Mark 14 COMMENTARY (Pulpit)

Mark 14
Pulpit Commentary
After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.
Verse 1. - Now after two days was the feast of the passover and the unleavened bread; literally, the passover and the unleavened τό πάσχα καὶ τὰ ἄζυμα. It was one and the same festival. The killing of the Paschal lamb took place on the first of the seven days during which the festival lasted, and during the whole of which they used unleavened bread. Josephus describes it as "the festival of the unleavened, called Phaska by the Jews." The chief priests and the scribes. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:3) says, "The chief priests and the elders of the people." The two classes in the Sanhedrim who actually combined to put our Lord to death were those here mentioned by St. Mark. They sought how they might take him with subtlety (ἐν δόλῳ), and kill him. It is, literally, they were seeking (ἐλήτουν). The verb with its tense implies continuous and eager desire. They used subtlety, because they feared lest he should escape out of their hands. Moreover they feared the people, lest they should fight for him, and not suffer him to be taken.
But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.
Verse 2. - For they said (ἔλεγον γὰρ) literally, for they were saying - Not during the feast, lest haply there shall be a tumult of the people. The same cause induced them to avoid the time of the feast. The feast brought a great multitude of Jews to Jerusalem, amongst whom would be many who had received bodily or spiritual benefits from Christ, and who therefore, at least, worshipped him as a Prophet; and the rulers of the people feared lest these should rise in his defense. Their first intention, therefore, was not to destroy him until after the close of the Paschal feast; but they were overruled by the course of events, all ordered by God's never-failing providence. The sudden betrayal of our Lord by Judas led them to change their minds. For when they found that he was actually in their hands, they resolved to crucify him forthwith. And thus the Divine purpose was fulfilled that Christ should suffer at that particular time, and so the type be satisfied. For the lamb slain at the Passover was a type of the very Paschal Lamb to be sacrificed at that particular time, in the predetermined purpose of God; and to be lifted up upon the cross for the redemption of the world. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:3) tells us that they were gathered together "unto the court of the high priest, who was called Caiaphas." It was necessary to state his name, because the high priests were now frequently changed by the Roman power.
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
Verse 3. - And while he was in Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster cruse (ἀλάβαστρον) - literally, an alabaster; as we say, "a glass," of a vessel made of glass - of ointment of spikenard very costly (μύρου νάρδου πιστικῆς πολυτελοῦς); and she brake the cruse, and poured it over his head. This anointing of our Lord appears to have taken place on the Saturday before Palm Sunday (see John 12:1). The anointing mentioned by St. Luke (Luke 7:36) evidently has reference to some previous occasion. The narrative here and in St. Matthew and St. John would lead us to the conclusion that this was a feast given by Simon - perhaps in grateful acknowledgment of the miracle which had been wrought upon Lazarus. He is called "Simon the leper," probably because he had been a leper, and had been healed by Christ, although he still retained the name of "leper," to distinguish him from others named Simon, or Simeon, a common name amongst the Jews. There came a woman. This woman, we learn from St. John (John 12:2, 3), was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. The vessel, or cruse, which she had with her was made of alabaster, a kind of soft, smooth marble, which could easily be scooped out so as to form a receptacle for ointment, which, according to Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 13:3), was best preserved in vessels made of alabaster. The vessel would probably be formed with a long narrow neck, which could easily be broken, or crushed (the word in the original is συντρίψασα so as to allow of a free escape for the unguent. The ointment was made of spikenard νάρδου πιστικῆς). The Vulgate has nardi spicati. If this is the true interpretation of the word πιστικῆς, it would mean that this ointment was made from a bearded plant mentioned by Pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 12:12), who says that the ointment made from this plant was most precious. The plant was called by Galen "nardi spica." Hence πιστικῆν it would mean "genuine" ointment - ointment made from the flowers of the choicest kind of plant, pliny ('Nat. Hist.,' 12:26) says that there was an inferior article in circulation, which he calls "pseudo-nard." The Syriac Peshito Version uses an expression which means the principal, or best kind of ointment. The anointing of the head would be the more usual mark of honor. It would seem most probable that Mary first wiped the feet of Jesus, wetting them with her tears, and then wiping off the dust, and then anointing them; and that she then proceeded to break the neck of the cruse, and to pour its whole contents on his head.
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?
Verse 4. - But there were some that had indignation - the word in the original is ἀγανακτοῦντες, ached with vexation - among themselves. St. Mark says, "there were some;" avoiding any more particular mention of them. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:8) says that the disciples generally had indignation. The murmuring seems to have been general. At length it found a definite expression in Judas Iscariot (see John 12:4).
For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
Verse 5. - For this ointment might have been sold for above three hundred pence, and given to the poor. Three hundred pence would amount to about £10 12s. 6d. of English money. It appears from St. John (John 13:29) that the wants of the poor were carefully attended to by our Lord and his disciples. And they murmured against her ἐνεβριμῶντο); another very expressive verb in the original, they growled at her; rebuked her vehemently.
And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.
Verse 6. - It appears from St. John (John 12:7) that our Lord here addressed himself pointedly to Judas in the words, Let her alone;... she hath wrought a good work on me, a work worthy of all praise and honor. "What," says Cornelius a Lapide, "what more noble, than to anoint the feet of him who is both God and man? Who would not count himself happy, if it were permitted to him to touch the feet of Jesus and to kiss them?"
