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VII. THE SERVANT’S PASSION MINISTRY CHS. 14-15
This section of Mark’s Gospel records the climaxes of many themes that the writer had introduced. Mark chose to concentrate on the passion or sufferings of Jesus rather than simply give a record of all the events of the last week of Jesus’ life. Out of Mark’s 661 verses, 242 (37 percent) deal with the last week, from the Triumphal Entry through the Resurrection, and 128 concern Jesus’ passion and resurrection. [Note: Wessel, p. 754.] Over half the events Mark recorded in the last week (53 percent) deal with Jesus’ sufferings and triumph, the two major themes in the last three chapters
The plot to arrest Jesus 14:1-2 (cf. Matthew 26:1-5; Luke 22:1-2)
These verses introduce the whole passion narrative. Passover commemorated the Israelites’ redemption from slavery in Egypt through the Exodus (Exo_12:1 to Exo_13:16). It anticipated a greater deliverance from the consequences of slavery to sin. The Jews began to celebrate Passover on the fourteenth of Nisan, and the feast of Unleavened Bread followed on the fifteenth through the twenty-first of Nisan. Mark dated the events that follow immediately as occurring two days before Passover. This would have been Wednesday, April 1, A.D. 33. [Note: Hoehner, Chronological Aspects . . ., pp. 92, 143.]
Passover, like the feasts of Tabernacles and Pentecost, was a pilgrim feast. Many Jewish families from all over the world traveled to Jerusalem to observe these feasts as the Mosaic Law required (Deuteronomy 16:16). The Jews could observe the Passover only in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:5-6). Consequently mobs of people choked the city. One writer claimed that the population of Jerusalem swelled from 50,000 to 250,000. [Note: Lane, p. 490.] Jesus enjoyed a large popular following, so the religious leaders wanted to avoid a riot by executing Jesus inconspicuously. Evidently they wanted to postpone further confrontation with Jesus until after the feasts when the pilgrims would have returned to their homes. However, Judas’ offer to betray Jesus (Mark 14:10-11) was too good to refuse.
1. Jesus’ sufferings because of betrayal 14:1-11
This is another section of the Gospel that has a chiastic or "sandwich" structure (cf. Mark 3:20-35; Mark 5:21-43; Mark 6:7-31; Mark 11:12-26; Mark 14:27-52). Mark’s account of the conspiracy to kill Jesus (Mark 14:1-2; Mark 14:10-11) surrounds Jesus’ anointing in Bethany (Mark 14:3-9).
A. The Servant’s anticipation of suffering 14:1-52
Several themes peak in this section. Here we have the clearest evidence that Jesus was the Messiah and the Son of God (cf. Mark 1:1; Mark 8:29). Here, too, Jesus’ conflict with the religious leaders, His foes, came to a head (cf. Mark 3:1; Mark 3:6; Mark 11:18; Mark 12:12). The ignorance and selfishness of Jesus’ disciples, His friends, also peaked (cf. Mark 3:19; Mark 6:1-6; Mark 8:31 to Mark 10:52). Finally, the Servant’s ministry climaxed in His giving His life as a ransom for many (cf. Mark 10:45). [Note: See J. P. Heil, "Mark 14, 1-52: Narrative Structure and Reader Response," Biblica 71:3 (1990):305-32.]
For thematic reasons Matthew and Mark both placed this event within the story of the hostility of Jesus’ enemies. It is apparently out of chronological order (cf. John 12:1). This rearrangement of the material highlighted the contrast between the hatred of unbelievers and the love of believers for Jesus. The incident probably occurred the previous Saturday evening. [Note: Hoehner, Chronological Aspects . . ., p. 91.]
John added that the woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, and that she anointed Jesus’ feet as well as His head. Anointing a guest’s head was a common way to honor such a person at a festive occasion (cf. Psalms 23:5; Luke 7:46). Mary appears in three scenes in the Gospels, and each time she is at Jesus’ feet (cf. Luke 10:38-42; John 11:31-32). She is a good model for all disciples to emulate. The high value of her perfume and its expensive container may suggest that this was an heirloom passed from one generation to another. [Note: Lane, p. 492.]
The anointing at Bethany 14:3-9 (cf. Matthew 26:6-13; John 12:1-8)
Apparently Judas Iscariot voiced the disciples’ violent objection (Gr. embrimaomai, cf. Mark 10:14) to Mary’s act of loving sacrifice (Matthew 26:8; John 12:4-5). Customarily Jews gave gifts to the poor the evening of Passover. [Note: Wessel, p. 756.] Mary’s gift to Jesus was worth a year’s wages. The disciples could see no reason for this "waste" because they did not understand that Jesus’ death was imminent. Their concern for the poor contrasts with her concern for Jesus.
