“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).
Who is the naked man in Mark 14:51–52, and why did Mark include this interesting episode in his Gospel?
Similar to how the apostle John identified himself in an unnamed manner in his own gospel (cf. John 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20), some suggest that Mark subtly identifies himself in Mark 15:51–52 as the young man who fled naked from the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus was arrested. Though this conclusion is possible, it is speculative at best. There is simply not enough evidence to conclude the young man was Mark.
A better understanding of this episode is to conclude that we do not know who this man is because Mark did not identify who he was. Neither do the other Gospels record this story, leaving our information about him to be meager at best.
As to why Mark included this story, the context makes it clear. Just as Jesus prophesied (Mark 14:27), the disciples fled at His arrest (14:50). In fact, Mark 14:50 literally ends with the word “all” to emphasize how all had left Jesus behind. Mark 14:51–52 then records a young man being seized, leaving his linen cloth in the hands of his captors, and fleeing in desperation. Mark 14:51–52 demonstrates how chaotic the scene became and that, indeed, all fell away from Jesus at this time.
Along with the context in Mark, there may be an allusion to Amos 2:16 that helps us to better understand Mark 14:50–52 as well. Amos prophesied that God’s judgment on northern Israel would be so severe that “he who is stout of heart among the mighty shall flee away naked in that day” (Amos 2:16). Similarly, Peter and the other disciples claimed to be stout of heart in that they emphatically denied they would deny Jesus (Mark 14:29, 31). However, when God’s judgment against sin on Christ at the cross was precipitated by Christ’s betrayal and arrest, the disciples cowered and fled, and a young man was so desperate in flight that he left his clothes in the hands of his captors in Mark 14:51–52. If Mark intended this allusion, perhaps he subtly pointed to God’s judgment against sin that would be met in Christ’s death on the cross.
Pastor David Huffstutler
Pastor Huffstutler regularly writes articles for our Sunday bulletin. See his bio on our pastoral bio page.