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The Plot Against Jesus
14:1 Two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to find a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him.
Although the religious leaders in Jerusalem had been talking for some time about ridding themselves of Jesus it was not until two days before the Passover that they met together to plan on how they could bring about his death by deceptive means. That they sought to do this by stealth reveals that they knew they had no justification for their actions.
14:2 For they said, ‘Not during the feast, so there won't be a riot among the people.’
They originally hoped, however, to put the plan on hold until after the Passover, in case it caused uproar among the people, with whom Jesus was very popular. So they planned to take Jesus after the feast, until circumstances caused them to change their plans. In fact, it was God’s own plan that was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem (Prov. 19:21; Job 5:12; Psalm 33:11).
14:3 Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of costly aromatic oil from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head.
This event takes place in Bethany where Jesus often resorted when going to Jerusalem. This time the supper is held in Simon the leper's house; since Simon was present he had obviously be healed by the Lord. The differences in Matthew's (Matt. 26 6-13) and Mark's account of this anointing with that of John's (John 12:1-8) might readily be explained if we assume that Martha and Mary had prepared supper in Simon’s house. Matthew and Mark place this event two days before the Passover; whereas John mentions Jesus arriving in Bethany six days before the Passover. But we have already seen in Mark that Jesus spent several days in Bethany before his execution, and so although he arrived six days before, the anointing may well have taken place (as Mark relates) two days before the Passover.
Although Mark does not name her, John affirms that is was Mary the sister of Lazarus who poured a liquid perfume made out of pure nard on Jesus’ feet (nard was extracted from the spikenard plant). It was very costly and highly prized, being imported from Arabia, India and the Far East. Since Mary was someone who listened attentively to Jesus’ words (John 10:39), had she saved the perfume purposely, realising that she was anointing Christ for his burial; or did she act in ignorant devotion? She did not keep anything for herself but gave it all to Jesus. Mark says that Mary anointed Jesus’ head whilst John mentions his feet. It is quite likely that Mary (who had come to anoint his body for burial) would have anointed both.
14:4-5 But some who were present indignantly said to one another, ‘Why this waste of expensive ointment? It could have been sold for more than three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!’ So they spoke angrily to her.
The act of worship which expressed Mary’s love for the Lord brought an angry response from the onlookers, including the twelve disciples. They all sharply criticised Mary. To them it was a complete waste of an expensive item which could have been used for better things. Their minds were still fixed on material benefits and so they were blinded to the spiritual significance of what Mary had done. In any case after all that Jesus had done for them should they begrudge him this honour? In John's gospel we are told that it was Judas Iscariot that made the most objections, since he been stealing from the purse he had been entrusted with (John 12:6).
14:6 But Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a good service for me.
Jesus knew what was in Mary’s heart and comes to her defence, rebuking the disciples for accusing her. He commends Mary for her act of faith, declaring it to be good and beautiful as an expression of love.
14:7 For you will always have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want. But you will not always have me!
Mary seemed to understand something that the disciples had not, although Jesus had repeatedly told them about it: he was leaving them. In fact his hour had almost come; now was the time to do something for him. There would always be poor people in the world for whom they could give help at any time.
14:8 She did what she could. She anointed my body beforehand for burial.
Jesus informs them quite clearly that she had anointed him for his burial.
14:9 I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.’
Jesus said that Mary's act of devotion would be remembered as a testimony to her wherever the gospel was preached. In other words, her actions are worthy of being commended as an example for all believers to follow – symbolising the surrender of their all to the Lord.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus
14:10-11 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus into their hands. When they heard this, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.
After this incident Judas Iscariot wasted no time. He had made up his mind to betray Jesus into the hands of his enemies and so conspired with the chief priests how he might betray him into their hands without the people knowing. They rejoiced to hear this, since this is what they had been waiting for. Who better to help them than one who was his disciple and professed friend (Psalm 41:9; Psalm 55:12-14)? The price that they would pay Judas for the life of the Lord was thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave.
The Preparation for the Passover
14:12 Now on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus' disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat the Passover?’
When the disciples asked Jesus where he wanted them to prepare for the Passover, they found that God had already made preparations of his own.
14:13 He sent two of his disciples and told them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him.
