STUDY EIGHTEEN: MARK 14:1-72

© Rosemary Bardsley 2013

A. PREPARATIONS – Mark 14:1-11

It is almost time for the final predictive Passover mean. Only Jesus knows that in two days time he will die as the ultimate Passover – the one death, the one Lamb, towards which all other Passover meals have pointed. He has tried to warn his disciples, but they have not understood his teaching. Of all the people involved in the preparations in Mark 14:1-11, only Jesus understands what is really going on.


Task #1: Read Mark 14:1-11.
In what way did each of the following prepare for the death of Jesus?

The chief priests and teachers of the law?


The woman?


Judas?


Jesus?

 

A.1 The chief priests and teachers of the law – Mark 14:1-2
These men are determined to bring about the death of Jesus. They are, however, afraid of the people [See Mark 12:12; 14:12]. They are also afraid of the Romans. They did not want anything to happen that would put their own authority in jeopardy, or would offend the Roman authorities. Indeed, their plot to kill Jesus is grounded in this fear [See John 11:45-57]. At the time of two feasts of Passover and Unleavened Bread the population of Jerusalem multiplied, with pilgrims coming to these feasts not only from Judea, the Decapolis and Galilee, but also from the surrounding countries in which Jews had settled. Given Jesus’ popularity, and given the miracles that he had performed throughout Jewish territories and neighbouring countries, the potential for a riot if he was arrested during the feast period was great.

So their plan was (1) to look for a sly way to arrest and kill him, and (2) to wait until after the Feast. They ‘were delighted’ when Judas offered to betray Jesus to them. It would also bring on the arrest and execution of Jesus to the very time they sought to avoid – in accordance with God’s planned timing, not theirs.

A.2 A woman – Mark 14:3-9 [parallels Matthew 26:6-13 and John 12:1-8]
The woman’s preparation for Jesus’ death was totally unconscious and unintentional. She was offering a costly expression of thankfulness and love. Unlike the priests and teachers of the law, she had no thought for her own reputation, no thought of the costliness of the gift. With an overflowing heart she exposed herself to potential criticism and rejection.

In this woman’s action Jesus saw a preparation for his death: an anointing of his body for burial.

A.3 Judas – Mark 14:10-11
Each of the gospel writers mark Judas Iscariot as the one who would betray Jesus early in their gospel [Matthew 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16; John 6:71].  So it comes as no surprise to the reader to learn that Judas here in Mark 14 went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. But it was a surprise to the disciples at the time, which is evident in the fact that they all wondered who it would be. Whether or not Judas believed that the chief priests intended Jesus’ death is not stated, but it is clear in the gospels that their hatred and intentions were quite obvious. In addition, Jesus had on a number of occasions taught his disciples that he would be killed by the Jewish religious leaders [Mark 8:31,32; 9:31].


A.4 Jesus
Jesus himself seems in these eleven verses to be the passive focus of all this intentional and unintentional preparation for his death. But this is far from the case. He has come to Jerusalem at the time of the Passover to die in fulfilment of God’s eternal purpose, and in fulfilment of all the predictive rituals and prophecies of this saving substitutionary death. In two days’ time he will deliberately bring to completion in time and space that which was planned before the beginning of time and space.


B. THE SUPPER – Mark 14:12-31

Task #2: Background check
To understand the background for the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread study Exodus 12:1-30 and Leviticus 23:4-8. From these, what do you discover about:

[1] the essential perfection of the lamb?


[2] the role of the blood of the lamb?


[3] the concept of a substitutionary death?


[4] what is avoided by the death of the lamb?


[5] the necessity for faith?


B.1 The preparation – Mark 14:12-16
Just as Jesus had pre-planned to borrow the colt to ride into Jerusalem [11:1-6] so here it is evident that he had made prior arrangements to borrow the room in which to eat the Passover meal. That Jesus kept the venue secret up to this time prevented Judas bringing on an arrest before Jesus was ready for that arrest. As is evident in John 13 to 17 he still had much to teach his disciples before his death, including the institution of the ‘Lord’s supper’, as recorded in the three synoptic gospels.

