Coffman Commentaries on the Old and New TestamentMark 14
This and the final two chapters comprise the heart of all that Christianity means. Mark and the other three sacred authors devote more space to the narrative of the arraignment, trials, mockery, suffering, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection of Christ than to any other subject. The events and circumstances of this final week of Jesus' ministry are the most important of all human history. Here the decisive battle for human redemption was won; the Seed of Woman bruised the head of the serpent; everlasting righteousness was made available to men in Christ and the moral justification for any further divine toleration of Adam's race was accomplished. On Calvary, and in the events leading up to it, Satan threw in his last reserves, committed his total strength, and brought evil to its mightiest crescendo at the cross, where the tides of moral shame and darkness reached their all-time flood. The sufferings of the Son of God were such as to chill the stoutest heart; and, when it is considered that a single word from Christ could have annihilated his foes, the marvel of ages is that he endured it all to redeem fallen and sinful men. Oh Christ, blessed is thy Holy Name!
Verses 1, 2
Now after two days was the feast of the passover and the unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him with subtlety, and kill him: for they said, Not during the feast, lest haply there should be a tumult of the people.
THE PLOT OF THE CHIEF PRIESTS
Clearly, the chief priests did not wish to have a public execution of Christ during the feast, the popularity of our Lord with the masses being far too great to risk such a thing. How then did it come to pass otherwise? As the anti-type of the passover lamb, it was fitting that the Lord should be sacrificed at the Passover season, as the Father's plan required, and as Jesus himself prophesied (Matthew 26:1-5). The Lord, not the priests, was the architect of the crucifixion.
Take him with subtlety ...
They intended to assassinate Jesus in a gangland type murder. The religious leaders of Israel had, in such a purpose, descended to a record low plane of immorality.
From its placement, both here and in Matthew, the next event related seems to have triggered the betrayal by Judas and a dramatic change of strategy by the priests.
And while he was in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster cruse of ointment of pure nard very costly: and she brake the cruse and poured it over his head.
JESUS WAS ANOINTED FOR HIS BURIAL
This is a second anointing of Jesus, the other being recorded in Luke 7:37-50; but "it is absurd to represent the two anointings as the same." F1 Simon, a leper had been healed by Jesus; but he retained the name to distinguish him from other Simons, that being a very common name. Simon evidently made this dinner in honor of the Lord.
A woman having an alabaster cruse ...
This was Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha. All of the synoptics refrained from any publicity for this family, perhaps out of respect for the desire of the family for privacy following the resurrection of Lazarus. Such a conclusion is mandatory from the facts: (1) of the Lord's prophecy that this deed would be an everlasting memorial for Mary; (2) which would have required publishing her name; and yet (3) her name was conspicuously omitted until the publication of John. For a number of critical questions arising from variations in the sacred accounts, see under parallels in Matthew and John in this series of commentaries.
But there were some that had indignation among themselves, saying, To what purpose hath this waste of the ointment been made.
A number of the apostles were indignant, but it was Judas who became the spokesman of their disagreement and uttered the question here (John 12:4-6). To a certain type of mind, any money lavished upon spiritual and religious projects is nothing but "waste."
For this ointment might have been sold for about three hundred shillings, and given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
There is a glimpse here of the concern that Jesus and the Twelve had for the poor; because, judging from this verse and from John 13:29, it is clear that help of the poor was a project frequently engaged in by the sacred company.
The value of the ointment is seen in the fact that the shilling, worth approximately 17 cents, was considered to be an adequate day's wages in that era (Matthew 20:9).
They murmured ...
Their attitude may be expressed as indignation and frustration that so great a sum had been "wasted" in a purely emotional gesture toward the Lord. However, Mary's gift had a practical value that Jesus would shortly explain. Also, there was the providential use of the incident to bring about the fulfillment of the prophecies regarding the betrayal by Judas, etc.
But Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.
She hath wrought a good work ...
The definition of what Christ considers "good work" is evident here. A spontaneous, lavish gift, poured out upon the Lord's body, as given by Mary, has its counterpart in the same manner of giving to the church, the Lord's spiritual body. Money given to the church and prompted by motives of love and spirituality may be classified as "good work." This cannot mean that other types of service do not also qualify for such a commendation; but it does mean that the people who pay the bills are also "doing something."
For ye have the poor always with you, and whensoever ye will ye can do them good: but me ye have not always.
Whensoever ye will ...
These words are found only in Mark. They show that it was no part of Jesus' purpose to restrict or prohibit help of the poor, a duty always capable of fulfillment through the projected existence of the poor throughout the ages. Human nature being what it is, there is no system, environment, or government with the power to eliminate poverty. Commendable as efforts to do so assuredly are, they invariably find frustration in the terminator of human nature.
She hath done what she could; she hath anointed my body beforehand for the burying.
We may not certainly know if the purpose of preparing Jesus' body for the tomb was the motive that prompted Mary, or if this was the use to which Christ assigned her glorious gift. In either view, such was indeed its holy purpose.
And verily I say unto you, Wheresoever the gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of her for a memorial of her.
