt over the next few days thinking about his desertion from Jesus? Shameful? Embarrassed? Regretful? How could he ever apologise? (these were questions I was also asking myself)

The amazing thing is that this is not the end of the story of the youth. Mark only uses the word Neaniskos (young man) one more time in his story of Jesus and that is at the tomb on the day of Jesus’ resurrection.

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. 2 Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb 3 and they asked each other, “Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?”

4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. 5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.

6 “Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’”

8 Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

- Mark 16:1-8

This is the end of Mark’s story. That’s it. There are no resurrection appearances, there’s no restoration of the disciples, and there’s no great commission. It just ends here, in fear. Perhaps when you first read it, it appears like there’s no hope and the disciples end their days thinking about what could’ve been, and how they could’ve changed. But this isn’t the case, the young man has been appeared to, has been restored, and has been commissioned to preach the resurrection of Jesus.

The young man that fled in nakedness and in shame has now been dressed and is in glory. Not because of anything he did, but because of what Jesus did. When Jesus died the young man’s shame was nailed to the cross with him and thus it died with him. And when Jesus was raised the young man no longer was in shame but instead he was dressed in white and sat on the right side of the tomb, with the privilege of being the first person to preach the resurrection. The same power that raised Christ from the dead, also raised this young man out of shame and into life, and raised me out of depression into glorious Joy.

Fast forward to Maundy Thursday, just gone (2020). Where am I now? Well other than quarantined in my house, I have been dragged out of shame and nakedness, clothed in His glory and stand in my place next to Jesus. Because of nothing I did, and in spite of everything I did, Jesus has become everything that I am. For,

“God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.”

-1 Corinthians 6:14


So here’s my prayer for you:

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms.

- Ephesians 1:18-20

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