Some confusion is caused by the fact that in Matthew, Mark and Luke Jesus is reported to refer to this meal as the Passover, while John dates this meal as the day before the Passover, with the crucifixion occurring on the Passover. Although it is not possible to totally resolve this issue, the simplest explanation seems to be that there were at the time two different calendars in use for dating Jewish festivals. Evidence for the existence of two calendars includes:

The Pharisees and Sadducees had slightly different calendars.
There was a difference between the priestly [temple] calendar and the popular calendar.
The calendar followed by the Essenes [the Qumran community] differed from the official temple calendar.

There is also confusion caused by the fact that the Jewish ‘day’ goes from 6pm to 6pm, not midnight to midnight as we count days.

B.2 Jesus speaks about the betrayal – Mark 14:17-21
Jesus has previously taught that he would be betrayed. He now adds the information that he will be betrayed by one of the disciples. They have no idea which one it is, each asking ‘Surely not I?’ He goes so far as to say it would be ‘one of the Twelve, one who dips bread into the bowl with me’ but does not specify Judas. Nor does he mention that this betrayal is already in motion and will be finalized that very night.

Contained in Jesus’ reply is his acknowledgement that this will happen in fulfilment of the scripture [Psalm 41:9], but this in no way exonerates Judas for this act of betrayal. Indeed for that betrayal the judgment of God must fall.

Consider these comments:

‘Here again is a paradox of Scripture … The Son of Man goes, betrayed by a friend, in fulfilment of prophetic Scripture; and yet His false follower is culpable for his act; he cannot escape individual responsibility for what he does.’ [p213, Cole, The Gospel According to St Mark, Tyndale, London, 1961.]

‘… the delivering up of Jesus is not simply an act of Judas, but part of a bigger purpose than his – he is in fact being used for the fulfilment of God’s purpose. Nevertheless, it is his act, and he is responsible … The fact that God turns the wrath of man in his praise does not excuse the wrath of man …’ [p424, Cranfiled, The Gospel According to St Mark, Cambridge University Press, London, 1966.]

‘Here Christ meets an offence, which might otherwise have greatly shaken pious minds. For what could be more unreasonable than that the Son of God should be infamously betrayed by a disciple, and abandoned to the rage of enemies, in order to be dragged to an ignominious death? But Christ declares that all this takes place only by the will of God; and he proves this decree by the testimony of Scripture, because God formerly revealed, by the mouth of his Prophet, what he had determined.
‘We now perceive what is intended by the words of Christ. It was, that the disciples, knowing that what was done was regulated by the providence of God, might not imagine that his life or death was determined by chance. But the usefulness of this doctrine extends much farther; for never are we fully confirmed in the result of the death of Christ, till we are convinced that he was not accidentally dragged by men to the cross, but that the sacrifice had been appointed by an eternal decree of God for expiating the sins of the world. … Wherefore let us always place before our minds the providence of God, which Judas himself, and all wicked men – though it is contrary to their wish, and though they have another end in view – are compelled to obey. Let us always hold this to be a fixed principle, that Christ suffered, because it pleased God to have such an expiation.
‘And yet Christ does not affirm that Judas was freed from blame, on the ground that he did anything but what God had appointed. For though God, by his righteous judgment appointed for the price of our redemption the death of his Son, yet nevertheless, Judas, in betraying Christ, brought upon himself righteous condemnation, because he was full of treachery and avarice. In short, God’s determination that the world should be redeemed does not at all interfere with Judas being a wicked traitor. … we see how Christ, in this passage, reconciles both (that is, the two principles of divine sovereignty and human responsibility), by pronouncing a curse on Judas, though what he contrived against God had been appointed by God; not that Judas’s act of betraying ought strictly be called the work of God, but because God turned the treachery of Judas so as to accomplish His own purpose.’ [Calvin, Commentary on the Gospels, public domain; italics added to summarize omitted section.]

B.3 The institution of the Supper – Mark 14:22-25
Mark’s account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper is very brief. So minimal that if this was all we had we would not see it as the institution of anything. All that Jesus says here is:

[1] that the bread is his body.

[2] that the cup is ‘the blood of the new covenant, which is poured out for many’.

Embedded in the second of these are two significant truths:

That the blood of Jesus inaugurates and seals the new covenant – a covenant that fulfils all previous covenants, indeed, is the deep meaning of all previous covenants. It is also, as the letter to the Hebrews make very clear, far superior to the Sinai covenant and the rituals attached to that covenant.  It achieves what the Sinai covenant was never intended to achieve. It is the reality depicted in the symbols of the Sinai covenant.