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
Verse 7. - Far ye have the poor always with you, and whensoever ye will ye can (δύνασθε) do them good: but me ye have not always. The little clause, "whensoever ye will ye can do them good," occurs only in St. Mark. It is as though our Lord said, "The world always abounds with poor; therefore you always have it in your power to help them; but within a week I shall have gone from you, after which you will be unable to perform any service like this for me; yea, no more to see, to hear, to touch me. Suffer, then, this woman to perform this ministry now for me, which after six days she will have no other opportunity of doing."
She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
Verse 8. - She hath done what she could. She seized the opportunity, which might not occur again, of doing honor to her Lord by anointing him with her very best. Our Lord might have excused this action, and have praised it as a practical evidence of her gratitude, her humility, and her love for him. But instead of dwelling on these things, he said, She hath anointed my body aforehand for the burying. Our Lord here, of course, alludes to the spices and ointments with which the Jews wrapped up the bodies of their dead before their burial. Not that this was what Mary intended. She could hardly have dreamed of his death and burial so near at hand. But she was moved by the Holy Spirit to do this, at this particular time, as though in anticipation of his death and burial.
Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
Verse 9. - Wheresoever the gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, that also which this woman hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her (εἰς μνημόσυνον αὐτῆς). "Mnemosyne was the mother of the Muses, and so called because, before the invention of writing, a retentive memory was of the utmost value in every effort of literary genius" (Dr. Morison on St. Mark). When our Lord delivered this prediction, none of the Gospels had been written; nor bad the gospel been preached at this time throughout the then known world. Now it has been published for more than eighteen centuries; and wherever, it is proclaimed, this deed of Mary's is published with it, in continual memory of her, and to her lasting honor.
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.
Verse 10. - And Judas Iscariot, he that was one of the twelve (ὁ εῖς τῶν δώδεκα), went away unto the chief priests, that he might deliver him unto them. The betrayal follows immediately after the anointing by Mary. We may suppose that the other disciples who had murmured on account of this waste of the ointment, were brought to their senses by our Lord's rebuke, and felt its force. But with Judas the case was very different. The rebuke, which had a salutary effect on them, only served to harden him. He had lost one opportunity of gain; he would seek another. In his cupidity and wickedness he resolves to betray his Master, and sell him to the Jews. So while the chief priests were plotting how they might destroy him, they found an apt and unexpected instrument for their purpose in one of his own disciples. Judas came to them, and the vile and hateful bargain was concluded. It marks the tremendous iniquity of the transaction that it was "one of the twelve" who betrayed him - not one of the seventy, but one of those who were in the closest intimacy and nearness to him.
And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.
Verse 11. - And they, when they heard it, were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought (ἐζήτει) - he was seeking; he made it his business to arrange how the infamous plot might be managed - how he might conveniently deliver him unto them (πῶς εὐκαίρως αὐτὸν παραδῷ); literally, how at a convenient season he might betray him. And they,when they heard it, were glad; glad, because they saw the prospect of the accomplishment of their wishes; glad, because it was "one of the twelve" who covenanted to betray him. They promised to give him money. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:15) tells us the amount, namely, thirty pieces of silver, according to the prophecy of Zechariah (Zechariah 11:12), to which St. Matthew evidently refers. These pieces of silver were shekels of the sanctuary, worth about three shillings each. This would make the whole amount about £4 10s. of our money; less than half the value of the precious ointment with which Mary had anointed him. Some commentators, however, think that this was only an instalment of what they promised him if he completed his treasonable design. How he might conveniently deliver him unto them. St. Luke (Luke 22:6) explains this by saying, "in the absence of the multitude;" that is, when the people were not about him, and when he was in private with his disciples. And so he betrayed him at night, when he was alone with his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane.
And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?
Verse 12. - And on the first day of unleavened bread, when they sacrificed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and make ready that thou mayest eat the passover? The first day of unleavened bread would begin on the evening of the Thursday (the 14th day of the month Nisan). Where wilt thou that we prepare? They do not inquire in what city or town. The Passover could not be sacrificed anywhere but in Jerusalem. The question was in what house it was to be prepared.
And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.
Verse 13. - And he sendeth two of his disciples. St. Luke (Luke 22:8) informs us that these two were Peter and John. It is characteristic of St. Mark's Gospel throughout that Peter is never mentioned oftener than is necessary. Go into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water. The bearing of the pitcher of water was not without its meaning. It was a solemn religious act preparatory to the Passover. This man bearing a pitcher of water was not the master or owner of the house. The owner is distinguished afterwards by the name οἰκοδέσποτης, or "goodman of the house." The owner must, therefore, have been a man of some substance, and probably a friend if not a disciple of our Lord. Tradition says that this was the house of John whose surname was Mark; and that it was in this house that the disciples were assembled on the evening of our Lord's resurrection, and where, also, they received the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit, on the day of Pentecost. It was to this house that Peter betook himself when he was delivered by the angel out of prison. Hence it was known, as one of the earliest places of Christian worship, by the name of "Coenaculum Sion; "and here was built a church, called the Church of Sion. It was the oldest church in Jerusalem, and was called by St. Cyril, "the upper church of the apostles." (See Joseph Mode, p. 322.)
