Third Act. Passion of Jesus 14.1-15.47
Scene 3. It is Finished!: Mark 14.1-15.47
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Now the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were looking for some sly way to arrest Jesus and kill him. “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.
Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”
Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”
“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”
When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
“ ‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”
Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice you yourself will disown me three times.”
But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.
They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Simon,” he said to Peter, “are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.”
Once more he went away and prayed the same thing. When he came back, he again found them sleeping, because their eyes were heavy. They did not know what to say to him.
Returning the third time, he said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Enough! The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayer!”
Just as he was speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, appeared. With him was a crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders.
Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him. Then one of those standing near drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Am I leading a rebellion,” said Jesus, “that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” Then everyone deserted him and fled.
A young man, wearing nothing but a linen garment, was following Jesus. When they seized him, he fled naked, leaving his garment behind.
They took Jesus to the high priest, and all the chief priests, elders and teachers of the law came together. Peter followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. There he sat with the guards and warmed himself at the fire.
The chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin were looking for evidence against Jesus so that they could put him to death, but they did not find any. Many testified falsely against him, but their statements did not agree.
Then some stood up and gave this false testimony against him: “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this man-made temple and in three days will build another, not made by man.’ ” Yet even then their testimony did not agree.
Then the high priest stood up before them and asked Jesus, “Are you not going to answer? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you?” But Jesus remained silent and gave no answer.
Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
The high priest tore his clothes. “Why do we need any more witnesses?” he asked. “You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?”
They all condemned him as worthy of death. Then some began to spit at him; they blindfolded him, struck him with their fists, and said, “Prophesy!” And the guards took him and beat him.
While Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came by. When she saw Peter warming himself, she looked closely at him.
“You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus,” she said.
But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.
When the servant girl saw him there, she said again to those standing around, “This fellow is one of them.” Again he denied it.
After a little while, those standing near said to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.”
He began to call down curses on himself, and he swore to them, “I don’t know this man you’re talking about.”
Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.
Very early in the morning, the chief priests, with the elders, the teachers of the law and the whole Sanhedrin, reached a decision. They bound Jesus, led him away and handed him over to Pilate.
“Are you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate.
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied.
The chief priests accused him of many things. So again Pilate asked him, “Aren’t you going to answer? See how many things they are accusing you of.”
But Jesus still made no reply, and Pilate was amazed.
Now it was the custom at the Feast to release a prisoner whom the people requested. A man called Barabbas was in prison with the insurrectionists who had committed murder in the uprising. The crowd came up and asked Pilate to do for them what he usually did.
“Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” asked Pilate, knowing it was out of envy that the chief priests had handed Jesus over to him. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have Pilate release Barabbas instead.
“What shall I do, then, with the one you call the king of the Jews?” Pilate asked them.
“Crucify him!” they shouted.
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus flogged, and handed him over to be crucified.
The soldiers led Jesus away into the palace (that is, the Praetorium) and called together the whole company of soldiers. They put a purple robe on him, then twisted together a crown of thorns and set it on him. And they began to call out to him, “Hail, king of the Jews!” Again and again they struck him on the head with a staff and spit on him. Falling on their knees, they paid homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.
A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross. They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him. Dividing up his clothes, they cast lots to see what each would get.
It was the third hour when they crucified him. The written notice of the charge against him read: THE KING OF THE JEWS. They crucified two robbers with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, “So! You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, come down from the cross and save yourself!”
In the same way the chief priests and the teachers of the law mocked him among themselves. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself! Let this Christ, this King of Israel, come down now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Those crucified with him also heaped insults on him.
At the sixth hour darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
When some of those standing near heard this, they said, “Listen, he’s calling Elijah.”
One man ran, filled a sponge with wine vinegar, put it on a stick, and offered it to Jesus to drink. “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down,” he said.
With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last.
The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood there in front of Jesus, heard his cry and saw how he died, he said, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
Some women were watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. In Galilee these women had followed him and cared for his needs. Many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem were also there.
