43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 45 After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 46 They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 49 “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 50 And they all left Him and fled. 51 A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. 52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.
The account that Mark has given is a bit short on details in reference to the other accounts of the Gospel, but that is ok. We know that Peter is the one who cut off the ear of the high priest’s slave and Jesus healed him (read John 18). Another thing we see in John 18 is that Jesus went willingly, even though they brought an army with them to seize Him:
4 So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered Him, “Jesus the Nazarene.” He said to them, “I am He.” And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. 6 So when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
We see a brief glimpse of Jesus exposing who He really is, the great I AM. The entire cohort fell to their knees merely at the sound of His voice but He still went with them peacefully. This scene at the base of the mountain is one that exposes the truth in everyone. This is the significance of the seemingly random naked man running away at the end.
The most obvious is Judas’ exposure of his infidelity. He, although always trying to remain in the background, was the one who had to indicate who Jesus was in the darkness. It is interesting to note that those who wanted to seize Him knew who He was, so why did they need Judas to signal who Jesus was? Maybe they thought Jesus would be trying to hide His face. Maybe the torches didn’t create enough light amongst the group of men to positively identify Him. It’s actually quite a strange set of events as Judas approaches Jesus and His disciples with a throng of soldiers carrying weapons and torches. What else would they be doing out there but to seize Him? Judas nonchalantly tries to play it off but Jesus knows what is going on. He has known from the beginning. If you think about it all, it’s quite silly, really. This is how we look in our betrayal of others and especially God.
Moving past Judas’ silly actions, Jesus exposes the ridiculousness of the men that came with him. These same men surrounded him every day in the streets and the synagogues but they refused to take Him in at that point. Remember when the Pharisees began plotting to seize Him, they decided not to do it in public because they were afraid of starting a riot. Jesus once again exposes their hypocrisy. If we have to do something in secret, we probably shouldn’t be doing it! Jesus always taught about walking in the light and the truth, this wasn’t the way to do it. It exposes that what they are doing is wrong, and they know they are doing wrong. Have you ever blatantly sinned against God or someone else knowingly? Sometimes we sin impulsively and without thought or control, but other times we commit premeditated sin and even though we know we are wrong, we do it anyway. The fulfilled scriptures Jesus was referring to are from Isaiah 53, where God through the prophet foretold the slaying of the Christ for man’s iniquity.
Next, the disciples’ lack of discipline is once again exposed. As Jesus was trying to tell them earlier during their time of prayer, they should have been praying so that they would not have been as easily tempted. In this case, the temptation was to flee in fear. Is having fear a temptation? Absolutely, as the temptation of fear causes us to stray from our faith. Our fear replaces our faith. Those who were following Jesus fled in fear. Yet there was one, whom we read about, that stayed firm in the faith if at least for a little while and he too was captured.
There are different opinions about the young man mentioned in verse 51. They think it was just someone who was awoken by the noise and ran out in his bedclothes to see what was happening and thinking he was a disciple of Jesus, the soldiers seized him. Whether or not this young man was a disciple dressed only in bed sheets or an “innocent bystander,” the scene still holds a lot of symbolism. He was clothed in white while following Jesus but in running away he was exposed and naked. This same thing happens to us. Our running away in fear exposes us and leaves us naked and alone. Our following of Christ, even to the point of arrest and impending death, keeps us clothed in righteousness as a result of our faith. The disciples eventually grew from this experience and remained faithful to their deaths, the majority of whom were killed specifically for their faith.
Has your unfaithfulness been exposed? Do you have unfaithfulness that needs to be exposed? Maybe we are afraid of revealing the truth of our own lack of faith. The disciples, who eventually grew to be some of the strongest men of faith in history had to experience the exposure of their unfaithfulness in order to become more faithful. This is what we call sanctification, God uses experiences in our lives to reveal to us our true nature so we can surrender to Him our weaknesses and He can make us stronger in faith. Our weakness serves a purpose, to reveal the strength of God not just to others, but to us personally so that we know on a very intimate level who God is and how much He loves us. As the Apostle Paul described in 2 Corinthians 12:
7 Because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me-to keep me from exalting myself! 8 Concerning this I implored the Lord three times that it might leave me. 9 And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. 10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
So then let us not hide our weaknesses, but expose them so that we may become stronger. If we know of a weakness in the structure of our house, we reinforce it so the whole house does not crumble. If our legs become weak we take necessary treatments and even reinforce them with braces and crutches, do we not? So then let us reinforce our spiritual weakness with the power of Almighty God so that we may prevail against the storms of this life. Our weaknesses will be exposed eventually anyway, so why not do it in a constructive and positive way instead of waiting for the whole house to fall down?