In our study of Mark chapter fourteen we look at the fact that the religious leaders rejected the authority of Jesus Christ. In chapter 11, we saw them question His authority and the fact that they could not deny it. Now, we will see how they make a decision to reject His authority.
Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. 'But not during the festival,' they said, 'or the people may riot.'
During this festival, the population of Jerusalem swelled with people from all over making their journey to the city. It is believed that the size of the city roughly quadrupled during the required feasts. The religious leaders could not deny Jesus' authority which was in direct conflict with their own authority and their way of making a living. Therefore, they decided to eliminate the competition (Jesus) but they were afraid to do it during the feast.
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
A leper was considered to be unclean and so was rejected by the religious leaders as well as the common people. While others rejected him, Jesus went to the home of a leper. This was to be a big contrast to the attitude of the leaders. While He was there, a woman brought expensive perfume and poured it on His head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, 'Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year's wages and the money given to the poor.' And they rebuked her harshly.
Some of the disciples rebuked the woman for wasting her money. They used the example of the fact that the money could have been given to those that were in need. One of them was Judas Iscariot who controlled the purse for the group. Some may have genuinely been concerned for the poor but he actually was in love with money.
'Leave her alone,' said Jesus, 'Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.'
Jesus told them to leave the woman alone and explained what she had done. When people died, they would put perfume on the body and Jesus explained that she was doing this before He died. He went on to explain that there will always be poor among us but His time was short. We also see the fact that, because she humbled herself, Jesus lifted her up to where she is remembered even to this day. The same thing applies to us today as Christians.
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
We see the depth of the rejection as even one of His close friends turned his back on Jesus. The true motive for the condemnation of the woman's action is revealed by the actions of Judas Iscariot. He had criticized the woman for wasting money while he valued money more than the life of Jesus. The same thing often happens in our walk as Christians. Many times we are criticized and condemned by people that cannot see the truth.
On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus' disciples asked him, 'Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?'
The disciples still did not understand what was happening and continued to make arrangements for the Passover. It was the custom that the passover lamb was to be taken care of for four days before it was slaughtered. In the same manner, the woman had prepared Jesus.
So he sent two of his disciples telling them, 'Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, "The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?" He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.'
It was a Jewish custom that homeowners would make rooms available for anyone that came to celebrate the Passover and asked. Remember that the population of the city ballooned during the holidays and every room in the city would probably be used at this time. Jesus sent Peter and John to make the arrangements for their room. There are those that say that Jesus must have met the homeowner before and made arrangements but this is not supported by the Scriptures. Jesus knew what was going to happen and even knew that they would see a man carrying water to lead them. He did not need to meet the man beforehand and make arrangements. Another reason is that the disciples went with Jesus everywhere and, if He had already met this man and made arrangements, they would have known about the plans. If they would have known about the plans, then, they would not have needed to ask Him.
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover. When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve.
It happened just as Jesus had told them and they must have been amazed. I cannot imagine what it was like to walk with Jesus and to physically see Him and have things like this happen. The closest thing we have is the Spirit living in us and that is great but this must have been so much more.
While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, 'Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me - one who is eating with me.'
The traditional Passover meal was a special family meal and, here, we see that the great rejection includes one that was like family to Jesus.
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, 'Surely you don't mean me?'
The reaction of the apostles was interesting as each one wondered if the person in question was him. Each of these men had spent about three years with Jesus being taught about the kingdom of God and yet they each understood that it could be them. They understood that we all have the capacity to betray Jesus in our hearts and it is only through Him that we can remain faithful. You can almost feel the sadness that would have been in that room as they each asked and waited for the answer.
'It is one of the Twelve,' he replied, 'one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.'
Jesus explains that it will happen just as the scriptures predicted. Even so, He explains that there will be consequences for the one that betrays Him. It would have been better to never live than to suffer the eternal consequences of denying Jesus. The same thing applies to those that hear the gospel and yet refuse to accept that Jesus is the Son of God and our only hope.
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, 'Take it; this is my body.'
