A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind. – Mark 14:51-52 NIV
What a strange little anecdote to include in such a serious passage. Why in the world would the author of Mark include this seemingly irrelevant detail? There is no way to know for sure what the intent was, or who this young man was. But I like to think it was Mark himself, saying “I was there”. But how did he come to be in Gethsemane in the middle of the night wearing only a sheet?
We do not know what home it was where Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples, but it could well have been the home of “Mary, the mother of John, also called Mark” (Acts 12:12). And it would have been this house that Judas went out from to notify the priests. And it is likely that when he returned with the soldiers, that would have been the first place he would look for Jesus. But when he found Jesus was not there, he then led the soldiers to Gethsemane. Mark, then, could have jumped up to go warn Jesus and didn’t bother getting dressed. He just wrapped himself in his bedding and ran. But by the time he found Jesus it was too late. The soldiers had beat him there.
So why is this passage included here? I believe it is Mark telling us, I was there. I saw his arrest and can verify first hand that part of the story. If so, then this is not just a humorous anecdote injected into the account of Jesus arrest and trials. Instead, I believe it is a stamp of authenticity from a first person witness of the event. He is not just telling us what he heard from Peter or others, but, at least for this event, what he had seen.