And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?
Verse 14. - The Master saith, Where is my guest-chamber (κατύλυμα μοῦ); literally, my lodging.
And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.
Verse 15. - And he will himself show you a large upper room furnished and ready. He himself, that is, the goodman of the house; perhaps John Mark. This upper room was furnished and ready (ἐστρωμένον ἕτοιμον); furnished, that is, with table and couches and tapestry, and in all respects ready for the purpose.
And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.
Verse 16. And they made ready the passover. This would consist in obtaining the Paschal lamb, and taking it to the temple to be sacrificed by the priests. It would then be brought to the house to be cooked; and the unleavened bread, the bitter herbs and the wine would have to be provided, and the water for purification. After all these preparations had been made, the two disciples would return to their Master.
And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.
Verse 17. - And when it was evening he cometh with the twelve. It was in the evening that the lamb was to be eaten. Peter and John having returned from their preparation, the twelve (including Judas Iscariot) all went back with their Master to Jerusalem.
And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.
Verse 18. - Verily I say unto you, One of you shall betray me, even he that eateth with me (ὁ ἐσθίων μετ ἐμοῦ). Much had doubtless happened before our Lord said this; but St. Mark only records the important circumstances. These words of our Lord were uttered with great solemnity. The presence of the traitor was a burden upon his spirit, and cast a gloom over this usually joyous festival. A question here arises whether Judas remained to partake of the Holy Communion when our Lord instituted it. The greater number of the Fathers, and amongst them Origen, St. Cyril, St. Chrysostom, St. Augustine, and Bede, consider that he was present; and Dionysius says that our Lord's words to him, "That thou doest, do quickly," were intended to separate him from the rest of the twelve as one who had partaken unworthily; and that then it was that Satan entered into him, and impelled him onwards to this terrible sin.
And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?
Verse 19. - They began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? The disciples were naturally disposed to be joyful at this great festival. But their Master's sorrow and his words, and the solemnity with which they were uttered, cast a shadow over the whole company; and the disciples began to be sorrowful. The words, "And another said, Is it I?" are omitted by the best authorities.
And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.
Verse 20. - And he said unto them, It is one of the twelve, he that dippeth with me in the dish. St. Mark here uses the present participle (ὁ ἐμβαπτόμενος), bringing the action close to the time when he was speaking. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:23) has (ὁ ἐμβάψας) "he that dipped his hand," using the aorist form. St. Mark's form is the more graphic. The dish probably contained a sauce called charoseth, into which they dipped their food before eating it. The following appears to have been the order of the events: - First, our Lord, before he instituted the Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, foretold that he would be betrayed by one of his disciples but only in general terms. Then came the eager question from them, "Is it I?" Then Christ answered that the traitor was he who should dip his hand together with him in the dish. But this did not bring it home to the individual, because several who sat near to him were able to dip with him in the dish. So that our Lord had as yet only obscurely and indefinitely pointed out the traitor. Then he proceeded to institute "the Lord's Supper;" after which he again intimated (Luke 22:21) that "the hand of him that betrayed him was with him on the table." Upon this. St. Peter hinted to St. John, who was "reclining in Jesus' besom," that he should ask him to say definitely and by name who it was that should betray him. Our Lord then said to St. John, "He it is, for whom I shall dip the sop, and give it him" (John 13:26). Our Lord then dipped the sop, and gave it to Judas Iscariot. Then it was that our Lord said to Judas, "That thou doest, do quickly" (ὅ ποιεῖς ποίησον τάχιον) (John 13:27). Then Judas went straightway to the house of Caiaphas, and procured the band of men and officers for the completion of his horrible design.
The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.
Verse 21. - For the Son of man goeth (ὑπάγει) - goeth, departeth from this mortal scene: the reference is, of course, to his death - even as it is written of him; as, for example, in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 41 It was foreordained by God that he was to suffer as a victim for the sins of the whole world. But this predestined purpose of God did not make the guilt any the less of those who brought the Savior to his cross. Good were it for that man if he had not been born. The Greek is καλὸν η΅ν αὐτῷ εἰ οὐκ ἐγεννήθη ὁ ἄνθρωπος ἐκεῖνος: literally, good were it for him, if that man had not been born. Better not to have lived at all than to have lived and died ill. Existence is no blessing, but a curse, to him who consciously and wilfully defeats the purpose of his existence. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:25) here introduces Judas as asking the question, "Is it I, Rabbi?" And our Lord answers him affirmatively, "Thou hast said." This was probably said in a low voice. Had it been said so as to be heard by others, such as Peter and John, they might have risen at once to inflict summary vengeance upon the apostate traitor.
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.
Verse 22. - The last clause of this verse should be read thus: Take ye: this is my body (Λάβετε τοῦτό ἐστι τὸ σῶμά μοῦ). The institution of this Holy Sacrament took place at the close of the Paschal supper, but while they were yet at the table. The bread which our Lord took would most likely be unleavened bread. But this does not surely constitute a reason why unleavened bread should be used ordinarily in the celebration of the Holy Communion. The direction of the Prayer-book of the English Church is wise and practical, "It shall suffice that the Bread be such as is usual to be eaten." This is my body; that is, sacramentally. St. Augustine ('Sermo.,' 272) says, "How is the bread his body? and the cup, or that which the cup contains, how is that his blood? These are, therefore, called sacraments, because in them one thing is seen while another thing is understood" (quoted by Dr. Morison, p. 392).