This verse requires important deductions: (1) Christ did not believe that the end of all things would occur at some near time in the future, this verse envisaging a worldwide proclamation of the gospel throughout the ages. (2) That this memorial "of her" intrinsically demanded the publication of her name is evident; and therefore the silence of the synoptics regarding it must be accounted for by supposing that it was deliberately concealed for a long while afterward, perhaps during the lifetime of Lazarus and his sisters. John, writing long afterward, supplied the name of Mary (John 12:3). (3) This has the effect of all three synoptics corroborating the gospel of John regarding the resurrection of Lazarus from the dead, their silence regarding the name of Mary having no other reasonable explanation except upon the premise that such a resurrection had indeed occurred and that the privacy of the family demanded her name's omission in the earlier gospels. One may read a library of comments and find no other reasonable explanation of such an omission (in the face of the Saviour's command) except that inferred here.
Stung by Jesus' rebuke, the traitor, already out of sympathy with the spiritual nature of Christ's kingdom, decided to take matters into his own hands.
And Judas Iscariot, he that was one of the twelve went away unto the chief priests, that he might deliver him unto them.
With a member of the group of the apostles in their power, the chief priests immediately revised their strategy and opted for a public trial and execution, thinking, no doubt, that Judas would swear to anything they suggested. This must have looked like a windfall situation to Jesus' foes; but it was exactly the opposite, proving to be the very thing that spread the whole ugly record of their shameful campaign against Christ upon the open records of all subsequent history.
That he might deliver him ...
With the aid of Judas, they could look forward to a positive identification of the Lord, and they readily consented to pay for his services.
And they, when they heard it, were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently deliver him unto them.
Mark made no mention of the exact time of payment, but the fact of Judas' returning it that same night shows that there was no long time-lapse, perhaps only time enough for the priests to be sure that Judas would keep his part of the bargain. Regarding the amount and disposition of the thirty pieces of silver and the fulfillment of prophecy connected with this incident, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 26:14.
And they were glad ...
Thinking they were then completely in charge of events, they changed their strategy from that of secret assassination to judicial murder.
The strategy of the priests required that Christ be seized when the multitudes were not present; and it was natural that Judas would have counted upon his knowledge of some rendezvous on the slopes of Mount Olivet where Jesus might be spending the night.
And on the first day of the unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover, his disciples say unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and make ready that thou mayest eat the passover?
On the first day of unleavened bread ...
The Jewish Passover always began at sundown on the 14th of Nisan, the following day, the 15th of Nisan, actually being the Passover day. The first day of unleavened bread was the preceding day, the 13th of Nisan (beginning at sundown on the 12th of Nisan). Since Christ died at the same hour the paschal lambs were being slain, that is, at 3:00 p.m. on the 14th, the event Mark mentioned here took place on the afternoon of daytime Nisan 13. Of course the meal that followed those preparations took place after sunset (the beginning of a new day by Jewish reckoning) and therefore on Nisan 14.
For a detailed chronological list of events comprising this exceedingly important week, see my Commentary on Luke under Luke 22:2. In the Hebrew method of counting time, the Last Supper, all events of the long night following and the crucifixion itself all occurred on the same day!
Where wilt thou that we eat the passover ...?
From this, it has long been alleged that the meal of the Last Supper was actually eaten on the Passover, Nisan 15th; but there is no way this can be correct. The soldiers were ordered to break Jesus' legs to prevent his being on the cross upon that holy day; and, if the Lord had eaten the passover meal the night before, no such precaution would have occurred. Therefore, the Last Supper was called by Mark "the passover," because it took the place of the passover and so nearly resembled it. See article below.
WAS THE LAST SUPPER ON THE PASSOVER?
The answer to this question must be in the negative for the following reasons:
- Christ was taken down from the cross and buried before sundown on the day the Passover officially began, that being the purpose of the breaking of the legs of the thieves and of the order that Jesus should have received the same treatment.
- Note that it was not Christ, but the disciples, who mentioned eating the passover, and that Christ referred rather to "keeping" it, a far different thing (Matthew 26:18). Christ kept it by the solemn observance of the Last Supper, a full 24 hours before the actual passover.
- All of the gospels represent Jesus and his disciples as "reclining" for the meal; and, if it was indeed the passover supper, their actions would have been contrary to the commandment of God that it should be eaten "standing up" (Exodus 12:11). It is true, of course, that the chief priests of Israel had changed God's ordinance and that in the times of Christ it was customary to eat the passover lying down, or reclining; but how can a child of God believe that the Son of God consented to such a categorical contradiction of sacred law? Would Jesus have been any more inclined to accept their traditions in this matter than he was to allow their traditions in regard to the sabbath? This student cannot believe that the Christ accepted any such change by the Pharisees in God's law. The unanimous record of the gospels to the effect that the Last Supper was eaten in a reclining position was their way of saying that it was not the passover at all.
- There was no lamb eaten at the Last Supper, at least none being mentioned; and, if there had been, it is inconceivable that the Lamb of God who taketh away the sin of the world would not have mentioned it.
