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The Anointing of Jesus.
The council of the chief priests and scribes:
v. 1. After two days was the Feast of the Passover and of Unleavened Bread; and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by craft and put Him to death.
v. 2. But they said, Not on the feast-day, lest there be an uproar of the people.
The Jewish authorities had not given up one bit of their enmity and rage against the Prophet of Galilee. There had been daily sessions in the Hall of Polished Stones and undoubtedly many private consultations of the manner in which the unpleasant interloper might be removed. It was now Wednesday. Mark gives the full name of the festival which was approaching: the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The Passover was celebrated on the 14th of Abib, or Nisan, the spring month, and it merged into the Feast of Unleavened Bread. The two festivals were really celebrated as one, and their names were used promiscuously. The members of the Sanhedrin felt that matters had now reached such a stage that quick action was demanded, John 11:48. They were anxious to take Him, and yet they felt that it must be done with craft. Die He must, of that they were certain, but wisdom told them not to have the arrest take place on the festival day. Should they attempt that, there was almost sure to be a popular disturbance and demonstration in His favor. That must be avoided at all costs; before or after the festival was the proper time. The poor blind Pharisees did not know that the entire matter was in God's hands, and that the day and the hour of Christ's death had been decided in God's council.
The anointing at Bethany:
v. 3. And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper as He sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on His head.
v. 4. And there were some that had indignation within themselves and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
v. 5. For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
Mark here inserts a story of the Saturday before, when Jesus first came to Bethany from Jericho, unless we want to assume that two anointings took place. This Simon the leper seems to have been a relative of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead. He had been cured of his terrible disease by the Lord and was duly thankful for the gift thus received, in his own way. Jesus had accepted an invitation to dinner with him and was reclining among the guests, when the incidents here narrated took place. A woman came into the room bearing an alabaster vase with genuine and very precious ointment, an Indian perfume made from the stems of a plant growing in the southern Himalayas, known as nard, or spikenard. The woman's actions drew the attention of the entire table company to her. Going over to Jesus, she broke off the narrow neck of the vase, in order that the perfumed ointment might. flow out all the more easily and then poured it out upon His head. It was an act of simple, unconscious devotion, of tender love. But it was not viewed with favor by all the table-round. There were certain ones present, and among them not a few of the disciples, with Judas Iscariot leading, that began to feel indignation rising in themselves: Why has this waste of the ointment been made? And not satisfied with mere grumbling, Judas finds the courage to give some reason for his objection: This myrrh might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii (fifty dollars) and the money given to the poor. In this way he snarled directly at the woman, and the others seconded him. It was a passionate outburst altogether out of proportion to the guilt of the woman, even if she had been tactless or extravagant. But the thought of Judas grew out of a heart that had long since ceased to be single in Christ's service. His heart belonged to the devil of avarice; and the poor interested him not at all.
Jesus defends the woman:
v. 6. And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? She hath wrought a good work on Me.
v. 7. For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will, ye may do them good; but Me ye have not always.
v. 8. She hath done what she could; she is come aforehand to anoint My body to the burying.
v. 9. Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this Gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
With all this denunciation being heaped upon her, the woman stood patiently waiting to hear the verdict of Christ. And she was not disappointed in her trust. In a shorter manner than usual, Jesus takes her part and defends her against the senseless attacks of the prosaic disciples and of the greedy Judas: Let her alone; why do you serve her with molestations? Their unwarranted interference in a matter which, after all, concerned Him and the woman only was extremely distasteful to Him. He wants them to stop nagging her. And not only that: A good work has she performed toward Me. He is pleased with the attention He has received at her hands. Always they had the poor with them, and if they were so anxious to do them good, there would be plenty of opportunities. He does not want to discourage true neighborly love and altruism; He rather implies that the willing-minded will find enough outlet for all benevolent feelings. But in the present instance it was to be remembered that the Lord would not always stay with His disciples and the others in the old familiar, visible intercourse. The woman has thought of that possibility and done what she could to show her devotion while the Savior was yet with them. And, at the same time, she has anticipated the preparations for His burial by pouring this ointment upon His head. His death and burial would take place very soon, and she was not any too soon with her deed of kindness. And Jesus adds a very impressive word, saying that this simple deed would be thought of and spoken of in the entire world, wherever the news of Him, the Gospel, would be proclaimed. Note: Jesus predicts that the Gospel as such, as the news of Him and of His labors for mankind, will be preached, a promise which is extremely comforting to us in the midst of the attacks that are made on the transmitted gospels; and He states that the Gospel will be preached in the whole world, that the glorious news of man's redemption through the blood of the Savior would not be withheld from anyone. This double truth was the best, the most cheering comfort which He could have given the woman.
The Preparation for, and the Celebration of, the Passover.
Judas offers to betray Jesus:
v. 10. And Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went unto the chief priests to betray Him unto them.
v. 11. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.
