Sep 22, 2013
Mark 14:43-65

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Scene of Activity

Last week we left off our travels through Mark with a bit of a cliffhanger. 

Jesus is presently with His disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Located on the southwestern slope of the Mount of Olives.

Jesus has been praying and the disciple napping when He abruptly tells them “the hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

Imagine the scene....

It’s approximately 2 AM. It’s dark. The garden is lit only by the rays of the moon that cascade through the rolling clouds and dense foliage of the olive grove.

I imagine they can hear a commotion stirring in the distance. As the clamor grows and the rumpus intensifies the glowing amber of torches slowly comes into view.

Though the disciples are unaware of what dastardly deed is afoot, Jesus not only knows, but goes out to meet His betrayer.

[Mark 14:43-44] “And immediately, while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.”

Knowing Jesus would be leaving the Seder to spend time in Gethsemane with only the disciples, Judas was finally provided the ideal conditions to betray Jesus that fit within the desired stipulations of the “chief priests, scribes, and elders.”

For the first time all week, Jesus would be completely alone and isolated away from the large multitudes that followed Him. The conditions were perfect for their plan!

In order to avoid and minimize confusion, Judas “had given them a signal.” 

Upon identifying Jesus with a “kiss” (Greek word being “phileô” indicating an “affectionate brotherly greeting”), Judas instructed them to “seize Jesus” (arrest Him) and “lead Him away safely” (handle Him as to prevent escape).

Observation: The approaching mob took Jesus very seriously.

They came in numbers:

In addition to “Judas,” the two “chief priests” (Ananias and Caiaphas), an unspecified number of “scribes and elders,” Mark describes this mob as being “a great multitude” (“troops of people gathered without order.”) 

John 18 indicates Judas secured “a detachment of troops and officers.”

“In addition to the Temple police, who were Levites, the Sanhedrin had at its disposal auxiliary police or servants of the court who were assigned the task of maintaining public order beyond the Temple precincts.”

And they came armed:

Mark tells us the mob came “with swords and clubs” (“a club was a piece of wooden timber with holes in which the feet, hands, and neck of a prisoner would be inserted and fastened with thongs”). 

John adds they came armed with “weapons” commonly used in warfare. 

On the surface this whole scene seems to be overkill, but we must consider.... what was it about Jesus that necessitated the need for such dramatic measures?

Though Jesus was known by His love for people, His compassion for the hurting, His tenderness towards the downtrodden, and empathy for the lost, it also appears His enemies feared Him. 2 reasons why they’d fear Jesus:

1. Jesus was a tough guy who was known to demonstrate a fiery disposition and a righteous anger towards the religious establishment.

On 2 separate occasions Jesus physically drove them from of the Temple:

John 2:15 tells us early in His ministry, “Jesus made a whip of cords, and drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and the oxen, and poured out the changers’ money and overturned the tables.”

Mark 11 indicates that on Sunday Jesus used His bare hands to drive them out, overturn the tables effectively shutting down the Temple commerce.
On numerous occasion Jesus verbally confronted them over their hypocrisy.

2. Jesus had demonstrated a supernatural power that was otherworldly. 

These men had seen Jesus act in ways that defied human reasoning. 

There was an obvious and undeniable power in His words! 

Note: It would appear the concern over Jesus’ power was justified....

[Mark 14:45-46] “As soon as Judas had come, immediately he went up to Jesus and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him.”

Note: Between verses 45 and 46 (Judas’ kiss of betrayal and the act of the mob arresting Jesus), John provides a fascinating detail not mentioned by the other writers. 

[John 18:4-6] “Jesus therefore, knowing all things that would come upon Him, went forward and said to them, “Whom are you seeking?” They answered Him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am He.” And Judas, who betrayed Him (past tense indicating the betrayal had already taken place), also stood with them. Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.”

What Jesus said: “I am He.” Sadly, the italicized “He” was added to the text by the translators when they should have left things alone. This means as the mob prepares to seize Him, Jesus utters the holy name for God “I am” (Greek phrase “eimi egô”). 

What resulted: His words exploded with power knocking everyone to the ground. 

David Guzik makes an interesting observation, “While this demonstration of power is impressive, it is still a pretty humble display of Jesus’ power - after all He could have destroyed them all with fire from heaven.” 

Observation: This scene is evidence that Jesus’ physical appearance was rather nondescript and contrary to popular portrayals and folklore.

Nothing about the physical appearance of Jesus garnered attention. 

Consider: Jesus would have been easily identifiable if.... 
  • He had a neon halo floating above His head....
  • He was two feet taller than everyone else....
  • An orchestra played every time He spoke.... 

  • He was light-skinned with perfectly blow-drawn hair.

