“And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” V. 52
Cleptus thought his lungs were going to collapse. Falling naked into a thicket of brush and stones, he tried to suppress his frantic wheezing until the squad of soldiers passed by. He felt relieved that they had quickly lost interest in him, as they dragged Yeshua away into the night.
His weary head spun wildly in a sea of fatigue and slowly waning fear. Heavy perspiration and garden foliage was his only covering. He considered going back for his linen cloth, but apprehension kept him in hiding. He was now living everyone’s worst nightmare; finding yourself naked in a public place, and looking for cover. Only for him the dream was real. He sat there trembling, his mind racing for a plan.
Eventually he mustered the courage to go back to the place where it all went down, retrieve his cover and make his way to his shelter. After cleaning off and falling into his tiny cot, he laid face upward entranced by the handful of stars that peeked through the hole in his ceiling. “It must not be meant to be.” He moaned through hot jagged tear streams burning frustration into his thin cheekbones.
Ever since last year, when he happened upon this Rabbi, who was blessing a group of children, he had wanted to meet this amazing man from Nazareth. He wanted to talk with him about so many things, but it seemed like the whole universe was conspiring to stop him from making contact. He had heard incredible stories about this miracle working sage, but what really caught his attention was that day when he watched this Messiah playing with a bunch of children.
Until then Cleptus hadn’t had much use for any god. To him gods, if they existed at all, were interested in little more than toying with people, or making unreasonable demands of piety. But then, he saw this man of God, who some said, was a god, stooping down in genuine love for snotty nosed, smelly, wild eyed children. It made him start rethinking the whole god thing. It made Cleptus want to change his ways. He was tired of stealing. Tired of running. Tired of being afraid.
But this was the kicker. Every time Cleptus tried to get close to Yeshua, he came up just a little too late. Once, he saw Jesus teaching from a boat. At the end of the teaching he fought his way toward him, but by the time he arrived at the shore, Jesus was halfway across the water. He prayed late into endless nights, “God if you’re real, and if this Yeshua is really from you, let me meet him.” But time after time he found himself too late, too slow. But tonight it looked like his prayer was going to be answered.
He had just finished bathing himself, when he glanced out his small window and caught a glimpse of a group of men heading into the garden. He recognized Yeshua was one of them. Cleptus, not wanting to take time to dress, grabbed a linen sheet and sprinted into the darkness, tiptoeing around sharp rocks and thorns. The pain was a small price to finally meet this Yeshua of Nazareth.
When he came upon them, the men were sleeping some distance away, while Yeshua appeared to be in prayer. The site of Yeshua, calling out into the night sky, with tears and blood dancing together down the Rabbis face, left Cleptus in awe. How can one speak so intimately with thin air? He wondered. Was there someone really out there, listening?
Cleptus planned to wait until the Rabbi was finished praying, before approaching him. But the opportunity never came. The rapid-fire events that followed filled him with terror. Swords, clubs and torches sent men scattering in all directions. Panic invaded everyone there…except Yeshua. “How do you have such peace when hell breaks out upon you?” The Rabbi seemed to be the only one in control of himself. Even the soldiers seemed unnerved, but not Yeshua. “I’ll never forget that about him.” Cleptus whispered to himself there on his lonely cot.
He didn’t sleep though. He tried to utter a prayer, but started to doubt if anyone would hear. He had prayed for a chance to meet Yeshua, but it never came. He had watched Yeshua pray for help, then he saw him marched away like a common criminal. Even his friends left him.
“If those who claim to be his friends don’t stick with him, then why should I?” He murmured through clinched teeth. “That poor guy’s as good as dead now. Whatever chance I had is gone now.” He spat out. “If God’s out there he must not think much of a crook like me.”
Barely had the words crossed his weary mind, when the morning silence was blasted by the sound of soldiers crashing through his rickety door. They quickly bound him, and ransacked his house, finding the Centurion’s stolen silver. “You thought you’d make a quick sale eh? Well, today you have an appointment with your god! You filthy thief!” Later that afternoon Cleptus found himself cinched to a crossbeam with two others. He could feel the life seeping out of him. Looking to his left he is shocked to see Yeshua.
Cleptus watched, stunned by the jeers and taunts, hurled at the rabbi. The curses all seemed powerless against Yeshua’s obvious love for them. He suffered so terribly, beaten to a pulp, his flesh torn from his body as if by a ravenous animal. Yet Yeshua almost seemed in control even here. “What is this man dying for?” It didn’t make sense to Cleptus. Funny thing was, it didn’t have to. When you find yourself face to face with somebody like that, you don’t have to understand everything, you just have to believe. At that moment Cleptus found Yeshua and Yeshua found him. That’s the good news.