They continued with the Passover meal as Jesus explained what it truly meant. When He identified Himself with the bread, Jesus was making a clear statement of the fact that it would only be His sacrifice that would sustain them. Bread was a major part of the daily food that sustained them physically and He was extending that to the fact that He would also sustain them spiritually.
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 'This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,' he said to them.
Jesus explained that the drink was a picture of His blood and the fact that all contracts (covenants) required the shedding of blood.
'Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.'
This verse speaks of the traditions of the Passover cup. Although not specifically mentioned in the description of the Passover meal in Exodus, Jesus was talking about the four cups of the traditional seder. According to tradition, there are four cups of wine (juice) that are served with the meal. The first cup is called the Kiddush which means sanctification and is a picture of God calling His people. The second cup is called the cup of plagues and is a reminder of the tools that God used to bring His people out of captivity. The third cup is called the cup of redemption or the cup of blessing. The final cup is called hallel which means praise but in some traditions this is called the cup of Elijah. Jesus would have shared three cups with the disciples at this point. The first would extend the offer or calling to all people with the second being a picture of the sin that had all men in captivity. The third cup is the cup that Jesus would have described as the "blood of the covenant". This was a bold statement that it was through His blood that men would be redeemed. There is no other way that men can be saved! Paul reminded us, in 1 Corinthians 11, that celebrating the Passover by drinking the cups without remembering that fact will bring judgment on those who do so. In saying that He would not drink from the cup again until it was in the kingdom of heaven, Jesus was saying that they were not going to take the traditional fourth cup at this Passover seder. He was, in fact saying, that the praise would only come with the kingdom of heaven. Meanwhile, He was looking to the cup of wrath that he would take in order to pay the penalty for our sins.
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The singing of the hymn would have probably referred to the tradition of singing Psalms 113-118 which are the traditional praise hymns. Then they went to the garden of Gethsemane.
'You will all fall away,' Jesus told them, 'for it is written: "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered." But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.'
Can you imagine how heavy the phrase "you will all fall away" must have fallen on the disciples? Jesus was referring to the fact that, in the face of great trials, all of the disciples would lose courage. They would not deny their faith in Him but they would not have the courage to stand up and be identified with Him. Jesus used the quote from Zechariah 13 to help them to see that it was all according to the plan of God. We can look back and see that this scattering would be necessary to spread the gospel to the Gentiles and the rest of the world but they could not. Jesus goes on to talk about the fact that He would be raised from the dead and would meet them again. He reassures them but you can imagine how they would skip over this and focus on the fact that he said they would fall away.
Peter declared, 'Even if all fall away, I will not.' 'Truly I tell you,' Jesus answered, 'today - yes, tonight - before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.' But Peter insisted emphatically, 'Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.' And all the others said the same.
Peter immediately jumped in and pledged his unfailing support for Jesus and that might sound good but it was not true. This "great rejection" was revealed to the prophets of old through the power of God. Peter set himself up against the word of God which Jesus had quoted and, if anyone was going to be wrong, it would not be God. This is a reminder to us, as Christians, that just because we declare something, it does not make it truth. There are many today who are taught to declare all sorts of things and to claim them as their own but we must do so with caution. As we see here, your declaration does not change the Word of God; the Word of God is designed to change you through the power of the Holy Spirit.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, 'Sit here while I pray.' He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 'My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,' he said to them. 'Stay here and keep watch.'
Gethsemane is an olive garden on the lower part of the Mount of Olives. We are reminded of the fact that olive trees are a symbol of spiritual richness and it is here where Jesus went to pray. We notice that all of the disciples (except for Judas) went to the garden with Him but He chose His closest three to go a little further with Him. Those three would see the anguish that was gripping Jesus. Why was Jesus troubled? He knew that he was going to die and be raised again so it could not be that. The fact was that He was going to face the greatest of the great rejections while He was on the cross. During the time that He was on the cross burdened with our sins, He would be rejected by His Father. God would have to turn His back on Jesus as He could not look on sin. This period of separation would have been the first of its kind for our Lord and that was what was troubling Him. As followers of Jesus Christ, we must ask ourselves if we feel the same anguish at the thought of not walking with Him even for an instant.