The public reprimand which Judas had received in the house of Simon in Bethany, when he voiced his displeasure over the woman's deed of kindness, seems to have been the direct motive for his betrayal. His downward road was similar to that of many that do not cling to the Savior with all simplicity of heart. The fact that he was treasurer of the disciples taught him to crave money and nourished his pride. Soon he loved money, he worshiped gold, he was most anxious to possess all that he could. Ordinary, honest methods of obtaining it did not appeal to him anymore, they were too slow; so he became a thief. And now Christ's defense of the woman had roused his anger. One of the Twelve he had been chosen, one of the Twelve he still was, in appearance, but he now went to the chief priests in order to betray his Lord and Master to them. And they? On this matter, where it concerned the murder of an innocent person, they were only too glad to give him audience; they were filled with hellish glee as they contemplated the destruction of the hated Nazarene. They gave him the assurance that they would give him silver, that they would pay him well for his nefarious deed. And Judas, hardened against all the warnings of his conscience, against all appeals of his better nature, from that hour deliberately sought opportunity, how he might betray Jesus at a most convenient time. Judas is a terrible example of the power of Satan over the heart that deliberately leaves and rejects the Lord.
The preparation for the Passover:
v. 12. And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the Passover, His disciples said unto Him, Where wilt Thou that we go and prepare that Thou mayest eat the Passover?
v. 13. And He sendeth forth two of His disciples and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water; follow him.
v. 14. And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guest chamber, where I shall eat the Passover with My disciples?
v. 15. And he will show you a large upper room furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.
v. 16. And His disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as He had said unto them; and they made ready the Passover.
It was on the day from Wednesday evening to Thursday evening, the day when the Jews carefully swept out all leaven and leavened bread out of their houses, and which they therefore reckoned with the days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, in the wider sense, that the disciples of Jesus came to Him with the question whether they would celebrate the festival as usual. Jesus, as a member of the Jewish Church, observed all the outward forms of the Jewish cults. It was necessary to know this at this time, since on this day the Passover lamb was sacrificed at the Temple. So they wanted to know where He would have them go and make everything ready for the eating of the Passover lamb. Jesus complied with their request by selecting two of the disciples and giving them very explicit directions. They should go to the city, where they would meet a man carrying a vessel with water. Him they should follow, and at the house where he would enter they should ask the master of the house for the location of the dining-room where Jesus might eat the Passover with His disciples. These directions of Jesus the two apostles followed, for they had thereby become His representatives and were acting in the name of the head of the company, which, according to Josephus, numbered between ten and twenty. They went to Jerusalem, purchased a lamb that met the requirements of the law, and took this up to the Temple one hour after the evening sacrifice, when all the priests were busy with the Passover sacrifices. One of them killed the lamb himself, its blood being caught by one of the officiating priests to be poured out at the foot of the altar. They then took the lamb to the house which had been designated by Jesus and made arrangements to have it roasted and all the other dishes of the Passover meal prepared. The dining-room they found in an upper story of the house, with the necessary sofas all ready. Thus all preparations for the paschal meal were completed. With sunset the Feast of Passover began; it was the 14 th
The paschal meal:
v. 17. And in the evening He cometh with the Twelve.
v. 18. And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with Me shall betray Me.
v. 19. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto Him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?
v. 20. And He answered and said unto them, It is one of the Twelve that dippeth with Me in the dish.
v. 21. The Son of Man indeed goeth as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Good were it for that man if he had never been born.
In the evening, after the festival had actually begun, after sundown, Jesus came to the city with the remaining apostles, thus making the number of men in His company, Himself not included, twelve. Judas was brazen enough to keep up appearances to the last; he went with the rest as though nothing were wrong. And so the meal was begun and took its usual course. See Matthew 26:20-26. It was during the feast proper, after the singing of the first part of the Hallel, when they had received the bread and were partaking of the roasted lamb, that the Lord said, with deep emotion: Verily I say unto you that one of you will betray Me, one that is eating with Me; a reference to Psalms 41:9. This announcement caused the greatest consternation and sorrow in the circle of the disciples. The manner of Christ's announcement had emphasized the gravity of the offense: And so they all, one after the other, put the worried or reproachful question: Surely it cannot be I? Even Judas, the traitor and hypocrite, coolly adds his voice to the general uproar. But Jesus did not give them the satisfaction of hearing the name of the traitor. His loving Shepherd's heart was even then yearning for the poor, blinded sheep that had gone astray. It should not be for want of tender solicitude that Judas continued in his transgression. Christ merely declares that it is one of the Twelve, one of those chosen to be apostles of faith, and more exactly, one of those that dipped his bread into the same dish with Him. It was a dish of gravy-like soup, called charoseth , made of raisins, dates, vinegar, and several other ingredients, to which He referred. At just about this time, Jesus, as the head of the little company, dipped a morsel of bread into the dish, and the tremulous hand of Judas was extended, with feigned ease, to receive the sop from Him. But in the excitement, this significant fact was not generally noticed. While Judas reached out his hand, was, in fact, dipping His own hand with that of Jesus into the sauce, Jesus very solemnly declares that the Son of Man, the divine-human Redeemer, would indeed go on with the work, on the path of His Passion, according to Scriptures. But woe to that particular man through whom His betrayal would be brought about; it would have been the best thing for that particular man if he had never been born. To anyone not thoroughly hardened in sin, these words of Christ must have held a powerful appeal. But Judas did not heed the warning; he acted, or tried to act as though nothing unusual were occurring about him, as though. the air were not charged to its utmost capacity with suspended force. His responsibility and guilt at this moment should have been brought home to him with full force; he should have considered the results, the curse of God upon the deliberate transgression, the inevitable punishment, but he saw only the bag of money that was to be his if he was successful in his dastardly undertaking. He was, by his own fault, in the power of Satan.
