judaskiss02Mark 14 Part 3

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.

Judas does not come with a few soldiers, but a great crowd of them.  They were probably expecting to meet opposition.  The chief priests and scribes were no doubt taking no chances, and had sent enough men to stop a full-scale rebellion, suspecting that the Lord and His usual crowd of followers might fight back when they tried to arrest Him.  Yet the cautious religious leaders were wrong here, for the Lord had no intention of fighting back, but meant to be arrested according to His plan.

Notice that this multitude is from the chief priests and scribes, not from the Romans.  Often, it is portrayed that the Lord was arrested by Roman soldiers in the garden, yet this certainly was not so.  These were from the chief priests and scribes, and thus were members of the temple guard, the only real “soldiers” the Jews were allowed.  Judging from the number that is said to be here, it seems that almost the entire guard has been sent after the Lord, for their total numbers were not that great.  The chief priests were indeed taking no chances!

44.  Now His betrayer had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him and lead Him away safely.”

Again, they suspected violent resistance when they attempted to take the Lord.  Thus, Judas had set up a sign to let them know who He was, so that the soldiers could seize Him and lead Him away, thinking perhaps to get Him safely into custody before His followers could react.  Perhaps many of these soldiers had been busy with their duties, and had never actually seen the Lord.  Remember, they were not allowed to make any sort of graven image.  Thus, unlike in our day, the Lord’s picture would not have been around anywhere, and the only way one could even know what He looked like would have been to see Him in person.

45.  As soon as he had come, immediately he went up to Him and said to Him, “Rabbi, Rabbi!” and kissed Him.

Judas thinks to cover up what he is doing by referring to the Lord as “Rabbi” or “great Teacher,” a term of respect.  He probably hoped that this would keep the others from realizing until too late what he was really doing.  The tremendous hypocrisy of his words is evident, as is the hypocrisy of using a kiss, a sign of affection, as the means of betrayal.  Yet the Lord was not fooled, and Judas’ words, “Rabbi, Rabbi,” or “Teacher, Teacher,” must have sounded like a cruel mockery to Him from the lips of one who had been His disciple.  But don’t we do the same thing when we cry to Him, “Lord, Lord,” and then refuse to do what He has commanded us to do, as the Lord pointed out in Luke 6:46?  Our betrayal may not be as great, but our words can be just as deceitful and just as empty as Judas’ words were.

Note that Judas never referred to Christ as “Lord” or “Master.”  As we learn from Paul in I Corinthians 12:3, no one can do that but by the Holy Spirit, and Judas did not have Him!

46.  Then they laid their hands on Him and took Him.

They laid their hands on the Lord and took Him according to their plan.  Yet they could never have done this had He not allowed it!  He was God’s Servant, and followed the Father’s commands.  Remember, Mark presents Christ as the Lord’s perfect Servant, and here, as in everything, He is yielding to the will of the Father.

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 chief priests may have been expecting armed opposition, yet when the time came, only one responded in this way, and that was with a wild swing that did nothing more than take off the ear of a servant of the high priest.  We learn from other gospels that it was Peter who did this.  Perhaps he was still trying to live up to his declaration of earlier in the night and stick with the Lord no matter what.  He had not spoken entirely idly, for he did indeed intend to carry through on this.  But the Lord’s response, as we learn in other gospels, was not to applaud Peter, but rather to rebuke him and to heal the man’s ear.  And this, coupled with the Lord’s calm acceptance of arrest, proved too much for Peter, as Christ had known it would, and he fled with the rest.

48.  Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me?

The Lord rebukes them here.  They were coming to arrest Him as if He were some terrible robber, with an army of soldiers and weapons.  What had the Lord ever done to deserve such treatment?  Nothing, certainly.  This arrest was unfair from the start.

49.  “I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me.  But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.”

The Lord had not been hiding, but had been in the temple teaching every day.  If they had wished to honestly arrest Him, they should have done so then.  The fact that they did not, but rather took Him secretly in the night, shows that their intentions were not right, but that they were going to stop Him contrary to their own laws.  Yet the Lord was ever concerned with fulfilling the words of Scripture, and thus He allows them to arrest Him, as a good Servant should when He has been so commanded.  How then could He have been praying that God would allow Him not to fulfill the words of Scripture just a few minutes before?

