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?