- Mark's statement here that the meal was "on the first day of unleavened bread" is not the same as saying it was on the Passover. As Dummelow said:
In strict usage "the first day of
unleavened bread" meant the first day
of the Passover festival, which began
with the paschal supper. But it is
possible that the day before this,
when the paschal lambs were
sacrificed, and all leaven was
expelled from the houses, was
popularly spoken of as "the first day
of the unleavened bread." F2
It is the conviction here that this popular usage of the expression was made in Mark's record here. Only by contradicting the Gospel of John can anything else be maintained.
- Christ's death at 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon before the Passover began with the paschal supper after sundown that same day corresponded with the time of sacrificing the paschal lambs, as required of the anti-type fulfilling the type.
- The fact of the temple guard, accompanied by the priests and soldiers supplied by Pilate, bearing arms on the night Jesus was betrayed (after the Last Supper), proves that it was not Passover. They would never have engaged in such a mission, bearing arms, on such a holy day as the Passover.
- Joseph of Arimathaea and others would not have prepared spices and have taken the body of Jesus to the tomb on Passover.
- There is no way that an apostle could have referred to the day Jesus was crucified as "The Preparation" (John 19:31), if it had been actually the Passover.
From these and many other considerations, it is evident that the day spoken of by Mark in verse 12 was after sundown of Nisan 13, counted the 14th.
And he sendeth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
These two disciples were Peter and John (Luke 22:8), and here is evident the fact that Mark never mentioned Peter any more than was necessary, a reticence which must be traced to Peter himself, and which also explains the apostolic modesty also evidenced in the gospel of John.
Bearing a pitcher of water ...
That this pitcher of water was in some way connected with the observance of the passover meal, and that the man bearing it was doing so in such a connection is unreasonable. If indeed there was such a "pitcher carrying" in connection with the passover meal, there would have been thousands of others doing the same thing, and such a "sign" would have been useless. Those who find here a proof that this was Passover find what is not in it.
And wheresoever he shall enter in, say to the master of the house, The Teacher saith, Where is my guest-chamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
Eat the passover ...
Christ, in this instruction, accommodated himself to the language of the disciples who had brought up the subject. Tradition has it that this was the home of John Mark, a not impossible thing, in view of Acts 12.
Verses 15, 16
And he will himself show you a large upper room furnished and ready: and there make ready for us. And the disciples went forth and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
They made ready the passover ...
These were preparations necessary to the observance of the feast, but only certain of the total preparations were made, the proof of this being in the fact that during the ensuing meal, when Judas left, following Christ's commandment, "What thou doest do quickly," "No man at the table knew for what intent he spake this unto him, for some thought, because Judas had the bag, that Jesus said unto him, Buy what things we have need of for the feast (the passover)" (John 13:27-29). Therefore, the meal that followed that evening was not the passover meal, for the excellent reason that there were still some things needed, and as yet not even purchased, that would have been required for the passover.
Verses 17, 18
And when it was evening he cometh with the twelve. And as they sat and were eating, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you shall betray me, even he that eateth with me.
And as they sat ...
The Greek word here is "reclined."
And were eating ...
Mark did not say, "eating the passover," but eating, that is, having a meal together the night before the paschal supper, in a room where preparations were only partially complete for the solemn beginning of Passover festival the next night.
One of you shall betray me ...
John has a full account of the conversations and events leading up to this, but Mark abbreviated it. Judas, of course, was the one indicated. Regarding the prophetic identification of the traitor, see parallels in John and Matthew in this series.
They began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I?
How pathetic is the weakness of men! Every one of the Twelve felt some possibility within his own soul that led to the question, Is it I? Every man feels this undertow of evil, and cannot deny the possibility of betraying the Lord, such thoughts always issuing in sorrow, as was the case here.
And he said, It is one of the twelve, he that dippeth with me in the dish.
Of all the Twelve, only Judas fulfilled the dual qualifications of being trusted (carrying the bag) and sitting next to Jesus at the table; and, in the light of this, Psa. 41:9 prophesied the exact identity of the traitor.
For the Son of man goeth, even as it is written of him: but woe unto that man through whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had not been born.
All theories regarding the possible salvation of Judas are frustrated by the Saviour's pronouncement here. That fate which is worse than never having been born cannot, by any device, be made equivalent to eternal life. Also, there is the necessary deduction from this word of the Master that the fate of the wicked is something other than mere annihilation, but something far more dreadful.
And as they were eating, he took bread, and when he had blessed, he brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take ye: this is my body.
THE INSTITUTION OF THE LORD'S SUPPER
In context, here was a mighty declaration of the godhead of Jesus. On the morrow, he would die; but on that night he instituted a memorial looking to the centuries afterward, a memorial in which his body and blood were offered in the symbols chosen as the soul's true food. The full meaning of this sacred memorial was to be more fully discernible in the gospel of John; but here the basic facts of it were clear enough.
And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave to them: and they all drank of it.
The gospel records leave no doubt of the perpetual obligation imposed upon his followers by this sublime memorial, composed not of stones, or towers, but of bread and wine, such humble, commonplace articles being transmuted by the Saviour's employment of them into the most sacred symbols of Christianity and the vicarious sufferings of the Son of God. Note that not bread alone, nor the cup alone, but both together comprise the privilege and duty of them that follow Jesus. No man can be true to Christ and faithless with regard to observance of the Lord's Supper.