It was Preparation Day (that is, the day before the Sabbath). So as evening approached, Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Council, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph. So Joseph bought some linen cloth, took down the body, wrapped it in the linen, and placed it in a tomb cut out of rock. Then he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
One of the things that I like about the publishing business is finishing s project, looking at it and knowing that I have done a good job for the customer. Of course, not everything that we start should be finished, like eating an extra-large pizza dripping with pepperoni and cheese or a five-mile hike up a mountain when one hasn’t walked for any distance on a flat surface for many years. But most projects deserve our attention to the detail they deserve and the finish they deserve. I have written and published several non-fiction books, both paperback and eBooks, but one kind of books has evaded completion, a fiction mystery book. I purchased my first computer several decades ago with the vision of writing the great American novel. I outlined it, wrote the character outlines, set the plot, and knew the ending before I began. I even wrote several chapters and sent them off to s publisher and have large brown envelopes with rejection letters still hanging around to remind me that it is not finished. The book idea has undergone several titles, the latest being “Murder by Prophecy!” I still intend to finish it. I really do! Finishing well is a good thing. Mark shares about how the Story of Jesus finished in a whirlwind of stories in this last section.
Observing the Storyline
The final reading sections of Mark tell us the story of the final extraordinary days in the earthly life of Jesus. From being anointed for his approaching burial, to instituting the new covenant in the Lord’s Supper, to being pressed in his humanness as he prayed for relief in the garden, to being unlawfully tried and humiliated, to being beaten bloody, to being nailed to a cross to die, to shouting the cry of victory, to death, and finally, resurrection, Mark rushes through the stories with lightning speed. Jesus came to deliver the rule of God into this present evil age and Mark’s final stories make it crystal clear that Jesus accomplished his mission.
Interpreting the Storyline
Approaching Death (Mark 14.1-11)
This reading section describes Thursday of the Passover week. This final section begins with the plotting of the Jewish leader to have Jesus put to death, but they are afraid of the crowd’s reaction (Mark 14.1-2). An unidentified woman (some think it is Mary the sister of Martha) pours expensive perfume on the head of Jesus. Some in attendance became indignant. They reasoned that this was a useless gesture. The perfume was valuable and could have been sold for a year’s wage and money given to the poor. Jesus came to her defense and told those who were upset to leave her alone. She had done a beautiful thing preparing him for his burial. As Jesus spoke, Judas slipped into the night to betray him (Mark 14.3-12).
The Last Supper (Mark 14.12-31)
On that Thursday evening in Jerusalem, Jesus and his disciples shared a Passover meal. During the meal, Jesus prophesied that he would be betrayed and explained that his body broken and his blood spilt would institute the awaited new covenant with God. The disciples were distressed at the thought of one of them being a traitor, so one after the other inquired if it was he who would betray the ruler of the kingdom. After the meal, they sang a hymn and went to the Mount of Olives. He told his disciples that they would fall away from him that night. Peter spoke and declared that whatever others might do, he would not fall prey to betrayal. Jesus told Peter that he would disown him that very evening.
Prayer During Crisis (Mark 14.32-52)
In Gethsemane, Mark presents a human Jesus who struggles with what he knew was coming. While his disciples dozed, he was overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Despite the test of faith, Jesus emerged recommitting his life to the will of the Father. We should note that the failure of the disciples may serve as a warning to us to be alert and pray in times of temptation. Judas arrives with an armed mob and Jesus is dragged to the home of the high priest. His disciples all leave him. Mark 14.51 is the author’s own entry, that he was present at the happenings in the Garden.
The Trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin (Mark 14.53-72)
Nighttime trials were illegal in Israel, but the whole Sanhedrin, the court of the Jewish people, was waiting for Jesus. When the false testimony that had been prepared did not stand up, the high priest asked Jesus if he was the Son of God. Jesus clearly answers, “I am.” This was a clear case of blasphemy to the Sanhedrin and they all condemn him as worthy of death. Peter, who had followed Jesus at a distance, warms himself by the fire while Jesus is on trial for his life. He is accosted three times by those around, suggesting that he was a follower of Jesus. Each time he denied it. With the final denial, the rooster crowed a second time. Peter remembered the words of Jesus, broke down, and wept. The word wept means to mourn as if one had died. He was overwhelmed by the fact that Jesus knew and did not reject him. He does know in advance what our actions are going to be, but yet he still chooses to love and care for us. What mercy and grace! Thursday is over. Friday arrives and the next part of the Christ-Event (virgin birth, sinless life, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension) would change the world forever.
