Jesus gets a speedy trial
Plotting the arrest of Jesus1 In two days, Jews would be celebrating their religious holiday of Passover, also known as the Festival of Yeast-free Bread. Leading priests and the Jewish scholars called scribes were trying to figure out how they could bait, arrest, and execute Jesus. 2 “But not during the Feast,” they said, “or the people may riot.”
A woman pours perfume on to Jesus3 Jesus was in Bethany at the time, at the house of a man known as Simon the leper. Jesus was reclining at the table. A woman came in with a jar crafted from alabaster stone and filled with nard, an expensive perfume. She broke open the flask and poured the perfume onto the head of Jesus.
4 Some in the room got angry about this. They said to themselves, “Why waste this expensive perfume? 5 This perfume could have been sold for enough money to cover almost a year’s salary. She could have donated that to the poor.” The people viciously scolded this woman for what she did.
6 Jesus said, “Back off and leave her alone. Why are you giving her a hard time? What she just did for me is beautiful. 7 Look, you’ll always have poor people you can help. You can do good things for them whenever you want to. But you’re not always going to have me. 8 This woman has anointed my body for burial. She did what she could for me.
9 I’ll tell you something else, and it’s the absolute truth. Whenever the good news is preached anywhere in the world, people will hear the story of what she has done for me. She’s going to be remembered.” 10 At that point, Judas Iscariot, one of the 12 disciples, slipped out and went to see the leading priests. He started helping them orchestrate the arrest of Jesus. 11 The priests were delighted when they found out Judas wanted to help them. They were so happy that they promised to give him a reward. From that point on, Judas began looking for an opportunity to arrest Jesus.
Disciples prep for the Passover meal12 On the first day of the Festival of Yeast-free Bread, the day for slaughtering the Passover lamb, the disciples of Jesus asked him, “Where do you want us to set up the Passover meal?” 13 He told two of his disciples, “Go into town. A man carrying a jug of water will meet you there. Follow him. 14 When he goes inside somewhere, tell the owner of that house, ‘The Teacher sent us with a question. “Where is the guest room you have for me, so I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’” 15 He’ll take you to a large room on an upper floor. It will be furnished and ready for us to use. That’s where you will prepare the meal for us.” 16 So the disciples left and went into town. They found everything just as Jesus had described. They set up the Passover meal.
One last meal for Jesus17 That evening, Jesus and the 12 disciples came for the meal. 18 While they were reclining around the table and eating, Jesus said, “What I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth. One of you who is eating with me is going to betray me.” 19 The disciples were devastated. One after another they asked Jesus, “Surely it’s not me, is it?” 20 Jesus said, “It’s one of you 12—the one dipping his bread in the bowl with me now. 21 The Son of Humans is going to die, just as the Bible predicted a long time ago. But what’s going to happen to the man who betrays the Son of Humans is tragic. He’d be better off if he had never been born.”
Birth of a ritual: Last Supper22 They were already eating their meal when Jesus picked up some bread, broke it into smaller pieces, and gave it to his disciples. He said a prayer of thanks. Then he told his disciples, “Take this. It’s my body.” 23 Then he picked up a cup of wine and said another prayer of thanks. He handed the wine to one of the disciples, who took a drink and then passed it on to the next disciple. They all drank from this cup. 24 Jesus told them, “This is my blood. It will establish God’s new agreement with people. My blood will be poured out for many. 25 What I’m about to tell you is the absolute truth. I won’t drink wine again until I drink it renewed, in God’s Kingdom.”
Jesus: “You will desert me”26 They sang a hymn. Then they all went outside and walked over to the Mount of Olives. 27 When they got there, Jesus said, “All of you will desert me. Our Scriptures predicted it: ‘When I kill the Shepherd, the sheep will scatter.’ 28 But when I rise again, I’ll go on ahead of you back to Galilee.”
29 Peter told Jesus, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I won’t!”
30 Jesus told Peter, “Here’s the truth. Before this night is over and before the rooster crows twice, you’ll deny that you ever knew me. And you’ll do it three times.” 31 Seething with passion, Peter said, “Absolutely not! I will never deny knowing you! I would die first, right alongside you!” And all the others said the same.
Jesus talks to his Father, while disciples sleep32 They walked over to a place on the hillside called Gethsemane. There, Jesus told his disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray.”
33 Jesus took with him Peter, James, and John. Jesus was getting upset, even terrified. 34 He told the three disciples, “I’m so afraid. It’s crushing me, and I feel like I could die. Stay here. But stay alert.”