And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.
Verse 23. - And he took a cup. There is no definite article either here or in St. Matthew.
And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.
Verse 24. - This is my blood of the covenant. There is not sufficient authority for the retaining of the word "new" (καινῆς) in the text.
Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.
Verse 25. - I will no more, drink (οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ πίω) of the fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God. It is observable that our Lord here calls the wine "the fruit (γέννημα) of the vine," after be has spoken of it as sacramentally his blood. Our Lord here refers to the time of the regeneration of all things, when the heavenly kingdom shall appear in the fullness of its glory; and when his disciples, who now feed upon him sacramentally and by faith, shall then eat at his table in his kingdom, and drink of the river of his pleasures for ever.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.
Verse 26. - And when they had sung a hymn, they went out unto the mount of Olives. Some suppose that this was one particular hymn out of the Jewish service-books appointed for use at the close of the Paschal supper. The word in the Greek is simply ὑμνήσαντες. What they sang was more probably the Hallel, consisting of six psalms, from Psalm 108, to Psalm 118, inclusive. They went out unto the Mount of Olives. It was our Lord's custom, in these last days of his earthly life, to go daily to Jerusalem, and teach in the temple, and in the evening to return to Bethany and sup; and then after supper to retire to the Mount of Olives, and there to spend the night in prayer (Luke 21:37). But on this occasion he did not return to Bethany. He had supped in Jerusalem. Besides, he knew that his hour was come. So he voluntarily put himself into the way of the traitor (John 18:2).
And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.
Verse 27. - All ye shall be offended. The words which follow in the Authorized Version, "because of me this night," are not to be found in the best manuscripts and versions. They appear to have been imported from St. Matthew. Shall be offended (σκανδαλισθήσεσθε); literally, shall be caused to stumble. Our Lord was to prove "a stone of stumbling" to many, not excluding his own disciples. Even they, under the influence of terror, would for a time lose confidence and hope in him. For it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad. This is a quotation from Zechariah (Zechariah 13:7), "Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my Fellow, saith the Lord of hosts: smite the Shepherd." This passage brings out in a remarkable manner the Divine agency in the death of Christ. The sheep shall be scattered abroad. The disciples all forsook him and fled, when they saw him actually in the hands of his enemies. They felt doubtful for the moment whether he was indeed the Son of God. "They trusted that it was he who should redeem Israel;" but now their hopes gave way to fear and doubt. They fled hither and thither like frightened sheep. But God gathered them together again, so that when our Lord rose from the dead, he found them all in the same place; and then he revived their faith and courage. Our Lord and his disciples had no settled home or friends in Jerusalem; so they had no other place to flee to than that upper chamber, where, not long before, Christ had kept the Passover with them. The owner of that house was a friend; so thither they went, and there Christ appeared to them after his resurrection.
But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.
Verse 28. - Howbeit, after I am raised up, I will go before you into Galilee. This our Lord said to reassure them. Galilee was more like home to them than Jerusalem, and they would there be less afraid of the unbelieving Jews.
But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.
Verse 29. - But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I. Our Lord had just distinctly stated that they would all be offended, and therefore these words of St. Peter were very presumptuous. Conscious of his own infirmities, he ought to have said, "I know that through my own infirmity this may easily happen. Nevertheless, I trust to thy mercy and goodness to save me." Just such is the Christian's daily experience. We often think that we are strong in the faith, strong in purity, strong in patience. But when temptation arises, we falter and fall. The true remedy against temptation is the consciousness of our own weakness, and supplication for Divine strength.
And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.
Verse 30. - Verily I say unto thee, that thou to-day, even this night, before the cock crow twice, shalt deny me thrice. The day had begun. It began at six in the evening. It was already advanced. This second crowing of the cock is mentioned by St. Mark only; and it forms an additional aggravation of Peter's sin. The "cockcrowing" was a term used for one of the divisions of the night (see Mark 13:35). But it appears that there were three times at which the cock-crowing might be expected - namely,

(1) early in the night, between eleven and twelve;

(2) between one and two; and

(3) between five and six.

The two cock crowings here referred to would be the two last of the three here mentioned. It would probably be about 2 a.m., when the first trial of our Lord took place in the house of Caiaphas.
But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.
Verse 31. - But he spake exeseding vehemently (ἐκπερισσῶς ἐλάλει), If I must die with thee (ἐάν με δέρ), I will not deny thee. The right reading (ἐλάλει, imperfect) implies that he kept asserting over and over again. He was, no doubt, sincere in all this, but he had vet to learn his own weakness. St. Hilary says on this, "Peter was so carried away by the fervor of his zeal and love for Christ, that he regarded neither the weakness of his own flesh nor the truth of his Master's word."
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.
