When I get to heaven, I’ll have a long list of questions to get answers to, but one of them I’d like to ask directly to Mark, the author of the second gospel. The question will be, tell me the details about these two verses…
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. Mark 14:51-52 (ESV)
I know what the commentators say, and who am I to disagree? They believe this naked young man was Mark himself, too modest to mention his own name. I suppose that makes sense, but it does make you wonder why Mark put it in the account.
Of course, scholars say that Mark’s primary source (for other material, surely, but not this tidbit) was Simon Peter. Peter is mentioned more than other disciples, and there is that interesting detail about Peter’s mother-in-law. And the early church historian Eusebius writes how he was told that Mark was Peter’s “interpreter” who wrote down events accurately as Peter remembered. (You can read more about that here). In a sense, then, this is Peter’s gospel, and Mark is something of a scribe. But then there are the fascinating verses 51 and 52.
Can you imagine the conversation between the two men (perhaps after publication)?
Mark: “Peter, you know how I got caught naked on the night of the Lord’s betrayal?”
Simon Peter: “Sure, kind of embarrassing, huh?”
Mark: “Yeah, right…well, I hope you don’t mind, but I put that in the account.”
Simon Peter: “You what?”
Mark: “Yeah, I slipped it right in there.”
Simon Peter: “Do you mind if I ask why?”
Mark: “Well, I guess I just wanted to be a part of it all.”
So maybe it was sort of like the kid who sees the new sidewalk go in front of his house, and sneaks out at dark with a stick to get his initials recorded for posterity. Maybe…who knows?
Either way, it doesn’t seem to move the story along at all, and actually seems totally superfluous. And maybe that’s the beauty of it all.
After all, this is not a made up story. It is, in fact, a historical account. And scholars agree that the practice of adding additional details to make a fictional story seem real (as modern writers do today just as a matter of course) did not come about until much later. Therefore when Mark tells us details like Jesus commanded them to sit down on the green grass, not just grass (Mark 6:39); or when John tells us that Peter warmed himself, not just by a fire, but by a charcoal fire (John 18:18), we have subtle but compelling evidence that we are not reading a fairy tale, but a historical account.
But especially when Mark tells us, out of nowhere, that a boy was following Jesus and almost got caught, but managed to escape naked, well, it leads us to ask why would he tell us something like that…unless, of course, it actually happened.
And so, finally, though of course not conclusive, this little detail of nakedness points to the historicity of the whole account, leading us to ask, why, pray tell, would this same Mark testify to an empty tomb and a risen Savior…
…unless Jesus was really alive?
Hear the bells ringing
They’re singing that you can be born again
Hear the bells ringing
They’re singing Christ is risen from the dead
The angel up on the tombstone
Said He has risen, just as He said
Quickly now, go tell his disciples
That Jesus Christ is no longer dead.
The Easter Song – Keith Green
Tomorrow, Friday, May 1: Mark 15