Of all the crimes a man can commit against another human murder finds itself at the top of the list for it is an egregious assault against the very essence of humanity - the right to life!
It’s been said, “A person's life is his most precious possession. Consequently, to rob him of it is the greatest sin we can commit....”
Though most non-religious, moral people take issue with the murder of an innocent for obvious reasons, as Christians we believe murder is more than an assault on an individual’s life, but a depraved attack against the Author of Life Himself.
John MacArthur commenting on the topic has said, “To take the life of a fellow human being is to assault the sacredness of the image of God.”
John Piper, “God has commanded us in Genesis 9:6, "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image." In other words, when you murder a human, you attack God who makes every human in his image.”
Mark 14 is significant because it lays the framework for the greatest crime against humanity ever committed in history..... the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
If one man murdering another is such an abhorrent sin because it robs that man of life and assaults the sacredness of the image of God, then we clearly see the most brazen example of such an act when humanity deliberately murders the God-Man!
Initiated with the fall of man in Genesis 3, this one act of man murdering the Son of God represented the apex of man’s ultimate rebellion against God.
B-Sides: Though Mark should be considered a historical, biographical document, you can’t detach the obvious storytelling aspects to the way he presents his narrative of Jesus’ life. The question: Is it a tragedy or a monomyth?
As we progress through Mark’s accounting of the arrest, trial, and execution of Jesus we will build the case that Jesus was indeed an innocent man murdered without cause. However, in order to do this, we must first develop a formal definition of murder.
In 1765, Sir William Blackstone, in his Commentaries on the Laws of England, established the common law definition: “Murder occurs when a person, of sound memory and discretion, unlawfully kills any reasonable creature in being and under the king's peace, with malice aforethought, either express or implied.”
Murder: the unlawful killing, of a human by another human, with malice aforethought.
1. Unlawful: The act of murder must be committed outside the bounds of the law.
Distinguishes from killings that are done within the boundaries of law (legal executions, justified self-defense, or the killing of enemy soldiers during a war).
As we’ll observe over the coming weeks.... the entire process by which Jesus was condemned to death was an unjustifiable charade of the highest order.
2. Killing: To be considered murder the act itself must result in death.
Originally, it was believed that life ended with cardiopulmonary arrest; however, today we define death as the “irreversible cessation of all brain function.”
As we’ll observe over the coming weeks.... it is completely impossible for any outcome to follow Jesus’ beating, scourging, and crucifixion other than death.
3. Of a Human by Another Human: A person must be killed by a human perpetrator.
Obviously, exceptions are made when the human committing the crime doesn’t fit within the formally defined medical parameters of rationality.
This is why we possess lesser charges for crimes committed by an individual determined insane or mentally incapacitated in some way.
As we’ll observe over the coming weeks.... the murder of Jesus was committed by a collection of rational, willing, able participants of sound mind.
4. With Malice Aforethought: The perpetrator committing the murder must act under a mindset the legal system constitutes as malice.
Malice includes acting with the (A) Intent to kill, (B) Intent to inflict grievous bodily harm short of death, (C) Reckless indifference to an unjustifiably high risk to human life, (D) Intent to commit a dangerous felony.
As we’ll observe in the next few verses.... the perpetrators of Jesus’ death acted from the onset with the clear intent to end His life.
[Mark 14:1-2] “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. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
Scene of Activity
“After two days” - We presently find ourselves 2 days following the conclusion of Jesus’ “Olivet Discourse” with the disciples.
Since this sermon occurred on Tuesday evening (before sunset) as Jesus was making His way back from Jerusalem to Bethany, “two days” places us on the Thursday of Jesus’ week of Passion.
Note: Thursday began and ended at 6 PM.
It should also be pointed out that “after two days” or the conclusion of Thursday the “Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread” would commence.
Note: These two names are in many synonymous with each other.
The “Feast of Unleavened Bread” was a seven day celebration marking God’s supernatural deliverance of the Hebrew people from Egyptian captivity.
In Exodus, Moses told the people to prepare provisions for their soon liberation specifically instructing them to prepare bread without leaven since they wouldn’t have enough time to wait for the bread to rise.
In commemoration, for the duration of the feast no leavened bread is eaten.
In chronology with the events that occurred in Egypt, the first night of the “Feast of Unleavened Bread” (the celebration of the Jewish Exodus) was referred to as “Passover” (the event that initiated the Exodus).