50.  Then they all forsook Him and fled.

His calm acceptance of arrest and refusal to fight back is too much for His disciples.  And, contrary to their brave words earlier, they all forsake Him and flee.  This was not the situation that they had imagined when they had told Him they would stand with Him no matter what!

This flight would include those He had left behind when He went to pray as well as the three who were with Him.  They were not far apart, and the others had probably been drawn to the commotion and had seen what had occurred.

51.  Now a certain young man followed Him, having a linen cloth thrown around his naked body.  And the young men laid hold of him,

This young man may have been with Him in the house when He kept the Passover.  He probably had undressed in the house, and had not taken the time to put his outer garments back on when they left in a hurry.  Remember, you were not supposed to leave the house after keeping the Passover.  Thus, he had only the linen cloak on when he left with the Lord.  A linen robe was expensive at the time, and indicates that this young man was wealthy, or of high position.

52.  And he left the linen cloth and fled from them naked.

The soldiers attempt to seize the man wearing the linen cloak, and he leaves the cloak behind in their hands and flees from them naked.  This is a strange occurrence that seems to make little sense.  The curious thing about this is that we notice that all the disciples flee, seemingly without being hindered by the multitude of soldiers.  Yet when it comes to this man, they try to arrest him as well.  Who could he have been, who was more wanted by the soldiers than the Lord’s closest disciples?

The answer is provided for us in the book of John, where we read in 12:10-11, “But the chief priests plotted to put Lazarus to death also, because on account of him many of the Jews went away and believed in Jesus.”  Although the disciples in general were not wanted by the priests, there was one who was, and that was Lazarus, the friend of the Lord whom He had raised from the dead.  Of course the priests would have commanded their men to ignore the disciples, for they believed that, if the Master was dead, the disciples would scatter and the movement would come to an end.  But they must have also commanded them to apprehend Lazarus if they spotted him in the crowd.  That Lazarus would have been with Jesus Christ is a most natural thing, as the Lord had been staying in Bethany where Lazarus and his family lived.  Lazarus was the Lord’s close friend, and now added to that was his gratitude to the Lord for saving him from death.  Lazarus’ resurrection had only taken place days before, and no doubt he had been following the Lord Jesus ever since.  Lazarus was a rich man, and could easily have afforded an expensive linen cloak, which would have been beyond the ability of most of the rest of the disciples to purchase.  This all makes sense.

The only question that remains is why then the gospel author does not give his name?  Why mention him and yet not tell us definitely that this was Lazarus?  The answer is simple if we realize that, whereas the Lord Jesus was in heaven and far out of the reach of those who hated Him when this gospel was written, Lazarus was still on earth.  No doubt he was still in danger, perhaps even in hiding, wanted by the religious leaders, at the time Mark was writing this book.  To specifically mention Lazarus’ flight would have been to bring up his being a fugitive into the minds of all who read the gospel, friend and foe alike, and may have rekindled the efforts to search for him.  Yet the Lord wanted this event recorded.  Therefore, to avoid endangering Lazarus further, the gospel author mentions the event but not the name of the disciple so treated.  This is not some fragment from a forgotten “Q” manuscript, but an important and logical part of the narrative and the events surrounding the Lord’s death.  Moreover, it shows us the completeness of the Lord’s abandonment at this point.  For here, even the one He had raised from death abandons Him, seeking to save his own life and fleeing into the night!  How could one who owed the Lord so much still have abandoned Him with all the rest?  It is sad indeed, but the weakness of our own humanity shows forth here for us to see and learn from.  We are not nearly so strong nor so faithful as we would like to think we are!

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 soldiers, following their orders, lead the Lord to a gathering called by the high priest of all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.  This is what was called the “Sanhedrin,” or the ruling council in Israel.  These men were assembled in the middle of the night.  It was against the law to hold a trial at night, but then, just about every part of the Lord’s trial was unlawful.  It was nothing more than a show-trial, and its only purpose was to get rid of the Lord from their midst once and for all.

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, although he did not fight after cutting off the servant’s ear when the Lord admonished him about it, and although he fled with the rest when the Lord allowed Himself to be arrested, still has enough courage to follow Him to the temple.  We can easily blame Peter for what follows after, but remember that most of the disciples didn’t have enough courage or loyalty to make it as far as Peter did.  Would we have been in the temple at that point?

55.  Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.

