Clothing Can Send A Message
When my family was young, dressing for church on Resurrection Sunday (Easter) was a day for spring dresses, suits and ties. I remember trying to scrape some money together in the early 70’s, just so daddy’s little girls could venture out to the shopping malls and pick out that special dress.
We may not dress for Easter in the way we used to…but, we do send out signals with our clothing. We do communicate what we feel about ourselves and, we send signals regarding our self-image.
Uniforms Can Identify Authority–
We wear clothes to tell others who we are and what we are about.
My dad was a San Diego Fire Department Captain. When he wore his firefighter slicks, get out of his way so he could do what he must.
If I were to stand in the middle of a busy street today, holding my hand up to stop traffic, chances are…I would be hit and killed by an auto. But put on a police uniform and do the same hand motion…traffic would come to a halt because they would recognize the authority of the uniform.
Some people communicate with their clothes of not just who they are but who they hope to become.
“Dress for Success” Idea
There are groups available to serve jobless people, offering not just counseling, but also business suits and tailored dresses. My folks always told me, “If you are going out on an interview…look the part.”
So, what does our clothing have to do with this week’s Scripture message?
AN INTRIGUING LITTLE FOOTNOTE IN MARK’S GOSPEL –
This footnote comes during that stormy scene in the 14th Chapter, when in dark Gethsemane: JESUS prayed alone because His closest friends for the past three years would not stay alert–the betrayer’s kiss, the arrest, a brief scuffle, and–what distressing words!
“Then [His disciples], forsaking Him,
fled, all [of them]” (Mark 14:50 AMP).
BUT NOW COMES THE INTRIGUING FOOTNOTE – Mark 14:51-52 English Standard Version (ESV):
51 And a young man followed him (Jesus), with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, 52 but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.
After the descriptive narrative, the story continues: trials and denials, prisoner releases and floggings, mocking and parading, and, in the end, CRUCIFIXION. DEATH. Dramatic death, DARKNESS and death.
[More reporting, more investigation is needed.]
THE MYSTERY IS REVEALED –
Here’s the MYSTERY that grabbed my attention. Why did Mark waste his ink on this certain young man, wearing nothing but linen? Why tell us about a person who was almost snatched by some soldiers but who pulled out and ran away…NAKED?
But was this really a waste of ink? Scripture points out: “Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for instruction, for reproof and conviction of sin, for correction of error and discipline in obedience…” (2 Timothy 3:16).
That said, then who was this young man…what does this mean? Does his dropped linen cloth send a MESSAGE?
Just as clothing can send messages, and what we wear may send signals, so also what we leave behind marks out a new identity. What we drop off permits us to become something new.
Who then, was the “STREAKER” skittering through the grove of olive trees?
In study, I found several possibilities, each represents a different way of understanding the “dropped cloth.” Each of these dropped cloths may fit some of us.
Some think that the young man may not be anyone we can name; that he may have come from an affluent family. LINEN was expensive, and so if he was wearing linen out there in the garden at night, when you might have expected informal clothing, it might suggest he had wealth and wanted to show off.
If this theory is correct, this young man came close to JESUS, almost got caught up with Him, but he ran because he couldn’t risk losing his financial status in the community. So he dropped his cloth, his fine linen cloth, and ran away…NAKED!
Wow! I thought there may be a METAPHOR for some of us here.
We’ve watched JESUS from a distance. We have listened to Him, but with skepticism, because He teaches things that are hard to swallow.
We’ve trusted in our success in business and in our profession, but JESUS speaks about losing our lives in order to find them.
JESUS tells us that if we want ETERNAL LIFE, sell all that we have and give it to the poor.
Getting Close to JESUS!
We can’t get too close to this JESUS, not as prosperous as we are He demands too much!
If this is correct, that this young man is a man of means, clad in fine linen…Symbolically then, as he came close to JESUS that night, he had to drop that cloth.
I HEAR A HARD LESSON–that the meaning of LIFE doesn’t consist in the abundance of the things which we possess; that our dollars and our acquired acclamations do not earn us anything really. In the sight of God, as the Bible teaches it, “All our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isaiah 64:6).
All the STUFF we have will deteriorate and all the achievements we have piled up…will fade.
It’s a hard thing to hear for the “whoever’s”…
The “whoever’s” In our prosperous achievement-oriented society,
“Whoever will save his life will lose it, but whoever will lose his life for My sake, and the gospel’s will gain it” (Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24; Matthew 16:25).
That means we have to DROP the cloth of prosperity and no more pretension.
Behind our pretty clothes, our varnished veneers, and our well-manicured lawns, lies nothing but the NAKED TRUTH–we are desperately needy. Only Christ Jesus can satisfy our need. We must drop the cloth of PRETENSION.
But What If…
What if the anonymous STREAKER found in the garden of Gethsemane was NOT a young man of wealth? Maybe it was someone we can actually name, identify that young man losing his cover in the garden.
All for good reasons, some Bible students think this certain young man was LAZARUS. The man who JESUS raised from death a little while before. Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha, were good friends with Jesus.
JESUS arrived at their home in Bethany after Lazarus had been dead for four days, shrouded and buried.
But JESUS stood at his grave and commanded, “Lazarus, come forth!” And indeed he did.
The Bible story reports that they had to release the grave-clothes in letting him go.
True, it no longer has the same purpose of binding his arms and legs, but is free to move about.