And he said unto them, This is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
The covenant ...
means "the new covenant," that which supplanted the institution of Moses; and concerning which, Heb. 9 and Heb. 10 give a full discussion. Christ's is the blood which purifies from sin, which is poured out for many, without which there is no remission of sins. The very fact of Christ's associating these symbols of the Lord's Supper with so sacred a thing as his blood is a testimonial of its relevance and importance to all who would be saved.
Verily I say unto you, I shall no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
The fruit of the vine ...
This designation of the cup after his blessing it proves that it was still what it was before, "the fruit of the vine," and that no transubstantiation had taken place. What Christ did not do is the complete refutation of what it is alleged that men do in this connection.
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out unto the mount of Olives.
When they had sung a hymn ...
There is no way to convert the Greek word here rendered "hymn" to "the Hillel," which was the song by the Jewish worshipers at the conclusion of the paschal meal. There is thus no support here for the theory that this was that meal.
And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad.
PETER'S DENIAL WAS PREDICTED
The Lord was about to foretell the denial of Peter and the flight of the Twelve, but he began by appealing to the prophecy here quoted from Zech. 13:7. God had revealed himself in the Old Testament under the extensive use of the metaphor of "the shepherd of Israel" (Psa. 23; Ezek. 16, etc.); but here it was stated that the Shepherd would smite the Shepherd, thus God laid upon himself, in the person of the Son, the iniquity of us all. Inherent in this was the failure of all human support.
Howbeit, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee.
Christ here went far beyond the detailed prophecies of his Passion and calmly set up an appointment to meet the Twelve in Galilee after the Great Sacrifice had been offered. Nothing in literature, fable, myth, legend, or imagination is worthy to be compared with what Christ promised in this verse. What's more, he did it!
But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.
Peter was not alone in rejecting the idea of their failure, for both Mark and Matthew relate how "all the disciples" made the same affirmation of loyalty. What none of them realized was that the source of true spiritual strength had not yet been provided through the death of the Christ, and that it was therefore impossible for them to have stood without that strength. Peter, more vehement than the rest, and, as always, the spokesman, was in the forefront here.
And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, that thou, today, even this night, before the cock crow twice, shalt deny me thrice.
Peter denied Christ three times, later confessing his love three times, as recorded in John.
Before the cock crow twice ...
is a variation from Matthew's "cock crow," thus giving the skeptics another pseudocon. Matthew referred to the event of the cock-crow, a phenomenon taking place every morning, and Mark had reference to the beginning of a cock-crow, which always starts by one or two roosters leading all the rest. See my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 26:34. Matthew did not refer to the number of crowings in a cock-crow.
But he spake exceeding vehemently, If I must die with thee, I will not deny thee. And in like manner also said they all.
Peter's failure here was in disputing his Lord; there was also an element of overconfidence. For full discussion of the reasons for Peter's denial, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 26:58.
Verses 32, 33
And they come to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I pray. And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly amazed and was sore troubled.
AGONY IN GETHSEMANE
The awful scene of the Saviour's anguish was not viewed by all the Twelve, only Peter, James, and John being the witnesses. Having already seen the transfiguration of Christ, their faith could withstand the shock of that tearful garden, but it might have proved too much for the others at that time; thus, the Lord chose three who would be able to see it and tell others of the sorrow that crushed the Lord that night. Here God laid upon him the iniquity of US all; here it pleased God to bruise him; here the pressure upon him was so great that he would have died under the weight of it had not the angels come to strengthen and support him.
And he saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death: abide ye here and watch.
Jesus did not meet death with the joyful attitude of some of the martyrs, nor in the gay serenity of Socrates, but with overwhelming sorrow, convulsive grief, and with the sweat of blood. Why? (1) Satan was particularly active in the assault upon the Prince of Life (John 12:31), every demonic device in the arsenal of the evil one being employed against the Saviour. (2) Perhaps even more important, there was the burden of human transgression that he bore. God made him to be sin upon our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21). He bore our sins in his body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24). (3) The Saviour's supernatural knowledge of the fate evil men were bringing upon themselves was complete; and the knowledge that the chosen people, through their leaders, were bringing upon that beloved people the full wrath of Almighty God was a fact of inexpressible horror to Jesus who "had compassion" on the multitudes. Martin Luther said, "No one ever feared death so much as this man!" F3 It was what Jesus knew of death and its cause and consequences that released that awful sorrow within his soul. (4) Before Christ, death involved a separation from God, the most awful part of it for Jesus. In the case of the martyrs, such a separation was no longer a part of death; and as for Socrates, he had none of the knowledge that broke the Saviour's heart that awful night. (5) The temporary triumph of Satan in the act of "bruising" the "Seed of Woman" was also a dreadful thing for Christ. In the wilderness Jesus had met and overcome Satan; but now, Satan had returned with the full complement of his human servants and in his full majesty as the prince of this world. As Barth put it, "The bill was being presented!" F4 In Gethsemane, the prospect of seeing Satan victorious (from the worldly point of view) was utterly repugnant to the Son of God. Strong cryings with tears marked our Saviour's human response to such a repulsive situation (Hebrews 5:7).
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass away from him.
