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The Naked Man Who Ran Away

At the scene of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, sadly, a lot of us would run away and leave our baptismal identity behind.

At this they laid hands on him and arrested him.
One of the bystanders drew his sword,
struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.
Jesus said to them in reply,
“Have you come out as against a robber, 
with swords and clubs, to seize me?
Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, 
yet you did not arrest me; 
but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled.”
And they all left him and fled.
Now a young man followed him
wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body.
They seized him,
but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.

Mark 14:46-52

What seems to be a small detail in the Passion narrative can actually be interpreted as having huge significance.

We can think of the man dressed in the linen cloth in the same way that we look at a figure in a painting, where it’s someone from the painter’s time placed in an old setting who brings the contemporary person into the scene.

Bishop Robert Barron explains it like this:

The man is wearing, what they say in Greek, is a “sindona”, a white garment that covers your nakedness. That’s exactly how a newly baptized person would have been dressed.

In the ancient Church, when someone was baptized, they took off their street clothes. That was a sign of getting rid of the old self. They were lathered up with the chrism, and then they were put down in the water—baptized. Then coming up out of the water, a sign of resurrection, they were dried off, and then they put on them a sindona.

Who is this young man? He’s described as a follower of Jesus, that’s code for disciple. Who’s this follower clothed in a simple white garment? He’s all of us baptized.

What will Baptism involve? Eventually, we’ll come to the point where we’ve got to make a decision. Do we stand with Christ even when it costs? Do we stand with Christ even when it’s dangerous? Do we, at that decisive moment, run away, leaving our baptismal identity behind?

This pathetic young man running off naked into the night, having left behind his white garment—that’s every one of us sinners, who at the moment of truth, abandon the Lord and run off, leaving our baptismal identity behind.

Let this young man, let this image, draw you into the scene. What would I do at this moment of truth? When I knew that standing with Christ would cost me, even cost me big time, what would I do?
Sadly, a lot of us do what this young man did. We run away, leaving our baptismal identity behind.

Watch how in Mark’s Gospel, that young man in the white sindona, makes an appearance a little bit later.Watch for him; it’s a sign of hope.