35 Jesus walked on a little further to be alone. He fell to the ground and prayed that he wouldn’t have to go through what was coming, if at all possible. 36 He prayed, “Papa. Father. Nothing is impossible for you. Please, don’t ask me to go through this. But if you do, I will.”
37 Jesus walked back over to the three disciples and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, really? You’re sleeping now? Weren’t you able to stay on guard for one hour?” 38 Come on, stay alert. Pray that you won’t be tempted. The spirit wants to do what’s right. But sometimes the body is too weak to do it.” 39 Jesus went off by himself again, praying what he had prayed before.
40 Once again he walked back over to the disciples. And, again, they were sleeping. They were too tired to keep their eyes open. When Jesus caught them asleep, they had no idea what to say for themselves. 41 The third time Jesus came back to check on them he said, “Still sleeping? Getting your rest? You think we’ve got lots of time? Time’s up. The Son of Humans has been betrayed and is about to get arrested by sinful people. 42 Get up. Let’s go. Take a look, the man who has betrayed me is here.”
Jesus arrested43 Jesus was still talking when Judas, one of the 12 disciples, showed up. He came with a crowd carrying swords and clubs. They were sent by Jewish leaders: top priests, scholars called scribes, and the elders. 44 Judas had arranged to give the arresting officers a signal that would pick Jesus out of the group. He told them, “I’ll greet Jesus with a kiss. Then you can arrest him and the guards can take him away.”
45 Judas walked right up to Jesus and said, “Teacher,” greeting him with a kiss. 46 People with Judas grabbed Jesus and arrested him.
47 One of the people standing nearby drew his sword and sliced off one of the ears of a man—a servant of the high priest. 48 Jesus said to the crowd, “Why have you come out here with swords and clubs to arrest me like I’m some kind of a dangerous robber? 49 Every day this week I’ve been with you in the Temple, teaching. For some reason you decided not to arrest me there. But, predictions in the Bible needed to be fulfilled.”
50 The disciples scattered. They all ran away. 51 One young man wearing nothing but a linen cloth started to follow the group taking Jesus away. The people tried to arrest him, too. 52 But the young man managed to slip away, leaving behind the linen cloth, and running naked into the night.
Arrested, and given a speedy trial53 The arresting crowd led Jesus to the high priest. Top Jewish leaders quickly put together a meeting of the leading priests, scribes, and elders. 54 Peter followed from a safe distance, eventually joining others waiting outside in the courtyard of the high priest. He sat there alongside Temple guards, warming himself by the fire.
55 The high priests and the entire Jewish Council convened to hear the case against Jesus. They scrambled to find people willing to testify against Jesus because they wanted to execute him. But they couldn’t find any credible witnesses. 56 Many perjured themselves by telling lies about Jesus. That became obvious because the witnesses contradicted each other. 57 Some stood up and told lies about Jesus by misquoting him: 58 “We heard him say, ‘I’m going to tear down this Temple that humans built. In three days, I’ll build another without any help from humans.’”
59 But even those folks couldn’t get their story straight. 60 That’s when the high priest stood up. He asked Jesus, “Are you just going to stand there and not say anything to defend yourself against these charges?” 61 Jesus didn’t say a word. He stayed silent. The priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of God?”
62 Jesus answered, “I am. And I’ll tell you something else. One day you will see the Son of Humans sitting at the right hand of God Almighty. Look to the clouds in the sky because that’s where I’ll be coming from.” 63 Livid, the high priest ripped his clothes. he said, “Why waste our time with more witnesses? 64 You have all heard him slander God with this blasphemy. What are you going to do about it?” The Council sentenced him to death. 65 Immediately some of the men spat on him. Others blindfolded him, punched him in the face, and told him, “Go ahead. Prophesy now!” Even the guards slapped his face.
Peter: “I don’t know that guy”66 While all this was going on, Peter was outside in the courtyard below. One of the maids who worked for the high priest came over to him. 67 She saw Peter warming himself by the fire. She took a good look at him. Then she said, “You were with that Nazarene, Jesus.”
68 Peter denied it. “Lady, I have no idea what you’re talking about. I don’t know that guy.” Peter got up and walked over to the entrance into the courtyard—just in time to hear a rooster crow. 69 The maid spotted Peter again. She started telling others standing around, “This guy is one of the group.”
70 Peter denied it again. A little while later some of the people who were standing around told Peter, “Come on. You know you’re one of them. You’re obviously a Galilean.”
71 Peter swore a curse on himself, inviting something bad happen to him if he wasn’t telling the truth. Then he said, “I swear that I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” 72 At that very moment the rooster crowed a second time. That’s when Peter remembered what Jesus had said to him earlier: “Before this night is over and before the rooster crows twice, you will deny that you ever knew me. And you’ll do it three times.” Peter began to sob.
