A. Preparations for death.
1. (1-2) The rulers resolve to kill Jesus.
After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
a. After two days it was the Passover: The time is significant, because there was at Passover not only a great expectation of the Messiah, but Jerusalem was also crowded with these Messiah-expecting multitudes. Since Passover remembered the time when God raised up a great deliverer and freed Israel from foreign oppression, it was a time of great patriotic and messianic anticipation. The Romans were on guard and ready for any hint of revolt.
i. Every possible preparation was made for the Passover. For a month ahead of time, the meaning of Passover was explained in each synagogue and Jewish school so that no one was unprepared. As pilgrims streamed into Jerusalem, they noticed that every tomb near a road was painted with fresh whitewash, to prevent them from defiling themselves accidentally by brushing against a tomb.
ii. Every male Jew who lived within 15 miles of Jerusalem had to come to Jerusalem for Passover. Many more came from great distances – including Galilee. Many people who heard and saw Jesus in the region of Galilee were here, with great respect and great expectation regarding Jesus.
iii. The feasts of Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were held one after the other. “In popular usage the two festivals were merged and treated for practical purposes as the seven-day ‘feast of the Passover.’” (Lane)
b. How they might take Him by trickery: As the chief priests and the scribes plotted the murder of an innocent man, it showed that they did not fear God. Nevertheless, they feared the people (lest there be an uproar of the people). These religious leaders were not afraid to murder the Son of God; they just believed they had to do it in a politically smart way.
c. Not during the feast: The religious leaders did not want to kill Jesus during the Passover feast, but they ended up doing it during that time anyway. This clearly shows that Jesus was in command and though the leaders acted according to the evil inclination of their hearts, their actions fulfilled prophecy and the plan of Jesus.
i. From John 11:57 it seems that the religious leaders originally intended to seize Jesus during the feast. When they saw the popularity of Jesus at the triumphal entry and His authority on the temple mount, they changed their minds and decided to do it after the feast. Their plan changed again when Judas volunteered to arrange a private, quiet arrest.
2. (3) What the woman did: Jesus is anointed with perfume.
And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.
a. A woman came: John’s account of this incident (John 12:1-8) tells us that this was Mary of Bethany, the sister of Lazarus and Martha.
i. This isn’t the same event as when a sinful woman brought the alabaster box with ointment, broke it and anointed Jesus’ feet. That occasion was precious, but it was different in that the woman was overwhelmed with her own sense of sinfulness and adoration to her pardoning Lord. Mary seems focused on Jesus alone, not even on her own forgiven sin. It is a great thing to love Jesus for all He has done for us; it can be greater still to love Him simply for who He is in all His wonder and majesty.
b. Having an alabaster flask of very costly oil: This was an extravagant display of devotion to Jesus. Often spices and ointments were used as investments because they were small, portable, and could be easily sold.
i. “Early in the first century Pliny the Elder remarked that ‘the best ointment is preserved in alabaster.’ The value of the perfume, and its identification as nard, suggests that it was a family heirloom that was passed on from one generation to another, from mother to daughter.” (Lane)
c. She broke the flask and poured it on His head: The flask was a small bottle with a thin neck and breaking the neck of the bottle opened it. Mark’s wording indicates that she poured the entire contents of the bottle on the head of Jesus.
i. When a guest arrived for a meal, it was customary to anoint the guest’s head with a dab of oil. Here, this woman went much farther than the customary greeting. She poured the entire contents of an alabaster flask of very costly oil on the head of Jesus.
ii. This was a wonderful, perceptive act of Mary. Jesus just rode into Jerusalem as a King – and shouldn’t kings be anointed? Mary understood this, but the disciples didn’t.
iii. Mary did this without a word. We gather that her sister Martha was quite the talker, but Mary was a doer. She didn’t announce what she was going to do, and she didn’t describe it as she did it. Nor did she explain it after she did it. She simply did it.
iv. “If we could all do more and talk less it might be a blessing to ourselves at least, perhaps to others. Let us labor in our service for the Lord to be more and more hidden; as much as the proud desire to catch the eye of man, let us endeavor to avoid it.” (Spurgeon)
v. When Mary was finished, she didn’t look to the disciples and ask their opinion of what she did. “You should rise above such idle dependence upon man’s opinion; what matters it to you what your fellow-servant thinks? To your own Master you stand or fall. If you have done a good thing do it again. You know the story of the man who comes riding up to the captain, and says, ‘Sir, we have taken a gun from the enemy.’ ‘Go and take another,’ said the matter-of-fact officer. That is the best advice which I can render to a friend who is elated with his own success. So much remains to be accomplished that we have no time to consider what has been done.” (Spurgeon)
3. (4-9) The reaction to what the woman did.
