The Streakers of the Bible

This image is borrowed from the cover of the Sigur Rós album "Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust." Black boxes added for your convenience.

This image is borrowed from the cover of the Sigur Rós album “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust.” Black boxes added for your convenience.

You read that right. There are streakers in the Bible. I can think of four different accounts of people streaking (i.e., running naked) in the Bible.

 

Streaker #1: Joseph

Joseph was forced into the life of a slave through the wicked actions of his brothers. In Genesis 39, Joseph was serving in the house of Potiphar, when Potiphar’s wife grabbed hold of his clothes to force him to sleep with her. But Joseph wasn’t having it: “He left his garment in her hand and fled and got out of the house” (v. 12).

 

Streaker #2: The Mighty Man

In Amos 2, God’s judgment is depicted as so severe, that no one will stand against him. It doesn’t matter how strong a person is, how fast his horses, how deadly his weapons, or how swift his feet. You can’t withstand God’s judgment. Even the bravest will become streakers:

“‘He who is stout of heart among the mighty
shall flee away naked in that day,’
declares the LORD.” (v. 16)

 

Streaker #3: Mark

When Jesus was arrested, his disciples ran away. But one person tried to follow the procession as they led Jesus away:

“And they all left him and fled. And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.” (Mark 14:50-52)

Because Mark’s gospel is the only one to record this incident, it’s likely that the “young man” was Mark himself, who simply omitted his name to be modest.

 

Streaker #4: The Sons of Sceva

In the days of the early church, miraculous things were happening. Jesus’ followers were demonstrating incredible power, and one of the manifestations of this was the ability to cast out demons. So some non-Christian exorcists, the sons of Sceva, thought they’d try invoking the name of “the Jesus whom Paul proclaims” to cast out demons.

This didn’t work, of course, because demons know the difference between someone claiming Jesus’ name and someone in whom the actual Spirit of Jesus dwells. So the sons of Sceva had to streak:

“But the evil spirit answered them, ‘Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?’ And the man in whom was the evil spirit leaped on them, mastered all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (Acts 19:16)

 

Implications: Streak for the Right Reasons

You can’t just write a post about people streaking in the Bible and leave it at that. It’s kind of a rule. So here’s how I’ll bring some spiritual benefit out of it.

Streakers—at least, the biblical kind—are people in a hurry. There is an intense urgency to streaking. If you’re going to run away without your clothes, you’re obviously desperate.

And intense urgency is a good thing. Our lives ought to be driven by passion.

But three of the four examples of biblical streakers are running with the wrong kind of urgency. Streaking to save yourself from God’s judgment is not a situation you want to be in. Nor is streaking to save yourself from demons that are attacking you because you thought Jesus’ name was a magic spell. Mark’s case is a bit more gray. I certainly understand the disciples fleeing from Gethsemane. If I was being arrested along with Jesus, running away naked would seem like a better option. Even still, I don’t think we want to be found streaking away from Jesus in the hour of his greatest need.

So here’s the object lesson: If you’re going to streak, streak like Joseph. Let your moment of greatest urgency be that moment when you’re running from temptation. This is the moment in which the Bible presents naked running as a good thing. So if you ever find yourself streaking, take that opportunity to process your urgency. Are your most passionate moments attempts to flee from the consequences of your sin or fear? Or are they desperate attempts to run from evil and toward righteousness?

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11 comments

  1. I don’t think anything in the Genesis account implies that Joseph ran away naked. It seems to have only been his outer cloak that he left. Still, your point is well taken.

    • MarkBeuving

      Touche, Chuck. Maybe I’ll need to broaden my definition of “streaking” to include “running away in one’s underwear.”

  2. Jared

    Don’t leave Isaiah (and the Egyptians) in the dust!

    And the LORD said, Even as My servant Isaiah has gone naked and barefoot three years as a sign and token against Egypt and Cush, so the king of Assyria will lead away the captives of Egypt and the exiles of Cush, young and old, naked and barefoot with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt. Then they will be dismayed and ashamed because of Cush their hope and Egypt their boast.

    Isaiah 20:3-5

    So Mark, is it appropriate to streak as an object lesson to the world that if they look to other nations for support instead of to the power of God, they too will be led away as a captive, with uncovered buttocks?

    • MarkBeuving

      Haha. Preston brought up that passage too. I’m not sure that anyone was running there, so it doesn’t count. If you want to disregard everything you learned in Bible Study Methods, you could definitely take this as a command to walk around naked, but it would still be a stretch to take this as a nod toward streaking.

      • ywilber

        I think the point is that Isaiah was only “butt naked” as opposed to the Full Monty.

      • Jared

        Wait, so–biblically speaking–if I want to streak I have to be fully naked, as opposed to “in undergarments and barefoot” (NET Isaiah 20:3)? I just want to make sure I am going to do it right.

        • MarkBeuving

          Again, if you disregard everything you learned in Bible Study Methods.

  3. ywilber

    It seems fleeing from temptation ought to begin a little bit before you get to the naked stage…

    Does this rule out recreational streaking… the sort that witnessed in its heyday in the 70′s, or the sort depicted on the Sigur Rós album cover?

    Any thoughts on skinny dipping?

    • MarkBeuving

      Good point on the first one, Yvonne.

      As for the second two points, no comment.

  4. Matthew Halsted

    I’m SO doing a sermon series on this. Each sermon would be edifying, encouraging, AND fully transparent all at the same time. :-)

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