From:  Busy Person’s Guide to Mark 9 to 16                                  Return to Home 

By Roland H. Worth, Jr.  © 2019


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Busy Person’s Guide to the New Testament:

Quickly Understanding Mark


(Volume 2:  Chapters 14 to 16)




Roland H. Worth, Jr.

Copyright © 2019 by author






Chapter Fourteen




                        While The Religious Leaders Plot To Destroy Jesus, He Is Honored       By Being Anointed in the House of Simon the Leper In Bethany (14:1-9):  1   Two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened        Bread, the chief priests and the experts in the law were trying to         find a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. For they said,      “Not during the feast, so there won’t be a riot among the people.”

                Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon   the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an     alabaster jar of costly aromatic oil from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head. But some who      were present indignantly said to one another, “Why this waste of         expensive ointment? It could have been sold for more than        three hundred silver coins and the money given to the poor!” So    they spoke angrily to her. 

                But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering         her? She has done a good service for me. For you will always     have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want. But you will not always have me! She did what she   could. She anointed my body beforehand for burial. I tell you   the truth, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world,   what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”

                --New English Translation (for comparison)  



            14:1     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.  Technically the Passover was on the 14th of Nissan and that of unleavened bread began on the 15th and ran for seven days.  The person going to Jerusalem “for Passover” meant that he or she was going for both feasts.  (Similarly going up for the Feast of Unleavened Bread meant one was also going up for the Passover; that broader usage of the expression is found in verse 12.)  With Passover only two days in the future, elements of the religious leadership discussed the best way to arrest Jesus and solve their problem permanently by putting Him to death.


            14:2     But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”  They were faced with a major time problem:  They needed to arrest Him in the next two days or in the narrow time frame between the end of the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the return to Galilee.  This was because Jesus was so popular that arresting Him during either festival could ignite massive public rage that would target them.  To put it at the bluntest, they wanted Jesus dead but not at the price of risking death themselves.  This left them with little in the way of acceptable options--unless someone within His camp betrayed the Lord and allowed them to carry out the arrest out of public sight. 


            14:3     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.  At dinner at the home of a healed leper, a woman poured out a flask of expensive perfume on His head.  In the gospel of John we discover that the woman was Mary, the sister of Lazarus, who was also present, and that she poured the liquid on both his head and feet.  This was not only costly in its own right but it was also no less than a full pound worth of liquid as well (John 12:3).   


            14:4     But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted?  Perhaps they could have handled it well if it had been a very modest amount, but the pure volume of what was used horrified them as an inexcusable waste of money.  After all there were far more pressing needs that could be met. . . .


            14:5     For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.”  And they criticized her sharply.  One of those criticizing her action was Judas who thought of the money that could be diverted into his own pocket (John 12:4-6).  The fact that “some” were upset (verse 4) argues that there were others who shared in that sentiment but out of honorable motives.  That it was not “all” or even “most” tells us that the majority recognized the awesome honor--because of what it cost--that was being bestowed.


            14:6     But Jesus said, “Let her alone.  Why do you trouble her?  She has done a good work for Me.  What she had done was not essential, but it was still honorable and well intended.  Peter learned an important lesson from this for when the number of poor disciples in Jerusalem grew large, he criticized Ananias and Sapphira not for holding some back but for lying about it.  As he explained, “While it remained, was it not your own?  And after it was sold, was it not in your own control?” (Acts 5:4).  They--and this woman--had the right to do anything honorable with it that they wished . . . but no one had the right to exaggerate the size of the gift.   


            14:7     For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always.  The simple fact was that poverty never ends.  Even in societies where the bulk of the population is prospering far above anyone in the first century could imagine, a significant number of people still “fall through the cracks.”  That is not mere cynicism; it is a simple statement of fact.  We are never going to fully “end poverty” for the best of intentions will always fall short of accomplishing it.  Reality trumps theory; pious good will should recognize the successes that occur and never be guilt ridden that complete victory is never obtained.  We are only accountable for what can be accomplished and nothing beyond that.


            14:8     She has done what she could.  She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.  Although she could not realize it, she had actually given Jesus honor far above what she knew.  For Jesus was soon going to die and she had treated His living body with the lavish treatment that would willingly be bestowed on the dead body of a respected man.  In light of His coming death, how could anyone possibly criticize the well intended action?


            14:9     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.”  This wasn’t the most “vital” or “critical” incident that had ever happened to the Lord, but it was still so praiseworthy that when the good news (“gospel”) of Jesus’ life was shared throughout the world, part of what was taught would describe what was done that evening. 



                        After Jesus’ Anointing, Judas Makes The Decision To Betray Jesus      (14:10-11):  10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the         chief priests to betray Jesus into their hands. 11 When they heard    this, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So     Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.     --New    English Translation (for comparison)



             14:10  Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.  No hint of motivation is given, but in the parallel account of the anointing we find that Judas was, at least partly, angered by the woman’s generosity because he would not be able to siphon off any of it to his own usages (John 12:4-6).  Yet if monetary gain were all motivating him, he settled for a strangely small amount of money for the betrayal of the One the religious leadership hated so passionately:  Thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15) only amounted to about four months worth of wages.

            Other factors surely included Jesus’ persistent refusal to accept the opportunity to become a temporal king (as in John 6:15) and the rejection of violence to establish His kingship (John 18:36).  Furthermore in these final days He had stressed that His death was to come shortly.  The betrayal offered Judas one final opportunity to make money off the movement before it collapsed.  A modest amount was better than nothing.


            14:11   And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money.  So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.  The “conveniently” cut both ways:  from the standpoint of the Sanhedrin, it needed a time when Jesus was away from the listening crowds who might rush to His defense; from Judas’ standpoint it needed to be at a time that not only met that criteria but also at a place of which he was aware ahead of time.  One that had few people around to intervene.



                        Preparation For The Passover (14:12-16):  12 Now on the first day of the feast of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is       sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to    prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 13 He sent two of his         disciples and told them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a         jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Wherever he enters, tell       the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is my guest         room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?”’ 15 He will    show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make         preparations for us there.” 16 So the disciples left, went into the        city, and found things just as he had told them, and they      prepared the Passover.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            14:12   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?”  The Passover was imminent but the apostles had no idea of where they were going to observe the memorial.  The city was filled with countless pilgrims and the space available was limited.  The question seems to imply that they anticipated that He had already made arrangements, but simply had not shared the details with them.  


            14:13   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.  An odd instruction--no name or physical location.  Miraculous foreknowledge would be required to make this work.  It was far from a “gratuitous miracle” by any means for it also kept the information out of the hands of Judas who had his own, destructive, agenda.  The place could be prearranged, but not this method of finding that place.

            Sidebar:  The two apostles were Peter and John (Luke 22:8).

            Sidebar:  In the culture of the day, it was overwhelmingly the women who carried such containers of water.  A male doing so would stand out “like a sore thumb” and be very hard to miss even in the crowds.    


            14:14   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?” ’  Even if Jesus had not already gained agreement, anyone with space would be inclined to give an affirmative answer to the request, especially when a “Teacher” is involved.  To have someone with that kind of background brought a certain honor to the household that it could have from no one else.


            14:15   Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.”  With twelve apostles and the Lord--all using the kind of “couches” used to partake meals on--required a considerable amount of room.  Hence the importance of it being “a large upper room.”  That description also argues that it would be connected to the outside by its own stairs and the resident family would not be bothered by their coming and going.

            It being “furnished and prepared” means that the necessary furniture would be in place and the de-leavening requirement would already have been carried out. 


            14:16   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.  As in past predictions of Jesus (such as the finding of the animal to ride into Jerusalem on), the room was both there and available.  With that matter settled, the actual food for the Passover needed to be gathered and prepared.  That included buying the wine and herbs.  The lamb would also need to be purchased and sacrificed in the Temple so it could then be used as part of their Passover.



                        At The Time of the Passover Observance Jesus Warns of His      Betrayal . . . (12:17-21):  17 Then, when it was evening, he came to       the house with the twelve. 18 While they were at the table eating,      Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me will   betray me.” 19 They were distressed, and one by one said to him,       “Surely not I?” 

                20 He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips         his hand with me into the bowl. 21 For the Son of Man will go as it         is written about him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of       Man is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had never been         born.”      --New English Translation (for comparison)



            14:17   In the evening He came with the twelve.  At sunset the new day would begin under the Jewish calendar and the Passover observed.

            Sidebar on how the Passover feast was carried out--Since few of us give much thought to this, it would be useful to provide a detailed summary of what typically went on that night (from Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges):  (i) With the Passover, by Divine ordinance, there had always been eaten two or three flat cakes of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:18), and the rites of the feast by immemorial usage had been regulated according to the succession of four cups of red wine always mixed with water (Psalms 16:5; 23:5; 116:13).  These were placed before the master of the house where the Paschal Feast was celebrated, or the most eminent guest, who was called the Celebrant, the President, or Proclaimer of the Feast.

            “(ii) After those assembled had reclined, he took one of the Four Cups, known as the ‘Cup of Consecration,’ in his right hand, and pronounced the benediction over the wine and the feast, saying, “Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, our God, Thou King of the universe, Who hast created the fruit of the vine,” He then tasted the Cup and passed it round.

            “(iii) Water was then brought in, and he washed, followed by the rest, the hands being dipped in water.

            (iv) The table was then set out with the bitter herbs, such as lettuce, endive, succory, and horehound, the sauce called Charoseth, and the Passover lamb.

            “(v) The Celebrant then once more blessed God for the fruits of the earth, and taking a portion of the bitter herbs, dipped it in the charoseth, and ate a piece of it of ‘the size of an olive,’ and his example was followed by the rest.

