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Mark 14

Scripture: Mark 14:1-72

Overview:

  • As the Passover feast is getting started, the chief priests and experts in Mosaic Law conspire together saying, “We should get rid of this Jesus guy, but not during the festival. He’s too popular with the people.”
  • Meanwhile, Jesus is kicking back in Bethany at Simon the Leper’s house. A woman shows up with some super expensive perfume and anoints Jesus’ head.
  • The people at the house get huffed and say, “She should’ve sold that perfume for lots of money and given it to the poor.”
  • Jesus says, “Leave her alone. What she did is awesome. You can help the poor anytime, but I’m only here for a little while. She anointed me for my impending death, and that should not be forgotten.”
  • Then Judas approaches the Jewish leaders and says he’ll betray Jesus. The leaders think this is great and say they’ll pay him.
  • On the first day of Passover the disciples ask Jesus where they should eat the special meal that night.
  • Jesus tells them to go into town and follow a dude carrying a water jar. When the dude arrives at a house, they’re to ask the owner, “Where is can the Teacher and his disciples eat the meal?” and then be shown a nice large room upstairs.
  • The disciples do as Jesus instructed and it all happens as he said it would.
  • That night, as the twelve disciples and Jesus are eating the Passover meal, Jesus says, “Someone here is going to betray me.”
  • All the disciples are like, “No! It won’t be me, will it?”
  • Jesus says, “Yep, one of you, for sure, because that is how it’s been foretold in Scripture. But let me tell you, the one who does it will wish he’d never been born.”
  • Then, at the end of the Passover meal,  Jesus takes some unleavened bread, breaks it and says, “Here you go. This is my body.” Then he takes the cup of wine that is meant to represent God’s redemption of his people from slavery, and says, “This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out to redeem everyone.”
  • Then Jesus says, “I will not drink the next cup of wine [which represents God’s blessing and joy] until the day I can drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
  • Then they sing some Psalms and head out to the Mount of Olives.
  • Jesus tells Peter, “You’ll betray me. Scripture says that when God strikes the leader the followers scatter, and that’s about to happen. But, don’t worry, I’ll rise from the dead and meet up with you in Galilee.”
  • Peter is shocked and says, “No way! Everyone may abandon you, but I won’t.”
  • And Jesus says, “Way. In fact, you’ll betray me three times before you hear the rooster crow early in the morning.”
  • Peter and the other disciples still think they’ll stick by Jesus’ side no matter what.
  • In a garden outside town, called Gethsemane, Jesus says to the disciples, “Hang out while I go pray.”
  • Peter, James and John go with Jesus and he says to them, “This is not cool. I’m totally freaked out. Keep an eye out for me.”
  • Then Jesus goes a little further, falls down and prays, “Dad, I really, really don’t want to take on all your wrath. If you have another way that this redemption of mankind stuff can be accomplished, I’d love to hear it. But, whatever you want to happen is okay with me.”
  • Jesus goes back to the disciples and finds them snoozing.
  • Jesus says, “Pete, can’t you even stay alert for an hour? Pray now that you won’t fall away from me. You have a tough-guy attitude, but when the rubber meets the road, you’re weak.”
  • Jesus goes and prays again and comes back to find them sleeping… again.
  • After praying for a third time, Jesus comes back and says to the the disciples, “Still sleeping? Get up. My time has come. Here comes my betrayer.”
  • Just then Judas shows up in the garden with an armed crowd. Judas walks up to Jesus and says, “Teacher,” then kisses his cheek. This was the pre-arranged signal to the armed crowd of who to arrest.
  • They arrest Jesus.
  • One of Jesus’ disciples whips out a sword and cuts off the ear of one of the chief priest’s servants.
  • Jesus says, “Whoa, whoa, whoa. Am I leading a rebellion? Is that why you brought an army to arrest me? Haven’t I been teaching peacefully in the Temple everyday? Why didn’t you do it then? But, you know what? This is how it’s supposed to happen.”
  • Then all the disciples bail.
  • There is even this guy there, who’s wearing only a linen cloth, and they try to grab him, too. But the guards only get ahold of his cloak, so he books it away naked.
  • Jesus is taken to the high priest’s palace and all the Jewish leaders gather together in the middle of the night for a trial.
  • Peter sneaks along, all the way to the palace courtyard where the guards are warming themselves by the fire, and listens in on the trial.
  • Lots of false witnesses are brought in, but none of them agree on what they thought Jesus was doing wrong. So, the high priest says to Jesus, “Aren’t you going to say anything in your own defense?”
  • Jesus says nothing.
  • Then the high priest asks, “Are you the messiah, the son of God?”
  • “I am,” Jesus replies. “And I’m going to rule the world alongside God.”
  • The high priest rips his own clothes as a sign of distress and says, “We don’t need any more witnesses! This man is claiming to be as great as God! This is blasphemy!”
  • They all condemn Jesus to death and commence humiliating him by spitting on him and blindfolding him and asking him to predict who’s hitting him.
  • Meanwhile, in the courtyard, one of the servant girls sees Peter and says, “Hey, aren’t you one of the guys who followed Jesus?”
  • Peter is like, “What? You don’t know what you’re talking about.” And he promptly changes locations.
  • Later, the servant girl sees Peter again and says, “Hey, that’s one of the dudes who was with Jesus.”
  • Peter denies it, but the other people say, “Yeah. We can tell you’re from Galilee. You must’ve been with Jesus.”
  • Peter curses and swears, “I don’t even know who this ‘Jesus guy’ is!”
  • Just then the rooster crows and Peter remembers what Jesus said about Peter disowning him.
  • Peter runs away crying.