Jesus defended Mary’s act and explained why it was appropriate. It was an act of devotion to Jesus, and it was an anointing for burial. We cannot tell how much about Jesus’ death Mary understood. She probably anointed Him only as an act of love. We should not interpret Jesus’ statement as expressing disregard for the poor (cf. Matthew 5:3; Matthew 6:2-4; Matthew 19:21; Luke 6:20; Luke 6:36-38; Luke 21:1-4; John 13:29).
This statement is a further evaluation of the greatness of Mary’s act. It implies the continuance of the gospel proclamation beyond Jesus’ death and resurrection to the whole world.
"The Lord erected a memorial for all time to her who had done her best to honour Him." [Note: Swete, p. 326.]
Judas’ betrayal of Jesus 14:10-11 (cf. Matthew 26:14-16; Luke 22:3-6)
If the preceding incident happened on Saturday evening and Judas betrayed Jesus on Wednesday, Mary’s act of extravagance did not lead Judas to betray Jesus immediately. The Gospel writers did not explain Judas’ reasons for betraying Jesus explicitly. It was evidently Judas’ initiative in offering to betray Jesus that led the Sanhedrin to move up their timetable for Jesus’ execution. If Judas handed Jesus over to them, they could avoid the hostility of the crowds (cf. Mark 14:2; Luke 22:6).
Even though Mary’s act of devotion is the high point of this section, providing an excellent example for disciple readers, the dark undercurrent of betrayal is its dominant feature. The religious leaders, Judas, and even the disciples manifested opposition to glorifying Jesus. This attitude was a source of suffering for the Servant.
The Jews commonly referred to the first day of the combined Passover and Unleavened Bread feasts as the feast of Unleavened Bread. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 2:15:1.] Mark clarified for his Gentile readers that this was the day the Jews slew the Passover lamb, namely, the fourteenth of Nisan. This would have been Thursday, April 2. Mark could say the Passover was two days away on Wednesday (Mark 14:1) because the Jews ate the Passover lamb between sunset and midnight on the evening of the day they slew the lamb. For the Jews this was two days later since they began each day with sunset. The disciples had to prepare to eat the Passover within Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:5-6) that very evening.
|April 1||Midnight3:00 a.m.6:00 a.m.9:00 a.m.Noon3:00 p.m.||April 2The Jews slew their Passover lambs||Midnight3:00 a.m.6:00 a.m.9:00 a.m.Noon3:00 p.m.||April 3Jesus was crucifiedJesus died|
|14 Nisan||6:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.||15 NisanThe Jews ate their Passover lambs||6:00 p.m.9:00 p.m.||16 Nisan|
Preparations for the Passover meal 14:12-16 (cf. Matthew 26:17-19; Luke 22:7-13)
The main feature of this pericope is the unusual method by which Jesus’ directed His disciples.
Jesus’ farewell in the upper room 14:12-26
Mark’s account of what happened in the upper room is divisible into three parts: the preparations for the meal, Jesus’ announcement of His betrayal, and His institution of the Lord’s Supper.
2. Jesus’ sufferings because of desertion 14:12-52
The Servant’s sufferings in anticipation of His death continue in this section of the text. They centered around two events, Jesus’ observance of the Passover with His disciples and His agony in the Garden of Gethsemane with His Father.
The two disciples were Peter and John (Luke 22:8). Normally women carried water, so a man carrying a water jar would not be hard to find. Perhaps the man carrying a water jar was a prearranged signal. Obviously Jesus had made arrangements to provide for His disciples’ needs, but the Twelve had certain responsibilities in addition, namely, the preparation of the food.
"He Who was born in a ’hostelry’-Katalyma-was content to ask for His last Meal in a Katalyma." [Note: Edersheim, The Life . . ., 2:483.]
The whole record shows Jesus’ sovereign control over the destinies of Himself and His disciples. Even as He approached the Cross Jesus was aware of and caring for His disciples. Nevertheless they had responsibilities as well. All of this is instructive for the teachable disciple who reads this account.
This would have been Thursday evening. Because the Jews began their days at sundown this incident would have happened at the beginning of the fifteenth of Nisan. Jesus came with the Twelve to the upper room. Luke 22:15-16; Luke 22:24-30 and John 13:1-20 record what happened next.
The announcement of Jesus’ betrayal 14:17-21 (cf. Matthew 26:20-25; Luke 22:14, 21-23; John 13:21-30)
Mark did not record all that happened in the upper room. He stressed the announcement of Jesus’ betrayal and Jesus’ explanation of the significance of the bread and wine.
Originally the Jews ate the Passover standing (cf. Exodus 12:11). However in Jesus’ day they customarily reclined to eat it. [Note: Mishnah Pesachim 10:1.]
"To betray a friend after eating a meal with him was, and still is, regarded as the worst kind of treachery in the Middle East [cf. Psalms 41:9]." [Note: Wessel, p. 759.]
The disciples heard for the first time that one of them would betray Jesus. Mark’s account stresses Jesus’ identification of His betrayer as one of the Twelve.
