Who is the naked man? I asked the students if they had any questions before I started teaching Mark. This is one of the questions they had. This was tuesday, and I knew that I would not be talking about this till friday. Each day I heard the question come up more than once. Some just couldn’t wait and had gone to a commentary to look it up.
Finally, on friday, I had the students look at it. We started with good observation, simply looking at the text of scripture, in context. “What does the scripture say?” The young man was following Jesus, he was wearing only a linen cloth when they grabbed him, he left his clothes behind and ran way naked (Mark 14:51). “What is the context?” Jesus has just been arrested and the disciples have all fled (Mark 14:43-50). Then we moved on to interpretation, asking the question they were dying to ask, “Who is the naked man?” “The context of scripture does not show who the young man is, so he remains anonymous.” That answer did not satisfy them. What they had been looking up all week about the naked man started coming out. Some commentators believe that the naked man is Mark. That he was including himself, where he was, in the gospel. The problem with this is that no where in the text can you find any indication that this is Mark. The text clearly leaves this man anonymous. For some this was hard to grasp. But we have to hold to what scripture says. We can not make it say something it doesn’t. It can be hard to let go of preconceived ideas and things we may have been taught in the past. If we really want to know what God says in his word, then this is exactly what we need to do. It is not always easy. The naked man in Mark may not be a big thing. It may be easy to let go of what you may have read about him. Not everything in scripture is that easy. Earlier the same day I had taught on Mark chapter 13, dealing with the destruction of the temple and the second coming of Jesus. When we deal with things pertaining to the end times, leaving behind preconceived ideas and what we have been taught in the past, is harder to do. But it is worth it to find out what God is really saying in his word, so that we can have a solid foundation for our life.
So, what about the naked man? Why did the author include such an obscure detail? What we find is that that the arrest of Jesus was such a spectacle that upon hearing about it, this young man would leave his house not fully dressed, just to see what was happening. The fact that he ran away naked, shows that he clearly feared for his life as well. The authors intention was never to say who the man was.