That the blood of Jesus is shed on behalf of ‘many’. This speaks of the substitutionary nature of his death. As such it is the reality depicted in the deaths in the original Passover, in which the blood of a lamb saved the life of the firstborn; it is also the reality signified in the deaths of all the animals offered as sin-offerings in the tabernacle and the temple; it is also the reality portrayed by the animals slain on the Day of Atonement. To this death all of those Old Testament substitutionary sacrifices pointed.

The disciples understood this only after Christ’s death and resurrection.

B.4 Prediction of Peter’s denial – Mark 14:27-31
As they walked towards the Mount of Olives, Jesus told his disciples that they would all fall away. Even this was prophesied in the scripture [Zechariah 13:7].

Jesus looks beyond his arrest, beyond the disciples’ failure, beyond his death to his resurrection [verse 28] and attempts to encourage them by telling them he will then meet them in Galilee. But their minds have focused on one thing – Jesus’ statement that they will fall away. They do not hear the implied reference to his death. They do not hear the mention of the resurrection. All they hear is that statement about their own weakness. And they all deny it. Peter, and all the others. Even though Jesus affirms what he has said, and specifically mentions Peter’s denial, they all insist that they will remain steadfast.

And here we must not overlook a significant distinction between the Judas’ betrayal, and Peter’s denial.

Judas operated outside of faith. His action attracted its just judgement.

Peter, in his denial, and the other disciples, in their flight from danger, operated within a vital faith relationship with God, through their faith in his Son, Jesus Christ. His death which was yet to occur in physical time and space was the eternal reality through which they gained acceptance with God and the forgiveness of their sins – including this sin of disowning Jesus. Judas had no such faith, and therefore no such acceptance and forgiveness.

 

C. IN GETHSEMANE – Mark 14:32-52

C.1 Jesus’ commitment – Mark 14:32-42

Task #3: Read Mark 14:32-42. Answer these questions:

[1] List everything these verses tell us about Peter, James and John.

 


[2] Describe the actions of Jesus.

 


[3] Describe the emotions of Jesus.

 

[4] Define the commitment of Jesus.

 


[5] Describe Jesus’ concern for Peter.

 


These three disciples were so little aware of what was about to happen, even though Jesus had told them, that they fell asleep. Even though he voiced his disappointment in them and his own personal agony, they did not connect with his distress. They simply didn’t know what to say to him.

Jesus is here under intense pressure. He knows what tomorrow will bring. He knows that he will experience the incredible, sustained physical suffering and total personal humiliation involved in a Roman crucifixion. But he also knows his suffering will be far more than that: he knows he will suffer in himself, the wrath and the punishment of God upon human sin. He knows that all of our sin will be laid upon him, and he will bear its guilt and its penalty in his body on the cross. He knows that this will put him in the position that is legally ours: the position of rejection by God, the position of exclusion from the presence of God.

And he is overwhelmed. The prospect of severance from the Father is unbearable. The perfect and eternal unity and love that exists between the Father and the Son had never been broken. Not even by the incarnation. Not even by his humanity. But now he is about to take upon himself our human sins, so much so that Paul says in 2Corinthians 5:21 ‘God made him who had no sin to be sin for us’. He knows that God is of purer eyes than to look upon iniquity [Habakkuk 1:13]. He knows that human sin makes a separation between man and God [Isaiah 59:2].  The thought of this alienation almost kills the Son [Mark 14:34].

Three times [see Matthew 26:44] he pleaded with the Father that, if it were possible, this cup of suffering could be taken from him. But even as he prayed he knew that there was no other way, and committed himself to do the will of the Father.

He knows that the eternal purpose of God for human salvation is about to be implemented – ‘the hour has come’ [verse 41]. He knows that he, the glorious, powerful, divine Son of Man has been betrayed by one of his own disciples, one of his own creatures. He knows that this betrayal is ‘into the hands of sinners’. By this he referred to the chief priests, teachers of the law and the elders – men who should have recognized him, men who claimed knowledge of God and of the scriptures that told of his coming. But he calls them ‘sinners’. And now they are engaging in the greatest of all their sins, they are about to arrest and put to death the Son of God. Their ignorance of God and their rejection of God is complete.

