Mark 14 - False Witnesses, Condemned Through Truth
Chapter 14 brings to light man’s failings and yet how God’s planning uses this for His glory. Here we see the actions of Judas, the remaining 11 disciples and the Jewish authorities in the days leading up to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man.
Throughout Mark we’ve seen how Jesus has constantly been confronted by the Pharisees; questioning his teaching and his actions. Time and time again Jesus simply outsmarted them with Old Testament scripture and then continued on his way. The chapter starts with a teaser of what’s to come. Jesus has previously foretold of his death to the disciples and now, the high priests and the teachers of the law, the same people who have been disputing Jesus’ teaching have decided to kill him. This is all happening near the time of Passover, a time when thousands and thousands of Jewish people would have been making the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. They were worried about killing Jesus - with the risk of so many people running riot.
Meanwhile Jesus is in a place called Bethany, a little way out from the city, staying in Simon the Leper’s house. Remember, Leper’s were outcasts from society, and healed or not, Simon had picked up and kept this nickname - yet it’s here that Jesus is staying and it’s here where this act of love is shown to him. An incredibly expensive jar of perfume is broken open and poured on Jesus’ head. Once opened it couldn’t be stored and the disciples questioned its use! Worth more than a year’s wages it could have been put to much greater use helping the poor. The worldly views, whilst worthwhile and recognised by Christ, differ from how Jesus sees it. Rather, he recognises the need of the poor but how they will always be there whilst he won’t be around with them for long. She instead has done all she could for Christ and in doing so has prepared him for burial. Such a great thing she has done that Jesus tells of how she will be told about all over the world. Judas, possibly for the sole purpose of money then betrays Jesus to the priests and sells him out. Through love of money, Judas betrays God. ‘You cannot serve both God and money’ Matthew 6:24.
Jesus makes preparations for a room for The Last Supper and tells the disciples exactly where to look for a man who will lead them to this room. When evening comes, Jesus enters the city with his twelve to eat dinner with them. By law Passover had to be eaten within the city. Here, with all twelve disciples around him, Jesus breaks the news that one of them will betray him. The disciples are shocked and saddened and question Jesus over this. After all the time spent with him, hearing all he said and seeing the miracles performed, there is still doubt in what he says. Quite matter of fact Jesus responds with ‘It is one of the twelve’. In v21 Jesus explained that it has to happen because it had been written about him, but that it would have been better for whoever betrays him, if they hadn’t been born. Judas is chooses to betray Jesus. Man’s attempt to squash the power of God, through man’s failure, still results in a victory for God.
Next Jesus started what has become communion today. The breaking of bread and the drinking of wine to remember Christ. Symbolically, he offers up the bread, broken, as a symbol of his body and how he gave his life for us on the cross. Then he gave a cup of wine, symbolic of his blood that was poured out as a sacrifice to create a new covenant, a new agreement, cleansing us of sin so we could enter into a relationship with God.
Jesus again predicts man’s next struggle. What’s encouraging here is that it had been written in the Old Testament and so had to happen. God recognises our weakness and yet he still loves us and uses us. Jesus says that they will all scatter at his falling, but he will rise and meet them in Galilee. Yet again the disciples struggle to recognise the authority in Jesus’ teaching, even Peter disputes it and says that he would never fall away. Jesus predicts how Peter will disown him three times before the cock crows twice. Sometimes it’s easy to be in Peter’s shoes whilst feeling close to Jesus, and struggle to understand how you could ever disown him. But it’s all too easy, in friendship groups, with our family or when we’re alone to do, think or say things that are disowning him. It’s encouraging to think that even after all the time Peter had spent with Jesus he still struggled, but as we’ll see later he was so upset when he realised that he wept about. Use this as encouragement when your faith in Jesus may be tough, or leave you feeling like an outcast, but also as a challenge to stay true to your belief and represent Jesus in the world today.
Jesus then went to Gethsemane to pray and left the disciples with a task to keep watch. He tells them that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. Through our own attempts, temptation will lead us away from what Jesus has called us to do. We can’t do it on our own. But Jesus explains how we fight off temptations. We pray, and we keep watch. If temptation is tough, the pain that Jesus goes through here should encourage us further. Fully aware of what’s to come, the pain of death and the separation of Christ from God is so apparent here. It is our sin and our temptations that nailed Jesus to the cross. But Jesus had such love for us and for God that he was willing to do it if it were God’s will. There is no better reason to fight the temptation of sin. To do it… pray and keep watch.
The arrest of Jesus through the symbol of a kiss is almost a slap in the face to Jesus. A kiss was a way of greeting a respected person, Rabbi, Judas calls him. Remember all those Jews making the pilgrimage? There would have been loads of people of around. This is why Judas has to mark Jesus with the kiss so the guards could arrest him. The disciples fled just as predicted, leaving Jesus forsaken. He is then taken in front of the Sanhedrin; the Jewish high priests and rulers. They bring many false witnesses to try and condemn Jesus and no two stories match up. They are confused over his story about destroying the temple and rebuilding another. Symbolism of the temple of Christ when he is resurrected. So, frustrated at this they turn to Jesus to question him further. The false witnesses had failed to condemn Jesus and so they ask him, is he the Messiah, the Son of God. His answer, his declaration of being the Son of Man, a reference to Daniel 7, and acceptance of that title is blasphemy in the eyes of the court. The high priest tore his robes as a sign of the blasphemy. Ironically, they had failed to condemn him with their witnesses, and when Jesus spoke truth, that was the ‘evidence’ they required. Meanwhile, Peter after following Jesus and recognising the danger he now faced, did just as Jesus had said; disowned him.
Judas, the disciples and the high priests with all their knowledge, do just as expected; sin and fall short of the perfection God requires. Yet, so evident through this is the all-knowing, complete power of God; the fulfilment of prophesies, the great act of love by Jesus and declaration of who he really was. We sin and fall short and 2000 years on, play a part in condemning Jesus to cross. We can act like the Sanhedrin and continue to do so, or we can be like Peter; recognise what we’ve done and repent.