But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.”
a. Some who were indignant: John 12:1-8 tells us that it was specifically Judas who was indignant about the expense. His indignation was entirely self-serving. John 12:6 says, this he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.
i. They criticized her sharply: It’s easy to criticize those who show more love to Jesus than we do. We sometimes want to define a fanatic as someone who is more devoted to Jesus than we are.
ii. Judas may have started the criticism, but he wasn’t alone for long. Mark made it clear that they criticized her sharply. Each one looked at the oil on Jesus’ head and considered it wasted. Mary probably started to wonder if she did something wrong.
iii. “It is interesting that the word translated ‘waste’ in Mark 14:4 is translated ‘perdition’ in John 17:12 and applied to Judas! Judas criticized Mary for ‘wasting money,’ but he wasted his entire life!” (Wiersbe)
b. It might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii: This particular alabaster flask seems to have been worth more than a year’s wages for a laborer. “I shall always feel obliged to Judas for figuring up the price of that box of costly nard. He did it to blame her, but we will let his figures stand, and think the more of her the more he put down to the account of waste. I should never have known what it cost, nor would you either, if Judas had not marked down in his pocket-book.” (Spurgeon)
c. Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me: The disciples thought that this extravagant anointing with oil was a waste, but Jesus received it as a good work. With her simple love and devotion to Jesus, Mary understood what the disciples did not – that Jesus was about to die, and she intended this gift as a preparation for his burial.
i. She has done a good work: “In the Greek there are two words for good. There is agathos which describes a thing which is morally good; and there is kalos which describes a thing which is not only good but lovely. A thing might be agathos, and yet be hard, stern, austere, unattractive. But a thing which is kalos is winsome and lovely, with a certain bloom of charm upon it.” (Barclay)
ii. Jesus gave her the highest compliment: she has done what she could. God expects no more from us than what we can do; but beware of setting your sights so low that you believe that doing nothing is doing what you can. “There can be no higher commendation than this. All cannot do great things for Christ, but it is well if each one does what he can as unto the Lord Himself.” (Ironside)
d. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial: Mary’s act was all the more precious because it was planned (she has come beforehand). This wasn’t a spontaneous, seized by the moment kind of action. It was carefully planned beforehand.
i. Apparently, Mary listened and believed the teaching of Jesus in a way that the other disciples simply didn’t. When He said that He would be delivered into the hands of wicked men and mocked and scourged and crucified, she believed it. She said, “If my precious Jesus will be mocked and tortured like this, then allow me to give Him some special honor.”
ii. It seems that the disciples did not want to think about the death of Jesus. When Peter heard of it, he tried to talk Jesus out of it. Mary had a different devotion, and instead of debating or denying His death, she turned it into an occasion of deep devotion.
iii. “Nothing puts life into men like a dying Savior. Get you close to Christ, and carry the remembrance of him about you from day to day, and you will do right royal deeds. Come, let us slay sin, for Christ was slain. Come, let us bury all our pride, for Christ was buried. Come, let us rise to newness of life, for Christ has risen. Let us be united with our crucified Lord in his one great object – let us live and die with him, and then every action of our lives will be very beautiful.” (Spurgeon)
e. Wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world: Jesus knew He was going to die, but He did not waver in confidence one bit. He also knew He would rise from the dead that this gospel would be preached in the whole world.
f. As a memorial to her: The disciples longed for fame and influence, but this woman found an enduring memorial. She found it not by longing for a position, but simply by loving Jesus and serving Him.
i. There is a tendency within us all to look at this story and to say, “I love Jesus also. Tell me what I should do to show it.” But part of the woman’s great love was displayed in the fact that she came up with the idea to express her love for Jesus in this way. If there was a command to do this, it would never be this precious. “‘Oh,’ cries a brother, ‘tell me what I could do for Jesus!’ Nay, but, brother, I must not tell you. The better part of the whole matter will lie in the hallowed ingenuity of your spirit in inventing something for him out of your own fervent soul.” (Spurgeon)
4. (10-11) Judas agrees to betray Jesus, changing the plans of the Jewish rulers.