Knowing that the 10th Plague would bring with it the Angel of Death who would slaughter all of the first born sons of Egypt, Moses told the people to apply blood to the door posts so that the Angel would pass over the home sparing that family.
To commemorate this event families begin the feast with the Seder dinner.
“Passover” would begin with this dinner on Friday (6 PM on Thursday).
This places our scene occurring from a Western perspective on Wednesday evening (which was technically the beginning of Thursday).
Note: This is not the first time the “chief priests and the scribes” plotted to kill Jesus.
Mark 3:6 indicates that very early into Jesus’ Galilean ministry the religious establishment had these inclinations, “The Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.”
Then again Mark 11:18 tells us that following Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, “The scribes and chief priests heard it and sought how they might destroy Him; for they feared Him, because all the people were astonished at His teaching.”
The only thing holding back their plans was Jesus’ popularity with the people.
These powerful men knew that in order to pull off their dastardly deed they would need to secure His arrest away from the huge multitudes that followed Him.
They were also keenly aware this would be easier said than done.
Population of Jerusalem had swelled to an unmanageable number of people.
Climate of the feast was naturally Messianic making it a potential powder-keg.
Not to mention, since His arrival on Sunday, Jesus had been the main attraction.
John 11:57 provides an interesting detail excluded in Mark’s account, “Now both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.”
Though the religious leaders originally intended to seize Jesus during the feast, when they saw the popularity of Jesus at the “Triumphal Entry” and failed in their attempts to discredit His ministry in their “Temple Ambush” they decided it would be ill-advised and potentially counterintuitive to act “during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
The only way their plans could change again would be if their “inside man” provides them with a time and place where Jesus could be arrest without causing a stir.
At this point, Judas had yet to come through on his end of the bargain.
Note: Though we don’t know specifically when Judas started working as the mole for the religious leaders, Judas was already in cahoots with these men.
Back in Mark 9:31 Jesus provided a clue.... “Jesus taught His disciples saying to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day.”
Observation: Jesus is in total control of the entire situation.
It’s interesting to me that these religious leaders wanted to kill Jesus, but they appropriately reasoned it would be best to avoid the Passover.
Ironically, they’ll end up doing the very thing they chose to avoid.
For reasons we’ll get to next week, as the pure and spotless Lamb of God, it had been predetermined that Jesus would die for the sins of the world on Passover.
On one side of the coin: We’re going to witness over and over again in the next few chapter of Mark that though there are men operating in complete freewill the predeterminate will of God is unavoidable and inescapable.
As we’ve mentioned, since the Mount of Transfiguration and His subsequent journey to Jerusalem, Jesus has had His eyes set on the cross.
Nothing and no one could or would deter Him from this destiny.
On three occasions Jesus prophesied His coming death and resurrection.
On the other side of the coin: Though God’s plan included and necessitated human involvement, in no way were the human players ever forced to participate.
Judas, Peter, the disciples, the multitude, the religious leaders, even Pilate are all provided ample opportunity to abandon their current course of action.
Though none of them do, not one of the players in the tragedy of Jesus’ death will be able to claim coercion by the determinative will of God.
Each man will stand to give an account for their role as a free moral creature.
Though a reality that often supersedes human understanding, we will discover a perfect illustration of God’s sovereign will working with man’s free choice!
[Mark 14:3-9] “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. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me.
“For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. 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.”
Note: Some have pointed out inconsistencies between this story and a similar narrative in Luke 7:36-50.... The easy end of the answer is that we have two different stories.
1. In Luke, the dinner host is a Pharisee named Simon and the location is unknown. And yet, Mark introduces our host as “Simon the Leper” who’s home was in “Bethany.”
“The Leper” indicates this man was known by this former condition.
I find it completely reasonable to conclude (A) Simon was no longer leperous, and (B) he had been miraculously healed at some point by Jesus.
We should also point out “the” is a definitive article in the Greek indicating Mark is grammatically referencing a specific person he’s already introduced to his readers.
The only “leper” Mark mentions we find in Mark 1:40.
Following the Sermon on the Mount we’re told that “a leper came to Jesus, imploring Him, kneeling down to Him and saying to Him, “If you are willing, You can make me clean.”
I am convinced after his encounter with Jesus and the presenting of himself to the religious leaders to be declared clean, this man not only had his former life restored but was now a friend and follower of Jesus!
Note: John 12 indicates “Simon the Leper” was also the father of Judas.