The institution of the Lord's Supper:
v. 22. And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat; this is My body.
v. 23. And He took the cup, and when He had given thanks, He gave it to them; and they all drank of it.
v. 24. And He said unto them, This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
v. 25. Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
The meal had practically come to a conclusion, with Christ and the disciples still reclining about the table, when the Lord did a remarkable thing. He took bread, either one of the two paschal loaves or a piece that had remained after the meal. Having spoken a blessing over it, He broke it and passed it around to them, probably by going from one to the other, each one receiving a piece. To the several disciples He may have changed the address a trifle, but the substance was always the same: Take and eat; this is My body. This was not a mere symbolical act, for there was not the remotest resemblance between the fragments of bread and the body of a full-grown man. And here it makes no difference whether Jesus spoke Greek or Aramaic on that evening: He stated that the bread which He gave to them is His body. Then He took the cup which I they had used during the meal, the third cup being known as the cup of blessing. Having given thanks to God over it, He gave it to them, passing from one to the other. And again He made a very clear statement regarding the contents of that cup: This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. It is the New Testament which was herewith ushered in; the covenant which God makes with the world in and with Christ and His blood and through its shedding has brought salvation to all men, even though only a part of mankind will accept the offering of their redemption through the blood of Jesus. If we believe the words of Christ just as they were here spoken, taking our reason captive under the obedience of Scriptures, we shall always receive the full benefit of this Sacrament. We shall always take from it the assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins. We shall always be strengthened anew in our faith. As the celebration of the first Passover strengthened the Israelites for their long journey through the wilderness, so the Lord's Supper is for the believers of the New Testament food on the way during their earthly pilgrimage. And incidentally, like the paschal meal, it points forward to the end of the journey, to the heavenly banquet, where the Lord will drink with us of the cup of salvation in all eternity. To this the Lord refers when He says that He will henceforth not drink with them of the fruit of the vine. For this expression was the term by which the paschal wine was designated among the Jews, the term which they used in the blessing of, and in the thanksgiving over, the wine. To argue that the Lord had used anything but true, fermented wine in the institution of the Eucharist, is to overthrow all historical and exegetical reasoning. See Matthew 26:29. The Lord here instituted the second Sacrament of the New Testament. "As in Baptism He loosed from the Old Testament circumcision the sacred washing which accompanied it, and made it the New Testament Sacrament of the covenant entered into, so also now He severed the breaking of the bread and the cup of thanksgiving from the Old Testament Passover, and made it a sacrament of the New Testament redemption."
The Passion in Gethsemane.
The walk to Gethsemane:
v. 26. And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount of Olives.
v. 27. And Jesus smith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of Me this night; for it is written, I will smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
v. 28. But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.
v. 29. But Peter said unto Him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.
v. 30. And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice thou shalt deny Me thrice.