As they entered Jerusalem they would meet a man carrying a pitcher of water, an uncommon sight enough, as it was usually the women or children who did this. He would lead them to the place which God had ordained for this last supper. Mark seems eager to affirm that God was not leaving any of the events surrounding his Son’s last days to chance.
14:14-15 Wherever he enters, tell the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, ‘Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.
God had also prepared the owner of the house to receive the disciples, and when they arrived he guided them to an upper room which was already prepared for the Passover celebration.
14:16-18 So the disciples left, went into the city, and found things just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. Then, when it was evening, he came to the house with the twelve. While they were at the table eating, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me will betray me.’
The disciples obeyed Jesus without any questions and it found things to be exactly as he had told them. So they prepared the Passover ready for his arrival. When we do exactly as Jesus commands us we will find that all things will work out right.
At evening time, Jesus arrived with the rest of the twelve, and as they sat down to eat, he dropped the first bomb shell of the evening. One of the twelve, one of those closest to him, was going to betray him. We cannot imagine what a shock this must have been to the disciples; all except for one.
14:19 They were distressed, and one by one said to him, ‘Surely not I?’
The disciples began to show their sadness at hearing this news; yet it is significant to notice that they did not ask “who is it?” or insist that “it isn't me”. Their hearts had been so pierced by Jesus’ words that even the innocent among them began to examine themselves, and asked him one by one “is it I?”
14:20 He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who dips his hand with me into the bowl.
In reply, Jesus did not openly name the betrayer, but gives an almost “cryptic clue” so that the person himself would know that Jesus was not ignorant of his plans. According to John 13:26, it appears that only John saw who dipped his hand in the dish at the same time as Jesus, and so understood the betrayer to be Judas Iscariot.
14:21 For the Son of Man will go as it is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been born.’
The fact that every minute detail of the plan of salvation was foreordained by God did not absolve Judas Iscariot from blame for the part which he played in it. Like any other person, Judas had a free will; he did not have to betray Jesus. Jesus gave him plenty of opportunities to repent but he continually hardened his heart. Therefore he would pay the dreadful penalty for his actions and there would never be a rest for his soul. That is why Jesus said “It would be better for him if he had never been born”.
14:22-26 While they were eating, he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take it. This is my body.’ And after taking the cup and giving thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant that is poured out for many. I tell you the truth; I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Judas having left, Jesus proceeded to institute a new memorial - the communion - to replace that of the Passover. Just as the Passover involved the death and blood of a lamb, so the memorial Christ instituted would point to his own broken body and to his blood shed on the cross. As Passover commemorated the Jews’ deliverance from slavery to Egypt, so the communion pictures the deliverance which Christ provided (through his death) from the slavery of sin. Christ gave himself for us that we might be redeemed, purchased for God by his blood. This blessing of redemption is closely related to the forgiveness of sins (Eph. 1:7).
The Passover provided a number of types and pictures of the reality which was soon to be fulfilled by Christ’s death, and which thereafter would no longer be needed. Christ would never take Passover again, but he would share the blessings of the redemption which it symbolised with all the believers in his kingdom. Barnes says, “The observance of the Passover, and of the rites shadowing forth future things, here end… The design of all these types and shadows is about to be accomplished… Hereafter, when my Father’s kingdom is established in heaven, we will partake together of the thing represented by these types and ceremonial observances - the blessings and triumphs of redemption.”
Before facing his last and fiercest battle at the cross, Jesus paused to sing hymns of praise to God with his disciples. It is commonly accepted that the hymns sung by Jews on such an occasion were the Hallel, or Psalm 113-118. In Christ’s singing there was a note of praise for the victory which he was about to accomplish. Following the hymn, they set out for the Mount of Olives, where in a garden called Gethsemane, they often met to pray.
14:26-31 Then Jesus said to them, ‘You will all fall away, for it is written, 'I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even if they all fall away, I will not!’ Jesus said to him, ‘I tell you the truth, today -- this very night -- before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ But Peter insisted emphatically, ‘Even if I must die with you, I will never deny you.’ And all of them said the same thing.
