Series Theme: Short meditations through Marks Gospel
This Page: CHAPTER 14
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Notes: These meditations are particularly short for easy digestion. To go to a chapter use the table above. To go to a verse use the contents on the left of each page which has been simplified by showing only every third meditation. Please go to nearest number and scroll up or down.
Mk 14:1,2 Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. "But not during the Feast," they said, "or the people may riot."
Observe first the timing of this. The Passover Lamb was to be killed on the 14 th of Nisan (March/April), the Thursday. Technically Friday started at sundown and so the 15 th , the start of Friday was the start of the seven days Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Passover meal was eaten on then evening of the Thursday, now technically Friday 15 th . Of course it would be later this day that the Lamb of God, Jesus would be crucified. If Thursday was considered the first day of the feast, then this point in the verses above is still the Tuesday. If Friday was considered the first day of the feast, then we are now into Wednesday.
Jesus has been turning up in Jerusalem and, as we have seen previously, was confronted by all the religious groups who found him a threat. Indeed he has become such a threat that the largest and most powerful of these ‘pressure groups' now start openly talking about how they can arrest him and have him killed. That is the measure of their hostility. Perhaps we have read about this so often that we have lost the awfulness of what we are reading here. These are the key religious people in Jerusalem , senior most figures in Judaism and they find jesus such a threat that they scheme to kill him. This is the language and activity of the most unrighteous of people. To plan to purposefully kill someone simply because you do not like them is an act of pure evil – and these are supposed to be representatives of God! It is perhaps exactly because they are representatives of God that they act in this way. Perhaps they feel that God and Judaism need defending against this preacher who has no respect for them. He is a threat to the establishment of Judaism and therefore the only course is to remove him. Obviously, in their minds at least, locking him up was insufficient; he had to die, he had to be completely removed never to return!
Perhaps they has never before or never since been an act of such misguided and wrong thinking. Yes, this was all within the planning of the godhead, for the Son of God to act as the sin-bearer of the world, but in purely human terms, the human thinking behind it, reveals the stupidity, foolishness and wrongness of sin.
And so the plotting picks up pace and they determine to act against Jesus – and the sooner the better, fro with the crowds gathering for the feast this could be a highly volatile time – and therein is the problem: Jesus is liked by the crowd and the authorities are disliked, so how can they move again him without upset?
Mk 14:3 While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
We should first of all distinguish this episode from another very similar one recorded in Luke 7:36-50 where a woman who is a sinner anoints Jesus' feet with oil in the house of a Pharisee. This present episode indicates that it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus who anointed Jesus feet (see Jn 12:1). The former incident was all about sin and forgiveness; this present one is about anointing and takes place in the house of another Simon who was known as a (healed?) leper, and Mark points out that it included anointing Jesus' head and John records Jesus as saying he was being anointed for burial (Jn 12:7)
For the moment we focus on the woman. In fact the motivation of both women appears to be love for Jesus. The former woman appears to have anointed Jesus feet with both her oil and her tears but was moved by what she had seen of Jesus. Mary, we know, has recently see Jesus raise her brother from the dead. First of all she is incredibly grateful for what Jesus has done for her family. We know from another incident that she had been the sister who had sat at Jesus feet and listened to his teaching while he sister, Martha, scurried around being more concerned to provide hospitality. Mary is the one whose heart has been moved by Jesus and had therefore previously sat at his feet while he ministered in their home (Lk 10:39). That there was a special relationship between this family and Jesus is clear because John records, “ Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus.” (Jn 11:5) But love is so often a two way thing (as John pointed out in 1 Jn 4:10) but we love because we are first loved by Jesus.
Does this present incident occur, first of all, because it is an expression of Mary's love for Jesus? But is there a further dimension to it? So often we speak about ‘women's intuition'. Does this present incident occur because Mary senses that there is something very wrong, humanly speaking, something quite different about this present visit to Jerusalem ? Had she heard of Jesus' speaking to his disciples about coming to Jerusalem to be betrayed and killed? Whereas they appear to completely lack understanding about that, did she realize something of the awfulness and the wonder of what was now taking place.
Yes, she has recently witnessed Jesus blessing her family in the most wonderful way in bringing Lazarus from the dead but did that, for her at least, make all the more terrible what she sensed in her spirit was just about to happen?
286. Bad Responses
Mk 14:4, 5 Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, "Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor." And they rebuked her harshly.
I have often thought that there is nothing more annoying in the Christian life than someone who clearly loves Jesus more than you do when you are not in a good place with God!
Mary has just poured out this beautiful oil over Jesus as a most extravagant demonstration of love for him and in the previous meditation we considered reasons why she might have done this. Whatever the whole truth, she loves Jesus and has done this for some good reason that escapes many of the others in the room.
I find that whenever you come across someone who is “indignant” you have found someone who is being pompous, arrogant and self-orientated. When you are indignant there is always a mixture of anger and scorn based on your assessment of this person or situation. In fact you are looking down on them disdainfully. You are annoyed with their foolishness.
Some of the people in this room look down on Mary for what they see as a real waste. What is the point of pouring out this costly oil like this? Now even saying it like that shows that they have little feeling about Jesus. It is possible that Judas was one of those people with this wrong attitude and it may have even been the trigger that prompted him to go and betray Jesus. Poor attitudes don't just happen; they are there all the time, just waiting for something to trigger them.
John records Jesus as saying to the antagonistic Jews, “ If God were your Father, you would love me.” (Jn 8:42) Their opposition to Jesus revealed their apathy towards God. Again and again Jesus provoked people's responses to him revealing what they really thought about him. One commentator has likened this to a person who goes to a wonderful concert and hears amazing music but comes out criticizing it. What they are doing is revealing that they themselves have no music in them. They are condemning themselves.
So often when we speak out against or about another in a negative way, we are actually revealing what we are like. It is more a revelation of us than it is the other person.
Here in this incident, the other occupants of this room are being revealed for what they are really like on the inside, for what they really think of Jesus – not much! They fail to see the motivation for this act of amazing generosity and inside criticize it for being a waste of money. Thus they reveal themselves. Beware!
Mk 14:6,7 Leave her alone," said Jesus. "Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me .
It seems clear from Jesus' words that those who were critical of Mary's actions had been making their comments out loud and she was having to cope with that, hence his “Leave her alone .” It is good when Jesus stands up for us. I have memory of a situation many years ago when I was praying regularly with a man whose wife had been enticed away from him in the village where he lived. She did come back but the other man was still lurking around in the background and so we continued praying. One day I found myself saying to my friend with conviction, “He will bother you no more!” The next day, that other man fell over and damaged his back and was in hospital for six months and never went near my friend's wife again. Jesus had simply said, “Leave her alone.” End of story.
When Jesus says, “ Why are you bothering her?” he places the onus of wrong away from her onto them. They now become the ones under the spotlight. They are the ones who have to think about what they are doing, not her.
