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:

Mark 14:50-52 
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.


C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    15 replies to "Why “Run Away Naked Mark” is My Favorite Biblical Character on Easter"

    • Nate Claiborne

      It actually fits really well into the big picture. You should check out Kuruvilla’s article in JETS on the subject. Totally blew my mind and we actually made this episode the focal point in our small group because of it.

      Here’s the short version:

      Young man loses his white cloth (=shame)
      Young man appears at the resurrection in shining new clothes (=glory)

      Jesus appeared in white clothes in glory at the transfiguration
      Jesus was clothed in shame at his death and burial

      It’s another substitutionary motif in Mark. We see ourselves in the naked guy (failing to follow Jesus well, ended up clothed in shame) but also in the young man at the resurrection (one day hoping to be resurrected ourselves to glory with Christ). Christ took our shame and guilt, clothed himself in it, and defeated it.

      This is probably a poor recap of Kuruvilla’s work, but its gets the gist of it.

      • C Michael Patton

        That could be Nate, and I have not read it. But I would hesitate to see such things in this sort of inspired “big picture” due to our commitment to the big “A” author in most cases. Just like John’s statement that he outran Peter (assuming that it was John) to the tomb, I tend to think of these things, as I argued, as elements of historicity rather than some transcendent teaching.

    • Rich Starnes

      Not to be that guy (okay, I’m being that guy), but the polar bear, while never explicitly explained, was inferentially explained: the Dharma Initiative brought the animals to the island as part of their experiments. The cages with the feeding buttons that held Jack, Kate & Sawyer at the beginning of season 3 held the polar bear and other animals. Not to say some questions weren’t answered, but that one was.

    • Ken Blatchford

      It truly is puzzling to think someone would wear just a sheet follow along get grabbed to come along with the police then run off. Running away naked is not what is puzzling. Makes sense if they grab him and he pulls away and runs away. It’s that he was only wearing a sheet. How odd. Maybe there is some kind of symbolism in that I don’t know what else it is in Scripture for without speculating. I suppose I too will be taking on the wrath of the skeptics If I concur but it is odd nonetheless to have something in Scripture to be mentioned without provoking some sort of guess on our part why the incident is recorded.

    • Saskia

      I don’t think it was so uncommon to only be wearing a sheet in those days was it? I was under the impression that most people only owned one item of clothing (sheet) and not necessarily any undergarments.

    • Richard Worden Wilson

      C M P, great post, and good for a couple of good laughs, and not just over the excellent cartoon. However incidental your post may be to all kinds of things, like my just having had my first glass of wine with Jesus for the night (uh yeah, it was just my first), it did strike me as amusing that God would include seemingly random details in the WORD that as narrative reminiscences that encompass the explanation for EVERYTHING non-incidental.

      Oh, Nate, and all those similarly inclined, allegorical significances can be found to mean just about anything, for any random text, as our medieval forebears can now (or in the future resurrection eon) confirm from their experiences.

      So, thanks again for en-light-ening my mental load this blessed evening.

      PS: I didn’t ever pay much attention to LOST but by the third or fourth season when they had to include subtext to explain what anything might actually have to do with anything it seemed clear to me that they whole thing had no point, there was no story line going anywhere, that the writer had neither ability or interest in making it all make sense, and that anyone that expected any of that probably was LOST.

    • Ben Thorp

      “So let us honor the naked man this Easter.”

      Suggestions for how…..? 😉

    • Jeff Spry

      I heard Rob Plummer, Associate Professor of New Testament Interpretation at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville discuss this text as part of his paper at Nov2010 ETS in Atlanta. His titled his paper: “Stripped Naked and Running Scared (Mark 14:51-52): The Current State of Biblical Hermeneutics”

      I remember being convinced and impressed with the intent of the author in this using this account. He said that Jesus predicts disciples will fall away in Ch14, just more failure on point of disciples. In 14:50, all disciples flee and then he focuses on one disciple as example. In 14:51-52, one flees naked as illustration of disciples’ failure.

      He sees this as intercalation or the wrapping of one story inside another (like the fig tree / temple judged / fig tree or alabaster jar / Judas / alabaster jar. Here we have flight of disciples/naked guy/Peter’s denial.

      The condition of being naked in public is epitome of shame in OT/NT era. This is not to be a humorous story but one the original readers would be scandalized by (see Amos 2:16).

      I don’t think Plummer discusses this in his excellent “40 Questions About Interpreting the Bible” by Kregel.

    • James

      Was the fear of being associated with Jesus in that moment greater than the fear of the shame of being seen naked running through the streets? Apparently so, and this tells us just how abandoned Jesus was in these moments, as had been prophesied he would be. I think the lack of identity is so that we won’t focus on the streaker, but on the abandoned Christ.

    • ruben

      I love that the Scriptures are full of these incidentals, it sets the mood of the events and truly establishes that these are eyewitness accounts that have been handed down. I think we overdo it sometimes and make the Bible more than it is supposed to be when every verse should have some “spiritual” significance, just go with the flow of the narrative and you will absorb the Gospel more..

    • Kendra

      OK, this is kind of changing the subject, but I got hung up on you saying this was Thursday evening. Do you believe in Good Friday? I have only seen cases made that it was Wednesday or even Thursday, but I haven’t heard a case for the day Jesus hung on the cross really being Friday. 🙂 Can you refer me to a good credible link that supports it?

    • Daniel

      Kendra, Matthew chapters 27 and 28 answer your question with specific information regarding the days of the week that the events occur.

    • Kendra

      It’s just that that’s not three days. Matt 27 refers to one of Jesus’ claims that specifically said three and of course the Jonah one specifically states three days and three nights in the grave. So the math just doesn’t add up. I know it says it was the day to prepare for the sabbath but it also calls it a special sabbath a few times which I have heard taught that Passover was more than one
      holy day in a row. Maybe myth #11 is that it was Friday. 🙂 I appreciate your help.

    • Rich Starnes

      There are numerous references that Jesus said he would rise on “the third day.” A lot of scholarship holds that ancient Jewish references to counting of days were inclusive, so the “third day” would include the day of the starting event, the middle day, and the final (third). The phases “three days” and “three days and nights” were figures of speech referencing the same thing–today, tomorow, and the day after. Bible.org seems to be a pretty orthodox site; here’s the address of their summary of this position: http://bible.org/question/were-three-days-and-three-nights-jesus-was-grave-full-72-hours

    • Kendra

      Thanks Daniel and Rich!

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