Pilate and the Crucifixion of Jesus (Mark 15.1-32)
The events of Chapter 15 occur on Friday of Passion Week. Very early in the morning, Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor. The Jews wanted to execute Jesus, but they did not have the power to do so. Pilate questioned Jesus, who admitted being the king of the Jews, but he would not answer any of the other accusations of the chief priests. Pilate realized that Jesus was innocent. But in a weak moment he gave into the chief priests and the crowds who shouted out, “Crucify him!” Pilate ruled that Jesus could be crucified.
Behind the Scenes
Crucifixion was a common mode of punishment among heathen nations in ancient times. The mode of execution according to the Mosaic Law was the sword (Ex. 22), strangling, fire (Lev. 20), or stoning (Deut. 21). The latter was regarded as the most horrible form of death to the Jew. The crucifixion process began with a scourging. This happened to Jesus before Pilate gave the sentence. The Roman scourge was barbed with lumps of lead and pieces of bone. It wrapped around the one being struck and then was yanked away from the body, tearing the skin tissue. The one condemned to be crucified carried his own cross to the place of execution that was outside that city. Before the nails were driven into the condemned person, he was offered a medicated cup of vinegar mixed with gall and myrrh to deaden the pain. Jesus refused this cup. The feet of the condemned were only a few inches off the ground. The nails were driven through both ankles, one placed over the other. The breaking of legs was intended to hasten death, a gracious move by the Roman executor.
Weakened by the loss of blood from the beating, Jesus was unable to carry his cross to the appointed place. A visitor who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover was pressed into duty. The enemies mocked him and the soldiers gambled for the right to sell his clothing. He was suspended between two robbers, one of them insulting him with the others.
The Death of Jesus (Mark 15.33-41)
Without notice at midday, total darkness fell on Jerusalem. Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” This saying is from Psalm 22.1. Psalm 22 is a psalm of victory. It may well be that Jesus was not asking God a question, but calling his disciples to understand that what they saw as defeat was in fact the very victory that he had come into the world to accomplish. With a loud cry, he stopped breathing. He was dead. The curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom. The separation between the holy place and the holy of holies was demolished. Everyone would now have access to God. The centurion who was in charge of the crucifixion and was observing these unusual happenings declared that Jesus was the son of God. Mark mentioned the women as eyewitnesses of the Crucifixion in anticipation of their eyewitness role at Jesus’ burial (Mark 15.47) and his resurrection (Mark 16.1-8). Their devotion surpassed that of the eleven remaining disciples who had deserted him (14.50). Mark may have intended these words as an encouragement to faithful discipleship among women in the church at Rome.
The Burial of Jesus (Mark 15.42-47)
At sundown, the Sabbath began. The body of Jesus was removed by permission and put in a borrowed grave. Joseph most likely had his servants help him accomplish a proper burial before sunset, a time span of about two hours from the death of Jesus. The body of Jesus was removed from the cross and was probably washed before it was wrapped in strips of linen cloth with an aromatic spice placed between the wraps. The body was carried to a nearby garden and placed on a stone shelf. The tomb was then sealed shut with a flat stone that rolled down a sloping groove. It was securely shut to keep out intruders. To have rolled back the stone so one could enter the grave would have taken several strong men.
Living into the Storyline
- How do you respond to someone who presents you with an expensive gift (Mark 14.3)?
- How do you react when someone accuses you of being a follower of Jesus (Mark 14.27-31)?
- What are your responses when people insult you and you are innocent (Mark 15.1-32)?
Easy to Understand
Tom Wright. Mark for Everyone (New Testament for Everyone [Paperback]
Winn Griffin. Gracelets: Being Conduits of the Extravagant Acts of God’s Grace [Paperback]
Ben Witherington III. The Gospel of Mark: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary.
William L. Lane. The Gospel according to Mark: The English Text With Introduction, Exposition, and Notes (The New International Commentary on the New Testament)