The problem of Jesus' overwhelming grief and sorrow, humiliation, and repugnance was brought to the Father in prayer, with the agonizing request that "if possible" the hour might be taken away, "the hour" here being a reference to the approaching crucifixion, called also the "cup."
If it were possible ...
But are not all things possible with God? Yes! except that the human family had fallen into such a state that only God could redeem them, and that at awful cost to himself. The complete answer to this question cannot be fully known by men; but in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was crystal clear that the death of Christ could not be avoided, short of abandoning the whole project of human salvation; and Christ even considered that (Matthew 26:53). See my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 26:53ff.
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible to thee: remove this cup from me: howbeit, not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Of course, God could have removed the cup; but to have done so would have enthroned Satan as the Lord of man, and the destruction of all men would have resulted at once. Reading the character of Satan in both the Old Testament and the New Testament, one is compelled to see the destruction of God's human creation as a prime objective of Satan, reaching all the way back to Eden; and, if Christ's redemptive death had been aborted, absolutely nothing would have stood in the way of Satan's total achievement of his goal. See my Commentary on Hebrews, Heb. 2:14.
Howbeit not what I will, but what thou wilt ...
At such overwhelming cost to himself, the Lord consented to the Father's will, despite the agony within himself. Here, in the garden, the human nature of our Lord was, for a time, in the ascendancy; and the final put-down of the flesh was achieved at the price of the agony detailed in the Gospels.
And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest thou not watch one hour?
Simon, who vowed that he would go to prison and to death for Jesus, found that an hour's watch was beyond his strength. More in amazement than in rebuke, it seems, Jesus addressed him as in this verse.
Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.
The apostles here, sleeping, instead of watching and praying, have had their counterpart in all ages of the church. When temptation comes, it is often too late, because the hours of preparation that should have been made were spent in idleness or sleep. Christ, however, explained their failure as "weakness," and, in a sense, made this excuse for them.
And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words.
There is no authority for rote prayers here. Jesus indeed used the same words; but, as a comparison with Matthew shows, there was an interval between the three petitions, and also a variation in the Master's phraseology which showed that he had succeeded in bringing his human will into total accordance with the Father's. See my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 26:42.
And again he came, and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they knew not what to answer him.
The busy affairs of that eventful week had taken their toll of the apostles' strength; they went to sleep at each opportunity. Naturally, they could not defend such lapses on their part.
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.
Sleep on now ...
has the meaning of "as far as your need to watch with me is concerned, that is over; go ahead and sleep." However, that state of things prevailed only for a moment. The traitor with the armed men, the lanterns, and torches was already coming.
Arise, let us be going: behold,, he that betrayeth me is at hand.
Arise, let us be going ...
Coming so swiftly after "sleep on now," a sudden change is indicated. The traitor was on the way, and Jesus, far from skulking in the darkness, would go out to meet Judas Iscariot!
And straightway, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
JESUS WAS ARRESTED
The arresting party, fully armed, was made up of temple guards and a detachment of soldiers sent by Pilate. The presence of the priests and the guards indicates that it was not Passover. It was forbidden to bear arms on such a day. John added the detail that they carried lanterns and torches.
Now he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that is he; take him and lead him away safely.
This act on the part of Judas deserved the everlasting infamy that came of it. What an insult of shame and arrogance it was! Christ identified himself; the traitor's assistance in such an identification was as useless as it was wicked.
And when he was come, straightway he came to him, and saith, Rabbi; and kissed him.
Kissed him ...
The Greek word means "kissed him much," such action being as repulsive as any ever recorded.
And they laid hands on him and took him.
Why did they not also arrest the apostles? See under Mark 14:50.
But a certain one of them that stood by drew his sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear.
This was Peter who struck off the ear of Malchus (John 18:8-11). Peter's being emboldened to do such a thing probably sprang from the devastating effect of Christ's prostration of the whole company of guards and soldiers upon their faces (John 18:6). Thus, the synoptics support the Johannine record by recording an event that would hardly have taken place at all except in connection with the circumstances related more fully in the gospel of John.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a robber, with swords and staves to seize me?
Such incongruous and malappropriate actions by the establishment of priests were an index of their fear and hatred of the Lord. When one goes out to take a lamb, it is hardly necessary to recruit the militia. Christ's amazement was further explained by his words in the next verse.
I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but this is done that the scriptures might be fulfilled.
Here is corroboration of the extensive ministry in Jerusalem; and note that this is not at all "a hint" of such a ministry, but a definitive statement that it occurred in dimensions that were fully commensurate with the marvelous deeds and teachings recorded in John.
That the scriptures might be fulfilled ...
The evil throng carrying out the arrest of Christ were fulfilling Scripture, but they knew it not. It is of singular importance that many of the prophecies fulfilled during that eventful week were fulfilled by the Lord's enemies. As to what Scriptures are meant here, there were many, among them Zech. 13:7; and the next verse shows that Jesus had that one in mind.
And they all left him, and fled.