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.
a. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve: Many speculate on the motive of Judas. Perhaps his feelings were hurt when Jesus rebuked him after Mary poured the ointment over Jesus’ feet. Perhaps it was plain greed. Some speculate that Judas wanted to force Jesus into an open display of Messianic glory.
i. Matthew 26:15 makes it clear that Judas bargained with the religious leaders for the life of Jesus. He asked them, “What are you willing to give me if I deliver Him to you?” Certainly, part of his motivation was pure greed.
ii. Whatever Judas’ motive was, it was his motive. God used the wicked work of a willing Satan, who used a willing Judas. God ordained that these things happen, but He did not prompt Judas to sin.
b. When they heard it, they were glad: The religious leaders had wanted to destroy Jesus for a long time (Mark 3:6). Now they had a precious ally – a disciple willing to betray Him.
B. Jesus’ final Passover with His disciples.
1. (12-16) Preparation for Passover; the feast remembering Israel’s redemption.
Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.” So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.
a. A man… carrying a pitcher: This was an unusual sight. Women usually carried liquids in pitchers, and men normally carried liquids in animal skin containers. Therefore, a man… carrying a pitcher was a distinctive sign to the disciples.
b. The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room”: The scene here implies secrecy, and Jesus had good reason to quietly make arrangements for Passover. Jesus didn’t want Judas to betray Him before He could give a final important talk to the disciples.
i. “The Lord must have had many unknown disciples, upon whom He could rely at such moments to render unquestioning service.” (Cole)
c. And they prepared the Passover: There seems to be a difference between the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) and John about the Passover. The implication in the synoptic gospels is that Jesus was crucified on the day after Passover and that this meal was the day before. John seems to say that Jesus was crucified on the day of Passover itself, as a Passover lamb (John 18:28 and 19:14).
i. “Possibly the best explanation is that there were different calendars in use. Jesus died as the Passover victims were being slain according to the official calendar; but he had held the Passover with his followers the previous evening, according to an unofficial calendar.” (Morris)
ii. None of the synoptic gospels mention a lamb at the Passover meal. Some believe that this is because they could not obtain one before the “official” day of Passover. Jesus may have wanted it this way in order to emphasize the idea that He was the Passover sacrifice.
2. (17-21) Jesus gives Judas a chance to repent.
In the evening He came with the twelve. Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”
a. He sat down with the twelve: At the first Passover, God commanded them to eat the meal standing and ready to leave Egypt (Exodus 12:11). Since Israel came into the Promised Land, they believed that they could eat the Passover sitting or reclining, because now they were at rest in the land God gave them.
b. One of you who eats with Me will betray Me: The disciples heard many surprising things from Jesus, but certainly this was one of the most surprising things they ever heard. Not one of them suspected Judas, and the idea that one of them would seek to betray and kill Jesus must have seemed absurd.
c. It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me: In saying who dips with Me, Jesus did not single out Judas (though Judas, sitting in the place of honor, would have been given the special portion). All the disciples dipped with Him, so this phrase identified the betrayer as a friend.
i. In Middle Eastern culture, betraying a friend after eating a meal with him was and is regarded as the worst kind of treachery.
d. Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Judas is rightly regarded as one of the most notorious sinners of all time. Even though his actions fulfilled prophecy (the Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him), his own wicked motive condemned him. Judas will never be able to justify himself before God on the Day of Judgment by claiming, “I was fulfilling prophecy.”
i. In the warning of Jesus we see a profound love for Judas. This was his last, fleeting opportunity to turn back from his evil plot. A remarkable thing to remember is that Jesus loved both Mary and Judas. We almost want to think that He loved Mary and hated Judas, but that isn’t the case. If we miss His love towards Judas – rejected love, to be sure – if we miss that love, we miss the whole story.
3. (22-25) The Last Supper.
And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
a. Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it: When the bread was lifted up at Passover, the head of the meal would say: “This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.”
i. Everything eaten at the Passover meal had a symbolic meaning. The bitter herbs recalled the bitterness of slavery; the salt water remembered the tears shed under Egypt’s oppression. The main course of the meal – a lamb freshly sacrificed for that particular household – did not symbolize anything connected to the agonies of Egypt. It was the sin-bearing sacrifice that allowed the judgment of God to pass over the household that believed.
b. Take, eat; this is My body… This is My blood of the new covenant: Jesus didn’t give the normal explanation of the meaning of each of the foods. He reinterpreted them in Himself, and the focus was no longer on the suffering of Israel in Egypt, but on the sin-bearing suffering of Jesus on their behalf.
c. This is My body: Christians have debated for centuries about the true nature of the bread and the cup at this supper.
i. The Roman Catholic Church holds the idea of transubstantiation, which teaches that the bread and the wine actually become the body and blood of Jesus.
ii. Martin Luther held the idea of consubstantiation, which teaches the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine, but by faith they are the same as Jesus’ actual body. Luther did not believe in the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, but he did not go far from it.