Jews call this holiday by its Hebrew name: Pesach (PAY sah).
More literally: Festival of Unleavened Bread. This was flatbread made with no yeast. Yeast is what makes bread dough rise. Many Jews today celebrate the holiday by eating cracker-like matzo. Tortillas would also qualify. The festival is a seven-day celebration beginning on the 14th day of the first month in the Jewish new year: Nisan, usually sometime in March or April. It varies because the Jewish calendar is based on the cycles of the moon, from one full moon to the next.
Bethany was a village on the eastern slopes of the Mount of Olives, about two miles (3 km) from Jerusalem—a short walk.
Luke’s version of the story (Luke 7:36-50) reports that Jesus was invited to eat in the home of a Pharisee.
Tables were often low, much like coffee tables today. Instead of sitting on chairs, people sat on the floor beside the table.
Nard, which has the earthy fragrance of cyprus, was one of the most expensive perfumes and anointing oils available. Nard was extracted from spikenard plants native to India’s Himalayan Mountains, some 2,500 miles (4,000 km) east of what is now Israel. It took about a year’s salary for the average working man to buy a flask of 16 ounces (.5 l).
Mark quotes the complainers as saying the perfume was worth 300 denarii. A denarius was commonly considered the daily salary of a worker.
More literally, “This is my blood of the covenant.” It’s phrased in a way that would remind Mark’s readers of what Moses said after he splashed blood on an altar: “This blood confirms the covenant the LORD has made with you” (Exodus 24:8 New Living Translation). See footnote for 13:20.
More literally, “until that day when I drink it new.” Bible experts seem baffled by why Mark inserted the word “new.” Some guess that Jesus was talking about new wine. Others guess that he was saying the next time he drank wine he would be the new Jesus, resurrected.
The Mount of Olives was just a few minutes away. It’s a ridge of hills parallel to the ridge on which Jerusalem was built. The narrow Kidron Valley separates the two ridges.
“Gethsemane” means “oil press.” In the fall of the year, farmers harvested olives from olive trees, and then crushed most of the olives to produce olive oil. A few olive trees and ruins of an ancient olive oil press are located on the lower slopes of the Mount of Olives.
“”My heart is in anguish within me, And the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and [a] horror has overwhelmed me” (Psalm 55:4-5 New American Standard Bible).
Peter was the swordsman according to John 18:10.
It’s unclear what prophecies Jesus meant. Perhaps he had in mind the scattering of the disciples that he mentioned in 14:27. This is the moment most of them scattered. Among many other prophecies Jesus may have had in mind, there’s Daniel 9:26, “The Anointed One will be killed, appearing to have accomplished nothing” (New Living Translation).
Some scholars speculate that this unusual detail was added because the presumed writer of the Gospel of Mark, John Mark, was that man who escaped.
This council was known as the Sanhedrin. They were a group of 70 Jewish leaders led by the high priest. They functioned as the top legislative and judicial body among Jews. They were a bit like a combination Congress-Supreme Court. They made the laws and they punished the people who broke them. They did not, however, have the authority to execute anyone. The Roman occupiers kept that authority for themselves.
More literally, the high priest asks Jesus if he is the “son of the Blessed.” “Blessed” is a respectful way of referring to God. The high priest may not have been asking Jesus if he was the “Son of God” as Christians today understand that phrase, now associated with divinity. Many Jews taught that the promised Messiah would be a descendant of David who was described as a son of God, “The LORD said to me, ‘You are my son'” (Psalm 2:7 New Living Translation). This description applied to the coming Messiah, too. David’s descendant will also “be my son” (2 Samuel 7:14 New Living Translation).
“I AM” was one of the names associated with God. When God told Moses to go back to Egypt and free the Jews from slavery, Moses wanted to know who he should say sent him. God told him to tell the people of Israel, “I AM has sent me to you” (Exodus 3:14).
Today, someone that upset might punch a hole through the drywall. One difference might be that punching a hole in the drywall is not considered acceptable or intelligent. But in ancient times, ripping clothes was a conventional way of expressing anger or grief.
Galileans had a northern accent (Matthew 26:73).
While Jesus was eating a meal at Bethany, Mark says a woman came into the house carrying an alabaster jar “filled with nard, an expensive perfume. She broke open the flask and poured the perfume onto the head of Jesus” (14:3). Mark doesn’t say why she did this. What might be some possible reasons she would have emptied onto Jesus a jar full of perfume worth a year’s salary?