The Old Testament had predicted the scattering of Christ’s disciples at the time of his arrest and crucifixion. But Jesus introduced a new reality – he would gather them to himself again after he was raised from the dead. All the disciples, including Peter, were indignant at the suggestion that they would forsake their Lord. They overestimated their own ability and loyalty; though Jesus ability to keep his word was never in doubt.
14:32-41 Then they went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’ He took Peter, James, and John with him, and became very troubled and distressed. He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, even to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.’ Going a little farther, he threw himself to the ground and prayed that if it were possible the hour would pass from him. He said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.’ Then he came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn't you stay awake for one hour? Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ He went away again and prayed the same thing. When he came again he found them sleeping; they could not keep their eyes open. And they did not know what to tell him. He came a third time and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
As Christ approached the garden of Gethsemane, he began to enter his agony, an agony which only he could face. The sorrow of it was itself sufficient to kill him (14:34). Asking all his disciples, some further off and some nearby, to pray with him, he fell on his face to intercede with God for the last time as a man; asking that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. It was certainly possible, for Christ would not be forced to suffer and die for the sin of the world. Yet it was the only way for lost sinners to be redeemed for God; their redemption by any other means was impossible. The salvation of sinners was the purpose for which Christ had come into the world (1 Tim. 1:15; John 3:16). Realising this, despite the agony of the moment, Christ purposed to go through with the plan - not for his own sake, but for ours. He prayed, “yet not what I will, but what you will’ (v36). An angel appeared to strengthen him, lest the sorrow be too much for his human frame to bear (Luke 22:43).
The Betrayal and Arrest
14:42 Get up, let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!’
After his agonizing triumph in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus woke his disciples and went to meet his betrayer.
14:43 Right away, while Jesus was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him came a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests and experts in the law and elders.
Even as he spoke, Judas arrived with a detachment of temple police, heavily armed. Judas may have had some idea of what the disciples’ reactions to Jesus’ arrest would be, particularly Peter's and so he may have advised them to bring weapons.
14:44-46 (Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, ‘The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him and lead him away under guard.’) When Judas arrived, he went up to Jesus immediately and said, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Then they took hold of him and arrested him.
Judas had also agreed the means by which he would identify Jesus. The kiss was the usual form of greeting in New Testament times (Rom. 16:16); and among Christians such an affectionate greeting demonstrated love and brotherhood (1 Pet. 5:14). The callous way in which Judas used the kiss and hypocritically addressed Jesus as “Rabbi” demonstrated that he had gone beyond all hope of repentance (Prov. 27:6). In this way Judas handed the Saviour of the world into the hands of cruel men.
14:47 One of the bystanders drew his sword and struck the high priest's slave, cutting off his ear.
We are told in John 18:10 that it was Peter who made this useless attack upon Malchus, one of the high priest's servants, cutting off his ear. Luke informs us (Luke 22:51) that Jesus touched the ear of this servant and healed it immediately. Even to those who had come out to destroy him, Jesus showed love and compassion. The one who commands “love your enemies” (Matt. 5:44) never asks us to do anything which he did not do first.
14:48-49 Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come with swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw? Day after day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, yet you did not arrest me. But this has happened so that the scriptures would be fulfilled.’
Although it appeared that Judas was handing Jesus over to his enemies, and that his enemies now had Christ in their power, yet Jesus remained in complete control of the situation. He even dictated the terms of his own arrest, confounding his enemies by challenging them (John 18:7-8). Pointing to their weapons he reminds them that he was with them daily in the temple but they did not seize him. The fact that they had to come armed and under cover of darkness proved them to be in the wrong. Yet all things were happening in accordance with the scriptures: God was still in control (Isa. 53:7).
14:50 Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Here we see the fulfilment of Jesus’ prediction in verse 27; all the disciples left him and fled.
14:51-52 A young man was following him, wearing only a linen cloth. They tried to arrest him, but he ran off naked, leaving his linen cloth behind.
It is thought that this young man (who would have been in his teens) might have been Mark the writer of the gospel. The temple guards were unable to arrest him, but he only narrowly managed to escape by leaving his clothing behind.
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Copyright (2009-2014) Sharon Full Gospel Church, United Kingdom. Reg. Charity No. 1050642 www.sharonchurch.co.uk
This study is taken from our Bible study guide Faithbuilders - The Gospel of Mark