I have a chronic dream where I am out somewhere in public going about my daily business, when all the sudden I look down and realize that I’m totally naked. As embarrassing as that might be for me, I’m more worried about ppl around me lusting and sinning. The good news for me is that I always wake up from that dream to realize that it’s not real. That’s not the case for a young man in the book of Mark, though, that was caught running around naked.
44 Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? 49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”50 And they all left him and fled.51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
This portion of Scripture has always been somewhat of a mystery. The story of this young man exists only in the gospel of Mark and there are no other references to him in the rest of the Bible. That fact leads many to believe that the young man that ran away was Mark himself. Mark was most likely in his teenage years during the ministry of Jesus. You can come to that conclusion because Acts 12:12 introduces you to Mary who is a follower of Jesus and who opened her house as a meeting place for other followers of Jesus. It mentioned that she had a son named John Mark (who is the writer of Mark). So, since no other disciples saw or mentioned this young man, many people believe that it was Mark himself dropping an Easter egg into the gospel.
Though it is possible that the streaker is Mark, there are a couple things that contradict that idea. The first is that the gospel of Mark is not an eyewitness account like Matthew and John. Mark recorded the events, most likely as they were dictated to him by Peter while they were traveling and in prison together. That would mean that Peter was the one who saw this event unfold. A second problem with this young man being Mark is that a very early church father Papias said that Mark had never heard or followed Jesus. He was a bishop in the early second century, almost a contemporary to these guys, so his word is pretty trustworthy.
People speculate that it could have been any other number of followers of Jesus from that time. Maybe it was Lazarus or Joseph of Arimathea, or maybe it was Dinkleberg.
The truth is that we really don’t know exactly who it was, so the new question for this portion of Scripture is…why is this even in the Bible? What’s the point of reading about this dude running the streets in his birthday suit? Does that mean I should be doing this too? Yes.
Not in the literal sense, though. However, you and I can definitely relate to this young man.
Who was he?
We already answered we don’t know specifically who he is, but we do have a general idea about what kind of person he is. The two verses in question directly follows the verse telling us that the disciples all left Jesus and fled. Also, it wasn’t an accident that Mark said it was a young man that “followed” Jesus. This is the same term used when Jesus called the disciples to follow Him. These are a couple clues that this young man may have been one of the disciples.
This shows a great contradiction to the start of this man’s journey with Jesus. The disciples were once willing to leave their whole world behind in order to go follow Him; now, here we are with this disciple not even keeping so much as the linen cloth he was wearing to get away from Jesus. He totally abandoned Him, even leaving behind the clothing that he was wearing.
Here’s where I think things get more interesting for this story.
The Greek word for “linen cloth” that is mentioned in this story is only found in one other place in the Bible. It’s also in the gospel of Mark when it tells us about what Jesus was wrapped in when he was in the tomb. He died on the cross for our sins and was wrapped in “linen cloth”.
Directly after Christ’s burial in the linen cloth, we are taken to the scene of Christ’s empty tomb. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, and Salome had all gone to the tomb in order to continue with their grieving rituals. However, when they got there they saw that the tomb was empty and there was a young man sitting in the tomb in a white robe who told them that Jesus had risen.
The only other reference to a white robe in the gospel of Mark is during the transfiguration. When Jesus appeared glorious to the disciples in clothing of dazzling white color.
So what is the significance here?
Mark wrote a fast paced, hard hitting gospel with only important details included. It is unlike Mark to include a story like this that seems insignificant. Well the truth is that it is very significant.
You and I are the young man who abandoned Jesus.
Ok not literally. But the lesson here is that you and I abandoned God. Full of guilt and shame we chose sin and ran away from Him. And Jesus took that very same linen cloth of shame that we wore, and wrapped Himself in it. He died and took your shame upon Himself, and replaced your shame with a dazzling white soul. Free from guilt and free from shame. He washed away our sins and made us white as snow.
He loves you and I love you!