v. 31. But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with Thee, I will not deny Thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
Jesus had duly finished His last paschal meal; He had incidentally given to His disciples and to all the believers of the New Testament the wonderful blessing of the Eucharist. They now, all together, sang the last part of the Hallel, and then left the upper room and the house of the celebration and slowly wended their way across the Brook Kidron and over to a little garden or orchard on the western slope of Mount Olivet, called Gethsemane, which means "olive-press. " It was probably an olive orchard overlooking the valley and the Temple mount. While on their way over there, Jesus suddenly says to His disciples (note the vivid narration of Mark): All of you will stumble, will be offended, this night. "The discipleship was about to experience a moral breakdown. " In making this startling announcement, Jesus referred them to a prophecy, Zechariah 13:7. God had foretold that He would afflict, smite the Shepherd, and as a result the sheep would be dispersed, scattered. The suffering of Christ was God's doing, His affliction; it was demanded by His holiness and righteousness: the Substitute of mankind must suffer the stripes for all mankind. At the same time, Jesus adds a cheering prediction. They would not lose their Shepherd, their Master, for all time, since He would rise from the dead and would go before them into Galilee. Note the promise: Their offense would thus not last; His sufferings would terminate in death, but death would not be able to hold Him, He would throw off its fetters and arise from the grave; He would resume the old relation toward them. But Peter, the impetuous and untried, felt his honor assailed in the first announcement of the Lord. Quickly he turns to Jesus with a protest: Even if all should be offended, most certainly not I. Note the presumption: The others may be weak enough, of them perhaps no more can be expected, but it is altogether different, with me. Peter was suffering with too much self-confidence, with too much trust in his own abilities and powers. He should have begged the Lord most humbly to come to his assistance in case the temptation would become too severe for his weakness. Peter's case is that of many Christians whom the Lord has given some special grace, and who then become obsessed with the idea that they really amount to something in the kingdom of God, that without them the Church would suffer a great loss. As a matter of fact, no person is irreplaceable in the work of the kingdom of Christ, and unless every worker makes use of the greatest humility at all times, he may find the experience of Peter repeated in himself, 1 Corinthians 10:12.
Jesus takes the opportunity to give Peter a very emphatic, energetic warning in the form of a prophecy. Solemnly He declares: Verily I say to thee that thou, with all thy boasting, today, in this very night (exact indication of time), before the second cock-crowing (a still more precise fixing of the time), shalt thrice deny Me. Mark gives the most exact account of the denial and all that preceded it, undoubtedly at the instigation of Peter, who always felt the depth of his fall on the night before his Lord's death. Instead of shaking Peter out of his sleepy security, the solemn declaration of Jesus only aroused his zeal the more. He began to say and kept on saying, "abundantly in manner and matter, with vehemence and iteration. " He used increasing force in expressing what he thought was the honest conviction of his heart; even if he should have to go into death with the Lord, he would not deny Him. And his self-confident words were echoed in the protestations of the others, who, however, made the assertion only once, and without his fire.
The beginning of the agony:
v. 32. And they came to a place which was called Gethsemane; and He saith to His disciples, Sit ye here while I shall pray.
v. 33. And He taketh with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed and to be very heavy;
v. 34. and saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death. Tarry ye here and watch.
During the discussion which followed the prediction of Christ they had reached the goal of their journey, Gethsemane. At the entrance Jesus turned to the greater number of the apostles, eight of them, since Judas had left, and bade them sit down while He prayed. As in many other trying situations, He wanted to lay the matter which was oppressing Him into the hands of His heavenly Father. No matter how great the cross and the affliction, the Christian is always safest if He places it in the hands of God, for then the strength for bearing it will be forthcoming, 1 Corinthians 10:13. Only His three intimate disciples, Peter, James, and John, He took with Him into the garden. And now began the agony of Christ. "Note: He had known during all the years of His ministry what He would have to endure at its end, in the great Passion. He had repeatedly talked to His disciples about it. But now that the hour was upon Him, now that He realized with vivid intensity what it meant to be burdened with the load of the whole world's sin and guilt, it rose before His dazed senses a! an appalling revelation. He was amazed, horrified, He was oppressed with a dismal fear. Excessively sorrowful, with a sorrow which no human tongue could express, was His soul, even unto death. The load which had been placed upon Him, the guilt which was searing His soul, threatened Him with death, brought Him face to face with the king of terrors. He, as the greatest of all sinners, felt the curse of death upon the sins He was bearing a million-fold. The anguish caused Him to cling to the three disciples with the pitiful appeal: Remain here and watch! "Such anguish Christ, our dear Lord, wanted to suffer for the honor of His heavenly Father and for the benefit of us men, in order that we might henceforth have a Lord over such anguish, when our face becomes pointed and thin, when our eyes grow dark and sightless, our tongue cannot speak, and our head cannot think: that we then cling to this Man who has conquered this terror and drowned it in Himself. Therefore our anguish also cannot be so great as it was in His heart, for Christ conquered the greatest anguish in His innocent heart, and in His clean, pure blood He has extinguished and overcome the bitter rage and the poisonous, fiery darts of the devil, in order that we might comfort ourselves with His victory. The devil surely shot his fiery darts into Him and pressed them into His heart, saying: Thou art no longer in God's grace, etc. And these darts He has extinguished in His innocent heart, in His delicate body, and in His pure blood, and has let them enter so deeply that they have become dull and no longer have any power over us. This the suffering of other saints cannot accomplish,... but that of Christ only."