Jesus, knowing the divine purpose that was being fulfilled in their wickedness, and having fought his own personal battle with the horror of the impending event, now walks deliberately towards it.

Yet even though he is overwhelmed by his own deep distress he has a special word for Peter. Peter had just before this emphatically stated his allegiance to Jesus [14:31], but here he cannot even stay awake to keep Jesus company in his agony, not even for one hour. Jesus encouraged him to ‘watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation’ [14:38]. He knew that the problem was not with Peter’s ‘spirit’ but with his ‘body’: ‘The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ [Note that the Greek here is not the word for ‘body’ – soma; it is the word for ‘flesh’ – sarx.] Jesus, truly human, understood what it means to be human, understood all the pressures and temptations that we experience [Hebrews 4:15]. He has just struggled through incredible pressure; now he encourages Peter, not just with his words of exhortation, but with his sympathy. In his spirit he himself was fully committed to his Father’s eternal plan; in his flesh, in his humanness, he shrank from it.


C.2 The arrest – Mark 14:43-52

Task #4: Read Mark 14:43-52. Answer these questions:

[1] Who came to arrest Jesus?

[2] Who sent them?

[3] How did Judas betray Jesus?

[4] What was the disciples’ immediate response?

[5] How did Jesus respond?

[6] What was the disciples’ response when Jesus submitted to the arrest without a fight?


[Again Mark gives only a brief account, leaving out some of the details included in other gospels. But he also adds one detail not included in the other gospels – about a young man who was following Jesus. It is believed that this ‘young man’ referred to in verses 51 and 52 is Mark himself.]

The arresting party armed with clubs and swords was sent from ‘the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.’ The number of people involved appears to be quite large. The gospel writers use the word ‘crowd’, which the KJV translated ‘multitude’. Some manuscripts include the adjective ‘great’. From the other gospels we learn that this ‘crowd’ included temple soldiers and temple officials and servants. It is certainly not a well disciplined, cohesive group, but a mixed group quickly thrown together when Judas turned up at the high priest’s house to inform him of Jesus’ whereabouts.

Mark does not mention the Pharisees in those who authorised this arrest. John, however, includes them [John 18:3] as an all-inclusive way of referring to the teachers of the law and the elders. Here we have the highest religious authorities in Israel banding together to destroy the Messiah. In this they are acting in keeping with their persistent criticism and rejection of Jesus throughout the three years of his ministry.

Jesus, in his verbal response, points out that this same crowd of temple police and temple officials could easily have arrested him in the daytime when he was publicly teaching in the temple courts. The fact that they did not do so is evidence of the fear of the public that dominated the chief priests and other leaders, and of the deliberately covert nature of this arrest. As Mark has already told us they were afraid of the crowd [Mark 12:12] and looked for ‘some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him’ because they were afraid that the people might riot [Mark 14:1,2]. So they came in the darkness of night, when the people were in their homes and the disciples sleeping.

Even this secretive arrest occurred, Jesus indicated, because the Scriptures must be fulfilled. Whatever it took, he must be arrested. He must be ‘numbered with the transgressors’ [Isaiah 53:12; Luke 22:37]. To be arrested violently and under the cover of darkness inferred Jesus was a dangerous criminal.  

 

D. THE TRIAL – Mark 14:53-72

D.1 The prosecution – Mark 14:53-65
The prosecution in this trial consisted of the high priest, the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law. Mark refers to the chief priests and ‘the whole Sanhedrin’ – the Jewish council responsible for religious matters, and comprising respected religious leaders.

The decision to have Jesus put to death had already been made [14:1]. Now that they have arrested him and have him standing before them they were looking for evidence against him that was sufficient to have him put to death [14:55]. Here they have more than one problem. They actually have to have proof of his guilt on two counts: firstly, on religious grounds so that they, the religious high council are justified in having him killed; and secondly, on secular grounds, so that they can accuse him before Pilate in such a way that Pilate will be legally justified in ordering his execution. But they are confronted with a third problem: that their witnesses do not agree with each other, and are thereby proved to be false witnesses [14:56-59].