Verse 32. - And they come (ἔρχονται) - here again St. Mark's present gives force to the narrative - unto a place which was named Gethsemane. A place (χωρίον) is, literally, an enclosed piece of ground, generally with a cottage upon it. Josephus tells us that these gardens were numerous in the suburbs of Jerusalem. St. Jerome says that "Gethsemane was at the foot of the Mount of Olives." St. John (John 18:1) calls it a garden, or orchard (κῆπος). The word "Gethsemane" means literally "the place of the olive-press," whither the olives which abounded on the slopes of the mountain were brought, in order that the oil contained in them might be pressed out. The exact position of Gethsemane is not known; although there is an enclosed spot at the foot of the western slope of the Mount of Olives which is called to this day El maniye. The real Gethsemane cannot be far from this spot. Our Lord resorted to this place for retirement and prayer, not as desiring to escape the death that awaited him. It was well known to be his favourite resort; so that he went there, as though to put himself in the way of Judas, who would naturally seek him there. Sit ye here, while I pray. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:36) says, "While I go yonder and pray."
And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;
Verse 33. - It appears that our Lord separated himself from all the disciples except Peter and James and John, and then the bitter agony began. He began to be greatly amazed, and sore troubled (e)kqambei = sqai kai\ a)dhmonei = n). These two Greek verbs are as adequately expressed above as seems possible. The first implies "utter, extreme amazement;" if the second has for its root ἄδημος, "not at home," it implies the anguish of the soul struggling to free itself from the body under the pressure of intense mental distress. The three chosen disciples were allowed to be witnesses of this awful anguish. They had been fortified to endure the sight by the glories of the transfiguration. It would have been too much for the faith of the rest. But these three witnessed it, that they might learn themselves, and be able to teach others, that the way to glory is by suffering.
And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.
Verse 34. - None but he who bore those sorrows can know what they were. It was not the apprehension of the bodily torments and the bitter death that awaited him, all foreknown by him. It was the inconceivable agony of the weight of the sins of men. The Lord was thus laying "upon him the iniquity of us all." This, and this alone, can explain it. My soul is exceeding sorrowful even unto death. Every word carries the emphasis of an overwhelming grief. It was then that "the deep waters came in," even unto his soul. "What," says Cornelius a Lapide, "must have been the voice, the countenance, the expression, as he uttered those awful words!"
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.
Verse 35. - Our Lord now separated himself, though apparently, as St. Luke (Luke 22:41) says, only "about a stone's cast" from the three disciples, and threw himself on the ground in mortal agony, and prayed that this hour of his supreme mental anguish might, if possible, pass from him.
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.
Verse 36. - And he said, Abba, Father. Some commentators suppose that our Lord only used the Hebrew or Aramaic word "Abba," and that St. Mark adds the Greek and Latin synonym (πατὴρ) for the benefit of those to whom he was writing. But it is far more natural to conclude that St. Mark is here taking his narrative from an eye and ear witness, St. Peter; and that both the words were uttered by him; so that he thus, in his agony, cried to God in the name of the whole human family, the Jew first, and also the Gentile. We can quite understand why St. Matthew, writing to Jews, gives only the Hebrew word. All things are possible unto thee. Speaking absolutely, with God nothing is impossible. But the Deity is himself bound by his own laws; and hence this was impossible, consistently with his purposes of mercy for the redemption of the world. The Lord himself knew this. Therefore he does not ask for anything contrary to the will of his Father. But it was the natural craving of his humanity, which, subject to the supreme will of God, desired to be delivered from this terrible load. Remove this cup from me. The "cup," both in Holy Scripture and in profane writers, is taken to signify that lot or portion, whether good or evil, which is appointed for us by God. Hence St. John is frequently represented as holding a cup. Howbeit, not what I will, but what thou wilt. Our Lord has no sooner offered his conditional prayer than he subordinates it to the will of God. St. Luke (Luke 22:42) here says, "Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done." Hence it appears that there was not, as the Monothelites taught, one will, partly human and partly Divine, in Christ; but there were two distinct wills, one human and the other Divine, both residing in the one Christ; and it was by the subjecting of his human will to the Divine that he wrought out our redemption.
And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?
Verse 37. - And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? Couldest thou not watch one hour? St. Luke says (Luke 22:45) that they were "sleeping for sorrow." So on the Mount of Transfiguration he says (Luke 9:32) that they were "heavy with sleep." This rebuke, which St. Mark tells us here was pointedly addressed to Peter, seems to glance at his earnest protestations of fidelity made not long before. And our Lord calls him by his old name of Simon. In St. Matthew (Matthew 26:40) it is less pointed; for there, while our Lord looks at Peter, he addresses them all. "He saith unto -Peter, What, could not ye watch with me one hour?" This is just one of those graphic little incidents which we may suppose St. Mark to have received directly from St. Peter.
Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.
Verse 38. - Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation. The great temptation of the disciples at that moment was to deny Christ under the influence of fear. And so our Lord gives here the true remedy against temptation of every kind; namely, watchfulness and prayer - watchfulness, against the craft and subtlety of the devil or man; and prayer, for the Divine help to overcome. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. Here our Lord graciously finds excuses for them. It is as though he said, "I know that in heart and mind you are ready to cleave to me, even though the Jews should threaten you with death. But I know also that your flesh is weak. Pray, then, that the weakness of the flesh may not overcome the strength of the spirit." St. Jerome says, "In whatever degree we trust to the ardor of the spirit, in the same degree ought we to fear because of the infirmity of the flesh."
