Written by: Jeremy Schultheiss
Mark 14:50 Then all his disciples deserted him and ran away. 51 One young man (in greek: neaniskos) following behind was clothed only in a long linen shirt (in greek: sindona). When the mob tried to grab him,52 he slipped out of his shirt and ran away naked.
It’s easy to read the Bible and miss some details. I get it. There are a lot of characters, names, and places to keep track of at times. But a man that would rather streak through the garden of Gethsemane in his birthday suit than be caught by the Roman soldiers surely deserves his own reflection.
Jesus has just been betrayed and arrested in this scene. One disciple tries to fight back and cuts off a guard’s ear. This young follower, described as neaniskos in Greek (this detail matters), decides to flee from Jesus and leaves his linen cloth (sindona) behind. Why would Mark, in the midst of Jesus’ arrest, insert this seemingly needless detail about a young man fleeing from trouble? Unless it’s because he wanted us to pay attention.
Part of the genius in the Bible is the way it uses repeated words to link thoughts, events, or ideas together. When we read the Bible in an English translation some of this nuance is lost. That’s why pastors and Bible nerds everywhere like studying original languages to learn more about the meaning behind the text.
In Mark 15 Jesus is buried, "46 Joseph bought a long sheet of linen cloth (sindona!). Then he took Jesus’ body down from the cross, wrapped it in the cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a stone in front of the entrance."
It is not a coincidence that Mark uses the same word to describe Jesus’ burial cloth and the young man’s tunic. He wants us to connect these. The linking of these two events, the young man’s shame and Jesus’ death, is a reminder that all things are made new. The young man’s shame is not the end of the story, Jesus took it to the tomb with him.
On the next page, Mary and Mary go to the tomb with the intent of tending to Jesus’ body. Mark 16:5, "5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man (neaniskos!) dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed.”
By using the same word for young man, Mark is linking the young man in the garden and the angel who is the first to announce the resurrection of Jesus. The young man was previously naked and ashamed and is now clothed in white, the color of purification!
The clothed young man is a testament that to be part of following a resurrected God we get to take full part in a resurrected life. That’s the power of Christ in us. That’s the restoration that Jesus came to initiate for each and every one of us.
The way of Jesus takes what is dirty, broken, and lost and actively restores.
All things are made new. Your shame, mistakes, and failures are not the end of your story. We are all made new and transformed by the resurrection of Christ.