Then he gives complete approval for what she has done: “She has done a beautiful thing to me.” That is the next part of his rebuff. He has appreciated what she had done. It was like someone today presenting a beautiful perfume or even an expensive deodorant; it was something nice to be given, something nice to have done to you, and he appreciated it.
But then he puts another aspect to it: “The poor you will always have with you.” What is he saying? He is saying if you are worrying about money being spent on this which could have been spent on giving to the poor, realise that the problem of the poor in a fallen world will always be with you, so whatever you give will not dent the problem; yes it will help and bless specific people, and for that reason alone it IS good to give to the poor, but don't let that put you off if you sense Giod leading you to use some of your money for something else what doesn't come under the heading of ‘giving to the poor'. And note his closing comment in that sentence, “.. and you can help them anytime you want.” That seems to have a slight barb to it: it's as if he is saying, “Well I hope for all your protestations you do actually give to the poor!”
And then comes the final piece: “but you won't always have me!” This is particularly true in that he is in the last week before his death. Value me while you can, is what he is saying. Do we?
Mk 14:10,11 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
At the end of John's Gospel he tells us that if all the things about Jesus were written down all the books of the world couldn't contain it all. In other words there is an immense amount more that could have been written in the Gospels. I say this because I marvel at the accounts that we have. Yes, a lot more could have been said, but we do have the bare bones which explain quite clearly what went on. This is not like a detective story where you have to guess or deduce half of what goes on. No, the records are quite conclusive.
Previously we have noted that the chief priests and other religious leaders in Jerusalem were plotting how they could get rid of Jesus without causing great upset in the massive crowd that had gathered for Passover. Judas is the answer to their dilemma.
No we don't know if there had been discussions beforehand that led to this but the bold basics of the bretrayal are laid out here. The betrayer is Judas and, if there is any doubt, he is one of the twelve, he is the Judas listed in the names of the twelve.
Now the moment we say that we wonder how someone in Judas's position could possibly have done this. He has been there all the time witnessing the amazing things that had been going on with Jesus over this three year period. He has seen the incredible number of healings, he has witnessed people being raised from the dead, he has witnessed amazing miracles like turning water into wine, feeding massive crowds with virtually nothing, Jesus and Peter walking on water, and so on. Now some suggest he was wanting to provoke Jesus into an uprising against Rome but Jesus has no armed supporters and no ‘infrastructure' to support such a rebellion so there are no signs that such a thing would be successful.
Once you rule that out you are left with only one real conclusion: he did it for some malicious reason. Luke records, “ Then Satan entered Judas, called Iscariot, one of the Twelve. And Judas went to the chief priests,” (Lk 22:3,4) and John records, “The evening meal was being served, and the devil had already prompted Judas Iscariot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus.” (Jn 13:2) Somehow something in the character of Judas has left him open to the enemy's prompting. Beware, these things don't just happen; they happen when we fail to deal with wrong thoughts and wrong attitudes and thus leave us open to the enemy.
Mk 14:12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, "Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?"
One of the things that always strikes me about the life of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels is that he always conforms to the spiritual culture of that land. Now I suspect that we take that for granted most of the time, but as the ‘visiting' Son of God he could have completely ignored it. If we went on holiday to a foreign country with a religious climate that we considered largely irrelevant to us, I'm sure we would give it a miss, but not so with Jesus. In fact it is so normal that when it comes to the Passover the disciples naturally assume that they are all going to participate in the Passover meal.
As I say, I think we now tend to take this for granted but it happened and I think we should ask why Jesus did it. Well we could refer back to Jesus' comments to John the Baptist when John hesitated to baptize him: “ it is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness.” (Mt 3:15). In other words, let's be seen to be doing the right thing even if we don't need to do it. If Jesus didn't do it and didn't follow the cultural values of Judaism, then he would have had to have stood out even more than he did and that wasn't his way.
The truth was of course, that his disciples still came under the Law and for them at least it was required that they honoured the Feasts thus in his concern for them he would have encouraged them to follow the feasts and to remember their history which was an inherent requirement of the Law to help the Jew to both remember his past history with God and God's present presence. Conforming to the Feasts etc. was simply to be a good Jew, and Jesus would encourage his disciples to do this.
What is slightly intriguing about the disciples' question is its end: “for YOU to eat the Passover.” This perhaps just suggests that they realised (because he had said it?) that it was important for Jesus to eat it. Or was it that they wanted to make sure that, in the face of all the hostility they had witnessed in the week in the Temple precincts, Jesus was now seen to be conforming to all the dictates of Judaism and could thus not raise more objections from the Temple authorities because of that?
What ever the real reasoning behind this, the scene is gradually being set for what we now call ‘the Last Supper' a time when Jesus would say some very significant things and set in motion things that have been continued ever since by Christians.
Mk 14:13,14 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, "Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, `The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?'
I believe we have commented a number of times in this series, that Scripture leaves lots of questions unanswered. These verses have always left me with a question mark over them.
The disciples have just asked Jesus about what they should do by way of preparation for the Passover feast and by way of answer he gives them some remarkably detailed instructions and it is these instructions that raise further questions.
He tells two of them to go into Jerusalem – and note this – they wil be met by a man and this man will be carrying a jar of water. The jar of water is not particularly unusual because it was likely that householders would often have to go and collect their water from a nearby spring. But what is strange here is that there is no mention of the ‘where' of this instruction; they will just be met by this man. No presumably this man is a servant because he goes to a house where the owner is identified as a different person.
Now here's a further problem: surely there would be lots of servants collecting water, so how were they to know the right one? Perhaps the answer is that the man will be expecting them or will identify them, but was he just waiting inside the city gate for them to arrive? Had Jesus set this up previously or was there a house owner who was a sympathizer to Jesus and told his servant to be on the look out for Jesus or his disciples when they next came into the city so that he could invite them to his home? Or did Jesus simply foresee that this man would be there near the gate when they arrived and knew that he represented a home that would be open to them?
We touch here on what is called the providence of God – the workings of God that bring together people and circumstances to achieve an end goal in His plans. There may be pre-planning involved in this, we just don't know. There may be the activity of another follower who lived in Jerusalem . We just don't know. Jesus may have been exercising what we now call the gift of knowledge, we just don't know.
But what we do know was that these circumstances were going to fall in place and Jesus knew about them otherwise he couldn't have instructed his two disciples. The fact of the matter is that, somehow or other, Jesus was in complete control of all that was taking place. Nothing was being left to chance, because God doesn't work with chance. This is God's sovereign will being worked out.
Mk 14:16,17 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve”
There are parts of Scripture where dramatic things happen and other parts of Scripture that are so ordinary that our temptation is to take no notice of them. These verses fall into the latter category. There is nothing dramatic here; in fact it speaks of normality.