Peter's rash attack upon Malchus was rebuked by Jesus, and the excised ear was restored. In the face of his enemies, Jesus proclaimed himself as God, "I AM" (John 18:8); from the sudden outflashing of his divine power, the soldiers faded backward and lay prostrate. Having shown the completeness of his power, the Lord required the arresting group to refrain from taking the Twelve into custody (John 18:8f), thus revealing the wonder that had just taken place as a work wrought, not upon his own behalf, but upon theirs. The apostles, true to the Lord's prophecy, and perhaps totally bewildered by the complexity of events which they, at that time, only partially understood, forsook him and fled. This action on their part was probably necessary for the preservation of their lives, because there is every reason to believe that the hierarchy would have liked nothing better than to have had the whole group in custody.
Verses 51, 52
And a certain young man followed with him, having a linen cloth cast about him, over his naked body: and they lay hold on him; but he left the linen cloth, and fled naked.
These verses, peculiar to Mark, are presumed by many to be a narrative of what happened to Mark himself; and there is general consent that this is the case. It cannot be proved, of course; but the supposition fits all the facts. As to the reason for his inclusion of this incident in a gospel that omits so many weightier matters, it has been alleged that this may be construed as a kind of signature to the Gospel. It is the conviction here, however, that the significance of it lies in the fact that as soon as the arresting group had Jesus in their power they began also to arrest his followers. Certainly, they did lay hold on the young man here; and the parallel fact of their not taking any of the Twelve gives powerful inferential corroboration of the Johannine account of Jesus' forcing an exemption of the apostles from that arrest.
And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and there come together with him all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.
JESUS' TRIAL BEFORE THE SANHEDRIN
This was the second of Jesus' six trials, the first having been the arraignment before Annas, perhaps in the same palace where apartments for both Annas and Caiaphas were located around the courtyard. For detailed account of the entire six trials of Jesus, see my Commentary on Matthew, Matt. 26:57ff. The meeting of the Sanhedrin was probably not at full strength, its more noble members, such as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathaea, having already withdrawn. Also, such an all-night session of so august a body doubtless found many of their members at home in bed. It may well be doubted that even a quorum was present; but, on the other hand, it may be assumed that every effort was made to attain one.
And Peter had followed him afar off, even within, into the court of the high priest; and he was sitting with the officers, and warming himself in the light of the fire.
The use of the past perfect tense, "had followed," shows that Mark's account here is retrogressive in part. Having introduced the illegal, all-night convention of the Sanhedrin, he returned to relate Peter's denial earlier that night in the court of the high priest. It is likely that this "court" was the official residence of both Annas and Caiaphas. (See comments on the parallel account in my Commentary on John.) The scene here is not the usual meeting place of the Sanhedrin, just off the court of women, but the official residence of the high priests (the legal high priest Caiaphas, and the man regarded by the Jews as the rightful high priest, Annas).
Warming himself ...
Peter's association with the Lord's enemies, his participating in benefits they made available, and his desire to remain unrecognized were factors entering into his denial. (See my Commentary on Matthew, Matthew 25:57ff). Closely associated with Peter as Mark was, he nevertheless did not soften this account of Peter's shameful failure.
Now the chief priests and the whole council sought witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found it not.
What happened to their traitor-witness, Judas? During the night, Judas had heard of developments, and the next morning, after Jesus was bound over to the governor, he flung the money at the feet of the high priest, confessed his sin of betraying innocent blood; and, from the total lack of any testimony from Judas at the trials, it may be assumed that he refused to aid the campaign against Christ any further. He died the same day, a suicide.
The whole council ...
has been interpreted as suggesting the scene of the daybreak meeting; but the long and extensive search for witnesses indicates the all-night preliminary trial in the palace of the high priests. We may explain it by assuming that most of the council were present at both trials.
For many bare false witness against him, and their witness agreed not together.
The sacred religious court of the Jewish nation engaged themselves all night in the subornation of perjury, but despite this, no usable testimony against Jesus was uncovered.
Verses 57, 58
And there stood up certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I wilt destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.
This testimony was untruthful. Jesus actually said, "(You) destroy this temple (referring to his body), and in three days I will raise it up (that is, rise from the dead)" (John 2:19). In context, Jesus' words were a prediction that the religious leaders would take his life and that he would rise from the dead three days later. There was no suggestion whatever of such a thing as the false witnesses alleged.
Even such a misrepresentative and malicious garbling of Jesus' words, however, was useless to the chief priests, because there was no coherent account of such an alleged statement. One said one thing; another declared something else. All night long, the preliminary investigation had gone forward, and nothing had come of it. In desperation, Caiaphas, who was beginning to find the judge's bench a very uncomfortable place, forsook the judicial status, usurped the role of a prosecutor, placed Jesus under oath, and demanded an answer; but he would ask a question first.
Verses 59, 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?
Up to this point, the conclave of Jesus' foes had nothing. No capital charge against the Lord could even be alleged, much less proved. It was a most frustrating night for the religious leaders.
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and saith unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
Answered nothing ...
Jesus did not need to reply. Everyone knew that no offense had been proved against Jesus, Caiaphas himself being painfully aware of this.
Again the high priest asked him ...
This is a reference to repeated questions regarding Christ's identity. In Mark's word "again," it is evident that more than one question and more than one reply came out of this confrontation. Thus, we may dispose of all alleged discrepancies regarding the reply quoted by Matthew and the one here quoted by Mark. The replies have exactly the same meaning; but in the reply quoted by Mark, there was not the slightest trace of ambiguity.