            (vi) The Haggadah or ‘shewing forth’ (1 Corinthians 11:26) now commenced, and the Celebrant declared the circumstances of the delivery from Egypt, as commanded by the Law (Exodus 12:27; 13:8).

            “(vii) Then the second Cup of wine was filled, and a child or proselyte inquired, “What mean ye by this service?” (Exodus 12:26), to which reply was made according to a prescribed formula or liturgy.  The first part of the “Hallel,” Psalms 113, 114, was then sung, and the second Cup was solemnly drunk.

            “(viii) The Celebrant now washed his hands again, and taking two of the unleavened cakes, broke one of them, and pronounced the thanksgiving in these words, “Blessed be Thou, O Lord our God, Thou King of the universe, Who bringest forth fruit out of the earth.”  Then he distributed a portion to each, and all wrapping some bitter herbs round their portion, dipped it in the charoseth and ate it.

            “(ix) The flesh of the lamb was now eaten, and the Master of the house, lifting up his hands, gave thanks over the third Cup of wine, known as the ‘Cup of Blessing,’ and handed it round to each person.

            “(x) After thanking for the food of which they had partaken and for their redemption from Egypt, a fourth Cup, known as the ‘Cup of Joy,’ was filled and drunk, and the remainder of the Hallel (Psalms 115-118) was sung.”


            14:18   Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.”  This made it about as personal as one could get.  Not merely death was forthcoming, but the very individual who would make it possible was eating with them.  And not just any meal (which would be terrible enough) but the holy Passover!  It might well be called the Great Defilement of the Passover’s sacred purpose celebrating the redemption of the nation--for the Savior who was obtaining that redemption on a spiritual level was about to be betrayed.   


            14:19   And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?”  And another said, “Is it I?”  With the obvious exception of Judas, none of them had a reason to see the warning applying to themselves.  But there  was still the haunted thought that since “some one” would do it, could--somehow, however incredible it seemed at the moment--that person be themself?  It tells a lot of their willingness to accept others as honorable that none think of accusing one of the others; they are all obsessed that it might be themselves.  The normal human response seems to be that if there is going to be a problem it has to be because of someone else--but that is clearly not at work here.


            14:20   He answered and said to them, It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish.  He declines to provide the identity of the betrayer, but insists on leaving it simply as one of those celebrating Passover with Him.  In other words “ ‘He who is just about to dip with Me a piece of the unleavened cakes into the charoseth—a sauce consisting of a mixture of vinegar, figs, dates, almonds, and spice, provided at the Passover.”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)


            14:21   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.”  What is going to happen is so infamous that it would be better never to have existed than commit such an atrocious evil.  As the Pulpit Commentary puts it, “Existence is no blessing, but a curse, to him who consciously and willfully defeats the purpose of his existence.”  Today we might use the idiom, “There is bad and there is bad!Things so extreme it is horrifying even to think about.  



                        At The Time of the Passover Observance . . . The Lord's Supper Is         Instituted (12:22-26):  22 While they were eating, he took bread, and after giving thanks he broke it, gave it to them, and said, “Take it. This is my body.” 23 And after taking the cup and giving thanks,         he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 He said to them,      “This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, that is poured out        for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will no longer drink of the fruit    of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of         God.” 26 After singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of     Olives.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            14:22  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.”  If they took this as literal rather than symbolic--i.e., as representing His body--they would surely have protested because this would be cannibalism.  Furthermore they would automatically have taken it as symbolic because the physical flesh of Jesus was right there, talking to them, and He wasn’t bleeding all over the place from the part that was on the plate.  I suppose one could argue that at that moment Jesus had two physical bodies--one talking and one on the plate--but that would surely push the literal versus symbolic debate over the line into outright foolishness! 

            Or would it?  If Jesus’ flesh and blood are literally everywhere whenever this memorial is performed, wouldn’t that require that the flesh and blood be simultaneously in tens of thousands (or more) places at one time?  We can imagine a non-tangible Being present in vast areas at one time, but literal flesh and blood . . . well, the mind firmly rebels at such an idea.  That it is symbolic of . . . that it represents . . . Jesus’ body makes far better interpretive sense.

            Sidebar:  The “bread” would have been unleavened, not necessarily because it was wrong for later generations to use anything else, but because it was the only form of bread permissible at Passover.  (If Communion had been instituted at any other time of the year, would not the broad language of “bread” been taken as authorizing any form of it we preferred?)  The strongest argument for unleavened continuing to be required is because we do know that was the form originally used and because the lack of leaven is a vivid symbolic reminder that Jesus was free from the leaven of human sin.


            14:23   Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.  The symbolism of the fruit of the vine--for that was what was in the cup; cf. verse 25--was that it represented His blood.  This was a natural allusion based upon its “blood like” appearance.  In that age the drink was typically served as a mixture of one third wine and two thirds water. 

            One is inclined to consider the fruit of the vine as grape juice because if it has not been fermented (roughly the liquid equivalent of leavened) it better represents the “unfermented” (by sin) body of the Lord.  On the other hand, the Talmud provides no hint that regular wine was considered as a leavened product and removed from the house as both leaven and leavened baked products had to be prior to the Passover observance.     

            14:24   And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.  The fruit of the vine symbolized Jesus’ blood and this is important because it was through the shedding of it that the old covenant (= the Old Testament) was nailed to the cross; this made room for the new covenant that would be revealed and taught by His apostles.  “My blood of the new covenant” is the equivalent of “the new covenant in My blood,” which is how the apostle Paul quotes it (1 Corinthians 11:25).  Not to mention that through the shedding of His blood our redemption was made possible (Romans 3:25; 5:9).  


            14:25   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.”  Although the new “kingdom of God” was not publicly proclaimed until Pentecost, the old religious system was already nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).  Hence the age of the kingdom was initiated at that point.  And during that interim occurred exactly the kind of behavior that is described here:  Peter refers to “us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead” (speaking in Acts 10:41).  The reference is not to Jesus “celebrating” the Communion but His partaking of the elements of bread and fruit of the vine that are also used in that observance.  (Unless, perhaps, one can apply the language to Jesus’ spiritual presence at our worship and, hence, “sharing” in our regular commemoration of that memorial.)   


            14:26   And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.  Quite likely this was the hymn normally used at the end of the Passover observance.  We would today, however, speak of “hymns” in the plural since historically we know that Psalms 116-118 were the ones utilized at the conclusion.  However the language is quite broad and it could even refer to some other well known spiritual song that they chose to sing after those three Psalms.



                        Jesus Emphasizes The Imminence Of His Betrayal And The Apostolic    Panic At It Occurring (14:27-31):  27 Then Jesus said to them, “You will        all fall away, for it is written, I will strike the shepherd, /         and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised, I         will go ahead of you into Galilee.” 

                29 Peter said to him, “Even if they all fall away, I will        not!” 30 Jesus said to him, “I tell you the truth, today—this very      night—before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three       times.” 31 But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I must die with         you, I will never deny you.” And all of them said the same thing.

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            14:27   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.’  Not only would all of the apostles “stumble” that night--through terror at the arrest of Jesus--but what happens to both them and the Lord was the fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 13:7.  The Shepherd is Jesus Himself and He is identified as such both in Hebrews 13:20 and by the Lord Himself (John 10:11).  The shepherd performs the role of leadership in showing where to go and in protecting the flock from danger.  On a spiritual level, that was exactly what Jesus did during His ministry.


            14:28   “But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.”  Jesus might be dead for awhile but He had no doubt that He would not stay that way.  He would not only arise but would be with them when in their “home” region of Galilee.  There they would be out of sight of the radicals who pushed through the judicial murder of the Lord.  Furthermore it would be safer from the standpoint of the apostles against whom they would not feel the inhibitions against violent action that hindered their eliminating Jesus.


            14:29   Peter said to Him, “Even if all are made to stumble, yet I will not be.  Peter was utterly confident of his own reliability.  But he did not recognize that there is a profound difference between being strong and being strong enough.  Every person has his or her breaking point, especially if the crisis comes in a place and manner when it is least expected. 


            14:30   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.”  The crisis that would overwhelm Peter’s emotional and spiritual resources would not occur at some indefinite time and place in the future.  It would occur on the very next day before the rooster could sound out multiple times his “wake up” call to everyone.

            Sidebar:  To us this language would suggest at sunrise.  This was not the way they thought of things.  In a parable in Mark 13 Jesus describes the events of the nighttime hours as “in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning” (verse 35).  This fits well with the middle of the night trial before Caiphas, during which the denial actually occurred.    

            14:31   But he spoke more vehemently, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!”  And they all said likewise.  Jesus’ insistence angered Peter because he knew what he was made of:  It would simply not happen.  Not that the others had bragging rights on realistic self-assessment since they all shared the same opinion about themselves.



                        Jesus Emotionally Prepares For Death In The Garden Of Gethsemane   (14:32-42):  32 Then they went to a place called Gethsemane and   Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and became very troubled and         distressed. 34 He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved, even         to the point of death. Remain here and stay alert.” 

                35 Going a little farther, he threw himself to the       ground and         prayed that if it were possible the hour would pass from     him. 36 He said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Yet not what I will, but what you   will.” 

                                37 Then he came and found them sleeping, and        said to       Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you      stay awake for    one hour? 38 Stay awake and pray that you will not fall into    temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 He went         away again and prayed the same thing. 40 When he came again         he found them sleeping; they could not keep their eyes open.        And they did not know what to tell him. 

                41 He came a third time and said to them, “Are you still   sleeping and resting? Enough of that! The hour has come. Look,      the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up,    let us go. Look! My betrayer is approaching!”     --New English             Translation (for comparison)



            14:32   Then they came to a place which was named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here while I pray.”  Gethsemane” literally means “the Oil-Press” so we can conclude that there was one on the property and that it would be setting in the midst of a substantial garden that grew olives.  Such a near urban location would typically have some type of enclosure around its outer edges as well.