If you followed the two disciples you would have observed very ordinary circumstances and quite probably you would have come across many others doing very similar things in preparation for the Feast. Jesus has told them what to look out for and so, following his instructions they go into the city from where they have lal been staying in nearby Bethany, and yes they see the man carrying a water jug and yes they go with him to the house where they convey the message to the master of the house, all as Jesus had said, and they prepare for the meal.
At evening time Jesus and the other disciples arrive and they sit down for the meal, a meal that was going to go into history as The Last Supper. There would even be a famous painting depicting it, and the Gospels would certainly give quite a full account of what has become the basis for the Communion.
But, even as all that follows is quite dramatic and gets more and more so as it progresses through the following chapters of the Gospels, these verses above are so ordinary and if you were there you would not realise what they are leading to, but they are leading to something of great dramatic significance.
But this is how so much of life is. So much of the time our lives are filled with the very ordinary. Jesus lives in and through us in the very ordinary. That's what life is about, doing the same things day after day, night after night with little expectation of the dramatic.
In fact so often, when Jesus speaks and moves it is not dramatic – what may follow may be dramatic, but so often it is when we are praying – as we have prayed so many times before – that there is a gentle whisper into our spirit and Jesus has spoken. It is only when we respond and obey that gentle and quiet prompting that suddenly something dramatic happens – a door opens, someone is saved, someone asks for prayer for healing and are healed. Yes, the follow op things are dramatic but the things leading up to them are so often so very ordinary that they gie us no indication of what is about to follow. But here, perhaps, is the key to the lesson: even though it appears very ordinary it may be leading into the dramatic. Be alert!
Mk 14:18,19 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, "I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me--one who is eating with me." They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, "Surely not I?"
There must have been times being with Jesus when it was either scary or plain confusing. They have sat down for the Passover meal, a celebration of God's deliverance of Israel out of Egypt , a time of joyful remembrance, and in the middle of this Jesus starts talking of betrayal: one of them, just one of them, will betray him.
Now of course the reality is that this is not the first time he has spoken of betrayal because after the Transfiguration he had started warning them about this time: “ He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise." (Mk 9:31) and “We are going up to Jerusalem ," he said, "and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise." (Mk 10:33,34)
So at least twice before he has warned them that it will happen and it will come about because of a betrayal. Now perhaps we take this for granted but of course it might have happened that he just got arrested and put of trial and then killed, but actually Jesus knows that the whole sequence of events leading to his death and resurrection will be started by a betrayal – someone is going to tell the authorities where he is and where he can be arrested without a great deal of fuss.
Now we know the process has already started for earlier we read, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.” (Mk 14:10,11) which occurred after Mary has poured the oil over Jesus at Bethany . The agreement to betray has been made; now the actual act has to come – and Jesus knows it, and yet he doesn't openly declare it to be Judas, perhaps in case the others would have stopped him.
Of course for the other eleven, these words of Jesus brought concern for each of them knew that it was not in their hearts at that moment and so they, one by one, Mark tells us they each denied it could be them.
It is a horrible thing to be in a room when a crime is being revealed and accusations are being made – even more when it has not yet happened – could it be me, could I do such a thing?
293. Bad News!
Mk 14:20,21 "It is one of the Twelve," he replied, "one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born."
Jesus has just dropped this bombshell that one of them eating with him would betray him. Yes, that had heard him at least twice before warning that when they got to Jerusalem he would be betrayed and arrested and killed but that had seemed such a far off warning and the words about betrayal had been general. Now they have come absolutely specific and to emphasise it even he more adds, “It is one of the Twelve.”
That bald declaration seems so terrible: the one who will betray him will be one of that inner band who has travelled with him for three years, who has seen all he has done and participated in so much of what went on. How can one of this inner group possibly be a betrayer – someone on the outer fringes of his followers, but one of the inner band, how can this be?
While they are still reeling with this knowledge, he adds a third indictment – “one who dips bread into the bowl with me.” The bowl was probably a bowl of some sort of sauce into which they dipped their bread. In that declaration there is a further added sense of closeness; the betrayer has been that close to Jesus that he is sharing food with him. That is the feeling that is conveyed and each of the twelve must have suddenly become aware of just how close they were to Jesus. Did Judas at that moment realise it and did it give him pause; obviously not. His heart is set.
But then Jesus adds something that he so often did, a warning that this would be something that the prophetic Scriptures has spoken about. All that was happening had been spoken of by the Father previously as the Spirit had prompted those men of old.
But then comes a terrible indictment or warning: “ But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born." This is seriously bad news. Don't every think that Judas's actions, being part of God's ultimate will to bring about the sacrifice of His Son, were excusable. Perhaps because of all the incredible things he has seen, they are even worse. When he sees what he has done and the awfulness of it strikes him, Judas will take his own life (Mt 27:5) Peter later recounting what happened revealed that while doing that the rope snapped and he fell to his death (Acts 1:18). Surely in those moments Judas would have felt like Job and wished he had never been born (see Job's anguish (Job 3:1-19)
Mk 14:22-24 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body." Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many," he said to them.
Our verses today form the foundation for that ritual that we call Communion or the Lord's Supper. Most Protestant churches take it at least once a month, some fortnightly and some even weekly. Perhaps doing it so often it is sometimes difficult to hold on to the meaning and significance of what Jesus was saying. With repetition, I have noticed, leaders try to put different emphases on that part of the service and sometimes therefore, move right away from Jesus' meaning.
Put in its simplest form, Jesus takes the bread, breaks it and hands it round to the twelve, but it is his words that add the significance to the act: “This is my body.” Did the disciples have any great awareness of anything mystical at that moment? I doubt it. This was Jesus using symbolic picture language as he so often did. There is no indication that anything mystical or magical happened to the bread either from the text or from the disciples' responses. So what is Jesus saying? Take this bread which for this moment signifies my body and thus see yourselves as united to me. But thinking about it, it therefore has a wider significance because if we are ALL united with him, there is a fresh awareness of being the ‘body of Christ' The apostle Paul later picked up this concept: “ Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Cor 12:27) and “the church, which is his body.” (Eph 1:22,23) and “Christ is the head of the church, his body ,” (Eph 5:23) and “And he is the head of the body, the church.” ( Col 1:18)
There is, therefore, in this first act and establishing of the body that is the church. When we take the bread we remind ourselves that Christ was broken (killed) so that we might be formed into a body.
But then there is the wine that Jesus describes as, “ my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Put in its most simplest form Jesus is saying this represents my blood which will soon be spilt, and in blood is life (Lev 17:14) and so it is a reminder of how I gave my life as a ransom to appease justice, to meet the demands of justice for every sin to be paid for. Only because of my death in your place can you stand before the Father and before the demands of justice and be forgiven.
