Obscure but Important


Jesse brings clarity to an obscure passage this morning.

The last two verses of our study in Mark 14:43-52 don’t usually draw much attention, but they are a sermon unto themselves. 

“A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.”

There is no question that Mark 14:51-52 is an unsolved question of Mark’s gospel, the account of a “young man” fleeing naked from the scene when Jesus was arrested. Theologians and Bible scholars have labeled the verses as “a total enigma”, “a bizarre episode”, “a strange passage”, “confusing”, “unclear”, “making no sense”, and even “whimsical”. The reason for the uproar is obvious: if 14:51-52 is erased from the account, which is apparently what Matthew and Luke did in their gospels, what is left actually makes for a seamless reading of the story. Arguments abound on the identity of the “young man” and Mark’s need to include him.

Rather than join the speculation, let’s find an application for the story of the “young man”. 

The preceding verses tell of the disciples fleeing upon the arrest of Jesus (Mark 14:50), “Then everyone deserted him and fled.” Immediately, Mark gives the account of the “young man”. It is significant that this youth had been “following” Jesus, just as the disciples had been doing. The disciples followed; the young man followed. The disciples fled; the young man fled. His “naked flight” underlines the failure of Jesus’ friends to support Him when the moment of crises came. They had once left all to follow Jesus. Now, like the “young man”, they left all to get away from Jesus. 

Mark displays the naked runaway as symbolic of the total abandonment of Jesus by His “beloved” disciples. The only difference in the abandonment was the unfortunate wardrobe malfunction of the “young man”.

Nakedness was shameful and undesirable in those times and the “naked runaway” highlighted the shamefulness of the disciples. They had chosen shame over loyalty to Jesus, just as He had predicted in verse 14:27 “You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’

He has warned all believers that we will be persecuted on occasion if we choose to follow Him. When you are persecuted or even harassed, at work, by friends or otherwise, will you desert and totally abandon Jesus and “run naked” like the disciples and the “young man”?