            14:33  And He took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.  The apostles were divided into two groups with eight left closest to the entrance and the other three accompanying Him further.  Either immediately (or after spending some time praying in their presence), He felt the need to be more alone in His extreme anguish and moved off a bit further (Matthew 26:37-38).


            14:34   Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death.  Stay here and watch.”  He was emotionally overwhelmed by the events to occur and instructed them to remain behind while He separated a short distance--“about a stone’s throw” away (Luke 22:41).  So intense was the anguish it was as if the anguish itself could kill Him.  He felt like He was “dying of sorrow” (to put the words in the formulation we would use today).  Anyone acquainted with the extreme humiliation and pain of crucifixion will understand the allusion easily enough.  Crucifixion was intended to be both humiliating and inflict prolonged torment.  It was doubtless described in varied ways, but “a quick and easy death” was never one of them.


            14:35   He went a little farther, and fell on the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him.  Knowing what was going to happen; indeed knowing that it was essential for it to happen, He still felt overwhelmed and prayed that there--somehow--might yet be an honorable way to escape it.  The “hour” was no more a mere theoretical “some time in the future” but quite literally not all that many in the future.


            14:36   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.  Jesus recognizes here a profound paradox that we have trouble accepting:  Even though “anything and everything” is possible to God, that does not necessarily mean that He will see it best for those alternatives to happen.  Some things need to occur simply because they are the preordained method to produce a given result--even when they are painful and frightening to us.  Even God’s vast love can not permit such things to change.  Hence Jesus--in the middle of all the stress and pain--respects what God must do and accepts the necessity.  


            14:37   Then He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping?  Could you not watch one hour?  Already torn up emotionally, there was something deeply discouraging in His respected disciple giving in to such weakness.  We can easily see this as more a tearful plea than a forceful rebuke.  A large touch of irony is added to the situation because it was Peter who so emphatically insisted that he would never deny Jesus (verses 29-31).


            14:38   Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation.  The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”  Just as Jesus needed strength for what was about to happen, so did Peter.  However much he was dedicated to the Lord in his inner “spirit,” the physical strength to carry out those wishes was nowhere near as strong.  Hence the need to be alert to the dangers to his loyalty that lay ahead and to pray to avoid falling into the trap of yielding to temptation.  Jerome once wrote some words that seem specially relevant here:  In whatever degree we trust to the ardor of the spirit, in the same degree ought we to fear because of the infirmity of the flesh.”    


            14:39   Again He went away and prayed, and spoke the same words.  The subject matter was again identical and even “the same words” of sorrow and pain were used.  Repeating the identical words can either be rote repetition of some verbal formula (as in Matthew 6:7) or it can be the sincere plea of the heart.  Sometimes there simply does not seem to be anything adequate to describe the same problem but the same words.  We are driven to them because of the lack of anything sufficient to replace them.


            14:40   And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him.  The hour was late and even His earlier interruption of their sleep had been inadequate to keep them awake.  They could not even come up with a decent excuse for what had happened and they knew full well that they had fallen short of how they should be acting.  They had probably tried to stay awake, but sometimes the weakness of the flesh is stronger than the strength of the inner spirit (cf. verse 38).  Not for want of trying but because the human body simply has its limits; we can bend them--but only so far.


            14:41   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.  Again asleep, but now it is irrelevant.  They have had all the sleep they are going to get--“It is enough!”  And however half asleep they might still feel, they are about to have it violently overwhelmed by fear and horror at what is happening.  

            For the betrayal is about to occur and even though it is being done in the name of the “highly religious” Sanhedrin, both they and these men they use to carry out their wishes are nothing short of unrepentant “sinners.”  They had betrayed their most obligatory religious duties and principles in order to destroy the Man they could not answer and who refused to bend to their humanly invented religious traditions.


            14:42   Rise, let us be going.  See, My betrayer is at hand.”  Though the others may not recognize him yet, Jesus can see Judas in the distance and that leaves absolutely no doubt what must happen next. 



                        Judas Betrays Jesus To His Face, He Is Arrested, And The Panicked     Apostles Flee In Horror (14:43-52):  43 Right away, while Jesus was still   speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, arrived. With him came a         crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests         and experts in the law and elders. 44 (Now the betrayer had given      them a sign, saying, “The one I kiss is the man. Arrest him and   lead him away under guard.”) 45 When Judas arrived, he went up     to Jesus immediately and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 

                46 Then they took hold of him and arrested him. 47 One of the bystanders drew his sword and struck the high priest’s slave,   cutting off his ear. 48 Jesus said to them, “Have you come with   swords and clubs to arrest me like you would an outlaw? 49 Day         after day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, yet you        did not arrest me. But this has happened so that the scriptures    would be fulfilled.” 

                50 Then all the disciples left him and fled. 51 A young man was following him, wearing only a linen cloth. They tried to         arrest him, 52 but he ran off naked, leaving his linen cloth behind.

                        --New English Translation (for comparison)



            14:43   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.  To assure Jesus could not escape and the apostles could not prevent them from carrying out the arrest, they came in large number and heavily armed with both swords and clubs. This group would have consisted of guards from the Temple (over which the Sanhedrin had control and which are referred to as authorized to carry out arrests for it in John 7:32 and 7:45).  It would also include soldiers borrowed from the Roman garrison at Fort Antonia located near the Temple (the technical term for such soldiers is translated as “officers” in John 18:1-5’s description of the arrest).  Added in would be those volunteering or assigned to the task from the household of the high priest (as in verse 47). 


            14:44   Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.”  Being in the middle of the night and being far more familiar with Jesus than anyone in the arresting party, it was important for Judas to act in a manner that would leave no doubt that they had the right person.  The kiss on the cheek was an affectionate sign of greeting among friends and kin; when coming from a stranger it was a sign of respect and courtesy.  But tonight it would symbolize brazen betrayal.


            14:45   As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.  Wasting no time Judas identified the Lord by a double reference to Him as “Rabbi.”  In light of the modest size of this gathering, who else could He be but Jesus by the title alone?  But to assure that there was absolutely no doubt among the arresting party, he provided the kiss of greeting that would be expected under happier conditions.


            14:46   Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him.  Assuring that there would be no opportunity for Him to escape at all. 


            14:47   And one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.  The number of people in the arresting party and their heavy armaments assured that resistance would be futile.  In spite of the odds, however, one apostle decided to resist.  In John 18:10-11 we learn the swordsman’s identity was Peter and how he only put away his weapon when commanded by the Lord; nor do we read here in Mark how Jesus healed the wounded man.


            14:48   Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?  Those coming to arrest someone come in the number and with whatever weapons are needed to make sure it can be successfully carried out.  But Jesus challenges them with the accusation that such weaponry is treating Him like He was a dangerous thief--with the silent implication of “and you know full well there was never the hint of any such thing about Me.”  Furthermore He was well within their grasp on a regular basis where it would have been easy to arrest Him rather than go through all this drama in the middle of the night. . . .


            14:49   I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”  Jesus had not “occasionally” but “daily” been where they could have seized Him.  They did not have to go out and find Him in some obscure place in the night; He had regularly been in their midst when they could have taken Him into custody at whatever time and in whatever manner they preferred.  Furthermore, whether their timing was illogical or not, the fact remained that the Scriptures had predicted His death and these prophecies must be transformed into reality.

            Sidebar:  Although Jesus had warned of His coming death three times in this gospel (8:31-33; 9:30-32; 10:32-34), this is the only direct allusion to how His betrayal and death were essential to fulfill Biblical prophecy. 


            14:50   Then they all forsook Him and fled.  Not knowing what would happen next, realizing Jesus had absolutely no intention of encouraging physical resistance, and no doubt in more than a little panic, they scattered in horror and terror at what was happening.


            14:51-52          Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body.  And the young men laid hold of him, 52 and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.  Odd things happen and they gain notoriety because of their oddity.  It has been argued that a vineyard such as this would have had a cottage within its boundaries.  If so this may well have been for the poor soul left to keep an eye on the property at nights.  The fact that he was concerned enough about what was happening to “follow” the crowd argues considerable bravery on his part--however cautiously it was expressed.  The effort of the arrestors to grab him argues they saw him as potentially interfering and were going to haul him in as well--or, at the least, give him a sound beating before chasing him away.

            Sidebar:  Mark, the author of this gospel, is the most often suggested individual to have been this young man.  But even if that be the case, it was only the apostles who had partaken of Passover with Jesus and come out to this location.  What in the world was he doing here unless for something along the line of what we have suggested?  (Some have speculated that, instead, the young man came from a home on the way into the city--perhaps even the very one where the Passover had been observed--and that this incident occurred after the officers were considerably away from the Garden.  The phrase “followed Him” certainly implies at least a reasonable distance from the Garden itself.)   



                        The Sanhedrin Finds It Even Harder Than They Expected To Find A       “Credible” Lie To Justify the Lord's Death (14:53-65):  53 Then they led Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests and elders and    experts in the law came together. 54 And Peter had followed him         from a distance, up to the high priest’s courtyard. He was sitting       with the guards and warming himself by the fire. 

                55 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 anything. 56 Many gave false testimony   against him, but their testimony did not agree. 

                57 Some stood up and gave this false testimony against    him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with         hands and in three days build another not made with    hands.’ ” 59 Yet even on this point their testimony did not         agree. 

                60 Then the high priest stood up before them and asked    Jesus, “Have you no answer? What is this that they are testifying against you?” 61 But he was silent and did not answer. Again the high priest questioned him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the         Blessed One?” 62 “I am,” said Jesus, “and you will see the Son of       Man sitting at the right hand of the Power and coming with the     clouds of heaven.” 