In the bread we a reminded of being his body; in the blood we are reminded our very existence relies upon his death on the Cross.
Mk 14:25-26 I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God ." When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives .
We have commented more than a few times in these studies that Scripture so often leaves us with questions. In the Gospels they are questions as to why Jesus did certain things or even went to certain places. Sometimes, like now, they are questions as to what Jesus meant by certain things recorded as to what he said, but without explanations being given.
Drawing near to the end of the supper, Jesus now declares that he won't drink any more wine until the arrival of God's kingdom. Now we know he's not going to drink any more wine before his death because immediately after the supper they would go to the Garden of Gethsemane where he would be arrested and the only liquid that would pass his lips before he dies will be vinegar (Mk 15:36). That much is straight forward.
But how about the reference to the kingdom of God ? At the beginning of his ministry three years earlier, Jesus had declared, “ The kingdom of God is near.” (Mk 1:35) However as you work your way through the Gospels there are constant references to the kingdom as simply meaning the rule of God in and through human beings.
But perhaps before we struggle more over that we should notice his oblique reference to his resurrection: “I will drink it….” Death s coming as he prophesied, BUT there will come a time when he will yet drink it again on the earth. Now, in saying it was a reference to the resurrection, we have jumped to a conclusion about the kingdom.
There are those who suggest that he will not drink wine again until he returns a second time, or even that he will drink it in heaven. Now these fall down on a very simple and practical reason. The Gospels and Acts tell us that after he was risen Jesus met with his disciples for some four or five weeks, teaching them about the kingdom. They also indicate that he had a fully human body and he ate and drank with his followers. Almost certainly they drank wine, often watered down, but nevertheless wine. He would, therefore have drank wine in that period between resurrection and ascension.
So the time he must be referring to is after he is raised from the dead. What will be different about that time? Only one thing: the sins of the world will have been paid for in his death on the Cross. There will be a new sense in the kingdom or rule of God. It is that the sins of the world have been dealt with and there is a new access to the Father because of that. It is the kingdom one step on!
296. The Future
Mk 14:27-28 "You will all fall away," Jesus told them, "for it is written: "`I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.' But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee ."
The Last Supper has contained some strange and even upsetting elements. Jesus has spoken about the bread being his body and the wine being his blood which, familiar it may now be to us, was probably quite strange to the disciples, and then he had spoken about one of them betraying him. If that wasn't bad enough he now warns them that they will ALL fall away from him and desert him (for that is the logical outcome of what he is saying.)
In a strange use of a verse from Zech 13:7 Jesus indicates that this is how it will be. Whether that Zechariah verse was actually prophetically speaking of this time or whether Jesus simply uses it to emphasise what is about to happen, is unclear. I tend to veer towards the later. The truth is though, that in what is coming Jesus will be left standing alone before the authorities and afterwards the disciples will flee. Thus we find them on Easter Sunday morning behind locked doors. Peter is going to object to this and no doubt some of us would similarly have objected to what Jesus is saying, but if we did we would, like him, reveal our inability to know our own frailty.
Never be rash enough to condemn those who have not stood well in the face of persecution, until you yourself have done so. How foolish we sometimes are to think that we would be bold and strong in such times. It is only the grace of God that keeps the saints in such times. The disciples are just about to enter THE most horrific time of their lives. They have been with Jesus for three years observing all the wonderful things htta he has been doing. They have complete trust in him for they have seen him have mastery over the physical world even. They have witnessed countless healings and miracles, and so nothing seems impossible for Jesus. Yet they are shortly going to see him arrested, tried and crucified, and he will take it all meekly like a lamb. It will be utterly devastating for them! It will be no wonder that they will be thrown into complete turmoil. Failure to realise this indicates failure to understand the wonder of what had been happening for three years and failure to understand the awfulness of what is about to happen to Jesus.
But he is going to rise! That is the triumphant element still being proclaimed by Jesus, and after that happens they will all go back to Galilee for a period with Jesus. I suspect that these two latter pieces of information, wonderful as they are, got lost in the awfulness of Jesus' assertion that they will all fall away from him.
Mk 14:29-31 Peter declared, "Even if all fall away, I will not." "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "today--yes, tonight--before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times." But Peter insisted emphatically, "Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you." And all the others said the same.
In order to start to prepare our minds for these verses we have already commented on what sometimes appears as our lack of wisdom or, perhaps, our lack of self-knowing. Many years ago I was reading a book about certain American tele-evangelists and their shortcomings and without thinking I was thinking, “Lord, how can you possibly uuse those men?” Now I say without thinking bur was thinking because I was suddenly aware of a small voice in my mind saying, “The same reason I use you, son.” Realising that I was being spoken to by the Lord, I paused because that didn't seem a good thing to hear. Before I could consider it any more, the Lord added, “Son, I use you because you are available, not because you are right.” That came as immensely releasing revelation!
Now Peter hasn't realised his frailty as a person, his vulnerability when it comes to fearful things he hasn't experienced before. This is Peter, Jesus' right hand man, the one who has walked on water, the one who was up the mountain and saw Jesus transfigured. This is Peter committed and loyal follower, one of the ones who had been sent out in pairs to ‘do the stuff' and coming back with an incredible testimony. No, this is Peter, the mature disciple – surely? So he opens his mouth and declares it: “Even if all fall away, I will not!” Poor old Peter!
Jesus knows the truth though, Jesus sees what is coming and can be really specific: “Oh no, Peter, I'm afraid that by the time the morning cockerel will have crowed twice, you will have disowned me three times!”
You might have thought that Peter would have learnt by now that Jesus knew best, after all the times he and Jesus had exchanged words, but no, this is all out in the open and it's a matter of pride now. He will defend himself in front of the other disciples. This can't be me, you've got it wrong. I would die with you before I would disown you.
How little we know ourselves sometimes! Oh, but we say, Jesus' grace will be sufficient. Well yes, it is, but sometimes it seems Jesus seems to hold back so we feel the full might of the enemy opposition. Yes, Jesus could have sent Peter across to Bethany for the rest of the night so he would avoid all that was about to happen, but he doesn't. He allows Peter to stay and be part of all that is coming. Peter will weather it and the failure will teach him much about his own weaknesses. Amen?
298. Prayer Crisis
Mk 14:32-33 They went to a place called Gethsemane , and Jesus said to his disciples, "Sit here while I pray." He took Peter, James and John along with him,
It is often said that whenever Jesus faced a crisis or a time when there was a need to make decision, he went away to pray. At this time he chooses this garden area called Gethsemane in which to pray. It will also become the place of betrayal and arrest, but first, a place of prayer.
