Surprise naked guy in Mark

July 20, 2007 at 11:56 pm 15 comments

So I ran into a serious surprise while reading the Gospel of Mark a few days ago. I’ve read through the Bible start to finish twice before and thought I knew most of the New Testament fairly well, but apparently not. I started from the beginning of the NT two weeks ago, I’ve already run into numerous surprises–and I’m only up to 1 Corinthians.

The most shocking find so far was these two verses from Mark 14, in the middle of the Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane:

A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked. (14:51-52)

Did you know there was a naked guy running around Gethsemane? I think I need to read whole books more often—this experience is making me realize just how well I don’t know the Bible!


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15 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Heather Paulsen  |  July 21, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    What a funny observation!

  • 2. Nathan Seldomridge  |  July 21, 2007 at 9:34 pm

    That is the real advantage of wearing linen sheets — they allow an easy escape.

  • 3. Stephen (aka Q)  |  July 22, 2007 at 2:29 pm

    There are very few passages in Mark that are not taken up by Matthew and Luke. (Here I’m assuming the two-source theory, wherein Matt. and Luke had Mark in front of them and were more or less copying it.) This is one of them.

    That’s probably why you weren’t aware of it: Mark is the least favourite of the synoptic Gospels, and this text isn’t found in Matt. or Luke.

    If you read an introduction to Mark’s gospel, you’ll surely find a discussion of this passage. It’s a very old bit of speculation that this is an autobiographical touch: i.e. the naked guy is Mark himself. Otherwise, the author of the Gospel doesn’t appear anywhere in the narrative. Perhaps he slipped in an obscure reference to himself here. But that’s entirely speculative, of course.

    My other favourite quirky text found only in Mark is the blind man Jesus heals in Mark 8. Initially the formerly blind man sees people, but they look like trees. Jesus has to have another go to perfect the healing. It’s the only two-step miracle in the Gospels.

  • 4. Jamie  |  July 22, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Heather: Well, little incidents like those definitely keep me from getting bored!

    Nathan: I will keep that in mind the next time I get myself into some activity where I might need a quick escape.

    Stephen: Yes, I did read an introduction to Mark, and found out about the speculation about the naked guy being Mark himself. If that speculation is accurate, I can understand why the naked man isn’t named: I think I would preserve my own anonymity too!

    The passage about the two-part healing is one of the ones that I underlined while reading Mark. I can’t figure out any theological reason why Jesus would heal the blind man in two steps, so it’s kind of a puzzling incident.

    • 5. devan pool  |  November 25, 2010 at 2:06 am

      the first time jesus opened up his spiritual eyes and the man saw men “like trees” walking. we are in a sense trees don’t take this in a flaky way but if you think about it everyones life will bear some type of fruit. and so jesus opened his spiritual eyes first and then his physical eyes

      • 6. weightingonthelord  |  January 19, 2013 at 10:26 am

        That is a wonderful observation! It makes perfect sense. Surely, Holy Spirit inspired. Thank you!

  • 7. Bil  |  July 26, 2007 at 8:33 am

    The two step miracle makes it look like a therapy rather than a miracle. Not that miracles need explaination this is interesting.

  • 8. Ched  |  July 27, 2007 at 9:39 am

    Nice. I remember when I first read this passage. Quite a revealing experience. I admit that I’ve offered this verse during the ‘does anyone have a verse they want to share from their quiet time’ section of Sunday school in the days of my youth (and college; and seminary!).

    Regarding the miracle in two phases, it could have something to do with discipleship.

    In Mk 6, Jesus feeds 5, 000 people with just 5 loaves and 2 fish. A little while later, in Mk 8, Jesus feeds 4, 000 people with just 7 loaves. After this, Jesus has a confrontation with the Pharisees, and then they get into a boat to go to the other side. In the boat, Jesus tells the disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”. The disciples then conclude that Jesus said this because they only brought one loaf of bread on the boat with them! (8:14). Jesus responds by asking why they are discussing their food problem (8:14-21): “Where have you guys been? Did you not remember when I fed 9, 000 people with 13 loaves of bread?” “How many baskets did you pick up afterwards?” “12” and “7” the disciples sheepishly reply. He was saying to them “Do You not yet understand? Bread is not a problem!”