                63 Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “Why do         we still need witnesses? 64 You have heard the blasphemy! What s your verdict?” They all condemned him as deserving         death. 65 Then some began to spit on him, and to blindfold him,         and to strike him with their fists, saying, “Prophesy!” The guards       also took him and beat him.    --New English Translation (for           comparison)



            14:53   And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.  The high priest was Caiaphas and the “all” could just encompass the “all” who fully supported the death penalty against Jesus.  To think that Caiaphas wanted anyone else involved at this point--even individuals who might be the least amount skeptical--would risk fatally delaying what he was trying to accomplish. 

            The official calling in of the entire Sanhedrin would wait until the last minute--and that does not seem to occur until 15:1--and even then some of those notifications might be “accidentally delayed” or relayed in the most misleading verbal formulation possible in order to minimize the presence of those who might oppose the death penalty.  (For example, would they want Gamaliel anywhere near these proceedings if they could possibly avoid it?  Consider his voice for moderation in Acts 5:33-39.)  


            14:54   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.  Peter had regained some of his confidence, to the point where he was willing to even enter the courtyard of the high priest’s residence to get a better idea of what was going on.  He was unable to stop it, but at least he could learn more of what was actually happening.    


            14:55   Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.  No matter how much you wanted to execute a man you still needed a half-way credible pretext on which to do it.  Their problem was they weren’t obtaining the kind of excuse they needed.  Perhaps it was that the opportunity to arrest Jesus had come within such a tight time frame that there simply wasn’t time to “talk through” the matter in detail.  Perhaps it was the overconfidence that since “Jesus is so clearly a brazen heretic,” that the excuse would easily and quickly arise after the arrest.    


            14:56   For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.  The problem they faced was that though the accusers of Jesus were numerous, what they claimed Jesus had done or said was simply not consistent with the testimony from others.   They apparently “heard” what they wanted to hear--which was the worst possible interpretation of anything Jesus said that annoyed them.   

            Sidebar:  The death penalty required at least two witnesses who were in agreement on what had been done (Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15).  In fact if the accusation was clearly a falsehood, the accuser was to be punished with the same punishment he had tried to have inflicted on the innocent (Deuteronomy 19:16-21).


            14:57   Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying,  58 “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’   59 But not even then did their testimony agree.  They could not agree on the details even when they found a major accusation to use.  Obviously if these “details” related to “where” and “when” and the “surrounding circumstances,” even the point of agreement was not enough to gain credibility for the charge when so much else was incompatible.  Either these accusers were also at the actual crucifixion or else their words burned into the minds of others who were since the same charge was used to mock Jesus while He was on the cross (Mark 15:29-30). 

            Oddly enough He had said something close enough to this for malicious minds to “mishear” what had been said.  It is recorded, however, in the gospel of John and this is apparently one of those cases where a gospel knows something has been said or done that it has not included:  18 So the Jews answered and said to Him, ‘What sign do You show to us, since You do these things?’  19 Jesus answered and said to them, ‘Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.’  20 Then the Jews said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will You raise it up in three days?’  21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body” (John 2). 

            Note that Jesus was not the one that would do the destroying--the words clearly require the interpretive gloss, you will cause the destruction.  But it was close enough to bend into a false accusation.  Yet their efforts still fell short because the multiple witnesses did not agree on a shared account of what had been said.   


            14:60   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?”  At this point the high priest is clearly desperate:  If His enemies can not even present a consistent, credible accusation there is nothing to answer in the first place!  Caiaphas is clearly hoping that Jesus will say something in the stress of the moment so that it can be bent into a fatal accusation.  It doesn’t matter whether it is correcting what His critics had been saying or introducing some new topic entirely; the high priest desperately needed something to work with and he wasn’t getting it. 


            14:61   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?”  Since the high priest has not obtained anything credible to work with in regard to the destruction of the Temple, he finally resorts to whether Jesus is making Messianic claims.  And since Pilate would not be thrilled about anyone claiming to be the long awaited Messiah--it could easily encourage a public eruption of anti-Roman hatred--it offered a potentially useful tool to gain Jesus’ death. 

            As presented in Mark, one might reasonably assume that this was a question He was willing to talk about because it did not involve the Temple destruction delusions they had attempted to get Him to refute (verses 57-60).  Above and beyond this, however, we learn from Matthew 26:63 that more was involved as well:  I put you under oath by the living God:  Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God!”  If a person were placed under such an oath he was legally obligated to tell what “he has seen or known of the matter--if he does not tell it, he bears guilt” (Leviticus 5:1).    


            14:62   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.”  On this Jesus will answer candidly.  He is not only the Messiah but they will “observe/see” Him sitting at God’s right hand when He comes in judgment.  Symbolically (if they--not just Caiaphas personally--“have eyes to see” what is really happening) this will occur at the judgment on Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and quite literally in His coming to judge mankind in the final day of earthly civilization.

            The language makes one promptly think of the heavenly being in existence even in the days of David, but still superior to him:  The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool.’  The Lord shall send the rod of Your strength out of Zion.  Rule in the midst of Your enemies!” (Psalms 110:1-2).  This Lord would be “a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek” (verse 4).  Punitive judgment would come upon the rebellious on earth (verses 5-7). 

            It is hard to read Jesus’ words without concluding that Caiaphas understood the Lord as claiming to be that superior to David king, one even closer to Jehovah than David could be.  Or if that passage did not come to his mind, as something equally or even more radical.  In short, claiming as a supposed mere mortal, that kind of nature and position rightly attributed only to the supernatural world.  This, if wrong and unjustified, qualified as outright blasphemous.  And with Caiaphas’ spiritual blinders, it was inevitably interpreted in that manner.  It “couldn’t” be true; therefore it “wasn’t” true.      


            14:63   Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?  To him this settled the issue entirely and conclusively without any need for further evidence.  Why this would be the case would leave many modern readers puzzled but then the rationale is explained:   the claim represents a hideous and unforgivable insult of Jehovah Himself. . . .


            14:64   You have heard the blasphemy!  What do you think?”  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.   Being at God’s right hand was rightly regarded as elevation to the level of Deity regardless of however one might finesse the definition of exactly what is being claimed.  They reject that Jesus could possibly be such.  By definition--in their blinded eyes--he is therefore both guilty of blasphemy and worthy of a prompt death.  


            14:65   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.    We have heard from his biased judges.  Now the emphasis shifts to His guards.  Insult, abuse, and humiliation are poured upon the Lord even by those who had been in charge of the arrest.  Spitting in the face was, as with us, a display of extreme contempt (as in Numbers 12:14 and Deuteronomy 25:9).  Slapping Him “with the palms of their hands” was similarly contemptuous and hurt horribly every time it was done.  



                        As Predicted, Peter Repeatedly Denies All Knowledge Of The     Prisoner Jesus (14:66-72):  66 Now while Peter was below in the       courtyard, one of the high priest’s slave girls came by. 67 When        she saw Peter warming himself, she looked directly at him and         said, “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus.” 68 But he denied      it: “I don’t even understand what you’re talking about!” Then he       went out to the gateway, and a rooster crowed. 

                69 When the slave girl saw him, she began again to say to       the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” 70 But he denied it again.

                A short time later the bystanders again said to Peter, “You       must be one of them, because you are also a Galilean.” 71 Then   he began to curse, and he swore with an oath, “I do not know       this man you are talking about!” 72 Immediately a rooster crowed       a second time. Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said to         him: “Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny me three       times.” And he broke down and wept.     --New English Translation        (for comparison)



            14:66   Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came.  The high priest was well off financially and both because of that and his leadership position it was inevitable that he would have a very large staff of both men and women in his extended household.

            Sidebar on the physical layout of the events at the Lord’s Jewish trial:  This little word ‘beneath’ [‘below,’ NKJV]—one of our Evangelist's graphic touches—is most important for the right understanding of what we may call the topography of the scene.  We must take it in connection with Matthew's word (Matt 26:69):  ‘Now Peter sat without in the palace’—or quadrangular court, in the center of which the fire would be burning; and crowding around and buzzing about it would be the menials and others who had been admitted within the court.  At the upper end of this court, probably, would be the memorable chamber in which the trial was held—open to the court, likely, and not far from the fire (as we gather from Luke 22:61), but on a higher level; for (as our verse says) the court, with Peter in it, was ‘beneath’ it.  The ascent to the Council chamber was perhaps by a short flight of steps.  If the reader will bear this explanation in mind, he will find the intensely interesting details which follow more intelligible.”  (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary)


            14:67   And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”  The effort of Peter to stay warm testifies to the cold of the night hours.  (It is typically estimated that these claims of recognition of Peter’s discipleship would be occurring beginning around three in the morning; some estimate even earlier.)  The fact that she thought she recognized Peter argues that she herself had seen Jesus in the company of His apostles on one or more occasions and that she vaguely remembered what at least some of them looked like.  The light from the fire would make his facial features far more recognizable than when he was further away from it. 


            14:68   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.  Our idiom today would be, “I don’t have the foggiest idea what you are talking about.”  And then he walked away so that the discussion would not be continued.  A visible way of showing apparent contempt both for the question and the questioner; as if to say, “there’s nothing here worth talking about.”  Also permitting him to avoid continuing the potentially dangerous conversation.


            14:69   And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.”  Their paths crossed again and by now she was even more convinced that her memory had not played itself false.  This time her remarks were addressed not so much to Peter as to those around him.  It is almost as if she is challenging them:  “What are you going to do about it?”  


            14:70   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.  The female servant’s claims gained a certain credibility among the crowd because Peter spoke with a Galilean accent that was different from the Judean one that would normally be heard in Jerusalem:  In fact the Talmud goes beyond this and contains several verbal jabs at the inability of Galileans to pronounce words “properly.”

            This accusation occurred about an hour after his previous denial (Luke 22:59).  Instead of another simple denial he made it far more emphatic. . . .