iii. John Calvin taught that Jesus’ presence in the bread and wine was real, but only spiritual, not physical. Zwingli taught that the bread and wine are symbols that represent the body and blood of Jesus.
iv. According to Scripture, we can understand that the bread and the cup are not mere symbols, but they are powerful pictures to partake of – to enter into – as we see the Lord’s Table as the new Passover.
d. Take, eat: We can’t get so caught up in discovering what the bread and the cup mean that we forget to do what Jesus said to do with them. We must take and eat.
i. Take means that it won’t be forced upon you. You have to receive it. Eat means that this is absolutely vital for you. Without food and drink, we perish. Without Jesus, we perish. It also means that you must take Jesus into your innermost being.
e. This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many: Beyond all the controversy about what the elements of this supper really are and what they really mean, the announcement that Jesus brings a new covenant stands out.
i. No mere man could ever institute a new covenant between God and man, but Jesus is the God-man. He has the authority to establish a new covenant, sealed with blood, even as the old covenant was sealed with blood (Exodus 24:8).
ii. This covenant is focused on an inner transformation that cleanses us from all sin: For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more (Jeremiah 31:34). This transformation puts God’s Word and will in us: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts (Jeremiah 31:33). This covenant is all about a new, close relationship with God: I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 31:33).
f. Until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God: Jesus has not yet celebrated a Passover in heaven. He still waits for all His people to be gathered to Him and then there will be a great supper – the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9). This is the fulfillment in the kingdom of God Jesus longed for.
4. (26-31) Jesus predicts the desertion of the disciples and Peter’s denial.
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written:
‘I will strike the Shepherd,
And the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.” Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all said likewise.
a. When they had sung a hymn: We don’t often think of Jesus singing, but He did. He lifted His voice in adoration and worship to God the Father. We can endlessly wonder what His voice sounded like, but we know for certain that He sang with more than His voice, and He lifted His whole heart up in praise. This reminds us that God wants to be praised with singing.
i. It is remarkable that Jesus could sing on this night before His crucifixion. Could you sing in such circumstances? Will you let Jesus be your worship leader? “What! A Christian silent when others are praising his Master? No; he must join in the song. Satan tries to make God’s people dumb, but he cannot, for the Lord has not a tongue-tied child in all his family. They can all speak, and they can all cry, even if they cannot all sing, and I think there are times when they can all sing; yea, they must, for you know the promise, ‘Then shall the tongue of the dumb sing.’ Surely, when Jesus leads the tune, if there should be any silent ones in the Lord’s family, they must begin to praise the name of the Lord.” (Spurgeon)
ii. This means we should sing to God our Father – just as Jesus did – because this is something that pleases Him, and when we love someone we want to do the things that please them. It really doesn’t matter if it does or doesn’t please us.
iii. “What is singing but emotional expression? Oh! The value and the power of emotion. Evil emotion slays the Lord of life and glory! Pure emotion makes possible the saving of the slayers.” (Morgan)
b. Sung a hymn: It is wonderful that Jesus sang, but what did He sing? A Passover meal always ended with singing three Psalms known as the Hallel, Psalms 116-118. Surely the words of these Psalms ministered to Jesus as He sang them on the night before His crucifixion.
i. “When Jesus arose to go to Gethsemane, Psalm 118 was upon his lips. It provided an appropriate description of how God would guide his Messiah through distress and suffering to glory.” (Lane)
c. They went to the Mount of Olives: “Jesus tarried with them in the Upper Room for the wonderful discourse and prayer in John 14 to 17. They may have gone out to the street after John 14:31.” (Robertson)
i. “Our Lord knew that his time was now come when he must be actually delivered into the hands of his enemies. That he might not therefore cause any disturbance either to the master of the family wherein he was, or to the city, though it was now midnight, he goeth out of the city.” (Ironside)
d. All of you will be made to stumble: Jesus said this not to condemn His disciples, but to show them that He really was in command of the situation, and to demonstrate that the Scriptures regarding the suffering of the Messiah must be fulfilled.
i. This was not the first time Jesus warned Peter and the other disciples that they would forsake Him. From a careful reconstruction of the Gospels, we find that Jesus first warned them about this in the upper room, now again in the Garden of Gethsemane.
e. After I have been raised: This shows that Jesus was already looking beyond the cross. He had His eyes fixed on the joy set before Him (Hebrews 12:2).
f. Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be: We wonder how Peter could ever say such a thing. Tragically, Peter was unaware of both the spiritual reality and the spiritual battle that Jesus clearly saw. Peter only looked to how he felt at the moment, and at the moment he felt pretty brave.
