The Mystery “Streaker” in the Garden

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):

MARK 14:50-51
MARK 14:50-51 [Bible Iliad The Naked Young Man @ Alpha]

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.

The Possibilities–

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.

What if…the young man mentioned in these verses… is LAZARUS?  And more than that, 9306807480_694ec4546esuppose that this LINEN CLOTH is his buried garment.

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 –

Dropped Cloths…

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…”

HE LIVES!
HE LIVES!

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…

He lives!

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).

 

My Name is “Cleo” – Part One of Three

Several years ago, I was asked to give the morning message at a local church assembly on Resurrection Sunday (“Easter”).  Although I love teaching on God’s Word–and although to teach and speak go together–on this “special day”, I just didn’t know how to present something fresh.

I wanted  something that would “stick” in people’s hearts.  But which of the events of the Resurrection would I convey.  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John all relay the message of the life, death, burial, and RESURRECTION of Christ Jesus, but with a different emphasis.  Was this idea the answer to my prayers concerning what I would speak about on THIS Sunday?

A BIBLICAL INTRODUCTION:

On the Road to Emmaus
On the Road to Emmaus

As I continued to READ & STUDY in God’s Word, I kept coming back to the account that Luke wrote about (Luke 24:13-32), about a disciple [follower of Jesus] by the name of Cleopas [(Ancient Greek) – KLEOPATROS; (Biblical Greek) – KLEOPAS; Pronounced in English; KLEE-a-pas].  I decided to just call him “Cleo”, for short.

An Empty Tomb Was Discovered–

The tomb was empty on the first day of the week, when early in the morning the women had gone to the tomb with spices in burial preparation as was the custom.

But when they arrived, they found the stone that was blocking the entrance to the tomb had been rolled away.  The tomb that their Master and Teacher had been placed three days ago…was now EMPTY!

And as they entered the tomb, perplexed and wondering what had happen to Jesus’ body, two men in dazzling raiment suddenly stood beside them (Luke 24:4).

The men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among those who are dead?  He [JESUS] is not here, but has risen from the dead.”

Now On That Very Day…

“Two disciples were going to a village called Emmaus [which is] seven miles from Jerusalem”  (Luke 24:13).

One of those DISCIPLES is directly known as Cleopas (Luke 24:18).

I discovered in my investigation that many Bible scholars assume that Cleopas is another spelling for Clopas.  If so, his wife was Mary (John 19:25); he was the father of James and Joses (Mark 15:40); and he was also called Alphaeus (Mark 3:10).  The other disciple walking with Cleopas isn’t named.  Some Bible Detectives wonder if it might have been Luke, since there is a tendency for the Gospel writers not to refer to themselves by name in their own account.

All that said, I decided to give a dramatic reading of An Easter Sermon by Fred G. Zaspel, dressed in a period costume.  So in keeping with Scripture and…with a modern take, the following is the presentation I entitled: “My Name is Cleo”.

I suppose I should begin by introducing myself.  My name is Cleo.  Cleo Davidson.  You have probably heard of me on occasion–Luke mentions me once in his gospel account by my proper name, Cleopas.  But I doubt that you know very much about me.  I tell you what, though, when it comes to JESUS and His Resurrection, I have more to say than most anyone else you could want to meet.

Let me tell you a little about myself.  Actually, you have read more about me than you probably know.  Luke is not the only Biblical writer to mention my name.  John also mentions me as the husband of one of the women named “Mary” standing near the cross.  My given name was Chalphai in Aramaic.  In Greek that can be translated as either Clopas or Halphaios–which in Latin is Alphaeus.  That, you may remember, is the name given as the father of James in all four of the lists of 12 disciples in the NT–“James the Less/younger,” Mark 15:40; not to be confused with the older James of Zebedee, Jesus’ cousin on His mother’s side.

But you see, if people would just learn to read more closely to the details, they would find that I am not such an insignificant nobody after all!  I am the father of one of the 12 apostles.  I am the husband of one of the women who stood near the cross–and who went early that Sunday morning in Jesus’ tomb.  My family was at the very heart of the circle of Jesus’ followers throughout his ministry and up to the very end.

In fact, you may be interested to know that my acquaintance with Jesus is much closer still.  A few of you may have read Eusebius, the fourth century church historian.  Why, neither Matthew, Mark, Luke, nor John record this, I’ll never know–but Eusebius preserves the information that I am the brother of Joseph of Nazareth–Jesus’ legal father.  Jesus, you see, was my nephew–“Uncle Cleo” He used to call me.  Mu acquaintance with Jesus goes back as far as His very birth–although then, I must admit, I had real questions as to why my brother Joseph would marry a pregnant woman–his sense of justice and all.