And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
Verse 39. - Saying the same words. The repetition of the same words shows his fixed determination to submit to the will of his heavenly Father. Although the human nature at first asserted itself in the prayer that the cup might pass from him; yet ultimately the human will yielded to the Divine. He desired to drink this cup of bitterness appointed for him by the will of God; for his supreme desire was that the will of God might be done.
And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.
Verse 40. - And again he came, and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy (καταβαρυνόμενοι): literally, weighed down. They had not deliberately yielded themselves to sleep; but an oppressive languor, the effect of great sorrow, had come over them, so that they could not watch as they desired to do; but by an involuntary action they ever and anon slumbered. They wist not what to answer him. They had no excuse, save that which he himself had found for them.
And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.
Verse 41. - And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough (ἀπέχει); the hour is come. Some have thought that our Lord here uses the language of irony. But it is far more consistent with his usual considerate words to suppose that, sympathizing with the infirmity of his disciples, he simply advised them, now that his bitter agony was over, to take some rest during the brief interval that remained. It is enough. Some commentators have thought that the somewhat difficult Greek verb (ἀπέχει) would be better rendered, he is at a distance; as though our Lord meant to say, "There is yet time for you to take some rest. The betrayer is some distance off." Such an interpretation would require a full. stop between the clause now rendered, "it is enough," and the clause, "the hour is come;" so that the passage would read, "Sleep on now, and take your rest; he (that is, Judas) is yet a good way off." Then there would be an interval; and then our Lord would rouse them up with the words, "The hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners." This interpretation all hangs upon the true rendering of the word ἀπέχει, which, although it might be taken to. mean "he," or "it is distant," is nevertheless quite capable of the ordinary interpretation, "it sufficeth." According to the high authority of Hesychius, who explains it by the words ἀπόχρη and ἐξαρκεῖ, it seems safer on the whole to accept the ordinary meaning, "It is enough."
Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.
And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.
Verse 43. - And straightway, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve. How the stupendous crime is here marked! It was so startling a fact that "one of the twelve" should be the betrayer of cur Lord, that this designation of Judas became linked with his name: "Judas, one of the twelve." He comes not only as a thief and a robber, but also as a traitor; the leader of those who were thirsting for Christ's blood. St. Luke (Luke 22:47) says that Judas "went before them," in his eagerness to accomplish his hateful errand. And with him a multitude (not a great multitude; the word πολὺς has not sufficient authority). But though not a great multitude, they would be a considerable number. There would be a band of soldiers; and there would be civil officers sent by the Sanhedrim. Thus Gentiles and Jews were united in the daring act of arresting the Son of God. St. John (John 18:3) says that they had "lanterns and torches;" although the moon was at the full.
And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.
Verse 44. - Now he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsosver I shall kiss, that is he; take him, and lead him away safely. Why was Judas so anxious that Christ should be secured? Perhaps because he feared a rescue, or because he feared lest our Lord should hide himself by an exercise of his miraculous power; and so Judas might lose the thirty pieces of silver.
And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.
Verse 45. - And when he was come, straightway he came to him, and saith, Rabbi; and kissed him (κατεφίλησεν αὐτόν); literally, kissed him much. The kiss was an ancient mode of salutation amongst the Jews, the Romans, and other nations. It is possible that this was the usual mode with which the disciples greeted Christ when they returned to him after any absence. But Judas abused this token of friendship, using it for a base and treacherous purpose. St. Chrysostom says that he felt assured by the gentleness of Christ that he would not repel him, or that, if he did, the treacherous action would have answered its purpose.
And they laid their hands on him, and took him.
And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.
Verse 47. - But a certain one of them that stood by drew his sword, and smote the servant of the high priest, and struck off his ear (ἀφεῖλεν αὐτοῦ τὸ ὠτίον). We learn from St. John (John 18:10) that this was Peter. St. John also is the only evangelist who mentions the name (Malchus) of the high priest's servant. Malchus would probably be prominent amongst them. St. Luke (Luke 22:51) is the only evangelist who mentions the healing of the wound by our Lord.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?
Verse 48. - We learn from St. Matthew (Matthew 26:52) that our Lord rebuked his disciples for their resistance; after which he proceeded to rebuke those who were bent upon apprehending him. Are ye come out, as against a robber (ὡς ἐπὶ λῃστὴν), with swords and staves to seize me? The order of events in the betrayal appears to have been this: First, the kiss of the traitor Judas, by which he indicated to those who were with him which was Jesus. Then follows that remarkable incident mentioned only by St. John (John 18:4-6), "Jesus... went forth, and saith unto them, Whom seek ye? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, was standing with them. When therefore he said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground." The presence of Christ in his serene majesty overpowered them. There was something in his looks and manner, as he repeated these words," I am he," words often used before by him, that caused them to retreat backwards, and to prostrate themselves. It was no external force that produced this result. The Divine majesty flashed from his countenance and overawed them, at least for the moment. At all events, it was an emphatic evidence, both to his own disciples and to this crowd, that it was by his own will that he yielded himself up to them. Perhaps this incident fired the courage of St. Peter; and so, as they approached to take our Lord, he drew his sword and struck off the ear of Malchus. Then our Lord healed him. And then he turned to the multitude and said, "Are ye come out as against a robber, with swords and staves, to seize me?"
