One of the great tragedies in cinematic history was the show LOST. It was not a tragedy in the sense that there was something wrong with the acting, screenplay, camera work, visuals, character development, or the like. All of those elements were among the best I have ever seen. It would have been hard to improve any of them. But what kept people like me coming back for more each week was the intrigue. We were all captivated by the story. “What could all of this mean?” That was the question with which I was left each week. I could not wait to see how they were going to pull it all together. For the last five or six episodes, the previews of the final week kept us coming back with this promise: “All your questions will soon be answered.” Of course, I believed them. One does not create a fictional story where the individual parts do not fit into a bigger picture, do they?
In season 1 episode 2 of LOST, the writers introduced this polar bear. On the mysterious tropical island where the plane crashed, the survivors run into a polar bear. Why? Well, we did not know, but we could not wait to find out. This, along with a thousand other odd things, created the intrigue. However, many of us found our hopes turned into tragedy as we finished the final minutes of the last episode, and virtually nothing was explained. Nothing! From September 22, 2004 to May 23, 2010, we anticipated the filling in of the blanks. We wanted it all tied together. It was like we were given a thousand pieces to a jigsaw puzzle without a picture from which to work. We had the individual pieces of the puzzle distributed to us, one by one, for six years and we expected that the creators knew how to put it together. As the final episode came to a close, we had to accept the tragic reality that the writers themselves did not really know what the big picture looked like. On May 23, a day that will lie in infamy in the history of television, fans of LOST had dozens of leftover puzzle pieces in their laps. One of these pieces had a picture of a polar bear on it.
Live and learn.
Seconds after the final episode, Twitter and Facebook exploded with outrage. Fans were crying for explanations. Immediately, blogs and YouTube videos were produced listing the dozens of unanswered questions. Some of those who were holding out hope cried in a last ditch effort to keep LOST as one of the great shows of all time (which it could have been): “Genius! They meant to leave everything unanswered. Now, we can fill in the blanks.” Are you kidding? No. I won’t have any of that. I don’t want to fill in the blanks, not in fiction anyway. You see, when we are dealing with fiction, we don’t like incidentals. We don’t like puzzle pieces that don’t fit in any way to the big picture. And this is the difference between history and fiction. In fiction, there are no incidentals. Everything is told with a purpose to fit into the fabrication of the story. However, in real life, incidentals are plenty. They endear us to the truthfulness of the story. They are a sign to us that what we are hearing is probably not made up. In short, a characteristic of stories that represent true history is that they will often have incidentals and we don’t mind.
This is one of the many things that makes me confident in the Gospels . . . there are some incidentals. There are some polar bears without explanation. There are some left over puzzle pieces. Let me share just one…
On Thursday evening, the disciples and Christ had adjourned to the garden called Gethsemane. Unknown to the disciples, they had just shared their last wine with Christ. Jesus brought a couple of his disciples and asked them to pray with him. Their eyes were heavy and they fell asleep. They were awakened after a time by Christ, who drew their attention to the soldiers coming to arrest him. After a short panic, the disciples all fled. So far so good? However, in Mark we get the following detail:
And they all left Him and fled. 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.
It is interesting that we don’t know who this naked guy was. Tradition tells us it was Mark himself, but we are not sure. As an aside, here is one of the great comics of Josh Harris:
Ironically, the nice thing is that this is a spare puzzle piece. We don’t really know why it was included. It does not fit into the big picture. Yes, it is inspired. Yes, it is God’s word. Yes, it is inerrant. But, this piece is an incidental. It is not trying to teach us some bigger principle like “Keep your clothes on for Christ” or “Nakedness is not next to godliness.” It can’t even be used as an illustration of something. It is simply there because it is historical. While we don’t stand for this kind of thing when it comes to fictional stories, this is exactly what we would expect when the story is true. We can expect some degree of left over puzzle pieces in historical narrative, especially when we are talking about eyewitnesses. So let us honor the naked man this Easter.