Mark 14:1-2… Two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the chief priests and the experts in the law were seeking to find a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill him. 2 For they said, “Not during the feast, so there won’t be a riot among the people.”
Mark 14 through 16 is called the passion narrative – the story of Christ’s progress to the cross and his death there. All else up to this point has been a prologue to these climactic events.
Now two days before the Passover feast the Jewish religious leaders were conspiring to arrest Jesus. The verb tense “were seeking” signifies that they had been trying for a while. It’s clear from v. 2 that they had no intention of arresting him during the Passover feast, for this would have created a riot because the many people assembled in Jerusalem were great admirers of Jesus – possibly numbering as much as two million. This is because the Jews were required to come to Jerusalem for this annual feast, so they were coming from all over Israel. And because Jesus had become so well-know in Israel during his three-plus years of ministry there, those seeking to arrest him were doing so stealthily so as not to cause a riot among the people. They had previously attempted to trap Jesus and arrest him in front of everyone so as to make a mockery of him and justify their actions, but Jesus silenced them all (cf. 11:27-12:40). Now they were left conspiring to arrest him and kill him privately. The Passover, however, would last eight full days, and until Judas offered to betray Jesus the chief priests were clueless as to how to implement a plan without causing a riot. So God used Judas to fulfill His sovereign timetable.
Matthew 26:57 says that the conspirators gathered at Caiaphas’ house who was the high priest. And John 11:47-53 says that he gave the order to have Jesus arrested. Now Jesus’ life had always been in danger. Immediately after he was born Herod the Great tried to have him killed (Matt. 2:16), but he escaped. Later, his death was sought in his hometown of Nazareth following his baptism, but he escaped (Luke 4:16-30). Then after he healed a man on the Sabbath (Mark 3:6) the Pharisees and Herodians sought his life, but escaped. And after he healed a crippled man near the pool of Bethesda his death was sought (John 5:18). All of this culminated in the plot to kill him during Passover. Jesus was known by the crowds as “the man whom they are seeking to kill” (John 7:25). It was not news to him, however, for he had predicted his own death at least three times prior to his arrival in Jerusalem (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33). Even the OT reveals that Satan has always been on the prowl against the Messiah’s line to prevent his salvation to man.
All attempts to kill Jesus were in vain because God the Father’s perfect will was to bring the Son of God to the cross to bear the sin of the world. No one – not man, not even Satan – could thwart God’s perfect plan. Jesus told the disciples at the last supper, “the Son of Man is going as it has been determined” (Luke 22:22). And Peter preached in Acts 2:23 that Jesus was “delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God.”
Food for Thought
It’s no coincidence that it was Passover in Jerusalem when Jesus arrived in April AD 33. This was the annual feast that commemorated the Jewish exodus from Egypt when the death angel “passed over” those who had the blood of the lamb painted on their doorposts. The Feast of Unleavened Bread followed the Passover feast for seven days. Passover began on Nisan 14 each year (modern April/May), and from the 15th to the 21st the Feast of Unleavened Bread was observed. Now while the Jews would celebrate their deliverance from Egypt with the death of a lamb, the Lamb of God (Jesus) would die during that same feast so that God would “pass over” the sins of those who placed their faith in that Lamb – Jesus Christ. Thus, the Passover!
Mark 14:3-9… Now while Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, reclining at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of costly perfume from pure nard. After breaking open the jar, she poured it on his head. 4 But some indignantly said to one another, “Why this waste of expensive ointment? 5 It could have been sold for more than 300 silver coins and the money given to the poor!” So they spoke angrily to her. 6 But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a good service for me. 7 For you will always have the poor with you, and you can do good for them whenever you want. But you will not always have me. 8 She did what she could. She anointed my body beforehand for burial. 9 Truly I say, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.”
Mark’s placement of vv. 3-11 is chronologically out of order because his theme is to contrast Mary and Judas. But because it follows Christ’s teachings on Wednesday it implies that it occurred just prior to his Friday execution. John, speaking chronologically, says it occurred six days before the Passover (12:1) which would date this event on the previous Friday before his entry into Jerusalem the following Monday (Mark 11:1ff.). The Passover began Thursday Nisan 14 (April 2), so six days prior would have been Friday March 27 – “six days before Passover.”
Now on this day Jesus was eating at the home of Simon the leper in Bethany, two miles outside of Jerusalem. Since lepers were not allowed to live in populated areas, or to associate with anyone other than another leper, and since there was no known cure for leprosy in those days, it seems likely that Simon had been miraculously healed by Jesus from the account in Mark 1:40 or possibly elsewhere. Whatever the case, Simon opened his home to Jesus for dinner that night. Present at that dinner, according to John 12:1-3, were Jesus’ disciples, Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead, Martha, and Mary of Bethany – Lazarus’ sisters. At some point during the meal a woman (John 12:3 says it was Mary) performed a virtuous deed for Jesus by breaking an alabaster jar of perfume and poured it over his head and feet. The amazing thing is that the perfume, or nard, was extremely expensive being valued as a year’s wage! Mary, unlike the disciples, knew that Jesus had to die, and she accepted that. Her act of worship here was one that Jesus said was to prepare his body for burial. Mary of Bethany is mentioned by name three times in the Gospels. Each time she’s at Jesus’ feet (Luke 10:38–42; John 11:31–32; 12:1–8).