It is left to Jesus to testify about himself, and on his own testimony he is condemned as worthy of death.

Task #5: Answer these questions:

[1] Read 14:60-61a. How did Jesus respond to the testimony of the false witnesses?

[2] Read 14:61b. What did the high priest ask Jesus?

 

[3] Read 14:62. How did Jesus answer the high priest?

 

[4] Read 14:63,64. How did the high priest and all the others react to Jesus’ testimony?

 


There are several things in Jesus’ reply that all point to his deity, any single one of which could have brought forth the charge of blasphemy:

When he answered ‘I am’ he was claiming to be the Christ, the Messiah.
When he answered ‘I am’ he was claiming to be ‘the Son of the Blessed One’.
In addition, he called himself ‘the Son of Man’ – the glorious, divine figure of Daniel 7.
In addition, he stated that he would be seated at ‘the right hand of the Mighty One’ – the position of power and authority.
In addition, he stated that he would be ‘coming on the clouds of heaven’ – obviously God.

By each of these individually, and by all together, Jesus, whom they believed was just a man, claimed to be God. By his own words he secures the charge of blasphemy. By his own words he sealed his own death warrant. The chief priests and the Sanhedrin now have the religious accusation by which they can justify his execution.

The treatment they mete out to him is evidence of their belief that he is a mere man claiming for himself the attributes of deity. As such they believe him to be worthy of their scorn, derision and mistreatment. To them blasphemy was the most horrendous of all sins, so they treated him accordingly.

How far they were from knowing the truth!

D.2 The denial – Mark 14:66-72
But there was at least one person present who did know the truth, who did believe the truth, even though his understanding at this point of time was limited.

Simon Peter had followed those who arrested Jesus, and was right there, sitting with the guards in the courtyard of the high priest’s house while the trial was in progress. He had boasted that he would not fall away, even if all the others did [Mark 14:29]. And there he is, right in the house of the enemy, within sight of Jesus. He has to this point, not deserted Jesus. But when the pressure came he could not withstand it, and all of his boasting fell to pieces around him.

The immediate pressure came not from the religious leaders but from a servant girl. But her repeated accusation is heard by others, and eventually repeated by them. Each time Peter denies any knowledge of Jesus and any association with Jesus.  Three times Peter denied Jesus, just as Jesus had said he would.

And here question threatens us: does this mean that Peter lost his faith? Does it mean that Peter, at this point of time had lost his salvation and was back under the wrath and the condemnation of God? Can a person be saved one moment and lost the next?

The Scripture presents us with several facts about Peter, that calm such fears:

Peter had God given insight into the identity of Jesus Christ [Matthew 16:17].
Jesus commanded Peter, along with James and John, to keep quiet about his transfiguration until after his resurrection, clearly indicating that Peter would still be a man of faith beyond the death and resurrection [Mark 9:9].
Jesus included Peter in those who were permanently clean through his word [John 15:3].
Jesus had prayed for him, that his faith would not fail, and commanded him to strengthen his brothers after he recovered from Satan’s onslaught [Luke 22:32].
It was Peter who ran with John to the empty tomb, and Peter who went in first, anxious to discover what had happened to Jesus [John 20:3-9].
It was Peter who, realising it was Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, jumped into the water and eagerly swam ashore to Jesus [John 21:7].

Peter’s action in the chief priest’s house was a temporary, superficial, denial of Christ. The deep internal and permanent reality was his faith in Jesus Christ and his love for Jesus Christ. In contrast, Judas’ deep internal and permanent reality was his rejection of Jesus Christ, while on the surface, for three years, he gave the impression of allegiance to Christ.

There is that which looks like faith, but isn’t. There is that which looks like faith has disappeared, but it hasn’t.

Neither Judas’ three years of apparent allegiance, nor Peter’s three brief moments of denial, deceived Jesus. He knew all along that Judas was not on his side. He also knew all along that Peter was his, albeit with weak faith, albeit vulnerable to Satan’s interference.

So let all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ take courage. He knows our weakness; he is not surprised by our failures. He knows Satan’s strategies against us. They do not surprise him either. But he also knows, and this should give us grand assurance, that we are safe in his hands [John 10:28,29]. He will not let us fall. When we are weak, when we are failing, he carries us close to his heart [Isaiah 40:11].