            14:71   Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”  He wasn’t cursing at Jesus but he was loudly cursing to hide the fact that he knew far more about the Lord than it was safe to admit in this hostile crowd.  In twentieth-first century English, this sounds like he was using vulgarities or outright obscenities.  The connotation in the Greek is that of calling down curses (invoking divine or earthly retribution) upon himself if he is not telling the truth.  


            14:72   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.  At this point reality penetrates his thinking and he recalls with horror that the Lord had predicted exactly this kind of repeated denial.  This man who not many hours earlier insisted that nothing could drive him away from the Lord, had loudly and emphatically denied knowing Him at all.  Is it any wonder he cried in his guilt?  Especially when it was at that exact time that Jesus turned from where He stood in the distance and briefly stared at him (Luke 22:61). 

            Before we look down upon him too much, would we have had the courage to even enter the courtyard to see what was happening?  And would we have been able to resist the panic of possible retribution that led to his denial of the truth?  Bible examples often reveal not only the weakness of the person being described but also our own as well.   








Chapter Fifteen




                        Pilate Interrogates Jesus (15:1-5):  1 Early in the morning, after   forming a plan, the chief priests with the elders and the experts   in the law and the whole Sanhedrin tied Jesus up, led him away,       and handed him over to Pilate. So Pilate asked him, “Are you   the king of the Jews?”  He replied, “You say so.” 

                Then the chief priests began to accuse him repeatedly.  So Pilate asked him again, “Have you nothing to say?  See how     many charges they are bringing against you!”  But Jesus made        no further reply, so that Pilate was amazed.     --New English             Translation (for comparison)



            15:1     Immediately, in the morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council; and they bound Jesus, led Him away, and delivered Him to Pilate.  “The chief priests, the elders, and the scribes” had been mentioned as meeting in 14:53 where the formal charge of blasphemy was developed.  Here, however, we have thrown in a reference to “the whole council” (i.e., the entire Sanhedrin)--giving further support to our earlier scenario that the accusations grew out of a rump session where only those most supporting the charge were invited. 

            The “consultation” might consist of the formal adoption of the charges but to absolutely assure that there was the minimum chance of the decision being challenged, it is likely that the decision was presented as one already adopted.  It was done so, of course, because it was “impractical” to gather everyone earlier and it was considered courteous and proper to officially inform everyone what the council had preliminarily decided.  We certainly know that such absurdities have been delivered with a straight face in many modern countries in order to gloss over the improprieties of what has already happened.       


            15:2     Then Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?”  He answered and said to him, It is as you say.”  The charges of blasphemy were irrelevant to Pilate.  A charge had to be presented that would be both offensive to the Romans and worthy of the death penalty in their eyes.  The charge of being a king was one that fit the need perfectly since a Jewish kingly claim was normally associated with the willingness to back up the claim with insurrection. 

            Jesus readily conceded the charge was true but Pilate had to be more than a little suspicious.  For the Sanhedrin to be so enthusiastic for punishment when Pilate’s own people had not picked up any rumor of insurrection--and to maintain power he and those supporting him had to be constantly alert to such dangers.  Likewise one would expect that a daily report of activities in Jerusalem would be brought to him and that had to have mentioned Jesus and His activities as annoying the religious leadership.  Furthermore Pilate’s wife knew enough of Jesus to have had bad dreams that night concerning Him (Matthew 27:19).  So there is a “back story” here that we are not given the details of that helped shape Pilate’s reluctance to act. 

            And it would explain Pilate’s unwillingness to take the “admission” at face value.  Facing reluctance to act, the top clerics sought some accusation that would compel Pilate to invoke the death penalty. . . .


            15:3     And the chief priests accused Him of many things, but He answered nothing.  Jesus refused to get into an argument over the latest tall tales that were being invented.  The very fact that His foes insisted upon branding Him with “many” false accusations argued that they knew full well that they had a perilously weak case.  With a strong one, all this would be unnecessary.

            Sidebar:  This happened in the court outside Herod’s Praetorium rather than within its walls because “they themselves did not go into the Praetorium, lest they should be defiled;” this way they could still “eat the Passover” (John 18:28).  They could try to bully through an unjust death penalty but the same folk were so “pious” that the building where the decision would be made would defile them!  “Blind guides who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel” (Matthew 23:24).


            15:4     Then Pilate asked Him again, saying, “Do You answer nothing?  See how many things they testify against You!”  But Jesus still answered nothing, so that Pilate marveled.  So many charges were being thrown that Pilate was startled that none of them could rouse Him to make a self-defense.  The natural human defense seems to be talk . . . and keep talking . . . but when you know that no good will come out of it, what then but silence?  If you know that no one is going to listen or change their minds, what is the use?  Especially when they have made clear that removing one accusation is just going to cause them to invent a new one. 



                        Pilate Makes Them Choose Between Freedom For Jesus Or That Of      the Murderer Barabbas (15:6-15):  During the feast it was customary    to release one prisoner to the people, whomever they   requested. A man named Barabbas was imprisoned with rebels         who had committed murder during an insurrection. Then the    crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to release a prisoner for   them, as was his custom. 

                So Pilate asked them, “Do you want me to release the    king of the Jews for you?” 10 (For he knew that the chief priests     had handed him over because of envy.) 11 But the chief priests        stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas instead. 12 So      Pilate spoke to them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?” 

                13 They shouted back, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate asked them, “Why? What has he done wrong?” But they shouted more     insistently, “Crucify him!” 15 Because he wanted to satisfy the      crowd, Pilate released Barabbas for them. Then, after he had    Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified.     --New           English Translation (for comparison) 



            15:6     Now at the feast he was accustomed to releasing one prisoner to them, whomever they requested.  It was a token of good will, a symbol of good intentions.  What more appropriate symbolism for the Passover day that remembered the salvation of the Jews from death--and ultimately Egyptian servitude--than freeing a prisoner from his captivity and certainty of death?  Furthermore they would get to choose the identity of the prisoner, making the matter symbolic of their collective right to decide matters of life and death.  From the Roman standpoint, however, it was simply an act of good will intended to encourage a cooperative mentality within the subject community.


            15:7     And there was one named Barabbaswho was chained with his fellow rebels; they had committed murder in the rebellion.  Barabbas had been involved in an attempt at revolution and had committed murder during it:  “Murder” could have been defined as anyone killed “on the other side” or it could carry the more traditional usage of noncombatants--a poor soul who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time and gets killed for “no good reason at all.”  Jesus, for all His supposed “faults,” did not have blood on His hands.  He was obviously a better choice for release than this violent troublemaker.


            15:8     Then the multitude, crying aloud, began to ask him to do just as he had always done for them.  Mobs don’t always do what their leaders want them to do.  The religious leaders had gotten them together, stirred up their emotions, and now they are diverted--passionately diverted--into demanding that the prisoner release tradition be continued.  Pilate tries to take advantage of their request. . . .


            15:9     But Pilate answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?”  For all of Jesus’ kingship “delusions,” He had never murdered an innocent person; indeed had never killed anyone at all.  Releasing a “deluded” soul inherently made better sense than releasing a man with a documented murder record.  Pilate took this tack because he knew full well what lay behind their claims against Jesus. . . .


            15:10   For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy.  At the heart, doctrinal issues had become secondary in their minds to that of maintaining influence and control.  The “kingship” claim was really only raised because they envied the popularity and influence that He had.  It was a tool to remove His sway over the multitudes and restore them to their “rightful” place.  As they saw it, if He were dead they no longer had a problem.  (The appearance of the Christian movement in their city would prove they had fatally miscalculated.) 

            Sidebar:  In line with the reasoning presented in 15:2, this verse provides further evidence that he had prior knowledge of their biased motivations:  He knew that this had nothing to do with Roman interests but strictly their own. 


            15:11   But the chief priests stirred up the crowd, so that he should rather release Barabbas to them.  The people might have gone along with Pilate’s suggestion but the religious leaders intervened to divert their passions back at Jesus.  We don’t know what arguments they used--“you are supposed to be a good Jew, aren’t you”?  you know we wouldn’t be insisting upon this if we weren’t absolutely sure”?--but they were enough to get them to back the preference of the leadership cadre.   


            15:12   Pilate answered and said to them again, “What then do you want me to do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?”  Unable to get support for freedom, he hopes for an alternative short of death.  Or, perhaps, he is just venting his frustration and anger at the stupidity of the false charges and resorts to this only out of desperation and the desire to avoid a bloody riot that might inflame the entire city.  On the eve of Passover, that was the last thing he needed to face!  The ripples alleging “Pilate’s blatant failures” would inevitably make their way back to Rome. 


            15:13   So they cried out again, “Crucify Him!”  For this was the Roman style of execution.  Jews utilized stoning instead.  If the death penalty was to be carried out by Pilate it would have to be done the Roman way.  Technically the Lord’s blood would be on Roman hands and not Jewish--but the Father would be fully aware of the priestly cadre actually behind it.  “Even from far away you understand my motives” (Psalm 139:2, NET). 


            15:14   Then Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has He done?”  But they cried out all the more, “Crucify Him!”  Pilate vainly demands a legitimate charge to justify death.  All he gets is the blind chant of crucifying the Lord.  As if anger can drown out truth and reality.


            15:15   So Pilate, wanting to gratify the crowd, released Barabbas to them; and he delivered Jesus, after he had scourged Him, to be crucified.  He yields to the crowd after even scourging does not satisfy their blood lust.  If you wanted blood, scourging gave you plenty.  But if you wanted death, it still fell short of what you desired.

