Who Was the Naked Guy In the Garden of Gethsemane?
(That was the question that arrived via e-mail. There are some of the additional notes wrapped around the question below, here is some of the excerpts of the answer(s) suggested)
Just about the time Jesus was finished healing the ear of the servant of the high priest named Malchus, the Gospel of Mark tells us a naked young man was found in the Garden of Gethsemane. Mark 15:51,52 says, “And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him: and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.”
Who was this young man? Why was he following Jesus? Why was he naked? Why was he draped in a linen cloth instead of wearing normal clothes? And why was the Holy Spirit so careful to include this unique story in Mark’s account of the Gospel? What is the significance of this event?
I asked the people of CCC to share with me their thoughts and insights into the identity of the naked man in the Garden. Many of them suggested it was Mark, the author of the book, who was there and when he got too close he was grabbed and was able to wiggle out of his cloak and disappear into the night. (After all it was in the middle of the night so he probably got out of bed to see what was happening)
If that is what you have heard or thought then you are not alone.
Some scholars have explained that this naked young man was Mark also. They assume that when Mark heard about Jesus’ arrest, he quickly jumped out of bed and dashed to the Garden of Gethsemane. There is a problem with this thought process however, the Garden was remotely located, and no one could have run there so quickly. It is almost a physical impossibility. Now if Mark were camped out and sleeping in the Garden he would have been there easily, but again why would he be camping out in the Garden?
Others have speculated that Mark threw off his clothes in an attempt to shock and distract the soldiers so Jesus could escape. It is an interesting thought, but there is no real evidence to prove that, just speculation. Others have tried with similar attempts say that this naked young man was the apostle John. But why would John be walking naked in the Garden of Gethsemane? The argument for Mark is much stronger than John.
It very well could have been Mark but let me share an additional thought with you that might make the story more puzzling…but add a new depth of meaning to it.
I always teach that we should interpret Scripture in light of Scripture whenever we can. In other words we need to look at God’s Word and line it up with the consistency we find in the Word of God. So taking a look at this passage from that angle we veer off in an entirely different direction.
The key to identifying this young man might be found in the “linen cloth” he had lightly draped about his body. The particular Greek word that is used for this “linen cloth” is used in only one other event in the New Testament – to depict the “linen cloth” in which the body of Jesus was wrapped for burial (see Matthew 27:59, Mark 15:46, and Luke 23:53). Thus, the only reference we have for this kind of cloth in the New Testament is that of a burial shroud used for covering a dead body in the grave.
If the answer to this naked young man’s identity lies in the cloth he had wrapped around his body then follow along with me because it leads us to only one other conclusion. You see, when a body was prepared for burial, it was washed, ceremonially cleaned, and buried naked in a linen cloth exactly like the one described here in the Gospel of Mark. Furthermore, the Garden of Gethsemane was situated on the side of the Mount of Olives. Toward the base of that mount is a heavily populated cemetery, with many of its graves going back to the time of Jesus.
When Jesus said, “I AM,” the power that was released was so tremendous that it knocked the soldiers backward (go back and read the story again for that moment). But it may have also caused a rumbling in the local cemetery! When that blast of power was released, a young boy, draped in a linen burial cloth in accordance with the tradition of that time, crawled out from his tomb – raised from the dead!
Now you may be thinking “oh really?” Stay with me here…
The reason he “followed” Jesus was to get a glimpse of the One who had resurrected him. The word “followed” means to continuously follow. This tells us that this resurrected young man trailed the soldiers as they took Jesus through the Garden on the way to His trial. When the soldiers discovered the young man who was following Jesus, they tried to apprehend him. But when they reached out to grab him, he broke free from their grip and fled, leaving the linen cloth in their possession.
Now I don’t know this for certain but it is something that appears to be reasonable as you study Scripture. It doesn’t change the story instead it is just a little more detail that makes you wonder at the mystery and the depth of all that was happening that weekend.
So was it Mark? A resurrected dead guy? Or someone else wandering in the Garden wrapped in only a linen cloth?
You can review the information and decide for yourself. This is just another of the amazing events that happened around the time of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.