i. “It is sometimes easier to bear a great load for Christ than a small one. Some of us could be martyrs at the stake more easily than confessors among sneering neighbors.” (Maclaren)
g. Assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times: Peter, despite his bold proclamation that he would never be made to stumble, would fail in what he thought was his strong area – courage and boldness. Through this solemn warning Jesus gave Peter an opportunity to take heed and consider his own weakness.
i. Sadly, it was an opportunity that Peter did not take: he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” Jesus knew Peter far better than Peter did, and in overestimating himself, Peter was set up for a fall.
ii. He spoke more vehemently: “This strong compound adverb [is found] only in Mark and probably preserves Peter’s own statement of the remark.” (Robertson)
iii. The rest of the disciples also overestimated their strength and did not rely on the Lord in the critical hour: And they all said likewise. The Apostle Paul warned us against falling where we think we are strong: therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall (1 Corinthians 10:12). When we think we are beyond the reach of some sins, we are ready for a fall.
C. Jesus’ prayer and arrest in Gethsemane.
1. (32-36) Jesus’ prayer of distress.
Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch.” He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him. And He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for You. Take this cup away from Me; nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will.”
a. Gethsemane: This was a place just east of the temple mount area in Jerusalem, across the ravine of the Brook Kidron, and on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives. Surrounded by ancient olive trees, Gethsemane means “olive press.” It was a place where olives from the neighborhood were crushed for their oil. So too, the Son of God would be crushed here.
b. He began to be troubled and deeply distressed… My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death: Jesus knew what the Father’s will was; yet He still endured this agony. It was because Jesus was to be a sacrifice for sins, and He wasn’t an unknowing sacrificial animal. Nor was He a victim of circumstances. He resolved willingly to lay down His life.
i. It was not so much the horror of physical torture that affected Jesus so, but it was the spiritual horror of the cross – of being made sin (2 Corinthians 5:21). This is what made Jesus troubled and deeply distressed.
ii. Hebrews 5:7-8 describes Jesus’ agony in the Gethsemane: Who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.
iii. “His holy soul shrank from the awfulness of being made sin upon the tree. It was not death, but the divine anger against sin, the imputation to Him of all our iniquities that filled His soul with horror. There was no conflict of wills.” (Ironside)
c. Abba, Father: In this moment of deep distress, Jesus didn’t feel far from God the Father. He felt so close to the Father that He used the name Abba, a child’s familiar name for daddy.
d. Take this cup away from Me: In response to Jesus’ deeply moved prayers, the Father did not take the cup from Jesus. Instead He strengthened Jesus to be able to take and drink the cup.
i. Repeatedly in the Old Testament, the cup is a powerful picture of the wrath and judgment of God (Psalm 75:8, Isaiah 51:17, Jeremiah 25:15). Jesus became, as it were, an enemy of God, who was judged and forced to drink the cup of the Father’s fury so that we would not have to drink from that cup – this was the source of Jesus’ agony.
ii. Matthew 20:22-23 speaks of a cup that the followers of Jesus must also drink. “In any case, our cup can never be as deep or as bitter as was his, and there were in his cup some ingredients that never will be found in ours. The bitterness of sin was there, but he has taken that away for all who believe in him. His Father’s wrath was there, but he drank that all up, and left not a single dreg for any one of his people.” (Spurgeon)
e. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what You will: Jesus came to a point of decision in Gethsemane. It wasn’t that He had not decided nor consented before, but now He came upon a unique point of decision. He drank the cup at Calvary, but He decided once for all to drink it at Gethsemane. The struggle of the cross was won at the Garden of Gethsemane.
i. This struggle at Gethsemane – the place of crushing – has an important place in fulfilling God’s plan of redemption. If Jesus failed here, He would have failed at the cross. His success here made the victory at the cross possible.
f. If it were possible: Jesus wasn’t asking for permission to let humanity perish in hell; He was asking the Father, “If there is any other possible way to save humanity other than the agony which awaits Me at the cross – let it be.” Yet there was no other way, so Jesus went to the cross.
i. This prayer of Jesus eliminates any other way of salvation. If there is another way, His death was not necessary, and His prayer was not answered.
g. Not what I will, but what You will: Some criticize this kind of prayer in the mouth of a Christian, saying it is a prayer that lacks faith. But to pray not what I will, but what You will is a prayer of great faith and trust in God. If such a prayer insults God, then Jesus insulted His Father at this crucial moment in the Garden of Gethsemane.
2. (37-42) The sleeping disciples.
Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words. And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. Then He came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough! The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”
a. He came and found them sleeping: At this moment of great agony, Jesus was alone. His disciples gave Him no support at all. Though this was not to their credit – they failed Jesus – it was the way it had to be – Jesus had to face the terror of the cross all alone.
b. Simon, are you sleeping? It is not necessary to see Jesus as irritated at His disciples. He said this in love, and in compassionate understanding. He knew them better than they knew themselves.
i. Peter must have been a bit startled to hear Jesus call him Simon. This was the old sleeping Simon, not the new man Peter. Peter was ready to resist any attack, except the attack of the Sandman.
c. Watch and pray, let you enter into temptation: Jesus knew Peter would fail; yet He encouraged him to victory knowing that the resources are found in watching and praying. If Peter woke up (both physically and spiritually), and drew close in dependence on God, he could have kept from denying Jesus at the critical hour.
i. Jesus found victory at the cross by succeeding in the struggle in Gethsemane. Peter – just like us – failed in later temptation because he failed to watch and pray. The spiritual battle is often won or lost before the crisis comes.
d. He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words: Jesus repeated the prayer outlined in Mark 14:34-36. Some say it is unspiritual, or reflects a lack of faith, to repeat prayers, yet we could never accuse Jesus of being unspiritual or of lacking faith.
e. When He returned, He found them asleep again… Then He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” Three times Jesus prayed; three times Jesus checked to see if His disciples would stand by Him in prayer and pray for their own strength in the coming trial. They were asleep each time.
i. It was bad enough that the disciples didn’t watch and pray for themselves, but they should have been willing to watch and pray simply for the sake of Jesus. Through prayer and companionship, we must stand beside others in their time of need.
ii. “He told them to ‘Sleep on now’; and they slept; and He watched them while they slept… He said in effect: Go and have your sleep out; I can watch; and He watched them while they slept.” (Morgan)
f. It is enough! We should not think that Jesus was angry or irritated because His disciples did not help Him. He wanted the disciples to help Him and stand in prayer, not for His own sake, but for their own benefit. Jesus could stand alone against the trial of the cross, but they, being without prayer, would not.
3. (43-52) The arrest of Jesus of Nazareth in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.” As soon as He had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him. And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then they all forsook Him and fled. Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body. And the young men laid hold of him, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.
a. Whomever I kiss: Apparently, Jesus was normal enough in appearance that it was necessary for Judas to identify Him. He chose to identify Jesus by greeting Him with a kiss. With cruelty, Judas pretended to be affectionate, and then added “Rabbi, Rabbi!” to the greeting.
b. One of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest: John 18:10 identified this unnamed swordsman as Peter. Here Peter was a great example of someone who, wielding the power of this world in his hands, could only cut off ears. When he wielded the Word of God, Peter pierced hearts for God’s glory (Acts 2:37).
i. “When the Church takes sword in hand, it usually shows that it does not know how to wield it, and as often as not has struck the wrong man.” (Maclaren)
ii. Luke tells us that Jesus healed the damage done by Peter (Luke 22:51). It isn’t the last time Jesus has had to leave behind a mess left by one of His followers. “Had Jesus not healed Malchus, Peter would have been arrested as well; and there might have been four crosses at Calvary.” (Barclay)
c. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled: Jesus marveled that they sent a small army to arrest Him. Yet, He was in command; with a word He could destroy all those who came to arrest Him. But Jesus went along in order to fulfill Scripture.
d. They all forsook Him and fled: At this point, all the disciples scattered and ran for their own safety. A few (Peter and John at least) followed back to see what would happen at a distance. None of them stood beside Jesus and said, “I have given my life to this Man. What you accuse Him of, you may accuse me of also.” Instead, it was fulfilled what Jesus said: All of you will be made to stumble because of Me (Mark 14:27).
e. Now a certain young man followed Him… and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked: Jesus was forsaken even by a young follower, who in the confusion fled naked. Since the earliest days of the church, commentators have supposed this young man to be Mark himself. It was his humble way of saying, “I was there.”
i. Many people suppose that the upper room where Jesus held the last supper just a few hours earlier was at a home owned by Mark’s family. Acts 12:12 says that the disciples used to meet at the home of Mark’s mother. It may be that the arresting army led by Judas first came to Mark’s home, because that is where Judas last left Jesus. When Judas and the group came and found them gone, it would have been easy for Judas to suppose that they went to Gethsemane, because Jesus was accustomed to going there (Luke 22:39). When Judas and the group started out for Gethsemane, we can imagine that young Mark hurriedly dressed in a simple linen cloth and set out to beat Judas and his gang to Gethsemane so that he could warn Jesus.