But is he still wearing that shroud? Is he still running about town in the same cloth used to wrap his dead body? How weird would that be?
But even if that sounds bizarre, it’s not unusual. Though peculiar, but not uncommon.
The Truth is…many of us continue to wear our grave-clothes.
Many of us exhibit the relics of a DEATH from which we’ve been freed at SALVATION.
Many of us act as though we were trapped in THE PAST instead of THE FUTURE.
Like LAZARUS, we have been offered new life by JESUS; but, again, like Lazarus, we do not shake off the things that bind us that hold us back.
PAST BAD HABITS CONTINUED…
Some of us our BOUND in old habits that make us appear as “dead men walking,” even though we have been shown the right path to take.
We hold on to old prejudices (“I’m guilty”). And yet, who of us does not know that in JESUS CHRIST there is a way, a TRUTH, and a life–a life that brings freedom?
Why would we choose death over life? But we do. We do.
Dropping the “Shrouds of Death” –
LAZARUS, raised from death, not yet thought life unleashed his freedom. And so here he is, on the night of trial, lingering on the edge of the garden, yet not ready to go and die with JESUS.
Why should LAZARUS even fear death?
He has already been given life, and should understand that the One who gave him life once…could do it again!
BUT LAZARUS is living in a SHROUD and had to drop that cloth exposing his frail limbs.
SAD FOR LAZARUS! AND SAD FOR US…
…If God, who has begun a work of SALVATION in us will not bring it to completion.
SAD FOR US if once we said “YES” to Jesus and His offer of a NEW LIFE, but done nothing with it for years and years. It means we are still wearing GRAVE CLOTHES!!
We must drop the “shroud” that BINDS us to the past.
There is a THIRD THEORY in this story…
During my investigation, I uncovered a THIRD possibility of who the anonymous young streaker might be.
It might have been a nameless rich and accomplished young man, who could afford a LINEN CLOTH, or, it might have been LAZARUS, still wearing his burial shroud, or it might have been MARK himself, the author of this gospel.
It may have been a very young MARK writing this account, not wanting to name himself as the “streaker,” but telling us that he was there all the time. He was a WITNESS–but in his nightshirt. Night clothes, pajamas, sometimes were made of LINEN.
Uncovering the Evidence in the Garden –
There are many reasons why it could be MARK, too many to list in this blog. But it definitely could be John Mark. It is consistent with what we know of Mark in other places of the Bible.
Here in this seemingly insignificant little story of a young man who came out to the garden one night, awakened from his sleep, got close to the action, but who hesitated at the key moment.
Here is a young man who had followed JESUS, maybe even closely, but who went back home to sleep when things got tough. He pulled back to SAFETY–an insulated life, and came out to watch, but at a distance.
And if it’s true that MARK is the mystery “streaker” in the garden, just as he did later on, according to the Book of Acts…he RAN. He bolted.
When the going got tough, he got going, but not because he was tough, far from it.
He got going because he was afraid.
He got moving because he was immature and not ready for what was coming next.
He got to his feet and ran because he had not yet awakened to all that JESUS had in store for him.
He ran and exposed his maturity. As we often do. As we run.
We too go to sleep by cutting short what we could very well experience.
We too start to be a follower of Christ, but find Him too complex, too much. So we slip into unconsciousness–we go to sleep, we run from Him.
Hazy and Lazy About the Christian Faith…
Some of us don’t get it what it means to be a Christian. Our PRAYER lives have not advanced beyond, “Now I lay me down to sleep.”
Our GIVING lives have not passed beyond tossing a coin or two to a beggar on the street corner, or sending a minimal check to a charity or church.
WE ARE ASLEEP! We could be so much more as Christians, but we just haven’t grown up.
So like MARK, we go about in our sleepy-time night-clothes, not aware that we are called to be children of the Light.
We need to LET GO of the life of near-nothingness and to commit to grow in JESUS. Otherwise, we will find it mighty cold out there, exposed in the night with nothing to protect us.
THERE IS STILL ANOTHER LINEN CLOTH THAT WAS DROPPED –
The rich man, or Lazarus, or Mark. Take your pick. Each one of them exposes us; dropped cloths that will strip away all the ways we hide ourselves.
For you see, in an EMPTY TOMB, there was another LINEN CLOTH (Mark 16:6-7):
“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for JESUS of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised, he is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid Him…Go, tell his disciples…”
And they did GO TELL!
They told those who had depended on wealth and status, they could drop that pretension, for Christ is alive and gives freely, without price or payment to ALL who will TRUST Him.
He dropped His cloth and He lives!
They told those who were living in the past, that they could drop that habit, for JESUS is alive and gives NEW LIFE freely.
“If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, old thing are passed away and all things become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
He dropped His cloth and He lives!
And they told us who are so immature, so far short of what we could be, we can drop our masks, we can forget our veils.
JESUS DROPPED HIS CLOTH; He sends a message. He lives!
And because He lives, we too can live, and live more abundantly–
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whosoever believes on Him has everlasting life. And whosoever includes even such a child as I.”
He dropped His cloth…
He sends a message…
Drop that cloth. Right now, drop that cloth of yours, and truly live!
Credits and Commentaries:
Commentary: The powerful transformation of the young man – Mark 14:51-52 & 16:5 by AOSIS Publishing.
PHOTO’S not marked: Google Images, Photo Pin.
Bible Translations: English Standard Version (ESV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New International Version (NIV); New King James Version (NKJV).