I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.
Verse 49. - But this is done that the Scriptures might be fulfilled. This, as it stands in the original, is an incomplete sentence; in St. Matthew (Matthew 26:56) the sentence occurs in its complete form. In both cases it has been questioned whether the words are those of our Lord, or whether they are the comment of the evangelist. On the whole, it would seem more probable that they are our Lord's words, which seem almost required to conclude what he had said before.
And they all forsook him, and fled.
Verse 50. - And they all left him, and fled. But soon afterwards two of them, Peter and John, took courage, and followed him to the house of the high priest.
And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:
Verse 51. - And a certain young man followed with him, having a linen cloth cast about him, over his naked body: and they lay hold on him. St. Mark is the only evangelist who mentions this incident; and there seems good reason for supposing that he here describes what happened to himself. Such is the mode in which St. John refers to himself in his Gospel, and where there can be no doubt that he is speaking of himself. If the conclusion in an earlier part of this commentary be correct, that it was at the house to which John Mark belonged that our Lord celebrated the Passover, and from whence he went out to the Mount of Olives; what more probable than that Mark had been with him on that occasion, and had perhaps a presentiment that something was about to happen to him? What more likely than that the crowd who took Jesus may have passed by this house, and that Mark may have been roused from his bed (it was now a late hour) by the tumult. Having a linen cloth (σινδόνα) cast about his naked body. The sindon was a fine linen cloth, indicating that he belonged to a family in good circumstances. It is an unusual word. In every other place of the New Testament where it is used it refers to the garment or shroud used to cover the bodies of the dead. The sindon is supposed to take its name from Sidon, where the particular kind of linen was manufactured of which the garment was made. It was a kind of light cloak frequently worn in hot weather.
And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.
Verse 52. - But he left the linen cloth, and fled naked. This somewhat ignominious flight is characteristic of what we know of St. Mark. It shows how great was the panic in reference to Christ, and how great was the hatred of the Jews against him, that they endeavored to seize a young man who was merely following with him. It shows also how readily our Lord's enemies would have seized his own disciples if they had not taken refuge in flight.
And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.
Verse 53. - And they led Jesus away to the high priest. This high priest was Caiaphas. But we learn from St. John (John 18:13) that our Lord was first brought before Annas, the father-in-law of Caiphas. Annas and his five sons held the high priesthood in succession, Caiaphas, his son-in-law, stepping in between the first and the second son, and holding the office for twelve years. It is supposed that it was in the house of Annas that the price of the betrayal was paid to Judas. Annas, though not then high priest, must have had considerable influence in the counsels of the Sanhedrim; and this will probably explain the fact of our Lord having been first taken to him.
And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.
Verse 54. - And Peter had followed him afar off, even within, into the court (εἰς τὴν αὐλὴν) of the high priest. This court was the place where the guards and servants of the high priest were assembled. Our Lord was within, in a large room, being arraigned before the council. St. John informs us (John 18:15) that he himself, being known to the high priest, had gone in with Jesus into the court of the high priest; and that he had been the means of bringing in Peter, who had been standing outside at the door leading into the court. We now see Peter among the servants, crouching over the fire. The weather was cold, for it was early springtime; and it was now after midnight. Peter was warming himself in the light of the fire (πρὸς τὸ φῶς), and so his features were clearly seen in the glow of the brightly burning charcoal.
And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.
Verse 55. - Now the chief priests and the whole council sought witness against Jesus to put him to death, and found it not. Their supreme object was to put him to death; but. they wished to accomplish their object in a manner consistent with their own honor, so as not to appear to have put him to death without reason. So they sought for false witnesses against him, that they might deliver the Author of life and the Savior of the world to death. For in real truth, although they knew it not, and were the instruments in his hands, he had determined by the death of Christ to bestow on us both present and eternal life.
For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.
Verse 56. - For many bare false witness against him, and their witness agreed not together. Whatever things these witnesses brought forward were either false, or self-contradictory, or beside the purpose.
And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,
Verses 57, 58. - And there stood up certain, and bare false witness against him, saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:60) says that they were two. What our Lord had really said was this - we read it in St. John (John 2:19) - "Destroy this temple; and in three days I will raise it up." These words the false witnesses perverted; for they assigned to Jesus the work of destruction which he left to the Jews. He did not say," I will destroy;" but "Do ye destroy, and I will rebuild." Nor did he say, "I will build another;" but "I will raise it up," that is, from the dead; for St. John tells us that "he spake of the temple of his body," in which, as in a temple, there dwelt the fullness of the Godhead.. He might have said plainly, "I will rise from the dead;" but he chose to speak as in a parable. According to their witness, however, our Lord's words would appear as little more than an empty boast, certainly not as anything on account of which such a charge as they desired could be brought against him.
We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.
But neither so did their witness agree together.
And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?