The disciples’ grief expressed sadness at this announcement. Their question was a protestation of innocence but with a tinge of self-distrust. It expected a negative answer, but it was a question. Judas’ motive in asking was obviously different from the others. Jesus’ answer again implied the treachery of the betrayer. It also gave him an opportunity to repent since Jesus did not name him.
Jesus explained that His betrayal was part of divine purpose that the Old Testament had predicted (e.g., Psalms 22; Isaiah 53). Nevertheless the betrayer would bear the responsibility for his deed and would pay a severe penalty.
"The fact that God turns the wrath of man to his praise does not excuse the wrath of man." [Note: Cranfield, The Gospel . . ., p. 424.]
The seriousness of Judas’ act was in direct proportion to the innocence of the person he betrayed (cf. Mark 14:9). "By whom the Son of Man is betrayed" (NASB) views Judas as Satan’s instrument.
The bread Jesus ate would have been the unleavened bread that the Jews used in the Passover meal. The blessing Jesus pronounced was a prayer of thanksgiving to God for the bread, not a consecration of the bread itself. People, not places or things, are always the objects of blessings in the Bible. Jesus’ distribution of the bread to the disciples was more significant than His breaking of it. By passing it to them He symbolically shared Himself with them. When Jesus said, "This is my body," He meant the bread represented His body (cf. Luke 12:1; John 6:32-35). The disciples could hardly have eaten the literal flesh of Jesus since He was standing among them. Moreover the Jews abhorred eating human flesh and did not drink even animal blood much less human blood (cf. Leviticus 3:17; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 17:10-14). [Note: Riddle, p. 194.]
"The bitter herbs served to recall the bitterness of slavery, the stewed fruit, which possessed the consistency and color of clay, evoked the making of bricks as slaves, while the paschal lamb provided a reminder of God’s gracious ’passing over’ of Israel in the plague of death that came to Egypt." [Note: Lane, p. 505.]
The institution of the Lord’s Supper 14:22-26 (cf. Matthew 26:26-30; Luke 22:17-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26)
Matthew and Mark’s accounts of this event are similar, but Paul’s is more like Luke’s.
The common cup likewise symbolized Jesus’ sharing Himself with the disciples and their unity as disciples. Judas had apparently left the upper room before the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Jesus’ viewed His blood as the ratifying agent of the New Covenant (cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34), as animal blood had made the Old (Mosaic) Covenant valid (Exodus 24:8). The Greek word translated "covenant" is diatheke, a word that describes an agreement made by one person for others. A different word, syntheke, describes an agreement that two parties made in which both had obligations to each other. The diluted wine in the cup was also a reminder of the covenant’s existence. [Note: Taylor, p. 546.] Jesus’ blood poured out is an obvious allusion to His death. "For" translates the Greek preposition hyper meaning "in behalf of" or "instead of," a clear reference to vicarious atonement (cf. Matthew 26:28). "Many" means all (cf. Mark 10:45; Isaiah 53:11-12).
"By the word many he means not a part of the world only, but the whole human race." [Note: Calvin, 3:214.]
The phrase "the fruit of the vine" may have been a liturgical formula describing wine used at a feast. [Note: Wessel, p. 761.] In any case Jesus was saying He would not drink wine again until He did so in the kingdom. Jesus was anticipating the messianic banquet at the beginning of His kingdom (cf. Isaiah 25:6). This was a welcome promise in view of Jesus’ announcement of His coming death.
"The cup from which Jesus abstained was the fourth, which ordinarily concluded the Passover fellowship. The significance of this can be appreciated from the fact that the four cups of wine were interpreted in terms of the four-fold promise of redemption set forth in Exodus 6:6-7: ’I will bring you out . . . I will rid you of their bondage . . . I will redeem you . . . I will take you for my people and I will be your God’ (TJ Pesachim X. 37b)." [Note: Lane, p. 508.]
"Jesus seldom spoke of His death without also speaking of His resurrection (Mark 8:31; Mark 9:31; Mark 10:34)." [Note: Hiebert, p. 355.]
"New" or "anew" means in a qualitatively different way (Gr. kainon). Now Jesus and the disciples anticipated suffering and death, but then they would anticipate joy and glory.
The hymn was probably the second part of the Hallel (lit. praise, Psalms 115-118) that the Jews sang antiphonally at the end of the Passover. The other evangelists recorded more that Jesus said and did in the upper room (e.g., John 13-16). By the time they left, it was probably quite late at night.
"When Jesus arose to go to Gethsemane, Psalms 118 was upon his lips. It provided an appropriate description of how God would guide his Messiah through distress and suffering to glory." [Note: Lane, p. 509.]