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. 'Abba, Father,' he said, 'everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.'
The cup that Jesus referred to is the wrath of God and, for Him, the worst part of the wrath was the separation from His Father. The wrath was both physical and spiritual death. The physical death did not bother Jesus but the idea of being spiritually separated from the Father was crushing to His soul. Nevertheless, He was willing to endure that for our sake.
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Simon,' he said to Peter, 'are you asleep? Couldn't you keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'
Jesus went back to the disciples and found them all asleep but singled Peter out. We remember that, on the way to the garden, Peter had boasted about his faith and how he would never leave Jesus. Here, Jesus was showing Peter that, first of all, he should not boast but also that the words of God will happen no matter what men may say. Jesus reminds the disciples of the battle that rages inside of all of us. That battle is between our spirit which is controlled by the Holy Spirit and our flesh. The Holy Spirit gives us the desire and wisdom to worship God but the flesh is always trying to get us to satisfy ourselves. It is a constant battle and can include even the most basic of things such as sleep.
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Jesus left to pray again and, when He returned, they were asleep again. They did not know what to say and this is probably the same thing that happens to us when we fail yet again to honor God. At this point, the only thing that we can do is thank God for His mercy, pray for strength, and move on.
Returning the third time, he said to them, 'Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!'
This happened a total of three times and we are reminded that, throughout the Bible, the number three is associated with the earthly display of God's will. Jesus explained what was happening and the disciples would have saw that Jesus was not surprised or reluctant. Even as He faced the "great rejection", Jesus knew the Father's will, accepted it, and acted on it. As followers of Jesus, this is a pattern for our lives as well. Even as we face rejection from the world, do we recognize the will of the Father, accept it, and act on it by faith?
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
A mob was sent by the Sanhedrin (religious establishment) and was led to Jesus by Judas. We say mob because, as we see here, some of them only had clubs as if they were not normal guards. They were joined by some Roman soldiers as well as regular temple guards. This is a reminder to us that Jesus was not a part of some religious establishment.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: 'The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.' Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, 'Rabbi' and kissed him.
It is sad to think that the devil used an act of affection to betray Jesus. Even the term rabbi which was a sign of respect was twisted to show contempt. We are reminded by this that the devil is a liar and that he tries to make sin palatable through flattery.
The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
Peter drew his sword and cut off the ear of Malchus. We are reminded that, on the way to the garden, Jesus had told of the fact that Peter would deny him. This was probably an attempt on his part to show that he would not betray Jesus like the others.
'Am I leading a rebellion,' said Jesus, 'that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.'
Jesus answered their violence with the fact that He had walked among them in peace. They could have easily arrested Him at any time as He was in the temple courts every day. He also reminds them that this is all a part of God's plan as He says the Scriptures had to be fulfilled.
Then everyone deserted him and fled. A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
When faced with arrest along with Jesus, all of the disciples left him. The account of this young man is only given in this account and it is believed to be the John Mark who wrote this account. Just as Jesus predicted, the great rejection of Him as Messiah was total as not one disciple stayed with Him.
They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law came together.
The gospel account of John tells us that there was another hearing prior to the one we see here and that hearing was before Annas (see John 18:2). Jesus is put on trial by the legal high priest who was called Caiaphas. This was his Greek name and his real name was Joseph. It is interesting to note this fact as Jesus had warned the disciples about being like the Greeks when He had crossed the Sea of Galilee (see our study of Matthew 8). Annas whose name means "the grace of Jehovah" had been the high priest up to the year 15 A.D. when the Roman governor had him replaced. It is somewhat ironic that the Romans replaced "the grace of Jehovah" with one that was called by a Greek name. The Greeks were known for giving every philosophy an equal hearing and not saying that anything was either right or wrong. This is very similar to what has happened with the gospel of Jesus Christ today. The true gospel has been replaced with political correctness where it is not popular to say that the grace of God through Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation. These facts are a reminder to us that grace is opposed to religion in any form. Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin which was made up of the high priest, chief priests, elders, and teachers of the law. This was the Jewish court system and a sanhedrin (religious council) existed in every town in Israel. The one in Jerusalem was called the Great Sanhedrin and it consisted of 71 members.
Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
So, Peter was scared and had abandoned Jesus along with the rest of the disciples but he still cared and wanted to see what was going to happen. We notice that they were in "the courtyard of the high priest" and this was the yard of the palace where the high priest lived. This was where they often had informal meetings of the Sanhedrin as it would have been more private. Peter joined the guards at the fire as he would have looked suspicious if he had not.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any.
The Sanhedrin wanted to have this hearing in private so that they could get the evidence that they needed to sentence Jesus to death. They did not have the authority to execute anyone so they were going to collect evidence and give it to the Roman authorities.
Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree. Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: 'We heard him say, "I will destroy this temple made with human hands and in three days will build another, not made with hands."' Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
The Sanhedrin brought in so-called witnesses to gain the evidence that they needed but it did not work. In order to have something accepted as truth under the Jewish law, it required that two witnesses say the same thing. They had these people come in to testify but no two of them told the same story. They would have been considered false witnesses so, what happened to them? According to the Mosaic Law, the witnesses should have faced the same penalty that was being sought against Jesus (see Deuteronomy 19:16-21) but we do not have any record of that being the case. They even tried to twist the words that Jesus had said concerning the destruction of the temple but could not find two witnesses that said the same thing.
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, 'Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?' But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
The high priest knew that their witnesses were no good and that they did not have enough evidence to do anything to Jesus. Therefore, he asked Jesus to answer the charges that had been made but Jesus remained silent. This was prophesied to happen by Isaiah (see Isaiah 53:7) but the religious leaders were blinded by their desire to kill Him.
Again the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?' 'I am,' said Jesus. 'And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.'
The high priest went to the heart of the matter and that was the identity of Jesus. When he asked Jesus if He was the Son of God, it was specifically for the purpose of getting Him to commit what they considered to be blasphemy. When we think of blasphemy, we probably think of taking the Lord's name in vain (swearing). The charge involved that but also included assuming authority that belonged only to God. In fact, by accusing Jesus of blasphemy, the religious leaders were committing the offense themselves.
The high priest tore his clothes. 'Why do we need any more witnesses?' he asked. 'You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?' They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, 'Prophesy!' And the guards took him and beat him.
Having heard what they wanted, the Sanhedrin promptly agreed that Jesus should die. We remember that they did not have the authority to execute anyone much less the Son of God. They began to mock Him and beat Him but, why did they blindfold Him? They did so because they interpreted the prophecy of Isaiah 11:3 as meaning that the Messiah would be able to judge using His sense of smell.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him. 'You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,' she said. But he denied it. 'I don't know or understand what you're talking about,' he said, and went out into the entryway.
When a servant girl tried to identify Peter as a disciple of Jesus, he denied it and moved away towards the entrance to the courtyard. We might be quick to judge Peter's actions but we must remember that he was afraid and did not know what was going to happen.
When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, 'This fellow is one of them.' Again he denied it. After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, 'Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.' He began to call down curses, and he swore to them, 'I don't know this man you're talking about.'
Two more times Peter denies his relationship with Jesus even though it was obvious to everyone there that he was a disciple. He was, in fact, a Galilean and they would have had a different accent than the Judeans that were in the courtyard. Because they could tell that he was a Galilean, it was only reasonable that he was a disciple.
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: 'Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.' And he broke down and wept.
Peter remembered that Jesus had predicted Peter's denial of Him and it finally broke him to the point where he cried. We know that God uses everything for good so we might ask why all of this was necessary. First and foremost is the fact that all of the prophecies concerning the Messiah had to be fulfilled including those concerning His rejection by all. Another possible reason is that the church was going to be built by this man and that could give anyone a big ego but Peter would always remember the fact that he was still just a man who had denied Jesus three times. This experience would serve to keep the man humble.