Mark 14:51

One young man did indeed follow him, wrapped only in a linen sheet. They tried to arrest him;

a strange story
an unwillingness
to find our own

there is no hand
but our own
that can turn
our freedom
into restraint

Mark, like Jesus, gives us puzzles/parables that are not easy. We need to open our eyes and ears wider than usual. There is no satisfactory way to reduce the puzzle of this young man to a single solution.

To be wearing a single layer of clothing, particularly if it is a sheet, is unexpected even though it is evening and much energy has been spent on sleepy disciples.

Is this Bartimaeus who threw off his cloak before being healed and has not put it back on? Is this a representation of the beginning of the end when we are not to go back for a cloak? Perhaps it is someone who placed their cloak on the road into Jerusalem and it was soiled beyond cleaning? Might it be a set-up for the next puzzling appearance of an unnamed youth in Chapter 16?

Such questions do not exhaust the speculations that include this young person being Mark himself.

A personal remembrance of the Police Riot at the 1968 Democratic Convention and being willing to discard any loose clothing that could be grabbed makes this an all too vivid scene. Both this youth and myself could have been there innocently (I was taking a break from studying at Loyola to become an elementary teacher after just returning from two years in the Peace Corps and was curious about all those people over there) but innocence is no protection from things falling apart.

Mark does talk about clothing as it represents status. In such a case the last disciple to leave is a poor one without an outer garment.

Generously, the young man had been on an apostolic mission with the appropriate lack of a purse and only one cloak. Speculatively, in the process of their proclamation, the clearest message of mercy they could give was to give their one cloak to someone. This is to say what has already been said—there is no way to come to an explanation of this scene. Nonetheless, it is clearly drawn and undoubtedly meant something to Mark and his circumstance. Imagine, if you can, what this might have to do with Mark’s immediate audience.

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