The Linen Cloth

Photo of Robin Harris Kimbrough

Dr. Robin Harris Kimbrough

When my children were younger, I can remember them fighting over a box of crackers. My son had the box of crackers in his hands, and my daughter grabbed the box. He let the box go, and held on to the plastic bag holding the crackers. Elizabeth got the box, and Adric, Jr. got the crackers, because the crackers had another layer of protection.

In Mark 14:43-51, Judas has kissed Jesus, and all of his disciples have deserted him. We can only imagine how Jesus felt when everyone had left him in his deepest time of need. Most of us have felt the blow of betrayal and abandonment by people upon whom we thought we could depend. We have all been left holding the bag at one time or another in our lives. When we really needed a friend or a family member, they abandoned us. They did not stick it out with us. It is a hurtful place to be. The disciples left Jesus standing because they were afraid.

The unnamed man whose only dress is a linen cloth illustrates the fear vividly. The soldiers are grabbing at anyone they believe is a disciple of Jesus Christ. They are armed with swords prepared to arrest and punish all of Jesus’ associates. A soldier grabs at this unnamed man, and like my daughter was left with box of crackers, this soldier was left holding a linen cloth, while the man ran away naked. A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked.

This is what fear will do to each of us if our faith is merely a linen cloth, easily snatched off our spiritual bodies. The unnamed man in our story teaches us that when we are followers of Jesus Christ, and we want to continue to follow him and do his will, even when it becomes dangerous and risky—we must be wearing more than a linen cloth. If we walk around with just a linen cloth, we will easily be chased away from our call to be a follower of Christ.

The simple things have the ability to snatch away our faith—sinuses, a bad-hair day, and traffic. If these simple situations can snatch away our faith and cause us to run, imagine how much the real difficult stuff could strip us down and make us ran away—loss, abandonment, rejection, abuse, and all types of pain making us question God’s very existence. Underneath the linen cloth is our nakedness, our flesh, which makes us weak. It has the ability to make us think we have to run away to be safe. The truth is our safety is completely in Jesus Christ, but for us to know this we must have that flesh covered up with more than a linen cloth.

The devil can tell what we are wearing. He knows when we are completely naked, vulnerable and weak, but he cannot take advantage of us in that state if we have more than a linen cloth. We need layers of spiritual clothing to cover up our nakedness so that our fear will not leave us running from a situation wearing nothing.

For us to be dressed for the occasions in life when our faith will be tested and our fears will roar, we must be covered from head to toe with the armor of God. Then, when those things and people reach out to grab us, they will not have the power to strip us naked. We will be able to stand strong in the time of trial, because we have another layer of protection. This is why we need more than a linen cloth.