The agony of Christ:
v. 35. And He went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.
v. 36. And He said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto Thee; take away this cup from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what Thou wilt.
v. 37. And He cometh and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest not thou watch one hour?
v. 38. Watch ye and pray lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
v. 39. And again He went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
v. 40. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer Him.
v. 41. And He cometh the third time and saith unto them, Sleep on now and take your rest; it is enough, the hour is come. Behold, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
v. 42. Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth Me is at hand.
It was Christ, the man, the human being, that had uttered the pitiful appeal to the three disciples to aid Him at least by watching and praying with Him. And it was His human nature, aided and sustained, indeed, by His divine nature, that here suffered the wrath of the just God. As wave after wave of anguish swept over Him, threatening to engulf and overwhelm Him, the presence of even these devoted disciples became too much for His weakness. He went on from there a little distance, farther into the darkness and loneliness of the garden. Again and again He fell to the ground; it was a long, desperate struggle. And all the while His soul was battling in prayer with God, the sum and substance of His pleading being that the hour, this hour of terrible anguish, of unspeakable torture, might pass by without touching Him. He prays that this be done, if it be possible. He knows that all things are possible to His Father, but He knows also that there can be no contradiction between God's justice and His love. The evangelist records a part of His urgent prayer: My Lord and My Father, all things are possible to Thee; let this cup pass by Me, so it may not touch Me! What deep, incomprehensible humiliation on the part of Christ! And yet. there is not the slightest murmuring or opposing the will of God. The just and stern Judge of the sins of the world is still His dear Father, under whose will He places His human will without restriction or reservation: But not what I will, but what Thou. The sentence is short, incomplete, as one would speak under the influence of great emotion. He sacrifices His will for the good of the world, for its redemption. After some time, Jesus returned to His disciples and found them sleeping. They had not been equal to the test which He had proposed to them. Sorrow and dread had so weighted down their eyelids that they could not throw off sleep. It was Peter whom the Lord addressed in a reproachful tone: Simon, sleepest thou? Not even one hour couldest thou watch? The name Simon itself is a rebuke, for it was the name he bore before becoming the disciple of Christ. Loudly, emphatically, and repeatedly he had I protested his ability to bear everything with the Lord, even death; and here he was not even able to watch with and for Him for one short hour! Again Jesus admonishes the disciples to watch I and pray, to be wide awake and to use the weapon of prayer. For the spirit, the new man in them, may be ever so willing and ready to work for Christ, yet the flesh, their old weak nature, is weak and stands in need of assistance in spiritual matters all the time. If only all Christians would remember this admonition in all times of spiritual crises, there would be little need of special efforts and unusual sacrifices after the damage has been done. A second and a third time Jesus left the disciples to return to His place of prayer and to wrestle with God in the fierce struggle because of the sins of mankind. When He returned to the disciples the second time, He found them asleep again, in spite of His earnest warning, and their eyes seemed weighted down with sleep; their answer to His call was given in a dazed manner, and they had no excuse to offer; they were helplessly overcome. In the meantime the struggle was continuing in the soul of the Lord, but He was gaining strength toward its close, He was conquering the fear of death, the pains of hell. When He came back to His disciples for the third time, His words sounded almost crisp: Are you still sleeping and resting nicely? It is enough! If not expressed in so many words, the meaning found by some commentators seems to be contained here: The struggle has been brought to an end, the agony has been conquered. Further suffering is before Me; I am about to be delivered into the hands of the heathen, the sinners. But the prospect holds no terrors for Me, though I know that the traitor is even now on his way and at the gates of the garden. Arise; let us go! The Scripture must be fulfilled amid the final conquest made. Christ is ever the Champion of His believers, He goes before them and leads the way; He also battles for them and overcomes the enemies in their stead. But He does not want them to sit idly by and do nothing. They shall follow in His footsteps, go the way that He has gone, and in His power vanquish the enemies.
The Capture of Jesus.
v. 43. And immediately, while He yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the Twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
v. 44. And he that betrayed Him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is He; take Him, and lead Him away safely.
v. 45. And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to Him and saith, Master, Master; and kissed Him.
Before Jesus had finished His last admonition to His disciples, Judas with his eager band came into the neighborhood, appeared upon the scene. As if to heighten the emphasis upon the heinousness of his transgression, he is called by his full name, Judas Iscariot, the man from Kerioth, one of the Twelve. His treason was all the more dastardly, since he had enjoyed the trust of the Lord and had heard all the confiding talks which the Master had given those of the inner circle. With him came a band (fitting name!) of the servants of the high priests and scribes and elders. As though anticipating resistance on the part of the followers of Christ, there were swords as well as stout cudgels, or clubs, to be used by the members of the party. Perhaps the members of the Sanhedrin hoped to take Christ with all His disciples and thus, at one swoop, to exterminate the hated party. The traitor had used cautious cunning in planning the arrest of Jesus by giving the band a definite sign, previously agreed upon. A kiss, the sign of friendship and love, should be the token to them. That Man they should be sure to take, leading Him away safely, either so that they need fear nothing from Him in the nature of an attempted escape, or that they must be on their guard and watch the prisoner carefully, lest He walk from their midst, as He had done before, in similar situations. Judas might have saved his breath. The matter was long ago out of his hands and beyond his authority. But Judas lost no time. As quickly as possible he stepped up to Jesus, addressing Him with the term "rabbi" and kissing Him most tenderly, or again and again; disgusting, revolting hypocrisy! With good reason he has been, since that time, an example of warning to the believers of all times. So low may one fall that was once a disciple of Christ, but then has deliberately denied faith and good conscience. History tells of many such Judases that delivered their former fellow-Christians into the hands of their enemies and gave up the most sacred possessions and rights into the hands of the adversaries. There is no meanness so great as that of a former friend.