In defending the woman who anointed him with extravagantly expensive perfume, Jesus said, “Back off and leave her alone… Look, you’ll always have poor people you can help” (14:6-7). How is that not selfish and insensitive of Jesus?
Mark’s story about two disciples preparing the Passover meal begins with a bit of mystery. Jesus tells the two men to go in to town and follow “a man carrying a jug of water” (14:13). The man led them to a house where the disciples were to simply tell the owner that “the Teacher” wants to know where the guestroom is so he and his disciples can eat the Passover meal. The story sounds a little like the instructions Jesus gave disciples to go find a donkey he could ride into town (Mark 11:2). Does it sound like Jesus had made these plans ahead of time? Or do you think the homeowner recognized who the Teacher was, and decided to accommodate him?
When Jesus passed out pieces of bread to the disciples he said, “Take this. It’s my body” (14:22). Luke adds this: “I’m giving it for you—for your sake. When you do this, remember me” (22:19). Was he talking about what became the ritual of communion or Mass? Or was he talking about any time we eat a meal?
When Jesus gave his disciples the bread at the Last Supper, he said, “It’s my body” (14:22). Really? His actual body? Many Christians argue that the wine and the bread served during Communion or Mass are miraculously transformed into the actual blood and body of Jesus. Other Christians say the wine and bread are only symbols. What do you think about that?
Jesus said “I won’t drink wine again until I drink it renewed, in God’s Kingdom” (14:25). What do you think he was talking about? Could he have been talking about after his resurrection, since the Bible says he ate fish afterward and perhaps drank wine as well (Luke 24:41-43)? Or do you think he was talking about end times, after his Second Coming?
Mark doesn’t say what motivated Judas to betray Jesus. Luke says that “Satan got inside the head of Judas” (22:3). Other Bible versions translate it as “Satan entered into Judas” (New Living Translation). What do you think happened? Did Judas become demon possessed? Or did Satan simply plant an idea in the mind of Judas, and Judas embraced it?
Let’s say Judas was not demon possessed, and that Satan merely tempted him to do something he had been considering. Do you think Judas hoped to force Jesus into a public confrontation with Jewish leaders who supported the Roman occupying army, so the Messiah could lead Jewish rebels to freedom? Or do you think he had some other motive?
Jesus told his three closest friends, Peter, James, and John, “I’m so afraid. It’s crushing me, and I feel like I could die” (14:34). Then he prayed by himself, “Papa. Father. Nothing is impossible for you. Please, don’t ask me to go through this. But if you do, I will” (14:36). What do you think this reveals about Jesus?
Jesus told the disciples to pray for themselves: “Pray that you won’t be tempted. The spirit wants to do what’s right. But sometimes the body is too weak to do it” (14:38). Luke reports it this way: “Pray that you won’t be tempted to do something you know is wrong” (22:46). What do you think Jesus was talking about? What might they have been tempted to do that was wrong?
Why do you think Judas chose a kiss as the signal to arresting officers that Jesus was the target (14:44)?
As Mark tells the story, Jesus was his own worst enemy at his trial before the Jewish Council. He was quickly convicted of blasphemy against God when he answered the high priest’s question “Are you the Messiah, the son of God?” (14:61). It’s not clear if the priest was asking if Jesus was the divine Son of God, or merely a child of God. But Jesus made it clear that he was on awfully good terms with God: “One day you will see the Son of Humans sitting at the right hand of God Almighty. Look to the clouds in the sky because that’s where I’ll be coming from” (14:62). If you had been a member of the Jewish Council, and you proposed releasing Jesus because he is obviously a bit crazy, what arguments against his release would you expect to hear?
What do you think most people feel when they read the story of Peter telling people he didn’t know who Jesus was (14:66-72)? Do they think less of him? Do they pity him? Do they relate to him?
LIFE APPLICATION. Some people at the dinner Simon hosted in Bethany complained about the woman who poured perfume onto Jesus. It was worth a year’s salary and they thought the money would have been better used by donating to the poor (14:5). What do you think would be some examples today of spending money on something that others might say is a waste because it could have been donated to the poor and better used there?
LIFE APPLICATION. When Judas betrayed Jesus, some Bible writers says he did it because Satan somehow got inside of him (Luke 22:3). Humans do evil things all the time. Do you think it’s because Satan is inside of us? Or is something else going on to make us do those terrible things?
LIFE APPLICATION. All of the disciples ran away when Jesus got arrested, just as he predicted they would (14:27). At the end of the story, Jesus forgives them, as well as his executioners. Without giving any names, how have you seen people react when they felt abandoned by the people they counted on most?