Wakeful: Mark 14:51-52
Pastor John Weathersby
Sunday May 30, 2021

Really, this is my life?

I like dramatic complaining. Sometimes I end up in circumstances where I want to jokingly look around and laugh saying; this is what I have been reduced to. My life is funny, like a clown? The premise of my dramatic complaining is based on the notion that I like to take myself WAY more seriously than this.

This scene in Mark’s gospel frames up Jesus’ reality at this point. Perhaps He – if he were negative and snarky (read sinfully displeased and self focused) like me, could have looked around at the naked man running away from his arrest saying, really – this is my life. One writer said it like this of Mark 14:51-52 of our nude friend that it “appears out of nowhere at the wrong place in the story, at the wrong place in the text, like a clown at a funeral.” So what do we do with it? We try to go against Mark and figure out “who is the nude person,” or maybe the right approach is to ask,”why did Mark include it.”

These questions offer a great place to stop. Before we get started this morning and look at or “guiding principles for this study” from www.transcendchurch.org/mark, here they are:

1. Show Mark’s Purpose:
In Scripture, there are four Gospels. Why did Mark write this one specifically?  We want to show, as we move through this Gospel, the intended purposes for Mark’s. If The Book of Mark didn’t exist, what in the whole counsel of God would we miss?  We want to pull from the text those key passages that meet Mark’s goal, and we want to walk away knowing the Gospel of Mark better.

2. Answer the question “Does This Matter”:
Does Mark’s gospel matter to my life today – we want to answer that question.   We want to be shaped by the word, and so we’ll ask, how should this Gospel shape my life differently than it was before I interacted with it.  Our study will weekly work to that goal and dive deep into the Gospel of Mark.

3. Feel More Comfortable with the Gospel:
We want to feel more comfortable with the Gospel of Mark.  To know and be able to explain what it teaches and see the riches that the Word, from Mark’s gospel, has for us.  The gospels are rich and should be fully appreciated, and we hope to enjoy this text even more after our study than we do initially.

With such a strange seeming section of scripture, like a clown at a a funeral, it is crucial to stay pinned to our principles rather than mindlessly follow breadcrumbs such as who is this person that Mark decided to NOT reveal to us. Mark isn’t just photograph capturing details or mindlessly jotting down events, he is guiding the story he is doing something with his telling, it is purposeful.

If we lean in with Mark, we’ll see that Immediate obedience requires awareness, wakefulness, careful attention, prayer. Jesus was about preparing His disciples for a life of obedience to God’s will and He demonstrated that “on the way”. Mark was about the immediacy of Jesus mission to the cross, and about showing us, Jesus’ prayerful obedience, “on the way” this is the window of Marks’ gospel account.

Mark 14:51–52
51 And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him,

“a young man.” Lots of speculation around the word choice here. Because ONLY Mark tells this story.

A neaniskos (neh-ah-nis-kas), young man. Used only 2 times in Mark once here and the only other time, with the young man sitting in Jesus’ empty tomb. While others like Matthew and Luke used neaniskos to describe the rich young ruler, Mark didn’t use the term. Instead Mark, who said immediately 40 times, reserved this specific word for one, singular, other place:

Mark 16:5 (ESV)
5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed.

To be clear, entering the tomb, they saw a neaniskos, sitting at the right side – and that young man was wearing a white / leukos stole, white robe Mark uses this word sparingly, only one other time and it is at the the transfiguration:

Mark 9:3 (ESV)
3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them.

They were an intense leukos – Mark leaves us breadcrumbs within his main story. “they seized him”. So presumably during this scene of the arrest, if we read 46-50:

46 And they laid hands on him and seized him.
47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.
48 And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me?
49 Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”
50 And they all left him and fled.

Jesus was along, the only person left was this young man who followed Him and he has just been seised. We know he “followed Jesus”, likely a disciple, we know Jesus had many outside the 12. He’s been seised by:

“[…]a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders” we see in verse 43. Armed with swords and torches John shows us in the 18th chapter of his gospel.

So these armed crowds with authority and on-mission seize the curious follower. This is a very tense environment.

52, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

Certainly we have some interesting breadcrumbs and they’re interesting to follow. But you know what the thing with breadcrumbs is? No one leaves them behind when they want to be sure they get where you’re going. Just ask little Hantzel and Gretel.

Rather, when you want someone to get to a destination you give clear directions, and so we stick to the text and principals fo our study.