I grew up in Bethlehem, but for some years my wife and I had made our home in Emmaus, a quiet, little village about seven miles from Jerusalem.  As Jesus grew, we of course were very interested in His progress and development.  He was a perfect child, always so obedient to His parents.  He never did anything to show them any disrespect whatever.  Although He would puzzle them at times–like that time when He was about 12 up at the Temple in Jerusalem–telling them that He did not go along with them (his parents) because He had to be about “His father’s business.”  Those kind of things were always very puzzling.  But under Joseph’s instruction we saw Him develop His skills as a Carpenter.  He was a good one–always accurate to the mark and ever creative.  No dresser drawer of His making ever hung.  And no table ever wobbled.  And He could make yoke for oxen which fit so comfortably and so well.  In fact He became know in the area as “the carpenter.”  Joseph was proud of Him–and so were we.

From His birth onward, it became increasingly evident that Jesus was different.  Oh, I don’t mean He looked any different or that He played any different as a child or would have stood out as any different on the playground–not at all.  It was just that He was perfectly exceptional.  And when as a man He began to teach it was evident that He Himself believed that He was more than just a man among others.

To verify that very point Jesus went about working all kinds of miracles.  He healed more people than I can count–some of whom, in fact, were people whose illnesses were congenital.  He freed people who long had been possessed of demons.  He even raised the dead!  There was simply no limit to His abilities–and everyone who watched Him recognized it.

One day–it was the Sabbath–Jesus sat in the synagogue in His hometown of Nazareth.  By now there was considerable talk about Him all over the region.  And as He sat to teach in the Synagogue that day, He took the Isaiah scroll and rolled it until He came to what you call chapter 61.  Everyone’s eyes were fastened on Him as He read:  The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.

Then He added, “This day this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”

I wasn’t there to hear Him that day myself, but everyone was talking about it–the atmosphere was absolutely electric.  Here He claimed in unequivocal terms that He was Israel’s Messiah–sent of God to bring blessing to His people.

And in His preaching He turned the accepted religious of the day on its head.  He spoke of a Pharisee & Publican, for example–a model of virtue vs. the epitome of vice.  Yet at the end of the story it was that Publican and not the Pharisee who simply casting himself on God’s mercy went to his house justified–and that without any righteousness of his own to show thru keeping the law.

He spoke of Laborers in a Vineyard who all received the same wage–a denarius–however long they had worked–whether 12 hours or one.  His point seemed to be that God’s love is not parceled out in quantities proportionate to individual merit.  There is a 12th part of denarius–a pondion we called it.  But what He emphasized is that there is no such thing as a 12th part of God’s love, and that salvation is as full as it is free.

He spoke of Two Debtors–one who owed a large sum of money and the other a relatively small amount.  But in that neither could pay their debt, the creditor frankly forgave them both.  And again we were left with the clear impression that the Salvation He had come to bring was not sufficient only for so many sins or for some kind of sins–but that by Him we could receive full pardon for all our sins, and that without cost to us!

He spoke of the Prodigal Son who defied his father and disgraced his family.  And coming home he begins that carefully prepared speech that a wandering son feels that he must make–asking if he could just become his father’s servant.  But the father would hear nothing of it.  He didn’t say, “OK, but from here on you must prove yourself by…”  Not at all–rather than putting him on probation to see how he would turn out the father went to pains to assure his returning son of his complete acceptance–that in perfect grace he could be accepted and enjoy all the benefits of family life.

And at times His teaching was more direct still.  On one occasion He simply said boldly that if there was anyone at all who was burdened with sin and chafing under its sense of guilt, if they would but come to Him He would give them rest in a peaceful assurance of Divine favor.

Throughout His entire ministry there was that theme–that announcement that God’s salvation was freely available thru Him.  That God demanded precisely nothing but that the sinner recognize his need of grace and to find it go to Jesus.  The law, He taught, while it was entirely righteous and good, could not do by itself–it merely showed what was required and wherein the sinner had failed.  It made no provision for the sinners rescue.  But over and over again, He insisted that He was the bread of life, the water of life, the light of the world, the way, the truth, the life.  That He had come to graciously provide for sinners what they could never do on their own.

And in His preaching He turned the accepted religious thinking of  the day on its head.  He spoke of a Pharisee & Publican, for example–a model of virtue vs. the epitome of vice.  Yet at the end of the story it was that Publican and not the Pharisee who simply casting Himself on God’s mercy went to his house justified–and that without any righteousness of his own to show thru keeping the law.