v. 46. And they laid their hands on Him, and took Him.
v. 47. And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
v. 48. And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take Me?
v. 49. I was daily with you in the Temple teaching, and ye took Me not; but the Scriptures must be fulfilled.
v. 50. And they all forsook Him and fled.
v. 51. And there followed Him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him;
v. 52. and he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
Not the slightest resistance or show of resistance did Jesus show His captors. They laid their hands on Him and took Him captive, formally arrested Him. But this fact was too much for the fiery Peter, whose name is not mentioned in this account. When the profane hands of the servants touched his Master, his anger overwhelmed him. Misunderstanding a remark of the Lord made earlier in the evening concerning the necessity of being fully prepared, as for warfare, Luke 22:36-38, Peter had brought a sword, which he now drew. Striking the servant of the high priest, he cut off his right ear. That was carnal, foolish zeal, no matter from what angle it is viewed. Christ's work should not be carried on by means of worldly power and authority. As the kingdom of Christ is not of this world, so the means He employs for its propagation and defense have nothing in common with the measures advocated by the children of this world and by scatter-brained fanatics. The spiritual sword, the Word of God, is the only weapon of offense and of defense which the Church should wield, but that she should wield skillfully and powerfully, to confound and convince the gainsayers. At the same time, however, Jesus had a very impressive word to say to the members of the capturing party. It was a disgrace for them, it reflected upon them, that they came out with swords and with clubs, as though they were out to arrest a dangerous robber. He reminds them that they might have had opportunity daily to apprehend Him, as He taught in the Temple. This showed very plainly that the present situation was not due to their planning. It would have been an easy matter for Him to obtain His liberty. But the matter of His capture in this way was done in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Unwittingly they were serving to establish the truth of prophecy. Not only the Passion as such, but the individual incidents of Christ's suffering had been foretold, and it was imperative that the Word of God stand true and unassailed, also against the scoffers in our days. This word of Jesus, whereby He yielded to His fate and willingly placed Himself into the hands of the enemies, proved too much for the disciples; it was the rock of offense over which they stumbled. Panic-stricken, they leave their Master and flee with precipitate haste, lest they also be caught by the band and share the Lord's fate. All the proud, self-confident assertions of a few hours before were forgotten. Even so many Christians that were eager with their protestations of loyalty when there was no danger near have left Christ and His Word and Church at the first indication of possible suffering on His account. There is an interesting incident related at this point. It seems that a young man living in one of the houses of the neighborhood had been awakened by the noise of the party, and, hastily throwing a linen cloth about his naked body, went out to see what the trouble was about. Seeing that Christ had been captured, he followed for some distance, either out of curiosity or from apprehension for His safety. But his garment made him all the more conspicuous on the moonlight night, and therefore some members of the party from Jerusalem tried to catch him. But he slipped the linen cloth from his body, leaving it in their hands, while he escaped from them naked. From the earliest times many commentators have held that this young man was Mark himself, who tells this incident which made such a deep impression upon him on the night of Christ's arrest, and perhaps fully decided him in the Lord's favor.
The Trial before the High Priest.
The first part of the trial:
v. 53. And, they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.
v. 54. And Peter followed Him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest; and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.
v. 55. And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put Him to death, and found none.
v. 56. For many bare false witness against Him, but their witness agreed not together.
v. 57. And there arose certain, and bare false witness against Him, saying,
v. 58. We heard Him say, I will destroy this Temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
v. 59. But neither so dill their witness agree together.