Now we note here both separation from prayer, and prayer in company. First of all Jesus separates himself off from the main band of the disciples. Judas has already left to seek out the authorities and so at least eight of the remaining disciples are told to sit and wait while Jesus goes further in to pray alone. But even if he he actually praying alone, he takes along ‘the inner three', Peter, James and John. (I've often wondered why it wasn't the ‘inner four' including Andrew, Peter's brother, but clearly Jesus doesn't work on family lines but on individual character and commitment and somehow Andrew didn't quite match up to the other three).
As Jesus goes to pray, this isn't going to be corporate prayer; this is going to be Jesus praying out of the urgency of the situation and the other three aren't going to be shown up well.
I often ponder on the differences in corporate prayer and prayer of the individual. Jesus' teaching on prayer clearly indicates that the Father answers heart prayers that have their origin in heaven, in other words prayers that are inspired and led by the Holy Spirit, hence Paul's call to “pray in the Spirit on all occasions” (Eph 6:18).
We can pray like that as individuals, alone hearing the Spirit's guiding, but when we come together as a corporate body, there comes a greater awareness (or there should!) of the Holy Spirit's leading in one and then another and so, as the praying progresses, there comes a greater sense of purpose and direction and the will of God, and thus a greater confidence in what is being prayed and thus faith rises. There also comes a greater clarity of what it is that the Lord then wants us to go out and do, as we join in His will and become part of the means sometimes of His answering those prayers. The crucial issue, surely, is that we hear the will of God as we pray, we pray it and then go out in obedience and play our part in its fulfillment. Sometimes the Lord will move sovereignly and bring about the answer to our prayers, but at other times it is clear that we, the church, need to be playing our part and doing something to become the answer to what we have prayed. Do we see it like that, I wonder?
Mk 14:33-36 he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," he said to them. "Stay here and keep watch." Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. "Abba , Father," he said, "everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will."
If you ever think going to the Cross to fulfil the plan of God was easy for Jesus, think again! First of all let's note what these verses tell us and then ponder on why. Jesus goes to pray and as he starts the reality of what was about to happen hits him and he becomes “deeply distressed and troubled.” In itself, according to the Gospel accounts, this may have been the first time Jesus ever felt this. The only other time there is anything like this recorded of Jesus was in respect of Lazarus: “ he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (Jn 11:33) but this was in respect of the anguish that others felt. Now he feels for himself it would seem.
He says, perhaps almost as an aside to the three disciples, “ "My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death," or, if you like, “I'm feeling so much in anguish I could die right now. He tells them to remain there and watch out while he prays and goes a little further on, but presumably they can still hear him as he falls on the ground and cries out for this not to have to happen like this.
Yet even in this he puts his Father's will first: “Yet, not what I will, but what you will.” i.e. I don't want to do this but it is you will as we decided from before the foundation of the world, so let it be. What was it that caused Jesus such intense anguish? Well, first of all, humanly speaking, he is facing being put to death by one of the most horrible forms of execution ever dreamt up. None of us looks forward to death while we are well and humanly the thought of a horrible death makes us want to flee.
But what else was there that caused such intensity of anguish? Was it that the Son of God understood what would happen, understood that for the first time in all of existence, he the Son would be separated (in feeling at least) from the Father. Did he know that the awfulness of taking the sin of the world on himself on the Cross would be so terrible that it would even appear to blot out the sense of the Father's presence so that he will eventually cry out as the human sacrifice, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” That would be how it would seem to the man-God Saviour of the world as he hung on the Cross ‘covered' with the Sin of the world, draped with the sins of every person, and this while remaining the perfect Son of God. Yes, anguish!
Mk 14:37-40 Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. "Simon," he said to Peter, "are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak." Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him
There is always a gap between what we aspire to and what we are. It's called being part of a fallen world. If you had said to Simon beforehand, “Simon it's really important that you stay awake with the master in the face of what is coming,” he would have been really affronted, as he was when told he would deny Jesus.
So Jesus has told the three to keep watch and, yes, it is the middle of the night, but they can't do it and soon doze off. Jesus pauses in his praying and goes back to them and wakes them. He focuses on Peter although they were all asleep. Peter is a leader and leaders get picked out by God and He expects more of them. Jesus chides him fro not remaining awake for just one hour. Was that how long Jesus had been praying in anguish?
But then he gives Peter a double exhortation that may have had much longer implications behind it: Watch and pray. Watching for what? For whatever may be coming so you will not be caught out. Why pray? So you will maintain a relationship with the Father and be strengthened so that you will be able to withstand temptation when it comes. Do we see this link? Temptation is best withstood by maintain a close relationship with the Father and that is best expressed through prayer. Look, he goes on, I know your spirit is willing by your flesh is weak a nd it is to that you need to pay attention (implied).
Then to prove the point Jesus goes away and prays again and when he returns a second time they are again asleep. There are times when the enemy seems to be able to come and lay a weariness upon us that needs resisting. Here we are simply told, “their eyes were heavy.” Even more a cause for making an effort – pray, move around, pray some more, you need to stay awake. But they hadn't.
This passage we so often see as focusing on Jesus praying, but it is also about lessons in staying awake and resisting the enemy who tries to make us give up because of weariness. Yes it is right that we pause up and rest, but there is a lot of difference between falling asleep on the job and stepping back to taken necessary rest. It is al about who is in control. Is it us with the Father's help or do we succumb so that in reality it is the enemy?
Mk 14:41-42 Returning the third time, he said to them, "Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!"
Having caught the disciples sleeping twice, Jesus goes away yet again and continues to pray. We don't know quite how long he was praying but it would appear to be quite a time. From these verses, the length of time he prayed did not hang on the awfulness of what was coming, so much as when the arresting party came for him. It would appear that he carried on praying until they came for him. In other words, so severe was the situation that Jesus just prayed and prayed until he ran out of time because they had come for him.
Whether he saw lanterns coming through the dark or heard the sounds of the arresting party coming is not clear, but what is clear is that Jesus is completely aware of what is taking place. If anyone had the temerity to suggest that the arrest and crucifixion of Jesus Christ was a ghastly mistake that caught him by surprise, it simply means they have never read these verses.
Of the party already in Gethsemane , Jesus seems to be the only one awake and the only one aware of what is just about to take place. He returns first to the three and then presumably to the rest waking them all up as he goes. OK, he says, the time for sleepi9ng is over. Things are about to happen and you need to witness them.
This is Jesus facing head on what is just about to happen. At this point he and the disciples could have scuttled away in the dark and evaded the arresting party, but he doesn't do that; he gathers his disciples into wakefulness and faces the party that is about to arrive.
He is completely aware of the situation and paints it in the starkest of terms: “The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners .” When he uses the phrase ‘Son of Man' about himself he always took on a prophetic tome of the Messiah referring back to the book of Daniel. When he uses the word ‘betrayed' here he reveals that he knows exactly what is going on and knows precisely that it is Judas who is leading the arresting party to where he knows Jesus will be in the middle of the night. When he calls the arresting party ‘sinners' he is saying to us that this is not a righteous bunch of men. They may think that they are doing the will of the Sanhedrin but that does not make right what they are doing. It is a wrong against God that they are about to perpetrate. These men do not come with clear consciences and good motives. They are part of that larger group who is out to get Jesus. This is an act of sin!