            Sidebar:  The Roman scourging was horribly severe.  Drops of lead and small sharp-pointed bones were often plaited into the scourges, and the sufferers not unfrequently died under the infliction. . . .  That the soldiers could not have performed their duty with forbearance on this occasion, is plain from the wanton malice, with which they added mockery to the scourging [verses 16-20].”  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)



                        Physical Mockery of Jesus By The Soldiers (15:16-20):  16 So the      soldiers led him into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called together the whole cohort. 17 They put a purple cloak   on him and after braiding a crown of thorns, they put it on     him. 18 They began to salute him: “Hail, king of the Jews!” 

                19 Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff       and spit on him. Then they knelt down and paid homage to       him. 20 When they had finished mocking him, they stripped him     of the purple cloak and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him away to crucify him.     --New English Translation (for    comparison)



            15:16   Then the soldiers led Him away into the hall called Praetorium, and they called together the whole garrison.  “Garrison” is a good conceptual rendering for speira in this context; in John 18:3 the same Greek word is rendered “a detachment.”  (“Band” in both places in the KJV.)  Adding the word “whole” shows that, unlike those present at the arrest, at this point every one in the facility was called to see and “enjoy” the insults they were going to be able to freely use. 

            When fully staffed, this was a “cohort” (500 soldiers), one tenth of a Roman legion.  At the time of Passover and other festivals it would be imperative to assure that the full body of available forces were present.  Anything from minor disturbances to full scale riots could break out in the crush of the large crowds who came.  And it was far easier to have the force to break up such readily at hand rather than have to explain to Rome how the situation degenerated into full scale disaster.


            15:17   And they clothed Him with purple; and they twisted a crown of thorns, put it on His head.  Since Jesus was being accused of being a King, it was considered only fitting to dress Him in the garments of purple appropriate to such a figure. And to make crystal clear (as if it were needed) the intended mockery behind their actions, they pushed on his head a “crown of [painful] thorns.”  The clothing echoed the coloring used by the Roman emperor and the crown imitated the painless laurel wreath the emperor wore at various times.


            15:18   and began to salute Him, “Hail, King of the Jews!”  Having “crowned” Him, they gave Him mocking praise as King.  After all, this was the kind of Jewish king they very much wanted:  bound, insulted, and hurting. 


            15:19   Then they struck Him on the head with a reed and spat on Him; and bowing the knee, they worshiped Him.  They combined physical insult with bowing down toward Him in mocking honor.  In a very real way they were fully sincere in their mockery.  They meant every word and insult--but as verbal barbs and not as honor.  Do we need a better example of how sincerity does not guarantee that what one is doing is right?

            Sidebar:  They did this not once, but repeatedly, as some translations bring out:  “Again and again” (NET, NIV); “they kept beating” (NASB).


            15:20   And when they had mocked Him, they took the purple off Him, put His own clothes on Him, and led Him out to crucify Him.  Having had their passing bout of rough “humor,” it was time to redress Him and give Him the final “honor” they deemed any and all Jewish kings worthy of--crucifixion. 



                        Jesus Crucified And Mocked By the Onlookers (15:21-32):  21 The      soldiers forced a passerby to carry his cross, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country (he was the father of        Alexander and Rufus). 22 They brought Jesus to a place called         Golgotha (which is translated, “Place of the Skull”). 

                23 They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not         take it. 24 Then they crucified him and divided his clothes,      throwing dice for them, to decide what each would take. 25 It was     nine o’clock in the morning when they crucified him. 26 The         inscription of the charge against him read, “The king of the       Jews.” 27 And they crucified two outlaws with him, one on his      right and one on his left. 

                29 Those who passed by defamed him, shaking their heads        and saying, “Aha! You who can destroy the temple and rebuild it        in three days, 30 save yourself and come down from the      cross!” 31 In the same way even the chief priests—together with the experts in the law—were mocking him among themselves: “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! 32 Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross now, that we may       see and believe!” Those who were crucified with him also spoke        abusively to him.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            15:21   Then they compelled a certain man, Simon a Cyrenian, the father of Alexander and Rufus, as he was coming out of the country and passing by, to bear His cross.  Although physically fit from His work as a carpenter, Jesus had been vigorously scourged (verse 15) and abused by the garrison.  The cross--the cross’ crossbar most likely--could weigh 80 pounds or better to assure that it was so strong that it could be repeatedly reused without replacement.  The distance to Calvary has been estimated to be under a half-mile, but that figure is subject to revision upward since we have no way of knowing the routing by the streets that then existed.  Every step of the way would have been anguish on a tired and exhausted body.  Hence it is no wonder that He had been rendered incapable of carrying it more than part of the way.

            Sidebar--reasonable conjecture on the link of these men to both Mark and the apostle Paul:  “The fact recorded here, and not elsewhere, is one of the most striking instances of the independent character of Mark’s Gospel.  It is clear that it had a special interest for himself and the readers for whom he wrote; what that interest was we can only conjecture.  The two names were so common that we cannot arrive at more than a probable identification, but the mention of a ‘Rufus chosen in the Lord’ as prominent among the Christians of Rome (Romans 16:13), taken together with the evidence which connects Mark’s Gospel with that Church, tends to the conclusion that he was one of the two brothers thus mentioned. 

            “But if so, then we are led on to some other facts of no slight interest.  Paul speaks of the mother of Rufus as being also his mother—i.e., endeared to him by many proofs of maternal kindness [Romans 16:13 also]—and so we are led to the belief that the wife of Simon of Cyrene must, at some time or other, at Antioch or Corinth, and afterwards at Rome, have come within the inner circle of Paul’s friends.  This, in its turn, connects itself with the prominence given to ‘men of Cyrene’ in Luke’s account of the foundation of the Gentile Church of Antioch (Acts 11:20).  (Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers)        


            15:22   And they brought Him to the place Golgotha, which is translated, Place of a Skull.  This name has been used to conclude that it was an elevated more or less bare spot of land that had a resemblance to a human skull.  Others, however, simply think the name may have come from it being the routine place for Roman executions.  If so, perhaps the reasoning for the name Golgotha was that this was the place where a person arrived a living human being but left no more than a dead skull.

            Sidebar on the location:  It was (a) apparently a well-known spot; (b) outside the gate (compare Hebrews 13:12); but (c) near the city (John 19:20); (d) on a thoroughfare leading into the country (Luke 23:26); and (e) contained a ‘garden’ or ‘orchard’ (John 19:41).  (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges)


            15:23   Then they gave Him wine mingled with myrrh to drink, but He did not take it.  This was an act of mercy, giving a person something to drink that could dampen the intensity of pain.  It was offered before the person was nailed onto the cross.  If one wished Biblical authority rather than just plain humanitarian concern, rabbis found it in Proverbs 31:6, “Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those who are bitter of heart.”    


            15:24   And when they crucified Him, they divided His garments, casting lots for them to determine what every man should take.  The lots guaranteed that no one gained an unfair advantage.  The crucified, obviously, would not need their clothes after death.  They became a kind of “bonus” for the time and effort the guards spent overseeing the death.  Typically each man being crucified had four guards/executioners assigned to him.  This was calculated as more than enough to handle any violence the person might give in resisting what was happening and, being trained Roman soldiers, quite prepared to quickly puncture any delusion of rescuing him.  In other words, Jesus was being treated just like all other prisoners.


            15:25   Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him.  The time is approximate since they did not have wrist watches for precision.  Perhaps because of this ambiguity in determining exact times, Jews tended to lump anything between nine and twelve as in the “third hour” of their day, clearly using the term “hour” in the broader sense of portion thereof.  To us it sounds strange, but to them it worked quite satisfactorily.


            15:26   And the inscription of His accusation was written above:  THE KING OF THE JEWS.  The religious leaders claimed that this Jesus claimed kingship.  Fine, they would give Him that label in His death and thereby remind the onlookers that any of them who claimed such a position would also die in a similar manner.


            15:27   With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left.  Some commentators have reasonably speculated that these were likely compatriots of Barabbas.  For the same crime, it would not be illogical for them to be punished at the same time.  Whether this scenario is fully right, it is unquestionable that they had done something worthy of extreme punishment yet we read nothing of them being mocked the way Jesus was (verse 31).  Perhaps the crowd was in a degree sympathetic to their (revolutionary?) delusions?  Or the pure contempt for Jesus may have burned so bright that there was no “left over” emotional room for derision of the others.   


            15:28   So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.”  Although unquestionably found in the ancient texts of Luke 22:37 (citing Isaiah 53:12), its omission here in many manuscripts have caused it to be left out in many modern English translations.  Whether included in the text or not, the wording unquestionably describes--with full accuracy--how He was counted as worthy of death as those who unquestionably earned it.


            15:29   And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha!  You who destroy the temple and build it in three days.  Note the “those who passed by.”  It wasn’t just those who stood there relishing the entire event.  The language requires that Calvary was within easy sight of a road that was widely traveled.  As a matter of government policy that made great sense:  If you were going to this much trouble, you wanted a large number of people to see it and to pass on word to others.  You wanted them to learn just how dangerous it was to antagonize the Roman authorities.


            15:30   save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  This is an argument from the greater to the lesser:  If you do have the ability to demolish and rebuild the Temple in a few days (verse 29), then escaping your death should be easy to accomplish.  Although logical, the argument left out an important fact they weren’t aware of:  If Jesus did not shed His blood to redeem the human race, our salvation from sin would never occur.  He couldn’t “come down from the cross”--not because of actual inability, but because other factors far beyond dying were involved as well.


            15:31   Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save.  “Chief priests” means those possessing either considerable learning or status--or both.  They stayed and enjoyed the spectacle, making fun of the Lord to each other.  If “He saved others” (from both disease and demon possession), then He should be able to save Himself as well.  The fact that He can’t, proved that those other embarrassing acts--embarrassing to them as undermining their authority--could be ignored and set aside as irrelevant.  The sick may have all their ailments cured and the demons remain cast out, but that is totally irrelevant as to demonstrating His Divine authority and this “failure” proves it.  Thus they could comfort their deluded souls.