So why did Mark include this. There are 3 reasons, 1 it happened, 2 it is the capstone of Jesus final preparatory ministry for the ultimate aim, the cross, and 3 it pulls us through the story with purpose. Breadcrumbs function as a foreshadowing and a drawing function, not the main thing – which is why they can feel out of place when focused on for main direction. SO mark includes it because:

1, because it happened
One writer said this: “[…]the narrative is a stained glass window that the reader must look at. A stained glass window is carefully designed by the craftsman in accordance with a particular theme, style, location, in the building size and structure of a window, nature and availability of gals s demands of patron, expertise of artist etc. The glass the stains the lead, the copper, and everything else that goes into tis production are meticulously planned for the appropriate effect, to tell a particular story. So, too with narratives, textual or otherwise. The interpreter must, therefore, play close attention tot text not just to what is being said, but also how it is being said and why, in order that the agenda of the author may be discerned – what the author was doing with what he was saying”— Sidney Greidanus

2, because it paints the finality of Jesus’ direct preparatory ministry
Mark’s Gospel walks us down this increasingly constricting narrative. He starts out leaning on the word immediately. Used more than 40 times, it stands in contrast to the terms above for the whiteness of the robe and the description of the man as a young man, used only in two instances. Mark gets to work quickly. In my work, I have to report on “next steps” frequently people confuse this with a status update. A status update, while interesting, isn’t the NEXT STEP. Mark’s Gospel is a “next step” focused on telling of the events of Jesus’ ministry until they’re not – and that is where we are here and Mark focuses on those next obedient, obedient on the way.

Mark shows what is happening rather than telling about what is happening. He gives us the next step with immediacy. Mark frequently uses the present tense for past events because he is moving us along; however, somewhere along the journey, our legs hit quicksand, and we get slowed in the narrative. We now ARE where Mark was going – We see this focus at the end of Mark 13 – with the fig tree lesson and the destruction of the temple with an emphasis on the nearness and awakeness:

Mark 13:30–37 (ESV)
30 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
No One Knows That Day or Hour
32 “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
33 Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come.
34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake.
35 Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—
36 lest he come suddenly and find you asleep.
37 And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.”

Stay awake. This focus on wakefulness permeates the end, where Mark moves on from immediately and zooms in on this finality. Mark’s focus on immediacy is over. In fact, from chapters 14 – 15 of Marks, 40 mentions of the word Immediately. We only have 4 here. Jesus has arrived where he was going. Jesus’ obedience to God was immediate, complete, and has a perfect example to us “along the way”.

Immediate obedience requires awareness, wakefulness, careful attention, and prayer. Much of Jesus early mission activities demonstrated His obedience “on the way”, Mark’s gospel calls our attention to that, Jesus mission was steeped with immediacy and purpose.

BUT they didn’t stay wakeful and prayerful. Rather they fell asleep were woken up 3 times, and then the deceiver came, and they weren’t ready. Peter lopped off someone’s ear Mark 14:47) , Jesus being in perfect control of the situation ensured the disciples safe escape (John 18:8-9), and if we missed the gravity of this scene, Mark records this event – a young man with a white robe completes the total desertion of Jesus (Mark 14:51-52), the disciples who gave up everything to follow Jesus, gave up everything about following Jesus.

John 18:8-9 (ESV)
8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.”
9 This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

Mark will not mention immediacy again; Jesus obedience is complete no immediacy is left, obedience has lead to the cross and now full full wrath of God against sin will flow through until it is finished.

All fellowship is torn from Jesus. He is entirely alone. Jesus is despised. Jesus has become the gilt of Sin. He has begun making payment for an alien righteousness that will be available to His elect.

Isaiah 53:5 (ESV)
5  But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds, we are healed.

3, because it draws us forward

Mark’s breadcrumb language draws us ever forward into the story and then slams us on the ground here at the end, to observe all the details of Jesus’ crucifixion, His obedience has arrived, our minds are now thinking past the cross to victory, to the empty tomb, to the fulfillment of all that Jesus came to do.

Show Mark’s Purpose:

He is finalizing the immediacy, wrapping up the disciple’s failure to be wakeful and in prayer, and making sure we don’t neglect to understand the terrifying reality of this turning over of Jesus, so much that this young man would runaway naked.

2. Answer the question “Does This Matter:”
This matters because it brings about the Gospel and fulfills Jesus’ obedience, but back up. It demands our obedience in wakefulness and prayer. That is what Mark calls us to. Following the example of Jesus’ immediate obedience, steeped in a call to prayer.

3. Feel More Comfortable with the Gospel:
Mark’s inclusion of this scene hammers home his point and his purpose. When we circle back to read it, we can appreciate that his point is to bring us deeper in obedience to God in Christ, through His example, through wakefulness and on the way obedience.

Will we realize that call? Will we be obedient to it? Here are 3 things we can do this week to bring home the message of Mark as we become comfortable with his purposes.

Pray, every day this week. 
Pattern your prayer, need help try ACTS Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication.
Praise God – we are so quick to be skeptical and pessimistic. Look for opportunities to praise!

Immediate obedience requires awareness, wakefulness, careful attention, prayer.

Revelation 16:13–15 (ESV)
13 And I saw, coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs.
14 For they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty.
15 (“Behold, I am coming like a thief! Blessed is the one who stays awake, keeping his garments on, that he may not go about naked and be seen exposed!”)

Pray, Observe, Apply.

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