302. Way of the World
Mk 14:43 Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
Jesus has just indicated to the disciples that things are just about to start happening. As we commented before, whether he had seen the lanterns of the arresting party, or heard them coming or was simply aware in his spirit that they were coming, we are not told.
Mark simply describes them as a crowd. If Peter was informing Mark as is thought, from Peter's perspective it was a confusing memory and he remembered it simply as a crowd. John, writing later and with much opportunity to reflect on what had happened records, “ So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees.” (Jn 18:3). So this wasn't a lynch mob, this was an official party from the religious leaders. We need to keep that in mind, but that part Mark does record. They were all clear that they had been ‘got' by institutional religion!
But note also that they came armed with swords and club, perhaps what you would expect of soldiers, but this indicates their thinking. Jesus is shortly going to challenge them about this, but why have they come like this? Throughout his three years of ministry Jesus has only ever done good. He has never incited violence and has, in fact, spoken against it. What was it that made this party from the religious leaders feel they have to go out armed to the teeth to arrest Jesus?
The answer has to be that they weren't thinking. The religious leaders had been stirred up during the week by their failure to pull Jesus down by words and their frustration had grown to such a pitch that we read a couple of time that they were now planning to kill him. Now when you get to this level of hostility you cease being rational.
Beware of ever letting anger take over in your life (and anger is an outworking of frustration) because once you do you cease to be rational, you lose perspective and you find yourself saying or doing things that in a rational moment you would never countenance. Anger may be a natural response in some situations, a righteous response say to bullying, but it must never be given free reign so that it becomes a driving force. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote, “ In your anger do not sin": Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.” (Eph 4:26,27) i.e. don't let it have opportunity to build up and become an instrument for the enemy to use against you. No, this was the way of the world, this is how the world does things: it often doesn't think and so acts violently. Don't be like that!
Mk 14:44-46 Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: "The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard." Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, "Rabbi!" and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.
There are things regular readers of the Bible and those who have heard many sermons take for granted in the Bible, but when a little thought is applied, raise questions. These verses are, I suggest, an example of this. How many times have we read this or heard it preached about but never questioned it.
Now I say this because of the actual strangeness of what is here. First of all Judas is quite clear of the intended outcome of this – that Jesus be arrested and led away. Now, as we've commented before, we don't know whether he's doing this out of spite or because he wants to put Jesus in a position where he must rise up in opposition to the authorities and start a rebellion.
Second, Judas indicates to the leaders of the arresting group that he will kiss the one they need to arrest. Now why was that considered necessary? From Judas's angle he presumably thought there would be an escape attempt, and so he hadn't taken in Jesus' several explanations of what would happen to him in Jerusalem . Yes, it was dark, and yet it may be that Jesus' clothing might have included a wrap that went over the head so that perhaps only someone who knew Jesus well could recognise him under such circumstances.
But, third, why was this necessary for those leading the party? Jesus had been in the temple precincts since the last weekend. Surely they would have seen him and recognised him, even if they had never come across this famous preacher before.
Clearly what all this speaks of is the uncertainty of both Judas and the arresting officers. Judas simply misread Jesus and had failed to listen to all he said himself about what was going to happen there. Judas didn't realise that Jesus wanted this to happen to fulfil the plan the Godhead had conceived even before the foundation of the world, and therefore there was no way that Jesus was going to resist when they came to arrest him.
From the view of the arresting officers, they came with a worldly viewpoint that had been stoked by the religious leaders that said that this was a revolutionary, a dangerous man, a man who didn't care if he upset Judaism, a man who must be taken at all costs. In that case all eventualities must be covered and the biggest one – that they might not recognise him in the dark – would now be covered by Judas who would not only show where but who they were after.
Mk 14:47 Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
Mark's account of what went on at this point is somewhat brief. To get a fuller account of who did it we need to go to John's Gospel, with John writing many years later, almost certainly after Peter had died: “ Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant's name was Malchus.) Jesus commanded Peter, "Put your sword away! Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me?” (Jn 18:10,11)
Mark writing at Peter's direction diplomatically omitted to identify Peter but peter it was, possibly still smarting at the though that he would deny Jesus, and also having fallen asleep again and again when he was supposed to be watching out for Jesus while he was praying. Whatever the cause it was Peter who had lashed out and caused injury.
What is interesting is that it is left top Dr. Luke to record, “Jesus answered, "No more of this!" And he touched the man's ear and healed him.” (Lk 22:51) Can you imagine Luke as he was collecting information for his book, being told about this incident, and asking, “But what happened to the man and his ear?” That's the sort of concern a doctor would show! So Peter injures the man and Jesus heals him! I wonder how the servant then felt about Jesus? And for that matter, how did the arresting party feel about it when they beheld a miracle right under their noses?
Matthew records a different element of this event: “Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Mt 26:52-54) The prophetic reference that Matthew refers to is unclear but some suggest it may refer to Zech 13:7. Matthew is always the one who ties everything to prophetic scripture but here he remembers Jesus' warning about being violent. It is not the way of his followers for violence begets violence. Even more than that, he remembers, Jesus pointed out that if his Father had wanted to, Hwe could have sent thousands of angels to rescue him.
This little verse helps point out for us the differences of the different Gospel writers: Mark being circumspect to hide Peter's blushes, John completing the account after Peter has died. Luke was being concerned about the one being injured, and Matthew remembering the big kingdom and prophetic revelation issues. All these combined give us the richness of the Gospel account. How wonderful.
Mk 14:48,49 Am I leading a rebellion," said Jesus, "that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled."
The arresting force has arrived, Judas has identified Jesus, they have gone to arrest him, Peter lashes out with his sword, and Jesus heals the injured man. It would seem there is a temporary and no doubt brief pause. In this pause before they take him away he addresses them.
Note first of all what he says. He challenges them with a question: “Am I leading a rebellion?” The clear answer to that is no! Never had Jesus given an indication that he had come to overthrow the Romans. In fact a few days back when he had triumphantly entered Jerusalem , it was the Temple , not the Roman garrison that had been the object of his anger. Yes, when he had been performing the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, afterwards when the crowd intended to make him their king, he simply slipped away quietly (Jn 6:15). He had not intention of leading a rebellion.
Perhaps next we should ask why Jesus was saying this. At times in the coming hours he purposely remained silent thus fulfilling the Isaiah prophecy: “ He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” (Isa 53:7), so why did he bother to speak out now?