We should understand the meaning of "fall away" (Gr. skandalisthesesthe, cf. Mark 4:17; Mark 6:3; Mark 9:42-47) in the light of the prophecy that Jesus said predicted it (Zechariah 13:7). Zechariah did not mean that the sheep would abandon the shepherd permanently much less that they would cease to be what they were. He pictured the flock fleeing from the shepherd because someone attacked him. That is precisely what the disciples did when the authorities arrested and executed Jesus. Later those sheep rallied around the Shepherd. Jesus announced His leading them as a shepherd to Galilee later (Mark 14:28). Again He spoke of His resurrection immediately after announcing His death (Mark 14:24-25).
Jesus attributed the Shepherd’s striking to God. He changed the Zechariah passage slightly. Clearly Jesus viewed Himself as God’s Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53:4-6). This point would have helped the disciples accept Jesus’ fate.
The prediction of Peter’s denial 14:27-31 (cf. Matthew 26:31-35; Luke 22:31-34; John 13:36-38)
Evidently Jesus made this prediction in the upper room before the institution of the Lord’s Supper. Mark probably inserted it here in his narrative because of its logical connection with Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane.
Jesus’ agony in the garden 14:27-52
Jesus experienced suffering as He said farewell to His disciples in Jerusalem (Mark 14:12-26), but His suffering increased as He anticipated the Cross on the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:27-52).
Peter refused to allow the possibility that he would forsake Jesus even though the other disciples might (cf. John 21:15). Jesus informed Peter that his defection would really be worse than that of the other disciples. He introduced His warning with the customary solemn affirmation and explained that the denial was not only certain but imminent. Furthermore Peter would utter it three times in spite of the rooster’s double warning. Mark alone referred to the second crowing, probably because of Peter’s recollection of the event. The word Jesus used for "deny" or "disown" (Gr. aparnese) is a strong one meaning "deny utterly."
Jesus’ reply should have caused Peter to realize his weakness and seek help. Instead he dug in his heels and virtually told Jesus that he would die to prove Him wrong. He kept affirming excessively (Gr. ekperissos, used only here in the New Testament) that he would definitely not deny Jesus. Peter did not know how weak he was, a problem most disciples of Jesus share with him. He would have to learn the hard way, through failure. Peter led the other disciples in denying that they would deny Jesus. [Note: W. N. Clarke, "Commentary on the Gospel of Mark," in An American Commentary, p. 214.] Later he denied Jesus with the same vehemence with which he professed that he would not.
This pericope is a strong warning for all disciples. When facing persecution for one’s allegiance to Jesus, one should not trust in the strength of his or her commitment. He or she should trust in God who can supply the grace needed to remain faithful (cf. Mark 9:14-29).
Jesus apparently took His inner circle of disciples (cf. Mark 5:37; Mark 9:2) with Him to teach them about suffering and to receive help from their intercession for Him (cf. Matthew 26:38). The other disciples were to pray as well (Luke 22:40). This was apparently a favorite place that Jesus and the disciples had visited previously (cf. Luke 22:39; John 18:2).
The words "distressed" (Gr. ekthambeisthai) and "troubled" (Gr. ademonein) together "describe an extremely acute emotion, a compound of bewilderment, fear, uncertainty and anxiety, nowhere else portrayed in such vivid terms as here." [Note: R. G. Bratcher and E. A. Nida, Translator’s Handbook on Mark, p. 446.] The prospect of bearing God’s wrath for the world’s sins and experiencing separation from His Father grieved Jesus deeply (Gr. perilypos, cf. Mark 6:26). This was much more than any mere martyr has ever had to endure.
Jesus’ sufferings in Gethsemane 14:32-42 (cf. Matthew 26:36-46; Luke 22:40-46)
This incident contrasts Jesus’ humility and dependence on the Father with Peter’s self-confidence (Mark 14:27-31). It is a remarkable revelation of the humanity of Jesus.
"So far from sailing serenely through his trials like some superior being unconcerned with this world, he is almost dead with distress." [Note: Moule, p. 117.]
This is Mark’s third mention of Jesus praying (cf. Mark 1:35; Mark 6:46). In each instance Jesus affirmed His commitment to the Father’s will that Satan was constantly testing.
The Jews did not address God with "Abba" (lit. Daddy) because they considered such intimacy disrespectful. Jesus used the word because He as the Son of God was on intimate terms with the Father (cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Jesus evidently prayed for the better part of an hour (Mark 14:37) though Mark only recorded the essence of His request (cf. Hebrews 5:7). In the ancient world almost everyone prayed aloud, and this is how Jesus probably prayed. [Note: Lane, p. 515.] His submission to His Father here recalls Genesis 22:7 where Isaac addressed his father Abraham in a very similar situation quite near this place. [Note: See Joseph A. Grassi, "Abba, Father (Mark 14:36): Another Approach," Journal of the American Academy of Religion 50:3 (September 1982):449-58.]
Jesus expressed faith in God with whom all things consistent with His nature are possible (cf. Mark 9:23). The unclear issue to the God-man, who voluntarily limited His knowledge in the Incarnation, was not God’s ability but God’s will.