Historical Context:

Passover

The festival of the passover is celebrated to preserve the memory of the Jew’s liberation from Egyptian servitude, and of the safety of their firstborn in that night when the firstborn of the Egyptians perished. It is called the passover because the Lord passed over the houses of the Israelites without slaying their firstborn.1

It is celebrated over seven days, from the 15th to the 21st of Nisan (April).On the evening of the fourteenth day (the start of the festival), all the leaven or yeast in the family is removed with great care. For the remainder of the week the Jews eat unleavened bread, thus the festival is also called the feast of unleavened bread.1

On the 10th day of the month the master of a family separates a one year-old lamb or a goat of from the flock, which is slain on the 14th day before the altar. The lamb is commonly slain at about 3:00 P.M. The blood of the lamb is sprinkled on the doorposts of the houses (as was done in Egypt prior to the exodus); then poured by the priests at the foot of the altar..1

The lamb is roasted whole, with two spits thrust through it —one lengthwise, and one transversely. Not a bone is to be broken.1

The lamb is served at the meal with wild and bitter herbs. Not fewer than ten, nor more than twenty persons, are to attend the feast.1

Originally, the participants were to eat the meal standing, with their robes tucked in and with their sandals on their feet–prepared for an immediate journey, just as they had in Egypt when they left in such haste.1

The order of the Passover feast:1

  1. Thanks is given to God, then a cup of wine mingled with water is drank. This is the first cup, “the cup of consecration,” which signals God’s promise: “I will bring out.” (Exodus 6:6-7)9
  2. Then there is a washing of hands and another short form of thanksgiving to God.
  3. The table is supplied with the bitter herbs called maror (to symbolize the bitterness of slavery), unleavened bread (symbolizing the speed at which they were to leave slavery), the cooked lamb, a thick sauce composed of dates, figs, raisins, and vinegar–called charoset (symbolizing the mortar which the Jewish slaves used to cement bricks), and salt water to dip the vegetables in (the dipping being a sign of royalty and freedom, while the salt water recalls the tears the Jews shed during their servitude).10
  4. The dishes are then removed from the table (without being eaten), and a second cup of wine set before each guest.
  5. The leading person at the feast recites the history of the servitude of the Jews in Egypt, the manner of their deliverance, and the reason of instituting the passover.
  6. The dishes are returned to the table, and the leading person says, “This is the passover which we eat, because that the Lord passed over the houses of our fathers in Egypt;” they hold up the bitter herbs and the unleavened bread, and states that one represented the bitterness of the Egyptian bondage, and the other the suddenness of their deliverance.
  7. The leader then recites the first part of the Hallel (Hebrew: הלל‎, “Praise”) which includes the 113th and 114th Psalms, offers a short prayer, and everyone drinks the second cup which signals God’s promise: “I will deliver.” (Exodus 6:6-7)9
  8. The participant’s hands are washed again, and the meal is eaten.
  9. The participant’s hands are washed again and a third cup of wine, called the cup of blessing, is drank. This signals God’s promise: “I will redeem.” (Exodus 6:6-7)9
  10. After another thanksgiving is given, a fourth cup, the cup of “joy” or “blessing,” is drunk. This signals God’s promise: “I will take.” (Exodus 6:6-7)9
  11. The second part of the Hallel, or the 115th, 116th, 117th, 118th Psalms, is sung to end the meal.