Mary’s actions instantly prompted discussion among the disciples who were “indignant” over what she did. Judas was the most angry over what he considered a “waste.” This is an interesting word because it is the same one in John 17:12 translated as “perdition” – as in the “son of perdition.” The irony is that Judas criticized Mary for “wasting money,” but his entire existence was a waste. Mary’s act so incensed him that he set out from there to betray Jesus into the hands of those who were seeking his life. The all-too willing religious leaders had in Judas the trump card they greatly needed to arrest Jesus without causing a riot. And they played it.
Food for Thought
In Mark 10:13 the insensitivity of the disciples caused them to rebuke the children for bothering Jesus. Here they “scolded” Mary in their blind insensitivity. Both times Jesus set them straight. Today Jesus isn’t here to rebuke our insensitivities, so this should serve as an example of our constant need to be attuned to the Scriptures. Our insensitivities cause us to scold things that ought not be scolded. Jesus said that Mary did what she could (v. 8) in serving Jesus this way. Our simple acts of caring for Christ’s children qualify as caring for Christ himself (cf. Matt. 25:40). And these are acts, like Mary’s, that receive full approval from Jesus himself.
Mark 14:10-11… Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus into their hands. 11 When they heard this, they were delighted and promised to give him money. So Judas began looking for an opportunity to betray him.
Back in Mark 13:20, speaking of the future Tribulation and the horrors thereof, Jesus said that those days will be so dreadful God will shorten them for the sake of the elect – those whom He chose for eternal salvation (cf. Ephesians 1:3-14). God’s elect children are those who were set apart from the foundation of the world to inherit salvation, and only they will ultimately believe in Christ alone for salvation. No one but God knows who they are prior to their coming to faith, so all Christians are commissioned to share and preach the good news to everyone (cf. Matt. 28:19-20). Now this truth is plainly illustrated in the contrast between Mary of Bethany and Judas Iscariot in Mark 14:3-11. Mary of Bethany believed in Jesus and worshipped him with all that she had. She is the one who failed to help Martha prepare a meal for Jesus so that she could sit at Jesus’ feet and listen to his words (Luke 10:38-42). She’s the one who, without being angry at Jesus for allowing her brother Lazarus to die, fell at his feet and sobbed in agony (John 11:32). And she’s the one who poured the expensive nard oil over Jesus’ head and feet in order to prepare his body for burial (Mark 14:3-9). Unlike the disciples who were still confused over Jesus’ prediction that he had to die, Mary accepted it and prepared his body for it.
Judas, on the other hand, proves that walking closely to Jesus over a three year period of time does not ensure that one will profess faith in Christ. And Judas, being one of the Twelve, was even given power to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and cast out demons (Matt. 10:8). He saw and experienced the powers of God first-hand, yet he rejected the Messiah and ultimately betrayed him into the hands of the Jewish authorities who sought his life. When Mary poured the expensive perfume on Jesus’ head Judas was outraged, and v. 10 says that he then went to the chief priests in order to betray Jesus into their hands. The chief priests needed to know where they could find Jesus away from the crowds, and since Judas walked with Jesus he would be able to provide such information. Verse 11 says that he began to search for an opportunity to betray Jesus, and when he found that opportunity he took it (cf. Mark 14:43-46).
Both Luke and John (22:3 and 13:27 respectively) say that “Satan entered Judas,” and Matthew 26:14-16 says that Judas’ bargain with the chief priests was that he would deliver Jesus into their hands for thirty pieces of silver – the price for a slave (Exodus 21:32). Thirty pieces of silver was equivalent to four months wages. It’s not entirely clear what it means when Satan enters a person, but it is safe to assume that Judas came under the control of the devil himself. He is liable for his actions, but because of his rejection of Christ Satan became his driving force. And from this the reader can see the cosmic battle taking place between the devil and the Christ.
Food for Thought
Contrast how one man (Judas) can reject Jesus so wholeheartedly while another (Mary) can receive him with such devotion. Both walked with Christ, both witnessed what he did, but only one received him by faith. God’s elect children will come to faith, and it doesn’t necessarily matter how effective our evangelism is – so long as we evangelize. We don’t know who God’s elect children are, but we can be sure that those who come to faith are elect children. Remember that even Jesus Christ’s words – straight from the mouth of God in the flesh – did not convert every listener or observer. They simply weren’t elect children. Let us therefore preach the good news to all without bias and leave salvation to the Lord. His elect children will believe.
Observations for preaching
1) Simon the leper… his healing and subsequent desire to celebrate with Jesus. When we come together today to celebrate a meal w/other believers let us also.
2) Mary’s sacrifice of a full year’s wage to serve Christ.
3) Contrast of the elect (Mary) and the non-elect (Judas) – both saw and heard
4) Compare the rich man and Mary
5) The poor are among us so as to give us opportunities to serve.
6) The educated & rich often reject Jesus b/c of blindness; the meek/lowly see
7) Jesus rebuked the Twelve when they were in error. Let’s let the Bible do that.
8) Mary was not ashamed to show her love for Christ openly
9) Judas didn’t like the way Jesus handled money… he thought he knew better
10) Mary did what she could – she worshipped! the supreme service of a Christian
11) There is a time for helping the poor, evangelizing, teaching, etc., but to offer one’s wealth and to adore Christ is the supreme act of worship.
12) Notice five consequences for Mary’s act of worship:
U First, the house was filled with the beautiful fragrance of the ointment
U Second, people will criticize the way money is spent (i.e., building)
U Third, Jesus accepts all selfless gifts to him and is honored by them.
U Fourth, her act is celebrated even today! She started a wave offering. Truly, stories are told for centuries about those who worship in spirit and truth.