"It is this complete dependence on God for his own salvation which is the source of Jesus’ courage to renounce himself, be least, and lose his life." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, p. 108.]
Jesus referred to the Cross as the "hour" and the "cup." The first expression includes everything involved in the Cross (cf. John 7:30; John 8:20; et al.). The "cup" figuratively particularized God’s judgment in the Cross (cf. Mark 10:38-39; Mark 14:29). Jesus’ human will was distinct from the Father’s will but never opposed to it.
Perhaps Jesus spoke specifically to Peter in Mark 14:37 because Peter had boasted that he would never deny Jesus (Mark 14:29; Mark 14:31). Jesus’ use of the name "Simon," Peter’s original name, may imply his natural weakness. Peter was not living up to the meaning of his new name; he was not behaving like a rock.
"True friendship as we experience it-the sharing of inmost thoughts, the exchange of feelings, hopes, sorrows, joys-was a reality that Jesus seems not to have enjoyed, with any continuity, with the Twelve." [Note: Lane, p. 518.]
Jesus then addressed all three disciples. He commanded them to be watchful (Gr. gregoreite, cf. Mark 13:34-35; Mark 13:37) and to pray (Gr. proseuchesthe, the general word for prayer). These activities are necessary to overcome temptation. This use of "flesh" is probably literal (i.e., the body) rather than metaphorical (i.e., the sinful human nature) since it contrasts with the human spirit (i.e., man’s volitional powers; cf. Psalms 51:12).
Mark wrote that Peter was asleep three times (Mark 14:37; Mark 14:40-41), and later he wrote that Peter denied Jesus three times (Mark 14:68; Mark 14:70-71). The disciples should have been praying for themselves as well as for Jesus in view of what Jesus had told them was coming.
"In the passion account, the disciples are ironic figures: Because of their incomprehension, they badly misconstrue the true nature of things. Thinking themselves to be astute, courageous, and loyal, they are in reality imperceptive, cowardly, and faithless. Entering upon the passion, the disciples yet follow Jesus in commitment to him. As events unfold, however, they will renounce their commitment through word or deed and apostatize." [Note: Kingsbury, p. 111.]
"Spiritual wakefulness and prayer in full dependence upon divine help provide the only adequate preparation for crisis (cf. Ch. Mark 13:11)." [Note: Lane, p. 520.]
Jesus returned from the disciples who gave Him no support to the Father who sustained Him. The disciples probably did not have anything to say to Jesus because they felt ashamed. They had boasted great spiritual strength, but they were demonstrating great spiritual weakness. There seems to be an inverse relationship between how self-confident we feel and how much we pray.
Mark alone recorded that Jesus made three separate forays into the depths of the garden to pray.
"The Temptation of the Garden divides itself, like that of the Wilderness, into three acts, following close one on another." [Note: G. F. Maclear, "The Gospel According to St. Mark," in Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges, p. 163.]
Jesus’ perseverance in prayer demonstrated the extent of His dependence on the Father. Jesus’ question convicted the disciples again. He probably intended His words as an ironic command rather than as a question or simply to express surprise (cf. Matthew 26:45).
Less clear is the meaning of, "It is enough." [Note: Cranfield, The Gospel . . ., pp. 435-36, listed eight different interpretations.] He could have meant that Judas had received the betrayal money from the chief priests since the Greek word apechei can mean "he has received it." Another possibility is that He meant that He now understood that the Cross was inevitable. Perhaps Jesus meant the disciples had had enough sleep and it was time to wake up. Fourth, He may have meant that He had finished His praying. I prefer the third and fourth views because they are the simplest explanations and because they make good sense.
The hour that had come was the time of Jesus’ arrest and death (cf. Mark 14:35). The sinners in view were Satan’s agents who would slay Jesus. Jesus’ short sentences reflect the tension and urgency of the moment. [Note: Hiebert, p. 362.]
Mark described Jesus’ movements in a somewhat chiastic form. Jesus came to the garden with His disciples, left most of them evidently at the entrance, took three of them farther, and proceeded even farther into its depths alone. Then He withdrew. At the center Jesus communed with His Father. The center of the garden and the center of the pericope correspond to the center of His spiritual conflict. This description helps the reader identify Jesus’ praying as at the very heart of His preparation for the Cross. It accounts for the remarkable poise with which Jesus handled Himself throughout the tumultuous events that followed.
"Perhaps the most commonly recognized pattern of narration in Mark is the threefold repetition of similar actions and events. . . . Some series are obvious because they occur in direct sequence: at Gethsemane, Jesus returns from prayer three times to find the disciples sleeping; Peter denies Jesus three times; Pilate asks the crowd three leading questions, each of which is rejected; and the narrator recounts events of the crucifixion at three, three-hour intervals (nine o’clock, noon, and three o’clock." [Note: Rhoads and Michie, p. 54.]
