My Favourite Easter Story
My favourite Easter story is the one about the guy who runs around naked.
Ok, perhaps not my favourite, but certainly in my top 5. The Easter story is important, and moving, but also very dark. It’s all betrayals, denials, injustice, and death, at least till that eucatastrophic twist ending. But there is this one bright moment, right in the middle of Jesus’ arrest, when some guy goes streaking! Don’t believe me? It’s right there in Mark 14. Have a look:
[For context, Judas and a bunch of armed men just have turned and arrested Jesus, and Jesus has something to say about that.]
“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled.
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind
Hold on, what?!
Hold on, what?! Why is there a guy getting nude at this most solemn time in history? This is very strange.
Jesus had just been in the garden wrestling with having to go to the cross. He came out resolute. I wonder if he second guessed that resolve at this point. Maybe he was like, “Father, these people! I know they have their issues, but really?! It’s my arrest, and there’s a streaker here! Do they have no sense of decorum??”
So why is there a streaker running around willy nilly, so-to-speak?
I don’t really know. It seems very odd that one of his Jesus’ followers was hanging around in nothing but a linen garment. It seems like the somewhat-modern-day equivalent would be if Billy Graham had had a guy in a bathrobe as part of his entourage. At a crusade, there’s the bathrobe guy. Meeting a president or the freaking Queen, and bathrobe guy’s right there in the room.
Still, it may not have been quite like that. Perhaps he was just a disciple who got surprised at the last supper. Maybe he’d been up on the roof bathing, hoping to catch the eye of some nearby royalty, when Jesus announced, “We’re off to the garden!” so he had to quickly grab his robe and run downstairs to join the group.*
I don’t know. It’s just a weird thing.
Some Bible scholars say that the inclusion of the nude runner is one more sign that the gospels were written from eyewitness accounts, because if you were making this up, why would you make up a random nudie run in the middle of this solemn event? Obviously, It’s not conclusive evidence for the authenticity of the accounts, but it is something to think about.
What I like about the naked guy story, apart from just the fact that it’s funny, is that it highlights how alone Jesus really was. Here is a guy who is fleeing at the moment Jesus’ fortunes have turned, and he is so afraid to be caught with Jesus that he’s more willing to be caught naked in the streets than to stand with his master. It reminds me of how faithful Jesus was. Everyone was deserting him, and still he went to went to the cross. We deserted him, but he didn’t desert us.
We’re all the naked guy
I find the naked guy somewhat relatable. I have never run through the streets at night (or at any other time) without any clothes on, but I have often wanted to deny my association with Jesus. I have not wanted to own up to the fact that I’m a follower, especially when following Jesus makes me look naive, or intolerant, or simple-minded. But even when I run away from my association with Jesus, he never ran away from his association to me, to us. He was willing to associate himself with us so much that he gave his life for us, that is a man who loves when he is not loved in return.
It’s Maundy Thursday today, but, if I didn’t think it would be wildly misinterpreted, I would suggest we celebrate Nudie Thursday too. On Nudie Thursday we could reflect on the man who didn’t abandon us, who chose humiliation at the cross rather than leave us in our sin, even though people literally got nude to abandon him.
This post is part of my “Weird, Crude, Funny, and Nude” blog series, in preparation for my new book due for release in May. If you want more silliness and insight into this passage and fourteen others, preorder the book here, or try before you buy by downloading a sample chapter.
*Credit to Chris Morphew for this idea. He suggested it on a podcast that we made the other day (which I’m yet to finish editing). It was a funny joke, so I included it here, I hope he doesn’t mind. It’s like a little bit of pre-advertising for the podcast whenever we get it all done.