Read the Passage: Mark 14:1-31
As Mark 14 begins, it is Wednesday evening of the Passion Week. Mark 14:1–2 reports that, having failed to cause Jesus to stumble with their questions, the religious leaders plotted to kill Christ. Clearly, however, Jesus was in control of the timeline for His own death, having earlier taught, “No one takes my life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:18). Ironically, the leaders planned not to kill Christ during the Passover, out of fear of the people; yet, Jesus would die in two days, on His own timetable. In Mark 14:3–9 we find Jesus dining at the home Simon the Leper—a man who is mentioned nowhere else in Scripture. Note that Simon was likely a former leper, one whom Jesus had healed, for unclean lepers did not host dinner parties. Mark 14:3 reports that at the meal a woman poured spikenard oil on Jesus’ head.
In his Gospel, John informs us that the woman who poured oil on Jesus was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus (cf. John 12:2). John also notes that Mary put a pound of this oil on Jesus’ feet and wiped it with her hair. Oil of spikenard was extracted from a plant grown in India. One pound of this perfume would have been about 12 ounces. The disciples, especially Judas (cf. John 12:4–6), were incensed at this sacrificial act, viewing is as wasteful, for the oil was worth 300 denarii, or a years’ wages. However, Jesus rebuked the disciples, telling them that this event was in preparation for His burial. Further Christ noted this act will be known wherever the gospel is preached. Apparently, Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples was the motivation for Judas to agree to betray Christ for thirty pieces of silver (cf. Mark 14:10–11), which was the price of a slave (cf. Exod. 21:32; Zech. 11:12).
On Thursday of the Passion Week, Jesus instructed His disciples to begin making preparations for their celebration of the Passover. Christ directed his disciples to a certain man, whom He said would be carrying a pitcher of water (cf. Mark 14:13; Luke 22:10), who would lead them to a large furnished room they would use to observer the Passover. Luke records that the two disciples whom Jesus sent to secure the room were Peter and John (cf. Luke 22:8). While these events may seem to be supernatural, it is possible that Christ had made these arrangements earlier but kept them secret to prevent Judas from betraying Him before the Passover. Note Jesus’ claim in Matthew’s account of this event, “My time is at hand” (Matt. 26:18). Clearly, it was important to Jesus to celebrate the Passover, for as Paul wrote, “Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7).
Mark 14:17–25 records Jesus’ celebration of the Passover meal. At this meal Jesus disclosed that one of His disciples would betray Him. While Christ knew of Judas’ betrayal—even before Judas did (cf. John 6:70–71)—John notes that, nevertheless, Jesus was “troubled in spirit” (John 13:21) as He announced the betrayal by Judas. Since Christ did not immediately identify Judas as the traitor, His prediction sparked both sorrow and conversation among His disciples, as they each asked, “Is it I?” (Mark 14:19). In response, Jesus identified Judas as the betrayer by handing him a piece of bread. While Mark does not record Jesus’ dialog with Judas, Matthew reports that Jesus specifically told Judas He was aware of his betrayal (cf. Matt. 26:25). Further, John notes that at this time Satan entered Judas and Jesus commanded Judas to act quickly (cf. John 13:27).
After celebrating the Passover, Jesus and the disciples “sung a hymn” (Mark 14:26), which traditionally would have been parts of Ps. 113–118. Judas had already departed, before the institution of the Lord’s Supper (cf. John 13:30), although the disciples were uncertain as to why he had left. After this, the apostles retreated with Christ to the Mount of Olives. Here Jesus predicted that all the disciples would stumble and abandon Him that very evening. Understandably, the apostles each denied they would be disloyal to Christ (cf. Mark 14:31), with Peter even declaring his willingness to die with Jesus (cf. Mark 14:29, 31). Yet, as the following narrative records, the disciples could not even stay awake and pray for Jesus, let alone follow Him to their death. Christ then predicted Peter’s three-fold denial, which would be fulfilled that very evening (cf. Mark 14:50, 66–72).
- After avoiding the religious leaders’ attempts to kill Him for over three years, why did Jesus decide to lay down his life at the Passover?
- How can we reconcile the authorities’ freely devised plan to kill Jesus, with Christ’s claim that He was in control of His own death (cf. John 10:18)?
- Do you think Mary was aware that her anointing of Jesus was in preparation for His burial? What did Jesus mean in claiming the poor will be with you always?
- Do you find it difficult to show kindness to your opponents and enemies? Why is it easy to love friends and hard to love enemies?
- Do you think the disciples were being dishonest in their declaration of loyalty to Jesus? Why did they all later abandon Christ?