Mark’s Linen Sheet

Mark’s Linen Sheet December 11, 2016

I had a conversation with Rev. Paul Albrecht recently, and he shared with me his view on the man who runs away naked in the Gospel of Mark. It is an interesting way of connecting the dots between elements in the story, and not necessarily an implausible one. Let me know what you think.

Paul Albrecht’s suggestion is that, having departed from the Passover meal occurring in the upper room traditionally in John Mark’s house, the “Last Supper,” Judas would have naturally returned there with the cohort that sought to arrest Jesus. By this point, John Mark would be in bed. Answering the door and, in his grogginess, indicating where Jesus was headed when he left, John Mark would then have hurried to try to reach Jesus first to warn him about what was happening, wrapped in the bedclothes that he had around him when he answered the door.

He would then also provide an awake witness to Jesus’ prayer and other activities in the garden of Gethsemane.

When Jesus was arrested, John Mark left behind the sheet in which he had hastily wrapped himself when he got up from bed. And so it would have remained in the hands of those sent by the Jewish authorities – and would have provided the most readily available linen sheet for Joseph of Arimathea to use when it came time to bury Jesus.

A lot of the above is speculative – and comes from someone who is inclined to view the Shroud of Turin as genuine, but I don’t want to hold that against them in relation to an exegetical question. However, this suggestion also doesn’t deal with the statement that Joseph bought a linen sheet in which to bury Jesus (unless obtaining confiscated property could require some kind of payment in kind). 

And yet nevertheless there is something compelling about this way of connecting the dots between the mentions of a linen sheet in the Gospel of Mark. At the very least, it reflects an impressive creativity, I think you’ll agree.

What do you think of this? Too speculative? Or an interesting and creative attempt to explore gaps in Mark’s narrative?

Painting by Pavel Popov.
Painting by Pavel Popov.

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