The Naked Young Man in Mark 14:51-52

I was reading Mark again, the shortest of the Gospels. I reached the passage where Jesus is on the Mount of Olives, getting ready for the last days. The emotions are tense: the High Priest comes with armed soldiers to arrest Jesus; Jesus himself has not slept in days, and has urged his disciples to pray; Judas Iscariot is getting ready for the betrayal that Jesus already prophecied.

Luke has a better account of the story. He will mention that Peter struck one of the soldiers with a sword, cutting off the soldier’s ear. Jesus will reprimand him and heal the wound, while commenting on the cowardice of the High Priest, who could have arrested Jesus at any time in the Temple, but didn’t do so to avoid public uproar.

Yet, despite the briefness of the account, Mark finds the time to add two verses that baffle me:

14:51
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:
14:52
And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

(This is from KJV Book of Mark.)

What does that mean? Who is the ‘certain young man’ that followed Jesus. Why was he wearing nothing but a linen cloth? What does it mean that he ‘laid hold on him?’

All these questions are quite appropriate, but they just reflect a bigger question. Why did Mark think it important to mention this naked young man, when he leaves out the detail about Peter cutting off the soldier’s ear? Mark is anyway the shortest gospel, and one would think there would be some attempt to remove all unnecessary items.

I would love to put this in the folder "things I don’t understand about the Gospels." That’s quite a big folder by now, but it mostly contains things that I don’t understand because I do not have the understanding of the matter necessary to make a difference in my mind. Some things are just too big for me. Other things are out of my context.

The naked young man in Mark is just a mystery. He shows up once, without being introduced to us. It seems to be important he is naked under the linen cloth; it seems to be important that he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. Makes no sense to me.

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