Here, "This threefold pattern of narration underscores the definitive failure of the disciples." [Note: Ibid.]
All the synoptic writers apparently repeated that Judas was one of the Twelve, even though the reader already knows this, to stress the tragedy of Jesus’ betrayal. [Note: Gould, p. 273.] Judas guided the mob (Acts 1:16) that had come with authority from the Sanhedrin. Part of the crowd consisted of Jewish temple police (Luke 22:52) and Roman soldiers (John 18:12). The police carried clubs and the soldiers short swords.
Jesus’ betrayal, arrest, and abandonment 14:43-52 (cf. Matthew 26:47-56; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:2-12)
The disciples of rabbis customarily greeted their teachers with a kiss on the hand. [Note: Bishop, p. 246.] This prearranged signal allowed Judas to identify Jesus to the soldiers without arousing the suspicion and opposition of the other disciples.
Perhaps shame led Mark to conceal the fact that it was Peter who cut off Malchus’ ear, evidently in a misdirected attempt to cut off his head (cf. John 18:10). Peter’s lack of prayer resulted in a lack of poise that contrasts sharply with Jesus’ behavior. He had not only boasted too much (Mark 14:29; Mark 14:31) and prayed too little (Mark 14:37; Mark 14:40-41), but he also acted too violently.
Jesus’ reply pointed out that He was not a dangerous criminal. The Sanhedrin’s action was totally unjustified and indefensible. Nevertheless it fulfilled prophecy. The Scriptures Jesus referred to included Isaiah 53:3; Isaiah 53:7-9; Isaiah 53:12 and Zechariah 13:7 (cf. Mark 14:27). Mark 14:50 documents the failure of the disciples, including Peter, and their abandonment of Jesus to preserve their own safety. The writer’s interest was the disciples’ action more than that of the mob.
Only Mark recorded this strange event. He described the young man (Gr. neaniskos, between 24 and 40 years old) as one who was following Jesus. This description could mean he was one of the Twelve or simply someone who was sympathetic with Jesus. He was wearing a rather costly linen outer garment (Gr. sindon) without an undergarment (Gr. chiton). It may have been his sleeping garment. Perhaps he had been in bed in Jerusalem when he heard the mob leaving the city talking about arresting Jesus and decided to go along. When one of the soldiers seized him, he was so intent on abandoning Jesus that he was willing to run through the crowd naked rather than staying with Jesus. This man’s action further illustrates how eager Jesus’ followers were to save their own skins at the cost of Jesus’ safety and companionship. His naked condition highlights his fear and embarrassment (cf. Amos 2:16).
This incident makes little contribution to the story of Jesus’ arrest, apart from illustrating that everyone fled. Therefore some of the church fathers and most of the modern commentators have concluded that the young man was Mark, the writer of this Gospel. However there is no solid evidence for this. [Note: See Abraham Kuruvilla, "The Naked Runaway and the Enrobed Reporter of Mark 14, 16 : What Is the Author Doing with What He Is Saying? Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 54:3 (September 2011):527-45.]
1. Jesus’ Jewish trial 14:53-15:1
Mark omitted reference to Jesus’ preliminary hearing before Annas (John 18:12-14; John 18:19-24).
B. The Servant’s endurance of suffering 14:53-15:47
Jesus’ sufferings until now had been anticipatory and psychological. Now He began to experience physical pain resulting from His trials and crucifixion. As the faithful Servant of the Lord who came to do His Father’s will, His sufferings continued to increase.
Jesus underwent two trials, a religious one before the Jewish leaders and a civil one before the Roman authorities. This was necessary because under Roman sovereignty the Sanhedrin did not have the authority to crucify. The Sanhedrin wanted Jesus to suffer crucifixion (John 18:31). Each trial had three parts.
|Jesus’ Religious Trial|
|Before Annas||John 18:12-14; John 18:19-24|
|Before Caiaphas||Matthew 26:57-68; Mark 14:53-65; Luke 22:54; Luke 22:63-65|
|Before the Sanhedrin||Matthew 27:1; Mark 15:1; Luke 22:66-71|
|Jesus’ Civil Trial|
|Before Pilate||Matthew 27:2; Matthew 27:11-14; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; John 18:28-38|
|Before Herod Antipas||Luke 23:6-12|
|Before Pilate||Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-25; Joh_18:39 to Joh_19:16|
The high priest in view here was Caiaphas. Interestingly Mark never mentioned him by name. He was the high priest that the Romans had appointed in A.D. 18, and he served in this capacity until A.D. 36. He seems to have been the person most responsible for the plot to do away with Jesus.