[Mark 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.”

Though Mark leaves this disciple nameless, John provides us his identity - Peter!

As the soldiers get up from the ground to arrest Jesus, Peter (determine to make good on his earlier promise to defend Jesus no matter what the cost) springs into action grabbing one of the guards swords. 

Mark tells us he “struck the servant of the high priest” a man John tells us was named Malcus. The result of Peter’s heroics.... he “cuts off his ear.”

Two quick observations about Peter’s heroics:

1. Instead of courageously going mono-e-mono with one of the armed Temple guards presently arresting Jesus, Peter valiantly attacks an unarmed servant boy!

2. Peter then demonstrates his incredible fencing skills. 

There is no doubt Peter was aiming for the man’s head (that he was going after the kill shot), but he proceeds to completely miss clipping only the man’s ear!

John provides a weird detail stating that Peter specifically cut off the man’s right ear. If you operate under the assumption that Peter was right-handed it means he attacked a boy who had turned to run away!

According to Luke as they are placing Him in shackles Jesus declares to His captors, “Permit even this (literally, “restrain me not”) and the guards obeyed allowing Him to touch his ear and heal him.”

Observation: Jesus does not need our defense.

In his attempt to defend Jesus, Peter was acting contrary to the will of Jesus.

Though Jesus has addressed the topic of His coming arrest with Peter on numerous occasions, the Pontus One still didn’t realize (or he simply refused to accept) that the events of this evening were happening exactly as Jesus desired.

Understand: As an “ambassador of Jesus” your job is very simple. You’ve been called to align yourself with His will, not determine what His will should be! 

As with Peter, when we loose sight of this reality (even with the best of intentions) we end up acting foolishly and people get hurt in the process.

It’s interesting to me that as Jesus was in the process of redeeming humanity from the clutches of sin, He has to pause for a moment to do what.... clean up a mess made by one of His followers. (B-Sides)

[Mark 14:48-49] “Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”

Though Jesus will provide no defense for Himself during the illegal trials that will follow later this evening, as they place Him in shackles, Jesus goes on the record by issuing a stern rebuke. “I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me.” Jesus is basically calling them cowards! 

“You had ample opportunity to arrest Me, but you didn’t because you were afraid. Instead of owning your rejection, you’re doing this deed under the cover of darkness, away from the people you answer too!” Jesus has no respect for the ambivalent! 

Observation: Jesus is in complete control. 

“Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?” 

Though some view this statement as having a hint of sorrow in Jesus’ disbelief that they would treat Him as though He were a common criminal, I read this verse radically different in context to the rebuke that follows.

I believe Jesus is pointing out the sheer silliness of the scene. “Do you really think you could arrest Me as you would a common criminal? Do you really believe your mini-army, weapons, and shackles could subdue me?”

Jesus is making it clear they aren't arresting Him (as He’s already demonstrated with one word He could destroy them all), but that He’s willingly surrendering Himself to this fate so that “the Scriptures might be fulfilled.”

[Mark 14:50] “Then they all forsook Him and fled. 

Though Jesus knew they would all forsake Him and I’m sure He had emotionally prepared Himself for this inevitability, nonetheless I am confident this rejection still hurt. 

Not only had he been publicly betrayed by Judas with a kiss (pouring salt into a wound), everyone of His closest friends abandoned Him in His hour of greatest need.

The Greek word “forsook” not only describes “what the disciples did,” but “how Jesus felt.” The word “forsook” was used to relate “the divorcing of a wife by her husband.”

Not only was He left to fend for Himself, but He was left in a state of total vulnerability.

C.S. Lewis wrote that, “Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art.... it has no survival value; rather (it is important because) it gives value to survival.” 

Lewis is saying that though friendships aren’t initially essential for a person’s survival, once they’ve been afforded value by the individual the removal of a friend can have a devastating impact on a person’s ability to survive. 

This reject of Jesus by His closest friends would have far-reaching consequences.... last week we addressed the psychological, emotional, even physical benefits of having social connections while in the “dark place,” but the reverse is true of abandonment.

A brain imaging study led by Ethan Kross at the University of Michigan suggests that the same parts of the brain activated when we endure physical pain also light up when a person experiences social rejection. 

This means the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” is not only moronic, but tragically unscientific. The pain caused by sticks and stones is chemically identical to the pain inflicted by words of betrayal.

Shelley Taylor, in a study at the University of California, was able to demonstrate that the psychological stress produced by relational conflicts actually yielded increased inflammation levels in the body. 

This means that the pain of being rejected by His friends actually induced increased inflammation levels in Jesus’ body making the physical torment He’d experience later in the evening all the more brutal and pain wrenching.

[Mark 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, and he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.”