Perhaps it was simply that although this was God's preplanned will, it did not mean that it wasn't the fault of sinful men and that all along, there were foolish things being said and done. So in this situation Jesus simply points out how pointless it was for the arresting force to come armed to the teeth. Yes,, there had been two swords with Jesus party as Luke points out (Lk 22:36-38) but that was simply to fulfill prophecy and no one except Peter had sought to make use of them.
No, this was a heavy handed exercise, but more than that it was a cunning and deceitful exercise as Jesus points out: “ Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me.” Yes, Jesus had been accessible to them in the week beforehand and they could easily have taken him in the Temple precincts but they knew the crowd would object.
And then comes Jesus' final comment: “ the Scriptures must be fulfilled." Everything that was happening happened according to the pre-stated plan of God that has been referred to hundreds of times by the prophets. We aren't told which particular piece of Scripture was being referred to, so we leave it: it was the will of God pre-stated!
Mk 14:50-52 Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
The Isaiah 53 picture is of Jesus is that “ he was led like a lamb to the slaughter” (Isa 53:7). It is very much a picture of “ a lamb”, one on its own, with a sense of isolation or loneliness. We often take this for granted but in our verses here there is the start of that ‘loneliness' as we read, “Then everyone deserted him and fled.” Note the completeness of it: “everyone”! So much for Peter's bold words, so much for the loyalty of the ‘inner three' let alone the rest.
How easy it is to look down condescendingly on these disciples – men and women. Yes, some of them came back and stood with Jesus at the Cross but for this moment courage left them all and Jesus was left on his own. These men had been with him for three years. He was the very focus of their lives and no, here in the middle of the night they abandon him. Three years loyalty and blessing, gone in a minute! Was not God's grace available for them, we might think, in our safe twentieth century lives? If we seek to hold high moral ground as we look down on the disciples, we fail to realize our own frailty and our own sense of survival. Even the apostle Paul was secreted away out of a city in the face of the opposition. Was this a good moment for humanity? Definitely not! Is it understandable? Yes.
But then we come across a little piece of information that is unique to this Gospel. It is that a young man who was present also fled, but as he did so the arresting force tried to grab him and in his desperation to escape he left the robe that covered him and escaped naked. Embarrassing! Commentators suggest that this was Mark, to him Peter (it is believed) conveyed the Gospel.
But this little piece of information conveys one or two interesting points. First, assuming it was Mark, it shows us that the band of disciples was more than just the remaining eleven. Second it shows that Mark was not on the edge of the group otherwise he could have slipped away easily with the others. Third it shows that there was an attempt by the arresting force to detain the others if they could.
This makes it even more amazing that the other eleven, presumably plus the women and no doubt, therefore, other close followers as well who had been there together with Jesus, all managed to get away without being arrested. Perhaps the absence of street lighting and the fact that it was a ‘garden', presumably with bushes and trees made it easy for them to escape and perhaps because there appear to have been a good number, the officials didn't bother with them.
307. Before the Sanhedrin
Mk 14:53 & 55 They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together…. The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.
Keep in the back of your mind that this was still the middle of the night or, at the best, the very early hours of the morning. It is now Friday morning the day before Sabbath and the start of the Passover, a very busy time for those who oversee religion – and here they all are gathered in the middle of the night!
The description that we are given in these verses tell us that all the senior members of the religious AND civil authorities were gathered together (although in Judaism there was a very close link between both). This is not tucked away little gathering of a few extremist leaders - this is the might of Judaism of the day gathered together with one purpose – to judge Jesus.
Now we know that it wasn't a one hundred percent decision because Luke later records of the one coming to collect Jesus' dead body, “ Now there was a man named Joseph, a member of the Council, a good and upright man, who had not consented to their decision and action.” (Luke 23:50,51) Mark describes him more specifically: “Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council.” (Mk 15:43) John tells us that he was accompanied by Nicodemus (Jn 19:39) who he had earlier identified as “a member of the Jewish ruling council.” (Jn 3:1) So it would seem at least two of those gathered there were righteous men who did not go along with the eventual majority decision.
Yet here they are, THE ruling body of Judaism together, cleric and non-cleric to decide the fate of Jesus. Now we know it was God's foreordained will for Jesus to die as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, but it was still the sin of mankind that brought it about. On the day of Pentecost Peter declared the balance: “This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” (Acts 2:23) A short time later he preached even more directly: “You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (Acts 3L13-15).
Yes, it was God's plan but it was the sin of these leaders, gathering in the middle of the night, that brought about Jesus' downfall. Sin brought the world's greatest act of injustice into being.
308. Dubious Case
Mk 14:56-59 Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: "We heard him say, `I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.' " Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
What is already an illegal trial – because such a trial should not be held before sunrise – now degenerates into a farce. The objective of the trial is obviously to find sufficient evidence against Jesus to warrant the death penalty. We have observed at least twice that the authorities had plotted to kill Jesus but they haven't the courage to simply send someone secretly to kill him. Being God's representatives (the Temple authorities) and the civic authorities (the Sanhedrin) something in them still insists of a semblance of righteousness even if what they are doing is unrighteous! That is what is so bizarre about all that is happening: unrighteousness being cloaked in righteousness and yet they must all know that it is wrong.
The first part of the trial is to bring witnesses to testify against Jesus. Later they will seek to get him to condemn himself but to start with they bring witnesses, but witnesses to what? Some how the authorities have cajoled a number of men to come and speak against Jesus, presumably men who had been around and listened to Jesus while he had been in Jerusalem but Mark's record simply declares that they testified falsely. We may assume that people like Nicodemus and Joseph later told others what had gone on in the High Priest's palace. Whatever these men said, it was patently obvious that they were lying. Perhaps the biggest proof of that was that they contradicted one another and disagreed with one another.
The only bit of testimony that was memorable was that in respect of Jesus' words about rebuilding the temple in three days. So memorable was that, that it was even one of the things they threw back at him on the Cross: “ You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!" (Mk 15:29,30). What is interesting is that none of the Synoptic writers bothered to record Jesus saying that, it had appeared so obscure. It was left to John, many years later to fill the gap: “Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body.” (Jn 2:19-21) Note that Jesus hadn't said that he would destroy the Temple , and as rebuilding the physical building in three days was clearly impossible, he obviously meant something else!
309. The Silent Accused
Mk 14:60-61 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, "Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?" But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Standing in the presence of ‘big people' can be a bit awesome to say the least, and Jesus is now confronted by the high priest, who is the ‘top man' of the spiritual side of Judaism. But remember that he's been one of the ones plotting for Jesus' death. Nothing will have happened without his knowledge and when we hear that it was the chief priests who had been plotting, at the very least he would have known about it if not actually encouraging it.
Again we have to rely on John's later writings to reveal Caiaphas the high priest for what he was: “ Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin. "What are we accomplishing?" they asked. "Here is this man performing many miraculous signs. If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation." Then one of them, named Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, spoke up, "You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish." (Jn 11:47-50) Caiaphas is a politician and expediency is the name of the game.