This was an unscheduled meeting of the Sanhedrin since Jewish law required that official meetings take place during the daytime. It transpired before dawn on Friday, the fifteenth of Nisan, a feast day. Normally the Sanhedrin did not conduct hearings of this type on a feast day. The Jewish leaders probably met at this unorthodox hour because the Romans conducted their civil trials shortly after sunrise. The Sanhedrin wanted to deliver Jesus over to Pilate for a hasty trial before public sentiment built in favor of Jesus. Normally the Sanhedrin did not pass sentence on an accused capital offender until the day following his trial. They made an exception in Jesus’ case. Usually the Sanhedrin met in a hall on the west side of the temple enclosure. [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 5:4:2.] However now they met in Caiaphas’ house or palace (Luke 22:54). "All" the Sanhedrin may mean every one of its 71 members or, probably, all that were necessary for a quorum, at least 23. [Note: Mishnah Sanhedrin 1:1.]
The hearing before Caiaphas 14:53-65 (cf. Matthew 26:57-68; Luke 22:54, 63-65; John 18:24)
This notation helps the reader understand that Peter was in the high priest’s residence throughout Jesus’ trial there. It prepares us for the account of Peter’s denial (Mark 14:66-72) that happened while the Sanhedrin was examining Jesus. It also helps us appreciate the fact that Peter’s desertion of Jesus was only temporary. The synoptic evangelists did not mention that another disciple accompanied Peter into the courtyard (John 18:15). The officers would have been the temple police since the Roman soldiers would not have guarded the high priest’s palace.
Even though this hearing, or grand jury investigation, took place at night, the Sanhedrin found witnesses against Jesus. It seems that they had been planning their case for the prosecution carefully. However the witnesses, who testified separately in Jewish trials, contradicted each other. Consequently their testimony was useless (cf. Numbers 35:30; Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15).
"It is harder to agree on a consistent lie than to tell the simple truth." [Note: Cole, p. 226.]
These verses provide a specific example of what Mark just described generally. Evidently the witnesses misunderstood Jesus’ statements about the destruction of the temple (Gr. naos, temple building) of His body (John 2:19) and the future destruction of the Jerusalem temple (Mark 13:2). Anyone who destroyed a temple in the ancient world was subject to capital punishment (cf. Jeremiah 26:1-19). [Note: Josephus, Antiquities of . . ., 10:6:2.] This was evidently one of the most serious charges against Jesus (cf. Mark 14:61; Mark 15:29).
Apparently Caiaphas decided to question Jesus hoping to get Him to incriminate Himself since he could not get two witnesses to agree against Jesus. Jesus did not need to respond to the high priest’s first question. No one had offered any real proof against Him.
"His [Jesus’] resolute silence loudly declared to the Sanhedrin His disdain for their lying efforts to establish a charge against Him." [Note: Hiebert, p. 371.]
Then Caiaphas, trying a new strategy, asked if Jesus was the Messiah. "The Blessed One" is a synonym for God that the Jews used instead of the holy name of God. [Note: Mishnah Berachoth 7:3.] The popular Jewish concept of Messiah was that he would be a human descendant of David. Caiaphas was not asking if Jesus claimed to be God, only a human Messiah.
"In the formulation ’the Messiah, the son of the Blessed One,’ the second clause stands in apposition to the first and has essentially the same meaning. In Jewish sources contemporary with the NT, ’son of God’ is understood solely in a messianic sense. Jewish hopes were situated in a messianic figure who was a man." [Note: Lane, p. 535.]
"A Messiah imprisoned, abandoned by his followers, and delivered helpless into the hands of his foes represented an impossible conception. Anyone who, in such circumstances, proclaimed himself to be the Messiah could not fail to be a blasphemer who dared to make a mockery of the promises given by God to his people." [Note: Ibid., p. 536.]
Previously Jesus had veiled His messiahship because publicly claiming to be the Messiah would have precipitated a premature crisis (cf. Mark 1:43-44; Mark 8:29-30; Mark 9:9; Mark 11:28-33; Mark 12:12). Now He openly admitted His messiahship because the time for crisis had arrived. Matthew may have given us Jesus’ exact words (Matthew 26:64) and Mark their substance. Jesus added that He was not just a human Messiah but the divine Son of Man. The passages He claimed to fulfill predicted His enthronement in heaven following His resurrection (Psalms 110:1) and His return to earth with God’s authority to establish a worldwide kingdom (Daniel 7:13-14; cf. Mark 8:38; Mark 13:24; Mark 13:26; Revelation 1:7). As such He was claiming to be the Judge of those who sat to judge Him. Jesus knew that this confession would seal His conviction. "Power" was a recognized circumlocution for "God." [Note: Ibid., p. 537.]