Verses 60, 61. - And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing?... But he held his peace, and answered nothing. The high priest would naturally be seated at the top of the semicircle, with the members of the Sanhedrim on either side of him, and the Accused in front of him. Now he rises from his seat, and comes forward into the midst (εἰς τὸ μέσον), and demands an answer. But Jesus answered nothing. It would have been a long and tedious business to answer such a charge, which involved a garbled and inaccurate statement of what he had said. It would have answered no good purpose to reply to an accusation so vague and inaccurate. Our Lord knew that, whatever his answer was, it would be twisted so as to make against him. Silence was therefore the most dignified treatment of such an accusation. Besides, he knew that his hour was come. The high priest now asks him plainly, Art thou the Christ, the son of the Blessed? Here he touches the point of the whole matter. Christ had frequently declared himself to be such. Caiaphas, therefore, now asks the question, not because he needed the information, but that he might condemn him.
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?
And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.
Verse 62. - To this question our Lord returns a plain and candid answer, out of reverence for the Divine Name which, as St. Matthew and St. Luke tell us, had been invoked by the high priest, and also respect for the office of the high priest, by whom he had been put upon his oath. St. Chrysostom says that our Lord answered thus that he might leave without excuse all those who listened to him, who would not hereafter be able to plead in the day of judgment that, when our Lord was solemnly asked in the council whether he was the Son of God, he had either refused to answer, or had answered evasively. This answer of our Lord is full of majesty and sublimity. He is arraigned as a criminal, standing in the midst of the chief priests and scribes,his bitter enemies; and it is as though he said, "You, O Caiaphas, and you the chief priests and elders of the Jews, are now unjustly condemning me as a false prophet and a false Christ; but the day is at hand when I, who am now a prisoner at your judgment seat, shall sit on the throne of glory as the Judge of you and of all mankind. You are now about to condemn me to the death of the cross; but I shall then sit in judgment upon you, and condemn you for this terrible guilt of slaying me, who am the true God and the Judge of the world."
Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?
Verse 63. - And the high priest rent his clothes (διαῥῤήξας τοὺς χιτῶνας); literally, his tunics.; St. Matthew (Matthew 26:65) has τὰ ἱμὰτια literally, his garments. None but people of rank wore two tunics. The Greek verb here rendered "rent" implies violent dramatic action. The Jewish tunic was open under the chin, and large enough to receive the head, so that it could easily be placed over the shoulders, by inserting the head. When the wearer wished to give this sign of indignation or grief, he would seize the garment at this opening with both hands, and violently tear it asunder down to the waist. But it was unlawful for the high priest to do this in a private grief (Leviticus 10:6). Some of the Fathers think that by this action Caiaphas involuntarily typified the rending of the priesthood from himself and from the Jewish nation.
Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.
Verse 64. - They all condemned him to be worthy of death (ἔνοχον θανάτου). There were, therefore, none there but those who were known to be opposed to our Lord. It will be remembered that all these proceedings were illegal.
And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.
Verse 65. - And some began to spit on him. St. Matthew (Matthew 26:67) says, "Then did they spit in his face." That Divine face, to be reverenced and adored by every creature, was exposed to this vile contumely; and he bore it patiently. "I hid not my face from shame and spitting" (Isaiah 1:61). And the officers received him with blows of their hands (οἱ ὑπηρέται ῤαπίσμασιν αὐτὸν ἔλαβον).
And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:
Verse 66. - And as Peter was beneath in the court. The room in which the Sanhedrim were assembled was an upper chamber.
And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.
Verse 67. - And seeing (ἰδοψ῀σα) Peter warming himself, she looked upon him (ἐμβλέψασα αὐτῷ). She looked upon him, in the light of the fire, so as to see his features distinctly. This was one of the menial servants who attended to the outer door of the court, and perhaps had been the one to let in Peter; so that she could say with some confidence, Thou wast also with the Nazarene, even Jesus.
But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.
Verse 68. - But he denied, saying, I neither know, nor understand what thou sayest. "This shows the great terror of Peter," says St. Chrysostom, "who, intimidated by the question of a poor servant-girl, denied his Lord; and who yet afterwards, when he had received the Holy Spirit, could say, 'We ought to obey God rather than man.'" I neither know, nor understand what thou sayest. Every word here is emphatic. It amounts to this: "So little do I know who this Jesus is, that I know not what you say or what you ask concerning him. I know not who or what he is or anything about him. A question has been raised as to the number of times that Peter denied our Lord. The narratives are best explained by the consideration that all the denials took place in the house of Caiaphas. Furthermore, the accounts of the evangelists may be reconciled thus: First, Peter denied the Lord in the court of the high priest, when he was first asked by the maidservant, as he sat over the fire (Matthew 24:69); secondly, he denied him with an oath; thirdly, when urged still more, he denied him with many oaths and execrations. The cock crew the first time after the first denial, when we read (Matthew 26:71) that he went out into the porch (προαύλιον). This crowing would be about one or two in the morning. The second crowing would not be until five or six. This shows us the length of time that the proceedings lasted. It was doubtless as Jesus through the court that he gave Peter that look of unutterable pain and grief which moved him at once to repentance.
And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.
And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.
But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.
And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.
Verse 72. - And when he thought thereon, he wept (καὶ ἐπὶβαλὼν ἔκλαιε, not ἔκλαυςε,). The word implies a long and continued weeping. This concludes the preliminary trial, the whole proceedings of which were illegal.

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