The Vilna Gaon, a prominant Jewish leader in the 1700’s, related the Four Cups of Wine to the four worlds: this world, the Messianic age, the world at the revival of the dead, and the world to come.9

The meal is sometimes called the Seder meaning “order, arrangement.”10

 

The Lord’s Supper

Terminology:

  1. Eucharist is from the Greek noun εὐχαριστία (eucharistia), meaning “thanksgiving.” It is found in 1 Cor. 11: 23 “the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks...”7
  2. The Lord’s Supper comes from 1. Cor. 11:20, “When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat…”7
  3. Communion is derived from the Latin communio, meaning “sharing in common,” translated from the Greek κοινωνία (koinōnía).7

Around 112 AD, Pliny the Younger–a Roman lawyer and magistrate–wrote a letter to Emperor Trajan in which he reported that the Christians, after having met “on a stated day” in the early morning to “address a form of prayer to Christ, as to a divinity,” later in the day would “reassemble, to eat in common a harmless meal”.11 This meal was called the Agape Feast (or love feast) by the early church, and was a shared communal meal with which the Eucharist was originally associated. The Agape Feast is mentioned in Jude 12.7

Most scholars believe that Jesus used the Third Cup of Wine (the cup of blessing), which represented God’s redemptive act in the Exodus, to institute the Eucharist. When Jesus said, “‘I will never again drink…” he was referring to the Fourth Cup, (the cup of blessing) because it symbolized the consummation of God’s work.12

There are a few scholars that think Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper the night before the Passover in a ritual called the Kiddush–which was a Jewish benediction and prayer recited over a cup of wine immediately before the meal on the eve of the sabbath or of a festival. After reciting the kiddush the master of the house sips from the cup, and then passes it to his wife and to the others at the table; then all wash their hands, and the master of the house blesses the bread, cuts it, and passes a morsel to each person at the table.8

 

Gethsemane

Gethsemane is a word made up either of two Hebrew words, signifying a fertile valley; or two words signifying an olive press, because the place was filled with olives.1

It is probable that Gethsemane included a cluster of houses, or even a small village, in which was a garden, perhaps with a fountain and with walks and groves–a proper place of refreshment in a hot climate.1

 

The Naked Man in the Garden

Many theories exist as to the identity of the young man, wearing nothing more than a garment, who was nearly arrested and ran away naked:1

  • Many scholars think that this is the author, Mark, himself, and that the story is included as a type of signature. It highly is likely that the disciples ate the Passover at Mark’s mother’s house (Acts 12), and thus, a young Mark may have followed them into the garden, though he was already ready for bed.
  • Some think that it was just a man from one of the neighboring villages or houses, and was roused from sleep by the noise made by the rabble, and came to see what was happening.
  • Others think that the man was the owner of the garden, and maybe even a friend of Jesus. Aroused from his sleep by the commotion, he cast a garment at hand around his body, and came to see the events unfold.

 

Judas Betrayal

Little is known about Judas. As a result, many scholars think his surname “Iscariot” may hold some clues to his identity and motivations for betraying Jesus. There are several major theories on etymology:4

  • Iscariot maybe Hebrew in origin, meaning “man of Kerioth.” The Gospel of John refers to Judas as “son of Simon Iscariot” implying it was not Judas, but his father, who came from there.  Kerioth is the name of two known Judean towns.
  • Iscariot may also identify Judas as a member of the sicarii–a group of assassins among Jewish rebels intent on driving the Romans out of Judea.
  • Iscariot may derive from an Aramaic word meaning “red color.”
  • Iscariot may also be a name given to Judas posthumously indicating the manner of his death, i.e., hanging. Thus Iscariot may derive from a Greek-Aramaic word hybrid “Iskarioutha,” meaning “constriction.”