Art thou the Christ the Son of the Blessed ...
Mark omitted the adjuration as given in Matthew, that being the formal placement of the Saviour upon oath. Since the adjuration was omitted here, it is possible that, following the reply recorded in Matthew, Caiaphas here repeated the question without mention of the oath, that having already been administered. This was precisely the question which the Pharisees had so long attempted to force Jesus to answer; but Christ, until this hour, had refused them, since to have answered sooner would have been premature. Now that no insurrection could be alleged against him, now that the other-worldly nature of his kingdom had been established, now that the whole sacred court of the Hebrews was in session, he would answer. He would, by such an answer as he would give, force their condemnation of him to rest upon their denial of the sacred truth that he was indeed the divine Messiah. All other charges had been disposed of. They did not, on this solemn occasion, accuse him of breaking the sabbath day; they had long ago lost that argument. They did not accuse him here of casting out demons by the power of the devil. Even that canard about destroying the temple was left out of sight. One charge alone they had God's permission to use, and Christ promptly gave it to them.
And Jesus, said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.
When this writer was a boy 15 years of age, he received from his mother a copy of the New Testament as a birthday gift, and the thrill of this verse is remembered from that day. I read the New Testament through, but there was wonderment about the passages in Matthew where Jesus had said, "Thou hast said"; and then came the reading of this majestic reply and the flood of tears that followed. God spoke to me in this verse!
I AM ...
These words affirm Christ's deity, the same as in John 18:8; and here also is the explanation of the different form of reply here, as compared with Matthew 26:83. There the question was indirectly stated, "Tell us whether, etc.," and could not be answered by the majestic I AM, as here. Not only Mark's "again" in Mark 14:61, but the fact of Caiaphas' first question being indirect, and the question here being direct, afford undeniable proof of the multiple nature of the questions and replies in these passages. Christ's I AM here lays claim to Godhead.
Sitting at the right hand of Power and coming with the clouds of heaven ...
refers to the final judgment when all men shall stand before the throne of God for sentencing. It was astounding that Christ would here transfer the thought from that prejudiced and corrupted court to the Great Assize where all shall receive justice and they that are Christ's shall receive mercy.
Ye shall see ...
The Sanhedrin, along with all who ever lived, shall see the event foretold by Jesus. The ridiculous notion that Jesus here envisioned some sudden glorious coming that would "convince" these hypocrites, and that he predicted that they would, in their lifetime, see such a thing has utterly no foundation in this passage. As Cranfield saw the meaning here:
They will see the Son of Man when he
comes as Judge - possibly indeed
during their lifetimes, but equally
possible after their deaths, when they
are raised up for the last judgment
... Henceforth they will not see him
at all till they see him in his
And the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What further need have we of witnesses?
This was quite an act on the part of Caiaphas; how noble he would have men suppose that he was; how outrageous it was to such a righteous one as he pretended to be that the exalted Christ should bear witness of the truth in his presence!
Rent his clothes ...
This was unlawful for the high priest to do. God had specifically commanded even Aaron and his sons:
Uncover not your heads, neither rend
your clothes, lest ye die, and lest
wrath come upon all the people
As Bickersteth said:
Some of the Fathers think that by this
action Caiaphas involuntarily typified
the rending of the priesthood from
himself and from the Jewish nation. F6
What Caiaphas doubtless intended here was to dramatize his shock at the alleged "blasphemy" of Jesus' testimony; but his actions were as phony and illegal as the subornation he had been engaged in all night.
Ye have heard the blasphemy, and what think ye? And they all condemned him to be worthy of death.
Through his illegal and violent behavior in rending his garments, the sacred garments of the high priest, he had already announced the court's decision; and what he called for here was an assent to his self-proposed verdict. The conduct of Caiaphas in this scene dramatizes the claim of Christ as being equal to God. Skeptics who deny that Christ made such a claim are left without any explanation at all of what this unbelieving high priest did on that occasion.
What think ye ...
There is no way that Cranfield's unsupported opinion that "they were not pronouncing a sentence but rather giving a legal opinion" F7 can be correct. Instead of putting the matter to secret ballot, required by every capital case, Caiaphas here was procuring a death sentence against the Lord of Life by acclamation. The words have the equivalent meaning of "All in favor say Aye!"
This was the official condemnation by the chosen people of their Lord and Messiah, and the most phenomenal results would immediately flow out of it. Before the day was ended, they would renounce God himself as their king, long the vaunted glory of Israel, and shout, "We have no king but Caesar" (John 19:15). That this was indeed an official condemnation is inherent in their immediate march upon Pilate with a demand for his crucifixion, in whose presence it was finally resolved that the only grounds they had for demanding Jesus' death was that "he made himself the Son of God" (John 19:7).
And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the officers received him with blows of their hands.
Such mockery was unworthy even of a pagan court; and such malicious treatment of any prisoner, even a guilty one, was a shameful blot upon the history of Israel. Mockery by the pagan soldiers of Herod was in keeping with the sadistic nature of the times; but mockery in the confines of the palace of God's high priest was particularly shameful. For fuller discussion of each set of mockeries, see under the parallel accounts in Matthew and in John in this series of commentaries.