As soon as: the band of servants, under the leadership of Judas, started out from Jerusalem, the chief priests had undoubtedly sent notice to all the members of the Sanhedrin for an extraordinary session to be held at once in the palace of the high priest of the year. It made no difference, in this case, that they were celebrating a great festival, most of them having hardly finished the paschal meal. Their glee over the probable early realization of their hopes put them in high good humor, in which they could afford to disregard the customs and traditions which they otherwise regarded more important than the works of love themselves. Though it must have been about the hour of midnight, the members of the council responded with great willingness. And so the palace of the high priest Caiaphas was the scene of a most peculiar proceeding, of a court session which is without equal in the history of the world. "This is surely terrible to hear, and yet should be considered with great seriousness that these two orders or estates, the priestly family and the kingly family, are here united against Christ. The fathers and forefathers of the high priests were Moses, Aaron, Levi, and these were the children and descendants of the former. And yet the children of these noted patriarchs have come to that point, that they willfully betray Christ and condemn Him to death. The fathers of the counselors had been Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Judah, and these were the children and descendants of the former; and yet such noted people come to that point that they betray and sell their God who was promised to them! It surely would not be surprising if God would be so angry with both forms of government that neither priests nor temporal government would exist; for if these two estates persecute Christ, who then will protect Him on earth?"
Meanwhile curiosity had gotten the better of Peter. He had overcome his fear to that extent that he followed the party and his Master at a safe distance to the palace of the high priest. Having obtained permission, he entered through the arched doorway into the court of the house. The palace probably combined the features of Roman architecture with the style of Judea, being built around a court which was partly or entirely open to the sky. Here the servants had built a fire (whence the name atrium , which really means "blackened by smoke," for this part of the house), and were trying to drive away the chill of the spring night. Peter joined them about the fire and warmed himself. It is never a safe and advisable thing for a Christian to seek the company of the enemies of Christ, unless the work of his calling brings him into contact with them, perhaps even places him at the same work-table with them. In such a case great wisdom is required and that prudence which only the Word of God can teach. Here was a case of courting danger without call or reason.
The so-called session of court had begun when Peter came. It was probably only now and then that he could get a glimpse of the assembly hall where the council sat in session. From the beginning the trial was a blasphemous farce. For not only the high priests, but the entire Sanhedrin deliberately set about to find testimony against Christ in order that they might with some show of right condemn Him to die. But the record of Jesus had been so clean that not the slightest hint of real evidence against Him could be found, John 8:46. It was an exasperating situation. No matter how many witnesses were announced and even previously instructed, their testimony was not the same, it did not agree. Finally two men were found that garbled the story of John 2:19-21, declaring that Jesus had referred to the Temple built by Herod, the sanctuary of the Jews. And still their testimony was not the same; they did not agree on points that were essential to make their witness valid. The whole trial seemed doomed to hopeless disintegration.
The sentence of the council:
v. 60. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest Thou nothing? What is it which these witness against Thee?
v. 61. But He held His peace and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him and said unto Him, Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
v. 62. And Jesus said, I am; and ye shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of Power and coming in the clouds of heaven.
v. 63. Then the high priest rent his clothes and saith, What need we any further witnesses?
v. 64. Ye have heard the blasphemy; what think ye? And they all condemned Him to be guilty of death.
v. 65. And some began to spit on Him, and to cover His face, and to buffet Him, to say unto Him, Prophesy; and the servants did strike Him with the palms of their hands.
Caiaphas felt the imperative need of quick action to save the day, for the matter was rapidly coming to a point where the entire council would be obliged to confess its helplessness. Arising therefore from his chairman's seat, he steps forward into the semicircle formed by the chairs of the members. His first thought was that of browbeating Jesus, and thus provoking Him to some statement which could be used against Him: Answerest Thou nothing to these condemnatory charges? But Jesus kept His silence and answered never a word. In many cases, where the enemies of Christ bring accusations against Christ and the Christian Church, that Christianity is a dangerous religion, that it stultifies the intellect, etc. , this is nothing but false testimony, which they do not believe themselves, where it would be a waste of breath to argue and to try to convince them of the contrary. The helplessness of the witnesses and of the council, the judges, was in this case so obvious. that any argument on Christ's part would have been useless and would have spoiled the effect. But the high priest feels that he must save the day at all costs. So he finally asks the direct question: Art Thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? Here is a specimen of high-priestly religion. For the expression was chosen deliberately, a hypocritical term of relevance in refraining from using the actual name of God. In such matters the high priests could be extremely punctilious. Jesus now determined to end this farce, which must have hurt Him to the depths of His soul. He frankly answers: I am. But He adds that these His false accusers and judges would see Him, the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of the power of God, and coming with the clouds of heaven as His throne. When these hypocrites see Him again, it will be in His capacity as the Judge of the world. And how thoroughly will these unjust blasphemers be filled with terror when this same Christ whom they rejected will sit in judgment upon them and require a full account at their hands! But the high priest had gained his object; he thought he had a word now which he could use to establish a case. In order to get the proper dramatic effect, he took hold of his mantle and perhaps both of his tunics, and tore them open, ripped them to pieces at the top. That was a sign of deep. grief, of intense suffering. He meant his act to. imply that it hurt him more than words could express to hear the prisoner make such a statement. He rejected all further testimony as useless; had they not all heard the blasphemy that this man claimed to be the Son of God? There was but one question to ask yet: What is the fitting penalty, in your opinion, for such a transgression? And with great unanimity the well-instructed hypocrites took their leaders' cue and condemned Christ to be guilty of death. "Therefore Christ is put to death, not in a tumult, nor by rebels, also not by them that did not possess the proper authority, but by those was He killed that had the proper authority. Just. as it is done in our days: all the harm that is done to the Christian Church is done by those having the proper authority. Just as we must confess and say of our persecutors that they are princes, bishops, rulers that have power, even from God, both as concerns worldly dominion and also the power which they might have in the Church by God's Word, if they would only use it correctly. Such as have the full and proper authority are now persecuting the Gospel."