Admittedly, this is one of the most bizarre verses in the Gospel of Mark.

Because no other Gospel author includes this facet, most have concluded this is actually an autobiographical detail included by Mark (he’s the young man fleeing naked).

[Mark 14:53-54] “And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes. But Peter followed Him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he sat with the servants and warmed himself at the fire.”

Jesus is arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane at 2 AM and for the next 6.5 hours (concluding around 8:30 AM) Jesus will be transported all over Jerusalem where He’ll endure 6 different trials before He’s ultimately sentenced, scourged, crucified, and buried. 

Note: As Mark transitions the narrative, he begins by letting us know that while all the other disciples are MIA, Peter alone is following Jesus (vs 54). 

Then, instead of providing a chronological outline, Mark proceeds to summarize the Jewish portions of the trials (vs 55-65), before transitioning our attention back to Peter.

Let’s take a moment and establish a Timeline for the events of the evening:

  • Following His arrest, Jesus is brought from the Mount of Olives back into the southern part of Jerusalem to appear before the High Priest Annas where He is interrogated and beaten. This first trial occurs at Annas home and includes Peter’s 1st denial.
  • Then around 3 AM Annas sends Jesus to the home of the High Priest Caiaphas where a portion of the Sanhedrin have gathered for a preliminary trial of Jesus. During this trial Peter will deny Jesus for a 2nd time.
  • At sunrise (5:15 AM) Jesus is brought to the Temple to appear before the entire Sanhedrin for an official trial. It is at this point that Jesus testifies that He is the Son of God and He’s found guilty of blasphemy. 
  • At some between the 2nd trial at Caiaphas home and the official trial in the Temple precincts Peter will deny Jesus for a 3rd and final time.
  • Around 6 AM Jesus is brought to the Fortress of Antonia (north of the Temple) to appear before Pilate. During his questioning, Pilate learns that Jesus is from Galilee so he sends Him to Herod (Herod’s palace was in the western part of the city).
  • Approximately 6:45 AM Jesus appears before Herod Antipas, but He remains completely silent. Frustrated, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate for a final ruling.

  • Between 7:30-8:30 AM Pilate continues a dialogue with Jesus, tries on several occasions to release Him, but ultimately sentences Him to death by crucifixion. 

[Mark 14:55-59] “Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none. For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.” Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying, “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’” But not even then did their testimony agree.”

Mark informs us that the purpose of these pretrials (and in these verses we probably have a summary of the first two trials at the homes of Annas and Caiaphas) was to establish a formal “testimony against Jesus” so that they could “put Him to death.” 

Mark clearly describes a proceeding that lacks of justice and is fraught with corruption demonstrated right from the beginning. The judge, jury, and prosecutors were already in cahoots. 

They had all agreed on a desired sentence (death) without even having a case to establish guilt. Not to mention, the case was proving difficult to manufacture.... 

Since the Law required a minimum of two witnesses collaborate to establish guilt, it was then obviously problematic when “many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.”

This was an illegal trial (happening on the Passover). It was an unjust trial (they’d determined Jesus guilty ever before they tried Him). And in the end, Jesus was proven to be innocent (not one credible person had anything damning to present).

[Mark 14:60-61] “And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying, “Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”

Though the entire trial was rigged, it’s clear the defense wasn’t playing along. As they continue to parade false witness after false witness to the stand, Jesus refused to cross examine (he didn’t need too).

Frustrated by the situation the high priest gets to the core issue when he asked “Are You the Christ (“Christos” - “Anointed” - Hebrew “Messiah”), the Son of the Blessed (way of saying “Son of God” since they wouldn’t utter the name for God)?”

While all the other question carried no weights, this was a question worth answering.

[Mark 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.”

Understand: The phrase “I am” was more than Jesus’ way of affirming His identity as the Messiah and the Son of God, Jesus was directly applying the name God had given Moses in Exodus 3 to Himself.... “I am that I am” - “eimi egô” in the Greek.

“And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power....” 

It’s as though Jesus is letting them know, “You and I will be meeting again!”

[Mark 14:63-65] “Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Then some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him, and to say to Him, “Prophesy!” And the officers struck Him with the palms of their hands.”

As the spiritual leaders of Israel it was completely within their right to disagree with Jesus. It was ok if they rejected His Messiahship. Though wrong, it was also within their right to make a false determination and “condemn Him to be deserving of death.”

But what happens next was indefensible.... in blindfolding Jesus they were stripping Him of the natural ability to absorb the blows of their fists. 

In not knowing where the next punch would come from the beating was intensified.

This means the beating was not justified punishment for the crime they considered Him guilty of committing. The beating was solely meant for cruelty. There was no justice involved in their attack and sadly no justice in what would come next.