PETER'S DENIAL RELATED
Mark, having reached the climax of the all-night trials, returned to events earlier in the evening, which were marked by Peter's denial of the Lord.
And as Peter was beneath in the court, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest; and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked upon him and saith, Thou also wast with the Nazarene, even Jesus. But he denied, saying, I neither know, nor understand what thou sayest: and he went out into the porch; and the cock crew. And the maid saw him, and began again to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.
One may well sympathize with Peter. It was none of that maid's business whether Peter was or was not a disciple of Jesus; and Peter's purpose was clearly that of observing the proceedings unrecognized; but now this nosey maid was blabbering about his being a follower of Jesus. It is evident that Peter only wanted to get her to shut up. It was thus only a little deception that he proposed at first; but once a leak in the dyke appeared, the flood quickly overwhelmed him.
Peter tried to avoid further questioning by going out on the porch; but the maid saw him. As the devil's particular servant in that hour, she made it her business to run him down and pin the truth on him.
Hearing the cock crow while he was on the porch did not help Peter's nerves at all; and he returned to the unequal contest with the maid. She, on her part, sounded the alarm and appealed to everybody present. From John, it is plain that a relative of Malchus whose ear Peter had cut off was in the assemblage, and he took up the questioning also. This explains the fear and panic which came upon Peter and issued in his triple denial of the Lord.
Verses 70, 71
But again he denied it. And after a little while again they that stood by said to Peter, Of a truth thou art one of them; for thou art a Galilaean. But he began to curse, and to swear, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
Only Mark records the incident of the cursing and swearing; only John introduced the factor of Malchus' kinsman being in the company of accusers; only Matthew recorded the fact of Peter's language being the basis of the charge that he was from Galilee. Each sacred author made his contribution to our understanding of this tragic episode.
And straightway the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word, how that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
The lone rooster crowing only a little while earlier while Peter was on the porch was then followed by another; and, after the manner of such things in all ages, the whole city was soon vibrating with the full cock-crow, ten thousand roosters heralding the morning. It shook Peter, and his great heart ached for what he had done. He went out alone into the darkness to weep; and there is a parable of all who ever denied the Lord. For them also, it is the darkness and sadness. It is not fair to the memory of this grand apostle to leave the narrative here without recalling the triple confession that he made at the sea of Tiberius. Ever afterward, his life was worthy of the vows of loyalty made earlier in that tragic evening; and one should behold in the facts related here, not any particular culpability in Peter, but the universal weakness of all men. Peter would yet live to go both to prison and to death for Jesus; but he would do so in a strength not at that time available. The Prince of Life was, for a little while, under the domination of the powers of darkness; and it can be no wonder that Peter was temporarily powerless to untangle himself from the snare of the devil into which he had ,been inadvertently drawn by the circumstances of that awful night.
Footnotes for Mark 14
1: A. T. Robertson, A Harmony of the Gospels (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1922), p. 187, footnote.
2: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 709.
3: C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to St. Mark (Cambridge: The University Press, 1966), p. 431.
4: Ibid., p. 432.
5: Ibid., p. 445.
6: E. Bickersteth, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16. p. 238.
7: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit.
8: Earle McMillan, op. cit., p. 156.
9: Josephus, Life and Works of, translated by William Whiston (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston), p. 472.
10: Frederick C. Grant, Interpreter's Bible (New York: Abingdon Press, 1951), p. 845.
11: Josephus, op. cit., p. 745.
12: Ibid., p. 755.
14: E. Bickersteth, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), Vol. 16, p. 197.
17: A. Elwood Sanner, op. cit., p. 379.
18: H. Leo Boles, Commentary on Matthew (Nashville: The Gospel Advocate Company, 1936), p. 472.
19: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 197.
20: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 399.
21: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 198.
22: Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1955), p. 378.
23: J. C. Ryle, Expository Notes on the Gospels (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House), Matthew-Mark, II, p. 280.
24: A. Elwood Sanner, op. cit., p. 382.
26: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 198.
27: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 402.
28: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 198.
29: Earle McMillan, op. cit., p. 157.
30: Tom U. Fauntleroy, a private manuscript (Paducah, Kentucky, 1974).
31: J. E. H. Thompson, The Pulpit Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1962), p. 276.
32: Ibid., p. 269.
33: Josephus, op. cit., p. 758.
34: Ibid., p. 746.
35: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 199.
36: Josephus, op. cit., p. 702.
37: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 402.
38: A. Elwood Sanner. op. cit., v. 383.
39: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 402.
40: J. R. Dummelow, Commentary on the Holy Bible (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1937), p. 704.
41: C. E. B. Cranfield, op cit., p. 404.
42: A. Elwood Sanner, op. cit., p. 384.
43: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 201.
44: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 408.
45: Ibid., p. 409.
46: John Wesley, New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1972), en loco.
47: Charles R. Erdman, The Gospel according to Mark (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1966), p. 197.
48: E. Bickersteth, op. cit., p. 202.
49: C. E. B. Cranfield, op. cit., p. 411.
50: Albert Barnes, Notes on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1955), p. 379.