    What is important here is Jesus’ words in the midst of these questions. He says “Do you not yet see or understand? Having eyes do you not see? and having ears do you not hear? (8:17-18). Jesus is saying, Open your eyes and see what is right in front of you! His point is that, though they have physical eyes, they still are in some sense blind to who Jesus really is.

    Seen in this context, Mark’s placement and record of this miracle is brilliant. They see a blind man, who Jesus then leads by the hand out of the city where Jesus heals him. The first time, the man can only see slightly, his vision is blurred. Then Jesus did it again, and the “man looked intently” and was healed and could then “see everything clearly”. This is essentially a parable that Jesus is acting out for his disciples. Was Jesus just having a bad day? Why did it take him two times to heal this blind man? I think it is obvious that Jesus could have healed him perfectly the first time, but he was teaching his disciples something as he healed the blind man. His point is that his disciples are blinded to who he really is though he is demonstrating his power to them day by day right in front of their eyes. Their understanding is coming, but it is coming in stages.

    The passage following confirms Mark’s textual strategy. Right after this healing, Peter finally ‘sees’ and confesses Jesus’ identity, that Jesus is “the Christ.” But then, Jesus begins to tell them that the Messiah must suffer, which they don’t understand. They see, but not clearly.

    So, all that to say, that the reason that Jesus heals the blind men in two stages could be part of what Jesus was teaching his disciples. Also, the way Mark has shaped his narrative, it seems clear that this is his intent, to highlight this theme (because he could have recorded these narratives differently, or not recorded that it took Jesus two times to heal the blind man).

    It will take much study and submission to Scripture to avoid being counted as those who have eyes but do not see, and those who have ears but do not hear.

    And now I’ve rambled far too long…

  • 9. Tyler  |  July 27, 2007 at 12:25 pm

    I’ve always wondered how long it took the newly un-blind guy in Mark 8 to realize the people around him looked like trees.

  • 10. Jamie  |  July 27, 2007 at 11:09 pm

    Ched: I have never heard that explanation before and would never have thought of it myself, but it makes a huge amount of sense. I love the idea of Jesus using a healing as a living parable. What a way to make a point (though obviously the disciples, being what they were, apparently only partially understood the message, as you pointed out).

    Anyway, thank you for sharing.

    Bill: If Ched’s explanation is right, maybe the healing did constitute a sort of “therapy”–if not for the blind man, then for the disciples. Good suggestion.

    Tyler: Yep, it is kind of puzzling that he actually recognized that the people looked like trees. How in the world would he know?! (P.S. Good to see you around…)

  • 11. Ched  |  July 28, 2007 at 11:54 am

    thank you for sharing.

    I’m glad I was able to add to the discussion and think through these wonderful truths again…

  • 12. Ali  |  February 27, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    This blind man knew what trees were. wasnt he blind since birth?
    I was wondering what a two-part resurrection would be like. The only thing I know about the bible is when it’s wrong( like it is most of the time) you have to give it a spiritual interpretation.

    • 13. xsearnold  |  March 28, 2011 at 1:17 pm

      “The only thing I know about the bible is when it’s wrong (like it is most of the time)”

      Yup – nothing inconsistent in that statement.

  • 14. xsearnold  |  March 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

    Regarding the 2-stage miracle, I had the funny thought that the guy may have replied, after stage 1, “Well, I can see but things are a bit fuzzy because I’ve got some kind of sticky substance in my eyes.” Then Jesus wipes his spit away and the guy can see clearly. Maybe Jesus was figuring the guy would wipe it away himself? Today, of course, the guy would have saved it in a vial and auctioned it on eBay for lots of money, or started his own ministry, selling spit for its healing powers.

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profile.jpgI am working on my M.A. in Religion at Andrews University in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Besides having a big interest in theology, history, ethics, and the deep stuff of life, I am also very fond of Mediterranean food, snow, and the color red.

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