2. In Luke’s account, though the woman is left unnamed she was a known prostitute in town. And while Mark also leaves the woman nameless, John’s Gospel tells us the woman was none other than Mary of Bethany the sister of Martha and Lazarus.
It should also be pointed out that though this dinner was hosted at the home of Simon the Leper, Martha prepared the meal and Lazarus was also in attendance.
Their friendship with Jesus seems to be their common connection. (B-Sides)
“Mary of Bethany” is one of the most interesting characters in the Gospels, because every time you see her she is doing the same thing.... sitting at the feet of Jesus.
One thing is obvious about Mary.... She had a deep love for Jesus.
In Matthew 22:37, Jesus said, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.”
1. Mary loved Jesus with her mind.... She was a student of Scripture.
In Luke 10, we find Mary sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to Him teach.
Here’s the sad and tragic irony concerning Jesus’ week of passion: Everyone who should have known what was happening completely missed it!
Religious Leaders missed it because they were willfully rejecting who Jesus was!
They knew the Scriptures pointed to Jesus as the Messiah, but it was easier to reject the truth than accept the implications the truth would have for their lives.
Apostles missed it because they were willfully rejecting what Jesus had come to do!
Jesus had told them He was going to die, but it was easier to ignore the truth than accept the reality He had not come to fulfill their expectations.
Mary was not a religious leader or even an apostle; and yet, from Mark’s account it seems she was the one person who really understood what was happening!
Jesus indicates “she has come to anoint My body for burial.”
Q: How did Mary know Jesus had come to Jerusalem to die?
A: Jesus hadn’t exactly been keeping it a secret!
Mary was a disciple who heard the Word - believed the Word - and then faithfully acted according to the Word.... a wonderful example for us all!
2. Mary loved Jesus with her heart.... She knew how to cast her cares on Him.
In John 11, following the death of her brother, Mary comes and falls at the feet of Jesus pouring out her heart before the Lord.
Mary expresses her grief, demonstrates her sorrow, relays her confusion.
Mary loved Jesus with such passion that she was not afraid to bear the depths of her heart out before Him with reckless abandonment. She was willing to come with no hesitations or reservations.
1 Peter 5:7, “Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares for you!”
3. Mary loved Jesus with her soul.... She worshipped without reservation.
Mark tells us that when dinner was finishing up as Jesus “sat at the table, Mary came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.”
What she gave: “An alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard.”
“Oil of spikenard” - Indian oil that would be mixed down to create perfume.
The language construction indicates this was the pure thing.
“Alabaster flask” - Traditionally an ornate vessel shaped as a rose bush.
John tells us Mary poured out a “pound” of this ointment onto Jesus.
“Very costly” - Literally “of surpassing value.”
We’re told it was worth “more than three hundred denarii.”
A “denarii” was estimated to be about a days wage for a working man indicating this flask would have been worth a year’s wage in that culture.
There is no doubt that Mary gave the most precious thing she owned, but please realize her gift was more than the ointment.... her gift was her worship.
Q: What can we really give to a God who has everything?
A: Our praise and worship!
How she gave: “Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head.”
Mary came before the Jesus, poured this oil out onto His head, and then John tells us she began to wipe His feet with her hair and tears.
- Mary’s act had no concern for cultural norms.
- Mary’s act had no concern for what others thought.
Mary’s act had no concern for the personal cost.
Love that seeks to bring pleasure to the object of our love without the consideration of a personal cost is the true essence of first love.
Why she gave: “She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial.”
Mary worshipped Jesus for who He was.
Mary worshipped Jesus for what He had already done in her life.
But Mary was also worshipping Jesus for what He was about to do for her!
She worshipped because she knew He would die to save her from her sins!
Jesus Response to Mary’s act of worship:
He defended her worship: “They criticized her sharply (we’ll get to this next week). But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her?”
Sad to say people’s worship of Jesus is criticized by both the world and the church.
He enjoyed her worship: “She has done a good work for Me.”
“Good” - literally, “beautiful, precious, excellent.”
“For Me” - Since Mary’s act was for Jesus, the evaluation was left to Him alone.
He accepted her worship: “She has done what she could.”
“Could” - literally, “had, held, what she possessed.”
Jesus evaluated her worship with the knowledge of what she had to give.
Note: He’s not a Lover who’s expecting more from us that what we’re good for!
He celebrated her worship: “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.”
“Memorial” - literally, “something preserved for remembrance.”
Jesus is telling Mary that what she had done was something He’d never forget!