The finding of the court and the sentence based upon it was the signal for a general abandonment of restraint; for with the sentence of death hanging over Him Christ had become an outcast, Leviticus 24:16. The counselors themselves began the cruel mockery, and the servants were only too willing to follow their example. They spat upon Him as an object of utter contempt; they covered a cloth around and over His head and beat Him with their fists, asking meanwhile in a jeering tone that He should prophesy and designate the offenders. And the servants added to the shame of their masters by receiving Him with slaps of the open hand a cruel and painful torture. "This, then, is the hearing and the accusation which was done in the house of the high priest Caiaphas. And all this is written for our learning that we may know that Christ humbled Himself so deeply for our sake and permitted Himself to be accused, condemned, and killed as the greatest criminal; though He is altogether innocent, so that even His adversaries are obliged to confess secretly, feeling it in their heart that there was no cause of death to be found in Him."
The Denial of Peter.
The first denial:
v. 66. And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest.
v. 67. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.
v. 68. But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Beneath in the court Peter was; the session of the Sanhedrin was held in an upper room. He was sitting at the fire, where the light from the flames brought out his features very plainly. Now one of the maids of the high priest, the janitress that had admitted Peter into the vestibule, walking past the fire and seeing Peter sitting there and warming himself, had a good chance to observe his features. She promptly pointed him out to the rest of the servants, accusing him of belonging to the party of this Jesus of Nazareth. The matter rather took Peter by surprise; he may have thought himself secure, since he had been admitted to the court. But he thinks himself quick-witted in feigning lack of understanding: I neither know nor understand what thou sayest. It was a lie and a denial of his Lord, as Peter should have felt at once. As a matter of fact, his conscience seems to have been a little uneasy, for he now left his place by the fire and went out into the arched doorway, in the shadow of the portico.
The second and third denials:
v. 69. And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.
v. 70. And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them; for thou art a Galilean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.
v. 71. But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this Man of whom ye speak.
v. 72. And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny Me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
The servants were naturally excited over the trial that was taking place upstairs, and many were the conjectures that were made concerning the Nazarene and His followers. That they were in no gentle mood with respect to the disciples of Jesus may be readily surmised. It was not long, therefore, before a maid, one that had probably heard the first one speak or had now come to take her place, once more pointed out Peter to the others that were nearby: This man belongs to the party of the accused. Hardly had the words left her mouth when Peter denied the accusation. But his very eagerness and a certain furtiveness in his behavior now made him a marked man in the court. An hour later, therefore, the attack was renewed. A number of bystanders joined forces in questioning Peter. In addition to other proofs which pointed in his direction, there was the matter of his dialect, which openly proclaimed him a Galilean. The disciples were known to be men of Galilee, and so the inference was plain. Peter was in hot water. He had forgotten his fervent promise to his Master of a few hours ago. His one thought was to save himself from this predicament and to escape with his life. And so he denies his Lord for the third time. And not satisfied with a mere denial, which seemed too tame under the circumstances, he added cursing and an oath. Thus Peter had renounced his Lord and Master, his Savior, absolutely. He had fallen from grace, he had denied the faith. But the Lord had not forgotten him. The second crowing of the cock reminded Peter of the word of the Lord concerning his threefold denial. And thinking thereon, or, covering his head in bitter shame, he rushed forth into the night and wept bitterly. That was true repentance. Peter knew that he no longer was worthy to be called a disciple of the Lord, but he remembered also that the Lord was long-suffering and merciful and had given him many splendid promises as to his future life. Trusting in the mercy of the Lord he sought and found forgiveness of his sin and again was assured of the love of his Master.
Summary. Judas makes an offer to betray Jesus after the Lord has been anointed in the house of Simon of Bethany; Christ celebrates the paschal meal with His disciples, institutes the Lord's Supper, warns them against being offended, suffers the agony of Gethsemane, is betrayed and captured, tried by the council of the Jews, condemned to death, and denied by Peter.
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Kretzmann, Paul E. Ph. D., D. D. "Commentary on Mark 14". "Kretzmann's Popular Commentary". https://studylight.org/
the First Week of Advent