Q.

I came across an incident in Jesus’ suffering that I had overlooked. It is found in Mark 14:51 and 52. Please comment.

A.
Only Mark’s Gospel includes this incident. It follows Jesus and His disciples’ meeting in the upper room and their ensuing walk to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed and was arrested by His enemies. Then the disciples, who feared for their lives, “all forsook Him and fled” (Mark 14:50, NKJV). The next two verses read, “Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked” (NKJV).

Why did Mark include this account, and who was this mystery man? Bible scholars have suggested Saul (who became the apostle Paul), John the apostle, or James the brother of Jesus. Others have indicated that it is better not to even guess who it might have been. But most believe it was Mark himself and several factors support this view.

First, it is believed the Passover meal took place in the Upper Room of Mark’s family home (see Acts 12:12), a popular gathering place for Jesus’ followers. Keep in mind that Mark was not one of the disciples, but he may well have been at home in bed sleeping during the Last Supper. When Jesus and the Eleven went out to the Mount of Olives, Mark may have hastily gotten up—only in a linen (bedtime) garment—and followed the men out of curiosity. At the scene of Jesus’ betrayal and arrest, Mark was grabbed by Jesus’ enemies (they would have suspected he was a friend of Jesus), but he got away, leaving his garment with them.

Another possibility is that Mark, in the course of the evening’s events, discovered (perhaps through someone such as a servant) that Judas was about to betray Jesus. In fact, Judas may first have led the band of soldiers to the Upper Room thinking Jesus and His disciples were still there. In desperation (which would account for his attire), Mark hurried to the spot where Jesus and the disciples were, possibly thinking he could warn them.

Another reason Mark is the likely mystery person is that he was present. He was the only one recording the incident. He could not have received an oral account of this incident, since Peter and the others had fled (v. 50). Peter, as you know, skulked back later to deny the Lord three times.

A third possibility, albeit weak, is that the linen cloth was a sign of wealth. It is probable that John Mark’s family was wealthy to some degree, since the family possessed a home large enough to accommodate a number people (see Acts 12:12 again).

Fourth, the man is mentioned as “young” in the text. Mark was young.

Why did the Holy Spirit move Mark to record this incident? Again, teachers of the Word have suggested a couple reasons. One was to emphasize how completely Jesus our Lord was forsaken. Jesus had stated that this would happen:

Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is writen, I will strike the Shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered? But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee” (Matthew 26:31, 32, NKJV).

With these words, Christ was harking back to the Old Testament prophet Zechariah’s prophecy found in Zechariah 13:7–9. Indeed they all forsook Him and fled. This incident of the young man underscored what the disciples had do.

In addition, it could have been Mark’s way of saying, “I too, saw with my eyes Jesus being taken; and I was too cowardly to stand with Him as well. I ran away just like the disciples.” Mark was using the opportunity to reveal and confess his own sin. And, since nakedness is associated with shame, there is at least a faint possibility that Mark was using the incident to picture the shame of one who forsakes Jesus Christ.

Do you have feedback or a Bible question to submit? Send to nolson@garbc.org or mail to Norman A. Olson in care of the Baptist Bulletin, 1300 N. Meacham Rd., Schaumburg, IL 60173-4806.

Reprinted from the Baptist Bulletin (April 1999).
© 1999 Regular Baptist Press. All rights reserved.
Used by permission.