The chief priests and all the council (Greek “Sanhedrin”) are seeking testimony against the Lord so they can put Him to death.  This was contrary to their own laws, as is pointed out in the Companion Bible, citing the Sanhedr. cap. 4.  “In judgments against the life of any man, they begin first to transact about quitting the party who is tried, and they begin not with those things which make for his condemnation.”  Every aspect of this trial was a farce!  Yet even then, they find no testimony to legitimately put Him to death.

56.  For many bore false witness against Him, but their testimonies did not agree.

Witnesses against a man had to agree on every point.  If they did not, but rather contradicted themselves, this was grounds for throwing out the case against the one accused.  Of course, the Sanhedrin was not about to throw out this case, lawful or not!

57.  Then some rose up and bore false witness against Him, saying,

At last, a common theme is found in the false testimonies of some who bear witness against Him.

58.  “We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.’”

Even this is false witness, for what He actually said was, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”  (John 2:19)  He never said He would destroy the temple, nor did He say anything about “made with hands” and “made without hands.”  Nor would He have, for He was not referring to the temple in Jerusalem, but rather to the temple of His Own body, which certainly was not made with hands!

Notice that this refers to a quote that is only given for us in the book of John.  If John was the last written of the gospels, as is commonly taught, this reference would have been a mystery for many years.  Yet if John was written first, as I claim, then Mark could have referred to something written in it without actually having given this quote of the Lord’s himself.  More evidence that John was the first written of the gospels, not written much later than the others, as is commonly taught.

59.  But not even then did their testimony agree.

It seems they couldn’t find a consistent lie to make about the Lord Jesus.  Even those who did agree on this one point did not agree on others, which should have been enough to cause their testimony to be thrown out.  Yet it wasn’t, as fairness or legality was not a goal of this trial.

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?”

The high priest should never have stood up or come into the midst in a formal trial.  This was nothing but an attempt to gather some flimsy evidence that they could use in bringing Him before Pilate.  The Sanhedrin didn’t just want to kill the Lord, they wanted Him to die on a cross, a death the Israelites believed to be accursed based on Deuteronomy 21:23.

His body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God.

If the Lord was crucified, the Sanhedrin believed, He would be considered a cursed individual, and thus they hoped to utterly destroy Him in the eyes of the people.

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?”

The Lord refused to refute the lies that the witnesses brought against Him.  Of course, He was under no obligation to answer testimony so obviously false.  He was willing, however, to admit to what the high priest asked Him next: to being the Christ, the Son of the Blessed.  What did the high priest mean, “the Blessed?”  We can understand this if we remember that the Jews did not like to speak God’s name aloud.  Thus, they came up with many things to say instead and substitute for the name of God.  This, “the Blessed,” was apparently being one of them, for God is indeed Blessed in the sight of all His people.

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.”

The Lord admits to this, proclaiming Himself the “I Am.”  He could not have made a stronger statement of His Own Godhood, using the special name for God revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:14, “Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  Then, Christ informs them that they themselves will see Him seated on the right hand of the Power.  “The Power” is another substitute for God that Christ uses in this instance.  “Sitting at the right hand” does not mean that God would be in one throne, and that Christ would be in another throne sitting on His right side.  Rather, this has to do with authority.  The Lord will be sitting at the very place from which the power is sent forth.  He will be sitting on the rights of the Power Himself!  Moreover, these men will see Him coming with the clouds of heaven.  Surely this will not be such a welcome sight for men who were His enemies!

63.  Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses?

The tearing of the clothes was a sign of great distress, whether from grief or anger, at that time and in that culture.  Yet it was forbidden for the high priest to tear his clothes, for he was wearing the priestly robes of his office.  Leviticus 21:10 gives the command.

He who is the high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes.

Aaron and his two surviving sons were not allowed to grieve for his two sons who were slain by the Lord for the same reason in Leviticus 10:6a.

Moses said to Aaron, and to Eleazar and Ithamar, his sons, ‘Do not uncover your heads nor tear your clothes, lest you die, and wrath come upon all the people.’

By tearing his clothes contrary to the law, the high priest condemned HIMSELF to death!  And yet by his words he condemned to death the only One in the room Who was completely innocent.