Rending one’s garments expressed indignation or grief (cf. Genesis 37:29; Judges 14:19; 2 Kings 18:37). It had become the high priest’s traditional response to blasphemy (cf. Acts 14:14). [Note: Mishnah Sanhedrin 7:5.] However it was illegal for the high priest to rend his garments (Leviticus 21:10). The hypocrisy of the religious leaders is clear throughout their trial of Jesus. The Jews regarded blasphemy as any serious affront to God, not just speech that reviled Him (cf. Mark 2:7: Mark 3:28-29; John 5:18; John 10:33). At this time, blasphemy consisted of claiming for oneself a unique association with God, reflected in sitting at God’s right hand, not just misusing God’s name. [Note: See Darrell L. Bock, Blasphemy and Exaltation in Judaism and the Final Examination of Jesus, pp. 30-183.] The Mosaic Law prescribed death by stoning for blasphemers (Leviticus 24:14), but this was not bad enough for Jesus. Jesus had foreseen this and had predicted death at the hands of the Gentiles as well as the Jews (Mark 10:33).
Having judged Jesus guilty, some of the Sanhedrin members vented their anger by attacking Him bodily. The temple guards present joined them in beating Jesus. Spitting and hitting were traditional Jewish ways of expressing repudiation (cf. Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9; Job 30:10; Isaiah 50:6). Even today spitting in someone’s face is one of the grossest forms of personal insult. Evidently they blindfolded Jesus and challenged Him to identify His assailants because of a belief that Messiah did not need to see but could judge by smell (Isaiah 11:2-4). [Note: Lane, p. 540.] The Old Testament predicted this type of abuse for Messiah (Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:7-8; Isaiah 53:10). [Note: See Laurna L. Berg, "The Illegalities of Jesus’ Religious and Civil Trials," Bibliotheca Sacra 161:643 (July-September 2004):330-42.] Peter recorded that through all this suffering Jesus did not protest or retaliate (1 Peter 2:21-23; cf. Isaiah 53:7).
Peter’s presence was a testimony to His love for Jesus. Unfortunately his love could not stand the test of fear. [Note: Wessel, p. 771.] The girl’s description of Jesus ("that Nazarene, Jesus") made it clear that Peter was among enemies. She had probably seen Peter with Jesus in the temple or the city during that week. Peter denied being one of Jesus’ disciples "using the form common in rabbinical law for a formal, legal denial." [Note: Lane, p. 542.] Peter then left the warmth and light of the fire in the center of the courtyard and sought refuge in the shadows of the archway that led into the street.
Some later manuscripts add "and a cock crowed" at the end of Mark 14:68. Probably scribes added these words in view of Jesus’ prediction in Mark 14:30 and the fulfillment in Mark 14:72.
Peter’s denial of Jesus 14:66-72 (cf. Matthew 26:69-75; Luke 22:55-62; John 18:16-18, 25-27)
This event happened below in the courtyard while the hearing just described continued on the floor above. These verses resume what Mark introduced in Mark 14:54. The events were contemporaneous with Jesus’ examination by the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:55-65).
"The irony inherent in the situation is evident when the force of juxtaposing Mark 14:65 and Mark 14:66-72 is appreciated. At the precise time when the court attendants were heaping scorn and derision upon Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah, the prophecy that Peter would deliberately deny him was being fulfilled." [Note: Lane, p. 541.]
Evidently "the maid" was a different person from the servant girl (Mark 14:66; cf. Matthew 26:71). Instead of accusing Peter to his face this girl whispered her charge to bystanders. Peter heard her. Again Peter denied being one of Jesus’ disciples. This time he kept on denying it, as the Greek imperfect tense indicates.
The third challenge came from the bystanders, several people instead of just one, about an hour later (Luke 22:59). This time Peter went further. He denied that he even knew Jesus (cf. Mark 8:29). He even called down God’s judgment on himself if he was lying. Cursing means he put himself under a curse. Swearing means he affirmed the truthfulness of his words with oaths.
Mark alone noted that this was the second time the cock crowed (cf. Mark 14:68). Peter had evidently received an earlier warning but had disregarded it. Now he remembered Jesus’ prediction and broke down (Gr. epibalon, cf. Luke 22:61). He remembered too little and too late.
Peter now drops out of the picture until after Jesus’ resurrection. He had finally learned his own weakness and consequently seems to have felt unable to face the pressure of public identification with Jesus.
The parallels between Peter’s behavior and Jesus’ are all too evident. Both men faced a three-fold temptation. One defeated the tempter, and the other fell before him. While Jesus served God faithfully as His Servant on the upper floor, Peter failed to serve God faithfully on the lower floor. The reason for the difference goes back to Gethsemane. Disciples must learn from Peter’s failure as well as from Jesus’ success.
"The importance and relevance of Peter’s denial for the church to which Mark writes is obvious. To a church under severe pressure of persecution it provided a warning. If denial of Jesus Christ was possible for an apostle, and one of the leaders of the apostles at that, then they must be constantly on guard lest they too deny Jesus. The story also provided assurance that if anyone did fail Jesus under the duress of persecution, there was always a way open for repentance, forgiveness, and restoration (cf. Mark 16:7)." [Note: Wessel, pp. 771-72.]
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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Mark 14". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19