Mark 14:51-52 is a curious passage of scripture. The gospel writer is describing the arrest of Jesus. It begins the series of events which led to Jesus' unjust trial, conviction, execution by crucifixion, and ultimate resurrection. Yet these two verses, in the midst of all Jesus' followers deserting Him, describe a seemingly meaningless, if not almost comical, sidebar.

What do we know about this man?

  • He is young
  • He's under-dressed
  • The guards tried to seize him
  • He escaped into the night naked

So this young man, probably a teenager, is out late at night following Jesus and gets caught up in His arrest. The guards who came to arrest Jesus saw him, it seems they grabbed him by his garment and he wriggled out of it to get away. I've got lots of questions:

  • Why was he there?
  • Was he actually with Jesus, or following Jesus and His disciples secretly?
  • Why was he wearing "nothing but a linen garment" (Mark 14:51)?
  • And why did these guards want him if they already had Jesus and seemingly allowed the disciples to go?

There are probably several theories about this, but I find one in particular to be most likely: John-Mark, the author of this Gospel, was describing what happened to himself. Mark would have been too young to be an actual disciple, but it appears he knew Peter through his mother (Acts 12:12), and Peter considered him a "son" (1 Peter 5:13). If this is true, this passage is Mark's testimony - his stamp of authenticity - that he was a witness to the things he wrote in this Gospel.

Though we'll probably never know the actual circumstances, we do know that if it's in the scriptures there is a reason for it - and we can learn something from it. Ask yourself, if you are a follower of Jesus, do you follow Him in secret so you will not have to explain yourself to critics? Or, are you prepared to give a reason for the hope that is in you when you are asked? (1 Peter 3:15)

Imagine Mark's fear of these guards - a young man who simply followed the teachings of a good and wise man assaulted by large, armed guards who would abuse him for nothing more than his association with Jesus! None of us face that sort of decision today, yet many of us still refuse to take a stand.

In two weeks we'll take a closer look, as even one of Jesus' most devoted disciples falls short.