Jesus told the disciples that they would all abandon him. It was bad enough that he knew the agony he would endure on the cross, but the emotional sorrow of the betrayal of his closest friends would be gut-wrenching. All of the disciples were saying they would never leave him, no matter what. Peter insisted, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You.” (14:31) Jesus told Peter that not only would Peter abandon him, but that very night he would also deny him three times.
Later, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus asks the disciples to keep watch and pray. They keep falling asleep. I imagine the impending situation has them exhausted from worry and dread. Jesus acknowledged that “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (14:38)
When Judas comes to betray Jesus the tension is at an all-time high. The disciples want to fight, but Jesus stops them. Apparently, they immediately realized they were overwhelmed and that’s when fear kicked in. They all ran. One was slow enough that he was seized, but that fear was coursing through his veins so strongly that he left his clothing and ran away naked. That was better than sharing the fate of Jesus. We might see this as utterly shameful. How could they? And how could Peter deny Christ three times especially after Jesus said he would? Did he not remember Jesus’ words after the second denial?
Fear is such a powerful thing. It can be crippling. Fear can shut our mouths, stop us from going and loving others, and keep us from fulfilling God’s will for our lives. More often I see that fear holds God’s people back, but it can also provoke us to act as we shouldn’t just as the disciples did. The naked man and Peter are a clear warning to us. Let’s not let fear have the power to encourage us to expose ourselves shamefully or deny Christ even. In I John 4:18 we are told “perfect love casts out fear.” Let’s pray for perfect love. When we feel fear creeping in, let’s pray for our love to be stronger than the fear.