Some theories regarding Judas’ motivation:

  • It is possible that Judas expected Jesus to overthrow Roman rule of Israel, and once he realized that Jesus had no military ambitions he betrayed him.  Judas loved his country and thought Jesus had failed it.4
  • Judas may have also realized that Jesus was causing unrest among the Jews that would ultimately increase tensions with the Roman authorities. Once this tension reached a riotous level, Rome would crack down on Jesus and his disciples, in which case all of them would be killed. Judas, in an effort to save himself (and possibly the other disciples), turned Jesus over to the authorities before Rome had to get involved.
  • The Gospel of John simply states that Satan entered Judas after Jesus reprimanded him for his disapproval of Mary’s anointing of the Messiah.
  • The Gospels of Mark, Luke and Matthew are more vague in their explanations, but definitely use the set up Jesus’ anointing at Bethany as the trigger event for Judas’ behavior. In this scenario, Judas, stung by the rebuke of Jesus at the feast, runs off to bargain with the rulers to betray Jesus. “If such assumptions are true, avarice, wounded pride, and disappointment appear as prime ingredients in Judas’ motivation for betrayal. What is very remarkable is the astounding pettiness of this diabolical act.”12

It is also likely that Judas was expected to be the star witness at Jesus’ trial, and that–much to the chagrin of the Sanhedrin–Judas didn’t show up. To save face and complete the trial, the Jewish leaders  had to scramble to find witnesses in the middle of the night to testify against Jesus. The total lack of any testimony from Judas at any of the trials indicate that he refused to aid the campaign against Christ any further.11

 

Peter’s Denial

Mark and Luke write that Peter would deny Jesus before the cock crow twice. The cock is accustomed to crow twice, once at midnight, and once in the morning.

The “cock crow” was a Roman division of time, marking the close of the third watch, about three o’clock in the morning.12

Mark says, the first denial took place while Peter was “beneath in the palace.” The palace had a large hall or court and belonged to the high priest. The part of the palace where Jesus and the council were was elevated, probably, above the rest, for a tribunal. Peter was beneath, or in the lower part of the hall, with the servants, at the fire.1

This is the only time Jesus calls Peter “Simon” since he renamed him in Mark 3:16. The rock (i.e. Peter) was anything but stable, sure, and trustworthy. Peter must have remembered this “reverse” name change with great pain.12

Only Mark records the incident of Peter’s cursing and swearing,11 perhaps a vivid memory from Peter himself as relayed to Mark.

 

Observations:

  • Nard is a perfume made from a plant collected from the East Indies, with a small slender stalk, and a heavy, thick root. The best perfume is obtained from the root, though the stalk and fruit are used for that purpose. Nard was esteemed one of the most precious perfumes. John says it was a full pound. (John 12:3.)1
  • The text literally reads that the perfume cost “three hundred denarii.” Since a denarius was a day’s pay for a day laborer, the NIV paraphrases to “a year’s wages” taking into account feast days and sabbaths when one would not work.6
  • The perfume was in a container of white opaque stone from Alabastron, a city in Egypt. Once opened it could not be resealed. This well could have been the woman’s marriage dowry.12
  • “The breaking of the flask was perhaps an expression of the whole-heartedness of her devotion. Having served its purpose, it would never be used again” (Cranfield).
  • The poor you will always have with you is a reference to Deut. 15:11 in which Moses commands the Israelites to be generous towards each other and to cancel debts every seven years because,  “There will be poor people in the land.”6
  • That the anointing of Jesus at Bethany would be considered important enough to be perpetually told as part of the gospel story, but for the woman involved to remain unnamed seems odd. The silence of the synoptic gospels regarding the event must be accounted for by supposing that her name was deliberately concealed for a long while afterward, perhaps during the lifetime of Lazarus and his sisters, as they were likely targets of the Jewish leaders as well. John, writing long afterward, supplied the name of Mary (John 12:3).11
  • .In strict usage “the first day of unleavened bread” meant the first day of the Passover festival (Thursday), which began with the paschal supper. But it is possible that the day before this (Wednesday), when the paschal lambs were sacrificed, and all leaven was expelled from the houses, was popularly spoken of as “the first day of the unleavened bread.”11
  • It was highly unusual in this culture for a man to carry water and especially to carry it in a pitcher. If men were needed to carry large amounts of water they used sheep or goat skins, not clay pitchers.12
  • Tradition has it that the Last Supper was in the home of John Mark, based on Acts 12.11
  • Originally the Passover was eaten standing because of Exod. 12:11. The Jews of the first century did not use chairs, a custom which they learned from the Persians (Esther 1:6; 7:8). They ate at low cushions, usually three in number, at a table in the shape of a horseshoe (so servers could bring food easily), reclining on pillows on their left elbow with their feet behind them.12
  • If the Last Supper happened during the Passover feast, then why didn’t Jesus use the lamb to represent his body? The typology between the Exodus and Jesus which seems to be preferred is the identification of Jesus as the “manna” (cf. Exod. 16), given by YHWH during the wilderness wandering period. This provided a stable life-giving diet to God’s people. Now YHWH gives the “true” bread of heaven, provides the “real” life-giving provision, sends the “perfect” leader, and inaugurates the new Passover from sin and death.12
  • In the ancient world covenants or contracts were ratified by slaying an animal; by the shedding of its blood; imprecating similar vengeance if either party failed in the compact. Jesus says the covenant which God is about to form with men, the new covenant, is sealed or ratified with his blood.1
  • With Judas, a member of the inner group of apostles in their power, the chief priests immediately revised their strategy and opted for a public trial and execution, thinking, no doubt, that Judas would swear to anything they suggested.11
  • What is the “cup” that Jesus dreaded? It is the cup of God’s wrath, poured out on sinners. It is the cup which will be poured out in those who are unrighteous, whether they be Jews or Gentiles. The cup mentioned in the Old Testament: Jeremiah 25:15-20, Isaiah 51:17,  Psalm 75:6-10.11
  • The scene of Jesus’ trial is not the usual meeting place of the Sanhedrin–which is just off the court of women–but the official residence of the high priest.11 The timing (middle of the night) and the location show the hurriedness of the whole situation.
  • “Their testimony was not consistent.” In the Old Testament it took the testimony of two witnesses to convict (Deut. 17:6; 19:15). Also, if someone bore false witness they were to bear the penalty of the accused.12
  • It was not a capital offense to claim to be the Messiah; but it was, for making himself the divine Messiah; this led to the charge of blasphemy. In John 19:7, the author records the Jews saying, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God!”11
  • “Blessed One” is a common Jewish title for God. The Jews did not expect the Messiah to be God incarnate, but a gifted/empowered human, like the judges in the Old Testamtent.12
  • The law under which the Sanhedrin condemned Jesus is based on Leviticus 24:10-16, which sentenced those guilty of blasphemy to death by stoning. The chief priests, however, were unwilling to excite a popular tumult by stoning him, and they therefore consulted to deliver him to the Romans to be crucified, under the authority of the Roman name.1
  • “Coming in the clouds of heaven” is a quote from Dan. 7, in which it was indicated that God would be seen in his full glory through his judgment of the world.1
  • The fact that the Jewish leaders didn’t want to kill Jesus during the Passover (due to his popularity), yet Jesus died during the feast shows that The Lord, not the priests, is the architect of the crucifixion.11
  • “They spit in his face.” This, among the Jews, was the highest contempt and insult (Numbers 12:14; Isaiah 1:6; Job 30:10).1

Discussion:

  • What did Jesus mean when he said the poor will always be with you? What does that mean for our focus of our efforts and ministries? When is it more appropriate to use our energy and resources to glorify Jesus rather than help others? Is it more important to tithe money to the church or to use it to help the poor? Can poverty be eliminated?
  • Why do we hold Judas in such contempt but Peter in such high regard, when in reality both turned their backs on Jesus? What is the difference? What was the difference to the early church? What are the implications for how we respond to the question, “are you a follower of Jesus’?
  • Note the contrasting behavior between Peter drawing his sword (aggressive defense) and attacking a guard and Peter denying Jesus (wilting shame) when questioned? Why was Peter defensive of Jesus in one instance and defensive of his own safety in another? Are they both betrayals? What do they tell us about Peter? About ourselves?

References:

  1. Barnes’ commentary
  2. Caiaphas
  3. Denial of Peter
  4. Judas Iscariot
  5. Thirty pieces of silver
  6. Jesus anointed in Bethany
  7. Eucharist
  8. Origin of the Eucharist
  9. Passover Seder
  10. Agape feast
  11. Coffman’s commentary
  12. Utley’s commentary
  13. Easy English commentary
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