64.  “You have heard the blasphemy!  What do you think?”  And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

The Lord’s answer and His claim, although they were neither proved nor disproved by the court, were enough for them to pronounce Him guilty of blasphemy.  His miraculous works should have testified to them as to the truth of His words, but they had already rejected the testimony of the miracles even as they now rejected the testimony of His words and condemned Him to death.

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.

This riotous display would be a shameful thing in any court, but in a court composed of those supposed to be God’s leaders over the people it seems almost obscene.  These men had left the path of righteousness, and now were doing nothing more than working the evil deeds of darkness.  Even the pretense of civility is left behind, as they give in to their basest desires for violence and mockery.

66.  Now as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came.

Peter had followed the Lord afar off, hoping to avoid detection.  Now he is warming himself at this fire, no doubt keeping his eyes and ears open in an attempt to discover what was happening with his Lord.  It is here that one of the servant girls of the high priest finds him.

67.  And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with Jesus of Nazareth.”

The fire that Peter was using to warm himself betrayed him, for the light allowed the servant girl of the high priest to see him and recognize him.  Thus, she accuses him of being one of those who were with “Jesus of Nazareth.”  (Being attached to the high priest, the girl uses the mocking title given Him by His enemies.)

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.

Peter unequivocally denies the girl’s claim.  Here we have recorded the first denial in Mark, and yet this is the second of the three denials of Peter that took place before the rooster crowed the first time.  If we want to learn the complete list of Peter’s first three denials we must look to the book of John.  The third took place before he left the fire, and is recorded in John 18:26, when a relative of the man whose ear Peter cut off recognizes him as well.  Mark skips this denial, but tells us that, no doubt seeking to avoid the accusations taking place at the fire, Peter went out into the gate.  Then we read of the rooster’s first crowing.  Peter is distracted, and it seems he fails to hear it.  Coming up, Mark will give us two of the second set of three denials, while Matthew fills in the third.  This second of the six denials is the only denial listed in all four gospels.

69.  And the servant girl saw him again, and began to say to those who stood by, “This is one of them.”

Here the same servant girl from the fire encounters him again in the gate.  She again insists that he is one of them.  In Matthew 26:71-72, we read that a different servant girl also accosted him in the gate.  It could not be the same servant girl and yet a different servant girl at the same time.  We have two different servant girls, and thus we have two different denials.

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.”

Peter again denies what the servant girl says.  No doubt, he was getting very frightened, and very afraid by this time.  Having started his policy of denying any knowledge of the Lord, it no doubt becomes easier to deny every time, as lies often do.  Yet the girl’s accusation plants a seed in the minds of others who stand by, and so, a little later when perhaps the girl had moved on, they too accost him, having concluded he must be one of them since he speaks with a Galilean accent.  Most of the Lord’s ministry had been done in Galilee, so most of His followers were Galilean.  This, along with the girl’s testimony, had convinced these bystanders that the girl’s accusation was correct.

71.  Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know this Man of whom you speak!”

This last of the denials is given in all three synoptic gospels, along with Peter’s cursing.  Peter is no doubt becoming more and more alarmed as these accusations continue, and this time throws himself fully into the false part he has decided to play.  “Cursing and swearing” does not mean what we think of when we hear the words, as the movie “The Passion” represented it when it had Peter say, “D–n you, I don’t know the man!”  Rather, this word in Greek is anathematizo, a word coined by Greek-speaking Jews to represent an Aramaic idea.  One who was anathema was cut off from the community of Israel.  Peter is calling this curse upon himself.  It is as if he is saying, “Let me be cut off,” (either from the community, from God, or from life itself) “if I do not speak the truth.”  Yet, of course, he did not speak the truth, for he did know the Lord.  Fortunately, the Lord forgave him for this rash and lying oath.

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.

Although the first rooster crowing was not enough to jog his memory, this second finally penetrates his consciousness, and he realizes the magnitude of what he has done.  He had broken an oath twice, once when he told the Lord he would never deny him, and now once when he did deny Him and swore that he didn’t even know him.  The bitter realization of his failure and lack of faith is too much for Peter, and he weeps when he realizes what he has done.  He has denied his Lord, as he swore he would never do.

How easy it is for us to swear to things when we are not afraid or under stress or in pain, but how hard it often is to follow our oaths when the time of testing actually comes!  We need to take a lesson from Peter, and not be too sure of our own strength or ability to stand when trouble comes.  Only with the Lord’s help can we face such difficult situations and not betray faith.