Today’s reading: Mk 14:43-72
There is a curious bit at the ending of Mark’s account of the arrest of Jesus.
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.
Who is this strange person and why is this detail included? Some of the Church fathers and some scholars say he was James and some other Church father, other scholars speculate that it was John. However, for various reasons these opinions are generally not held today. Most scholars conclude that the naked man is Mark, the author of the Gospel himself. It would make sense if it was common knowledge along the Apostles and other disciples that the naked man was Mark and he acknowledges it in this way, almost like an inside joke among friends.
Of course, we can take an important lesson from this scene. The verse says that the young man was following Jesus. Thus, to be a follower of Jesus means that you will be stripped of your pretentions until at last even your last protection is torn away. You will be naked before the Lord with nothing left to hide behind. The Lord knows the true you, your bare essence.
The fact that the last garment stripped away is linen is important as well. Linen was worn by priests who are concerned with things spiritual. It is also what the burial cloths of the dead are made from. Finally, it invokes the image of wedding garments spoken of in the parables and in the Book of Revelation, where we are told that the spotless wedding garment is the righteous deeds of the saints. Thus, the linen garment being stripped away implies that in death, all things are stripped away including those things that are spiritual impediments and your righteous deeds, again leaving you naked before the lord.
Tomorrow: Mk 15:1-20