So far in this ‘trial' it's just been the false witnesses who have spoken up and clearly they have not made a good job of condemning Jesus so Caiaphas steps forward to see if he can provoke Jesus into condemning himself. Essentially his words may be summarized as, “Come on then, speak up, what have you got to say for yourself about what these men have been saying?”
At this in the proceedings you might expect a defendant to say something but Jesus remains silent. Why? Well we aren't told but we may suggest three things. First, no law anywhere requires a guilty man to confess and condemn himself. Indeed American constitutional law even specifies that a person may remain silent to avoid incriminating himself. Second, it is possible that the sheer shambles of what had been going on, the failure of the so-called ‘witnesses' to provide credible testimony meant that there was no case to answer so nothing need be said. Third, Jesus often did things specifically to conform to prophetic declaration or testimony and Isaiah's Chapter 53 prophecy clearly declared, “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth ; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth .” (Isa 53:7) Jesus had determined not to defend himself.
310. The Accused Responds
Mk 14:61-64 Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?"
The high priest, Caiaphas has asked Jesus if he wants to respond to the bad witnesses but Jesus remains silent. It seems that the case against Jesus is grinding to a halt. I think if I had been God looking on this scene, knowing what the end outcome needed to be, at this point I would almost be saying, “Come on, get on with it, you know what you want to do with him, so stop messing around!” But perhaps God doesn't get impatient!
So the high priest now puts a question that invites Jesus to declare himself. In Matthew's Gospel, Matthew captures the power with which he asks this question for it came after a special demand: “ I charge you under oath by the living God .” (Mt 26:63) When this form of challenge was brought you were legally obliged to answer. So, asks the high priest, are you the Messiah? Yes, says Jesus.
It is as simple as that. But it's almost now as if Jesus reads the situation and knows that the high priest needs help for he adds a comment that must take away any doubt about his own understanding of what he is saying for he uses the language of Daniel's prophecies about the Coming One: And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. Jesus had used the phrase “Son of man” about himself so many times and it originated in the Old Testament prophecies and was clearly understood to refer to the Coming One. But now Jesus adds this tremendous prophetic thrust to his claim (just in case anyone had missed it before???) for what he is saying is, “not only am I the Messiah but you will all face me on the last day and see me seated at God's right hand after I have come for you on that day, seen by all as I return from the sky.”
Jesus leaves no room for doubt now. His claim is absolute, but then it would be because it was true! The high priest responds as a condemning judge and tears his outer clothing as a sign of his terrible anguish and displeasure at what he has just heard. As far as he is concerned this is blasphemy. There is no need to go looking for more witnesses to speak against Jesus for he has condemned himself from his own mouth. He turns to the waiting audience of priests and civic leaders and demands, “What do you think?” No room for argument!
Mk 14:65 Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, "Prophesy!" And the guards took him and beat him.
Spitefulness is a particularly nasty trait sometimes found un human beings. It is found in the playground with children taunting children, it is found among teenagers in the form of cyber bullying, it is found in the case of senior employees making life difficult for junior employees and it is found in marriages where one partner dominates the other. Spitefulness, the dictionary tells me is the expression of ill-will and malice and, I would suggest comes from a hurt and harmed human being who feel inferior but finds themselves in places of superiority in power. And that is now what we see in respect of how those attending this ‘trial' now treat Jesus.
We have just said that it is an expression of ill-will and malice and comes from a feeling of inferiority – or having been shown up – but while in a position of (temporary) power. Jesus is the epitome of goodness and when we encounter someone like this, it so often reveals us for what we are – quite different! Most of the time we grin and bear it because we can do little else, but when public opinion turns against that person, we feel secure enough to join in and voice our negative thoughts and feelings about them.
One has to wonder who we are actually talking about here. Of course we know that the priesthood was present, as were all the members of the Sanhedrin. There were also those called to give false evidence, and there were also the guards who had arrested Jesus. This much we do know, but perhaps there were also officers of the temple, hangers on who had access through friendships in others gathered there, and some simply curious who had managed to slip in.
However, whoever they are, some of them at least among those we have listed, now that Jesus has been condemned by the high priest and presumably with agreement of the majority, now that the tide has openly and publicly turned against Jesus, they feel free to express all their pent up guilt and shame in the form of violent hostility against him. Some spit on him in signs of disgust, some blindfold him to render him even more helpless and open to abuse and others, taking advantage of that strike him and taunt him, as if to say, “Come religious man, prophesy and tell us who is doing this to you, speak out big things of God if you can now, now that you're on your own and without the protection of your disciples, Come on, let's see what you're like now. The guards join in and they take him away and thoroughly beat him up. Spitefulness and bullying are the same!
Mk 14:66-68 While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. "You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus," she said. But he denied it. "I don't know or understand what you're talking about," he said, and went out into the entryway
The fact that we believe Mark's Gospel originated with Peter says something for him that we find the full awful experience of his denial clearly laid out here. But then we find virtually the same account in Matthew and Luke has a similar but slightly different account and Joyn also. i.e. all four Gospels record this. Peter is not spare!
Peter's failure is displayed to the word: first provoked by a servant girl in the courtyard, then later in the gateway where he had retreated and again a short while later there. I don't think we need to dwell on the words that are there in the accounts, the accounts are quite clear that three times before the morning cockerel crowed, Peter denied his Lord.
What we perhaps sometimes forget is that Peter was there at all. We have read how all the disciples fled in the Garden of Gethsemane but now we find Peter has plucked up some courage at least to make his way to the palace of the high priest and in the cold night joins with a number of others, presumably mainly servants who are gathered around a fire in the courtyard warning themselves and no doubt talking about what was going on inside.
John records that he was also there with Peter (Jn 18:15-16) and in fact it was he who brought Peter into the courtyard. John presumably goes on further into the palace and Peter remains outside, yet Luke records that he was visible out there to Jesus (Lk 22:61), presumably through a window.
Peter's response to his threefold denial is strong. Mark records him cursing himself (Mk 14:71) and all three Synoptics record him as weeping bitterly over his failure. There is no doubt that Peter feels terrible about what has just happened. Yes, Jesus had said it would happen but that doesn't make it any easier.
A penultimate thought: Jesus knew it was going to happen but didn't berate Peter and later up in Galilee he reinstates him. As awful as this was it doesn't disbar Peter from being the leading apostle and he goes on to do great things.
So, finally, how have you felt about Peter? Arrogance looks down on him and demeans him. There may be a few courageous (even foolish) souls among us he might not have done it, but in the awfulness of the hour it is an unknowing person who would say, “I wouldn't have done that!” I hope I wouldn't but I'm not sure in the circumstances. Careful!