Monday, April 2, 2012
The Naked Man
My children never cease to amaze me. I missed a part of the reading my son picked up on that caused me to study and reflect. Yesterday at Mass, four people read different parts of the passion. Father always takes the parts of Jesus while the other readers take the parts of Judas, Pilot, and the narrator. I must admit while listening I phased in and out of authentic listening. My daughter didn’t help matters by playing with her palm. If someone were to watch us, they would have seen glares going back and forth between us. In the end, she went to the last seat in our pew to sit by herself. She does this voluntarily thinking it will hurt my feelings. Nothing in the reading struck me as new. Mass continued without a thought from me.
Once we came home my son asked me the significance of the naked man in the reading. Naked man? I missed that. We sat down to eat lunch after I grabbed my Bible. I perused the reading until I came to the part with the naked man. I hate to admit it, but I don’t remember this part at all. I have read this passage and heard this passage many times, but failed to notice the young man. My Bible held no notes about these two verses at all. I had no answer for my son. He wrote down the verses to give to his uncle. Every Sunday they do a “Ask Chris” segment during dinner. I am still waiting to see what uncle has to say about the matter, but I went out to look on my own.
Jesus and the twelve ate the last supper, Jesus foretold Peter’s denial of Him, and Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane while Peter, James, and John slept instead of keeping watch. Judas comes with “a crowd with swords, and clubs” (vs. 43) betraying Jesus with a kiss. Jesus is arrested. “And they all left him and fled (Peter, James, John). Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.” Mark 14:50-52. What is the point of the naked man?
I didn’t find a lot of information in my search for answers. Many scholars believe the young man to be Mark, the son of the owner of the house where the last supper accrued. Others say the man was one of the twelve. I personally think all of the twelve left before that in verse 50. I think this young man may or may not be Mark. And really, I don’t think it matters who he happened to be. The importance is that he left naked. He was that scared. It is night. This amazing man who preached love, cured the sick, and fed thousands was being arrested. Compare this to a visitor at your house who you love. The police storm in during the night and drag him away. I would still be in my pajamas and wouldn’t stop to think about putting on real cloths. I would want to try and see what was going on. This young man was doing the same thing. Whether he was a nosey neighbor or a concerned friend doesn’t matter. What matters is the mob of people with swords and clubs surrounding a man in the dead of night. Suddenly the man is grabbed, his pajamas are torn off, he runs. This is a world where people are stoned to death by mobs.
I believe these three simple verses are to show three things. (I was going to say two things, but all good things must come in threes.) First, Jesus is left utterly alone. His friends desert him in his greatest time of need. The police drag him away with no one coming to bail him out. Second, the mob caused a lot of noise waking people up while they slept causing one man to come out in nothing but a cloth, not a common occurrence. Weapons were being wielded. The tension was very high creating a volatile atmosphere. Finally, fear abounded. This young man ran for his life. I remember one summer being in the middle of combat training. Basically, we were playing one major game of laser tag. I didn’t want to die. Yes, I have a great imagination, but I feared the buzzer would go off on my miles gear and I would die. I learned I wasn’t very courageous during this training. I can’t imagine the fear level this young man must have experienced. This wasn’t a game. He fled the situation naked to spare his life. He knew justice would not prevail.
Many aspects of the passion can be reflected on during this Holy Week: the false testimony, the whipping, the crown of thorns, the carrying of the cross, the mocking, the spitting, the nails, the death, the spear, and the burial. I am going to reflect on the fear of the common people. They must have been so uncertain. Would the police go after Jesus’ followers as well? Is being naked better then standing up for Him? If Peter denied Him three times, how can I stand up for Him? These are still relevant questions for today. Our families may turn against us or a zealot of different beliefs could point a gun at us in a school or government building. Fear is powerful; yet, so is God’s love.
Blessings to you all.