            15:32   Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him.  Would they have believed even if He came down from the cross?  Based upon their track record of rejecting the evidence of every supernatural act He performed--or, if worse came to worse, attributing it to Beelzebub--no different reaction could be anticipated at this late stage.  In fact we can easily imagine them even shouting and gloating, “See!  Proof positive that Satan is working on his behalf!  How else could such an infamous heretic possibly do this?”  Those who have a “will to disbelief” can always find an excuse.

            Then there were those dying on the cross along with Him and they also were equally insulting to the Lord--though one later changed his mind (Luke 23:39-43).  One can easily imagine their reasoning:  “If He really does have such vast powers, He’d be a fool not to use them.  And if He did use them, would He be so selfish as to leave us here afterwards?”   



                        Jesus' Public Death In Front Of Foes And Friends (15:33-41):  33 Now when it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three        in the afternoon. 

                34 Around three o’clock Jesus cried out with a loud voice,   Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God,       why have you forsaken me?” 35 When some of the bystanders    heard it they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah!” 36 Then    someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Leave him alone! Let’s see if   Elijah will come to take him down!” 37 But Jesus cried out with a        loud voice and breathed his last. 38 And the temple curtain was      torn in two, from top to bottom. 

                39 Now when the centurion, who stood in front of him, saw        how he died, he said, “Truly this man was God’s Son!” 40 There     were also women, watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and   of Joses, and Salome. 41 When he was in Galilee, they had        followed him and given him support. Many other women who     had come up with him to Jerusalem were there too.     --New             English Translation (for comparison)



            15:33   Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour.  For three spooky hours, beginning at noon, a strange “darkness” covered the entire region.  It couldn’t have been an eclipse for they don’t last that long.  Not to mention that it was the wrong time of year (the moon was always full at Passover.)  Either God exercised His power through an overt miracle or He used His power to manipulate “natural” weather conditions. 


            15:34   And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  He cries out the same words as the despairing David in Psalms 22:1.  He hurts and has been hurting for hours.  However intellectually He knows that He must suffer these things, on the emotional level He rebels.  The four gospels, cumulatively, record seven things Jesus said on the cross.  So far as Mark goes, however, this is the only one mentioned.


            15:35   Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!”  Jesus was literate in Hebrew because we know He publicly read from the Isaiah scroll in the synagogue (Luke 4:16-22).  However, the popular spoken language of the day throughout the land was Aramaic and this is the one that Jesus would have used on the cross.  The listeners may not have understood what Jesus had to say because of the distance that separated them, the pain that could be causing Him to somewhat slur the words, or His Galilean accent--or a combination of these.  Or if you wish to be cynical (and with this crowd of hyper-critics the possibility can’t be minimized), they were willfully misrepresenting what they heard in order to mock Him.


            15:36   Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.”  A small act of mercy for a dying man, to help relieve the dryness of His throat.  This is accompanied by the same person trying to get them to stop the insults by throwing their own words back at them:  wait and see if Elijah will intervene!  Whatever he may personally think of Jesus, the quickness with which he tried to help--note the “someone ran” language--argues that the act was at least partially compassionate.  The mockers embraced his suggestion (Matthew 27:49).   


            15:37   And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last.  It ends as crucifixion always does with a death.  This time accompanied by a “loud” crying out as He took His last breath.  John 19:30 provides us with the words:  “It is finished!”  One can easily imagine that the utterance carries with it the conceptual “freight” that the pain is now over--but there is surely also a touch of triumph as well:  “I have accomplished everything My Father gave Me to achieve!”     


            15:38   Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  Tall (twenty feet), long (thirty feet), and quite heavy.  The most one could have done even maliciously to it was tear a small part of it.  But now it gets ripped by Divine power from the top edge to the very bottom.  Probably caused by the mighty earthquake that now occurs, ripping apart the supporting lintel--or perhaps a separate miracle designed to supplement it (Matthew 27:51 reads most naturally as indicating the first option).    

            The curtain separating the holy place from the holy of holies has now been ripped apart so all can have access.  The symbolic lesson of this was immense.  As Hebrews 10 expresses it:  19 Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”


            15:39   So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!”  The centurion in charge would never have claimed to be a “theological expert” in any religion, but he would have seen Jesus’ behavior in the Praetorium and during the crucifixion and was convinced that He had been an honorable man--a “Son of God” who imitated the Divine ideal.  That this was the connotation intended by his words can be seen in Luke’s account (23:47), when he writes, “So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, ‘Certainly this was a righteous Man!” 


            15:40   There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome,  At least at first, some (or all) of these individuals had stood far closer (John 19:25-27).  Being an “unfriendly crowd” it was natural to move further away from the insulters after the death--and before the removal of the body--in order to be solely among the fully sympathetic observers (verse 41) who were gathered a distance away.


            15:41   who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.  This shows us there were a good number of women who traveled along with Jesus both during His ministry within Galilee but also to this Feast as well.  In light of the customs of the day, they would have cooked food and taken care of the equivalent of “household chores” that were involved in any significantly sized group moving from place to place.  Those who had local friends and relatives would surely have been enthusiastic to share word with them that Jesus was nearby and fully deserved to be heard for His abundant spiritual insight.  



                        Burial Of Jesus In A Rich Man's Tomb (15:42-47):  42 Now when      evening had already come, since it was the day of preparation       (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a        highly regarded member of the council, who was himself looking   forward to the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked f       or the body of Jesus. 44 Pilate was surprised that he was already   dead. He called the centurion and asked him if he had been dead for some time. 45 When Pilate was informed by the centurion, he    gave the body to Joseph. 

                46 After Joseph bought a linen cloth and took down the     body, he wrapped it in the linen and placed it in a tomb cut out     of the rock. Then he rolled a stone across the entrance of the      tomb. 47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw         where the body was placed.     --New English Translation (for     comparison)



            15:42   Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath.  Mark explains to his Gentile readers why what happened next had to be done quickly:  the Sabbath would arrive in a matter of a few hours at sunset.  (It was already after three in the afternoon.)  After it began, a faithful Jew could not do physical labor of any kind until the following night.  Even those who knew little of Judaism knew that they were monotheists and tried their best not to work on the Sabbath.


            15:43   Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.  John 19:38 speaks of Joseph being a secret disciple out of “fear” of how other Sanhedrin members would react.  The underlying loyalty to Jesus is confirmed here by his being willing to run the risk of the stigma of claiming the body of this “outrageous heretic.”  The fear element is also confirmed through the reference to how he needed to be “taking courage” to do this. 

            The Sanhedrin was a rather large body--according to the Talmud--of seventy-one members.  The dominant element were definitely not going to be happy when they learned of his intervention.  They might not be able to do anything directly against him but there were enough members of what we might call the “never Jesus faction,” that they could unquestionably minimize his influence and make his presence uncomfortable.


            15:44   Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time.  Crucifixion could last as long as three days or more.  The thought that it might be a death of extreme pain lasting several days must have deterred many a troublemaker from pushing his luck too far.  Mercy was not in the Sanhedrin leaders’ minds, however, when they requested the legs be broken to hasten death; simply the utilitarian desire to have things completed before the Sabbath began (John 19:31-34).  Even with this being done, things had gone so fast that Pilate was still surprised with the report that the execution was completed.  Hence he naturally sought confirmation from the centurion in charge of the crucifixion.    


            15:45   So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph.  As soon as he confirmed the death, Pilate readily agreed to the request.  Since officials weren’t above demanding money to have a body returned, the fact that it was not mentioned may be a further indication of Pilate’s conviction that the whole affair had been an injustice from the moment the Lord had been dragged before him.  He could at least freely grant the body as an act of courtesy to someone who clearly respected Jesus.              


            15:46   Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen.  And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb.  He purchased a piece of new quality linen to wrap Jesus in, but there were only hurried and roughly done body preparations that could be completed before sunset brought the Sabbath and the requirement that all forms of work stop.

            The fact that the body was still on the cross argues that though the Roman soldiers recognized that their prisoners needed to be dead by the time the Sabbath began, that there was no necessity for the bodies to have been removed by then.  That was apparently at least temporarily being left up to friends or kin--assuming they had any in Jerusalem. 


            15:47   And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid.  As we learn in the first verse of the next chapter, they intended to carry out more burial work on the body after the Sabbath was over.  Hence it was important that they be certain of where the body was interred.  This knowledge kept them from going to the wrong tomb when they left to carry out their own efforts. 







Chapter Sixteen




                        Female Disciples Come To Do Further Anointing Of The Dead Body      Of Jesus and Discover That He Has Been Raised From The Dead (16:1-8): 

            1 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother       of James, and Salome bought aromatic spices so that they might   go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week,     at sunrise, they went to the tomb. 

                They had been asking each other, “Who will roll away the       stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But when they     looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had     been rolled back. 

                Then as they went into the tomb, they saw a young man        dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You are       looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has been raised! He is not here. Look, there is the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples, even Peter, that he is going       ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told   you.” 

                Then they went out and ran from the tomb, for terror and        bewilderment had seized them. And they said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.     --New English Translation (for       comparison)



            16:1     Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him.  Now work could again be carried out--both physical labor and works of mercy such as this one:  It was the first day of the new week (verse 2).  Since they already had the “spices” with them, this implies that they had been able to obtain them shortly before the Sabbath had begun.  Several other women were with them who are not mentioned here (Luke 24:10).


            16:2     Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen.  Because Jesus’ burial preparations had to be carried out so quickly, they knew that it had not been done as well or as completely as was desirable.  The good will had been there, but not the time.  Hence they started on finishing it off as early as was practical. 