ii. “It is usually supposed that Mark himself, son of Mary (Acts 12:12) in whose house they probably had observed the Passover meal, had followed Jesus and the apostles to the Garden.” (Robertson)
iii. “The modest spirit of Mark seemed to say, ‘Friend Peter, while the Holy Ghost moves me to, tell thy fault, and let it stand on record, he also constrains me to write my own as a sort of preface to it, for I, too, in my mad, hare-brained folly, would have run, unclothed as I was, upon the guard to rescue my Lord and Master; yet, at the first sight, of the rough legionaries, at the first gleam of their swords, away I fled, timid, faint-hearted, and afraid that I should be too roughly handled.’” (Spurgeon)
D. The trial before the Sanhedrin.
1. Mark did not record the preliminary trial before Annas, who was the real power behind the high priest’s office (recorded in John 18:12-13 and 19-23), nor did he record the second trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin, the “official” daylight trial recorded in Luke 22:66-71.
a. There are similarities between the trials because the same people were involved. There were actually three phases of Jesus’ trial before the Jewish authorities and three phases of His trial before the Roman authorities, and they should not be confused.
b. Upon His arrest, Jesus was first taken to Annas, then to an illegal night court of the Sanhedrin (which Mark will describe next), then to an official daylight trial of the Sanhedrin, then to Pilate, who sent Jesus to Herod, who sent Jesus back to Pilate, where He then went to the cross.
2. (53-59) Jesus is accused before the Sanhedrin.
And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree. Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’” But not even then did their testimony agree.
a. They led Jesus away to the high priest: This trial of Jesus was terribly illegal according to Jewish law. There was much in the Jewish legal process to protect the rights of the accused, and all of this was ignored and deliberately broken by those who were determined to put Jesus to death.
b. Heard Him say, “I will destroy this temple”: Jesus, as recorded in John 2:19, spoke clearly of the temple of His body. Jesus never said the words reported by His false accusers – “this temple made with hands.” Essentially, they accused Jesus of being a terrorist who wanted to destroy the temple.
i. “The accusation was utterly serious, for throughout the Graeco-Roman world the destruction or desecration of places of worship was regarded as a capital offense.” (Lane)
ii. Morgan on their accusation: “This is the most diabolical form of untruth, because it is an untruth in which there is an element of truth. We remember Tennyson’s words: ‘A lie that is all a lie, may be met and fought outright; But a lie that is partly the truth, is a harder matter to fight.’”
c. But not even then did their testimony agree: Though it was a false case, the accusers of Jesus could not put together a good case. The false witnesses kept disagreeing with one another.
i. “It was harder to agree on a consistent lie than to tell the simple truth.” (Cole)
3. (60-62) Jesus testifies at His own trial.
And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
a. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus: “For greater solemnity he arose to make up by bluster the lack of evidence.” (Robinson)
i. “Suggesting that the high priest arose from his seat and advanced into the semi-circle of the council towards Jesus – the action of an irritated, baffled man.” (Bruce)
ii. “It was a tacit confession that Christ had been proved innocent up till then. The high priest would not have needed to draw something out of the accused one if there had been sufficient material against him elsewhere. The trial had been a dead failure up to that point, and he knew it, and was red with rage. Now he attempts to bully the prisoner that he may extract some declaration from him which may save all further trouble of witnesses, and end the matter.” (Spurgeon)
b. He kept silent and answered nothing: Jesus could have mounted a magnificent defense here, calling forth all the various witnesses to His deity, power and character. The people He taught, the people He healed, the dead risen, the blind who see, even the demons themselves testified to His deity. But Jesus opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth (Isaiah 53:7).
c. I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power: Jesus, when asked under formal oath to incriminate Himself, essentially said, “You now stand in judgment of Me, but I will be the ultimate judge.” These words would have given any wise judge pause but did not slow down His accusers.
i. Here we see that Jesus was on trial – He seemed to lose, but He really won. His conduct at His trial showed His innocence and was all part of the plan of redemption – which we must receive as God’s gift.
ii. In a real sense, it wasn’t Jesus on trial at all – it was more accurate to say that the religious leaders were on trial. They seemed to win, but they really lost. In fact, we all are on trial before Jesus and will be held to account for what we do with Him.
4. (63-65) The Sanhedrin condemns Jesus to death.
Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?” And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.
a. The high priest tore his clothes… You have heard the blasphemy!: First they reacted with self-righteous, melodramatic horror, then with abuse and brutality (some began to spit on Him… and to beat Him).
b. And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands: As terrible as the judgment of the religious leaders against Jesus was, at least it had a reason – envy and fear of Jesus. These officers, taking a bizarre pleasure in torturing Jesus, didn’t even have a reason. They did it only because of what others (the religious leaders) said about Jesus.
i. “Be astonished, O heavens, and be horribly afraid. His face is the light of the universe, his person is the glory of heaven, and they ‘began to spit on him.’ Alas, my God, that man should be so base!” (Spurgeon)
c. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him: Understanding that Jesus endured such pain and humiliation should cause us to respond in three ways.
i. We should bravely bear pain and humiliation for the sake of Jesus ourselves. “How ready should we be to hear slander and ridicule for Jesus’ sake. Do not get into a huff, and think it a strange thing that people should mock you. Who are you, dear sir? Who are you? What can you be if compared with Christ? If they spat upon him, why should they not spit upon you? If they buffeted him, why should they not buffet you? Shall your Master have all the rough of it? Shall he have all the bitter, and you all the sweet? A pretty soldier you, to demand better fare than your Captain!” (Spurgeon)
ii. We should be more diligent to praise Jesus. “How earnestly, next, ought we to honor our dear Lord. If men were so eager to put him to shame, let us be ten times more earnest to bring him glory. Is there anything we can do today by which he may be honored? Let us set about it. Can we make any sacrifice? Can we perform any difficult task which would glorify him? Let us not deliberate, but at once do it with our might. Let us be inventive in modes of glorifying him, even as his adversaries were ingenious in the methods of his shame.” (Spurgeon)
iii. We should have more assurance and confidence in receiving the finished work of Jesus for our redemption. “Surely I know that he who suffered this, since he was verily the Son of the Blessed, must have ability to save us. Such griefs must be a full atonement for our transgressions. Glory be to God, that spittle on his countenance means a clear, bright face for me. Those false accusations on his character mean no condemnation for me.” (Spurgeon)
5. (66-72) Peter’s denial.
Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came. And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you are saying.” And he went out on the porch, and a rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.” But he denied it again. And a little later those who stood by said to Peter again, “Surely you are one of them; for you are a Galilean, and your speech shows it.” Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!” A second time the rooster crowed. Then Peter called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.” And when he thought about it, he wept.
a. Now as Peter was below in the courtyard: As Mark concludes the story of Peter’s denial in Mark 14:66-72, he does it as a flashback. This didn’t happen as Jesus was beaten, but as He was on trial.
i. Peter’s first problem was that he followed Him at a distance (Mark 14:54). When we distance ourselves from Jesus, it is hard to make a proper stand for Him at the critical time.
ii. Next, Peter sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire (Mark 14:54). Peter found fellowship and warmth in the company of the ungodly, having forsaken the fellowship of the fleeing disciples. Peter wanted to seem just one of this crowd, not a follower of Jesus.
iii. The officers of Mark 14:65 who struck Jesus are the same people as the servants of Mark 14:54, because the same ancient Greek word is used of both groups. Peter sat and associated himself with the same men who beat Jesus, and they beat Him just because someone else told them that Jesus was a wicked man.
b. I neither know nor understand what you are saying: A hostile man of authority interrogated Jesus. Peter did not face this kind of interrogation, only one of the servant girls. But she was enough to make Peter deny Jesus. “A silly wench daunteth and dispiriteth this stout champion.” (Trapp)
i. I neither know nor understand: “Peter denied the charge, using the form common in rabbinical law for a formal, legal denial.” (Lane)
ii. “Yet all this evil sprung from the fear of man. How many denials of Christ and his truth have sprung since, from the same cause!” (Clarke)
iii. Thinking it might help distance himself from association with Jesus, Peter began to curse and swear. When we hear that kind of language, we assume the person is not a follower of Jesus Christ.
c. And when he thought about it, he wept: Peter finally called to mind the word that Jesus had said to him, but he remembered it too late – it was after he had sinned. Then all Peter could do was to weep bitterly – but he will be restored.
i. “It was not the crowing of the cock that convicted Peter; it was the remembering of Christ’s words.” (Wiersbe)
ii. There is a significant contrast between Judas and Peter. Both of them denied Jesus in one way or another, but one was restored and the other was not. Restoring Peter was important to Jesus; after His resurrection, Jesus had a private meeting with Peter (Luke 24:34) and a public restoration with Peter (John 21). Judas ended up as an apostate, and Peter was a backslider who suffered spiritual decline from an experience he once enjoyed.
©2018 David Guzik – No distribution beyond personal use without permission