            John words it, “while it was still dark” (John 20:1).  Putting both together:  They left where they were staying while it was dark but just beginning to show light on the distant horizon.  For theological reasons (it was still the Sabbath) as well as safety and practical ones as well--this was not their home town and they needed to see where everything was--they could not leave earlier.  This explains Matthew’s wording of “as the first day of the week began to dawn” (Matthew 28:1).  In other words it was barely getting to be light.


            16:3     And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?”  Their worry was not finding the tomb for they were already--from personal observation--well aware of where it was located (15:46-47).  They recognized that their dilemma lay in the sizable stone blocking the entrance:  they did not have the strength to move it out of the way.  They clearly had not heard of the posting of the Roman guard, but if they had we can easily imagine the topic of conversation would have been:  “Will we be able to convince them to help?”  And feeling more than a little despair at the likely negative answer.     

            Sidebar--The physical layout of typical Jewish first century tombs in Palestine:  There was generally an approach to the tomb open to the sky; then a low entrance on the side of the rock, leading into a square chamber, on one side of which was a recess for the body, about three feet deep, with a low arch over it.  The stone here referred to by the women would be the stone which covered the actual entrance into the vault.  It would probably be not less than six feet in breadth and three in height.  This great stone had been rolled by Joseph to the mouth of the tomb; and then he had departed.”  (Pulpit Commentary) 

           Burial blocking stones found among the 900 odd Second Temple era tombs in the Jerusalem area come in two forms:  overwhelmingly they were cork shaped with a very few (only four) that were disk shaped as in the traditional image of the stone the women faced.  If cork shaped, “roll” would encompass rolling (= pushing) it over on its side multiple times to get it out of the way; literally rolling it out of the way if circular shaped.


            16:4     But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away—for it was very large.  They discovered that their problem had been solved for them, but that left the questions of “by whom” and “why.”  Note the description of the stone as “very large”--verifying their concerns about an inability to move it. 


            16:5     And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed.  Seeing someone of mature years they did not recognize would have been disturbing enough at this early an hour, but this was “a young man”--what in the world was he doing there?  Matthew explicitly describes this youth as “an angel” (28:2) but their reaction of “alarm” may well have been intended to imply that there was something about him that simply “didn’t ring true” of a mere human being.  A more indirect way of implying the same thing.  And which would be fully expected in light of Matthew’s description of him as one with a “countenance [that] was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” (28:3).  You didn’t have to call him “an angel” to know that something very strange was going on!


            16:6     But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed.  You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.  He is risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.  The angel acted quickly to calm their worry:  The body is not here because He has been brought back from the dead again.  Doubt it is possible?  Well look closely at “the place where they laid Him”--the body isn’t there!


            16:7     But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.”  Whatever might happen in the next day or so in Jerusalem was for the purpose of reassuring them that He had, indeed, survived death and that His enemies had not gained the final triumph they thought they had.  But they also needed to know that He would soon meet them again in Galilee, far from the still dangerous (for disciples) city of Jerusalem. 

            The message was to be given to Peter in particular because after his humiliating denial of the Lord, he likely felt profoundly unworthy to be even numbered among “His disciples.”  Therefore the need to reach out to that apostle in particular.   


            16:8     So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed.  And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  They were astounded and it was reflected in the fact that their bodies shook in surprise.  Naturally they were afraid to say anything to anyone on the way!  They hadn’t “absorbed” the shock themselves yet!  Furthermore, to anyone outside their group they would have seemed deranged in their excitement even if they had stopped and said anything. 



                        Reluctance Of The Disciples To Believe in The Reality of The     Resurrection of the Lord in Spite of Growing Evidence (16:9-14):  Early on        the first day of the week, after he arose, he appeared first to         Mary Magdalene, from whom he had driven out seven demons. 

        10 She went out and told those who were with him, while they   were mourning and weeping. 11 And when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.

                12 After this he appeared in a different form to two of them       while they were on their way to the country. 13 They went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. 

                14 Then he appeared to the eleven themselves, while they         were eating, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and     hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had        seen him resurrected.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            16:9     Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons.  There is a profound difference between being the first to see the empty tomb--an experience she shared in the preceding verses with other women--and being the first to actually see the Lord Himself.  Either Mary arrived before the other women or she returned to the tomb a second time later that morning.  The latter seems required since all the women--and Mary Magdalene is specifically included in the list--reported the empty tomb (Luke 24:8-11) and no mention is made by her of this appearance.     

            Sidebar:  It is often claimed that the gospel of Mark ends at verse 8.  In light of the New Testament emphasis on the reality of Jesus’ bodily resurrection, this seems inherently absurd.  Something had to come after verse 8.  Unless something did, we have no eyewitness testimony contained of the resurrected Jesus at all.  In light of the vast importance laid by the New Testament on that reality, it is simply not credible that none of those appearances were mentioned by Mark.


            16:10   She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept.  Because of their profound respect and admiration for Jesus, the time of sorrow was far from over for those who had been so close.  The only way for the sorrow to be removed was for them to be convinced that He had, indeed, returned from the dead.


            16:11   And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe.  This confirms that they had no conviction that He would actually be resurrected.  The reality of it went against their presumptions and assumptions.  Admittedly Mary’s past possession with demons (verse 9) might have prejudiced them against receiving her words as true, but the physical resurrection was so different from anything expected of the Messiah, that even without that factor they would have been extraordinarily wary of accepting the testimony.


            16:12   After that, He appeared in another form to two of them as they walked and went into the country.  He does not take time to describe when or where or who they were.  Simply a short and concise assertion of what had happened.  Details are provided in Luke 24:13-35.


            16:13   And they went and told it to the rest, but they did not believe them either.  Implying that at some point they realized that it was, indeed, the Lord and not someone else.  (And as explained in more detail in Luke 24:30-35.)


            16:14   Later He appeared to the eleven as they sat at the table; and He rebuked their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they did not believe those who had seen Him after He had risen.  Annoyance was natural:  They had received multiple reassurances of what happened and they still didn’t want to believe it.  Only when the Lord Himself appeared in their midst were they willing to recognize the reality of what had happened (Luke 24:36-42.)   



                        Commissioning Of The Apostles To Share The Gospel Throughout          The Entire World (16:15-20):  15 He said to them, “Go into all the   world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 The one who       believes and is baptized will be saved, but the one who does not    believe will be condemned. 

                17 These signs will accompany those who believe: In my    name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new       languages; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands, and         whatever poison they drink will not harm them; they will place their hands on the sick and they will be well.” 

                19 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken         up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 They        went out and proclaimed everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the word through the accompanying         signs.     --New English Translation (for comparison)



            16:15   And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.  The boundaries for their message was unlimited--anywhere and everywhere.  Wherever humans existed, there it was proper to seek out converts.  And they enthusiastically carried out that instruction:   “You heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel, which has come to you, as it has also in all the world. . . . [T]he gospel which you heard, which was preached to every creature under heaven . . .” (Colossians 1:5-6, 23).


            16:16   He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.  Salvation hinges upon belief in the resurrected Christ and obedience to His will--of which baptism was merely the first step.  Then they needed to live faithfully on a daily basis.  Those who did not believe would have no interest in being baptized in the first place (hence no need to mention that option) but they would be under automatic condemnation for their lack of faith.


            16:17   And these signs will follow those who believe:  In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues.  They would not see the resurrected Lord Himself the way the apostles had in Jerusalem and Galilee, but His power would be manifested to them, especially through the apostles:  Miraculous signs would be demonstrated within the believing community.  For example, just as “demons” had been cast out previously, they would continue to be.  Paul did this at least twice (Acts 16:16-18 and Acts 19:11-12.  Unbelievers who tried this failed in a humiliating fashion:  Acts 19:13-18).  The non-apostle Philip also demonstrated that power (Acts 8:5-8).

            The promise that they would speak “new tongues” (i.e., languages they had not been taught or raised in--as demonstrated by the fact that the “tongues” in Acts 2 were such) would provide both additional validation of their faith to themselves and allow others to hear words of encouragement that would deepen faith in them as well.  The apostles could bestow this gift, as Paul did in Acts 19:5-7.   


            16:18   they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”  Protection from death would occur either if they accidentally took up poisonous serpents (as the apostle Paul did in Acts 28:1-6) or if they unknowingly drank anything poisonous (of which no example is given in the New Testament).  The age of the miraculous ended when inspiration did (as taught in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10).  It is one of the oddities of the modern world that those who have erroneously concluded that they would be safe if they pick up snakes on purpose usually have little or no willingness to do the same with the poisons that are mentioned in passing.  And neither act is discussed in the New Testament in terms of church services or doing either intentionally!

            The gift of miraculous healing would continue to occur just as it had during Jesus’ personal ministry and as it had been also carried out when the Lord had sent the apostles to preach under the Limited Commission to Israel only (Luke 9:1-6).  Peter exercised the gift of healing in Jerusalem (Acts 3:1-10) and Paul on the island of Malta (Acts 28:8-9).  Individual Christians were sometimes blessed with the gift as well (1 Corinthians 12:4, 9).  


            16:19   So then, after the Lord had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God.  Only after Jesus had said everything He wished to share with them, was He permanently removed from the earth.  In heaven He sat in the honored position of respect and authority next to the Father Himself.  His enemies would die, but He had conquered death forever.  And sat down to rule over His kingdom until the time comes to bring death and the physical cosmos of ours to a finish (1 Corinthians 15:50-58).


            16:20   And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.  Amen.  Having received their instructions, the apostles went out and both taught the message He had given and vindicated its validity by the miracles they performed.  It was never a matter of faith only; people had continuing evidence to back up the case for the Lord.  Whether they accepted it or rejected it was now solely their responsibility.  Once the teaching was done, it was then in their hands whether to prepare for eternity or to run all the risks that go with not doing so.