Mark 14:43-72 is one of the most enraging and outrageous passages in the Bible. But the record of Jesus' betrayal, mock trials and crucifixion should also leave us with a sense of thankfulness in worship. As Stephen puts it, the cross is where Jesus took upon Himself "God's wrath and ours as well."
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“THE NIGHT BEFORE CALVARY”
Mark, chapter 14. We are continuing our study and we are approaching a passage this morning that, whenever I read it, as we read it this morning and as I have had the privilege of studying it this week, it leaves me somewhat stunned. It leaves me somewhat angry because I view these people who are venting their wrath against the Lamb of God. And yet, it also leaves me with a sense of thankfulness in worship because I know, that had I been there, I would have joined that crowd. And yet, Jesus did it for me and for you.
We’re in Mark, chapter 14, and verse 43, but, in order to set the stage, we need to remember that in the first part of chapter 14, around verse 10, Judas had gone to the leaders determined to betray Christ. We can only speculate, we don’t know exactly why he turned like this, why he became a traitor, treasonous. Perhaps he was following Christ only because Christ was the Messiah, because He was going to become the ruler over the Roman Empire. And, maybe, at a particular point in time, he discovered that Jesus was not going to overthrow Rome, was not going to establish His throne at this particular time but yet, was going to die. And Judas, being a zealot, could not comprehend the man, that he had followed for three years now, giving up, as he perhaps perceived Jesus doing so. And so, for thirty pieces of silver, sells the Lord Jesus. It has been suggested that this was, perhaps, remuneration for his three and a half years of poverty. I’m not so sure, because thirty pieces of silver would equal, today, about twenty-five dollars. In fact, it was the price of the poorest or least capable slave. In fact, in that day, if a slave had been gored by an ox, had he been maimed, he would be worth only thirty pieces of silver. I think, perhaps, Judas was doing something out of bitterness. He was saying, in a sense, “Jesus is no good to me. In fact, He’s less important than a maimed, crippled slave. Just give me thirty pieces of silver and He’s yours.”
So that set the stage and that gave the leaders exactly what they needed. And, of course, Jesus, as we studied the last time I was here, was in Gethsemane praying. At the end of that prayer meeting, He says in verse 42, notice with me, “Arise, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!” You’ll notice, as we go through this passage, that nothing is taking Him by surprise. He knows exactly what’s coming next. Verse 43, “And immediately while He was still speaking, Judas,” - and you note here, in fact, I put parenthesis around this particular phrase - “one of the twelve”. “Judas, one of the twelve,” it’s almost as if Mark is shocked. He’s saying, “The (?) comes and, can you believe it, he’s one of the twelve.” “One of the twelve, came up, accompanied by a multitude with swords and clubs,” - the word multitude, in the original, is “speira,” which was one-tenth of a legion. Now, we know that a legion was 6000 soldiers. A “speira,” was one-tenth of a legion. So we know that 600 men were coming to that little garden to capture one man. And they were armed to the teeth. It says here that they had swords, the little “machaira,” or the little hand sword, and clubs - “from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.” They anticipated, evidently, a struggle. You need to understand historically, that, not many days prior to this event, they had just captured an insurrectionist. In fact, we have, perhaps, clear record that Judas and the others went to the priests suggesting that Jesus was an insurrectionist. And that, he needed to put Him down because He was claiming to be the king. And, of course, in Pilot’s mind, this probably raised fear because they had been chasing one particular insurrectionist all over the countryside and they finally captured him. He was in prison. You know him as Barabbas. So they expected, I imagine, a struggle. Luke adds, that they carrying lanterns. Now, in that part of the country, the moon would be bright and, perhaps, they were expecting Jesus to either fight or hide so they had lanterns to find Him, should He be hiding in the bushes or in some cave. So in verse 44, “Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal,” - all of these 600 soldiers - “saying, ‘Whomever I shall kiss, He is the one’”. I don’t know but, perhaps, Judas speculated that some of the disciples would step forward and say, “No, I’m Jesus.” And then, oh Peter would step forward and say, “No, I’m Jesus.” So Judas said, “It’ll be the one that I go up and kiss, just so they cannot deceive you. This is the signal. “And when I kiss Him, you” - “ seize Him, and lead Him away under guard.”
Now, John gives us an insight that’s fascinating. Turn to John, ahead just a couple of books, John, chapter 18. I want you to notice what happens next. Look at verse 3. John, chapter 18, verse 3, “Judas then, having received the Roman cohort,” - 600 men - “and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Jesus therefore,” - note this again - “knowing all things that were coming upon Him, went forth, and said to them, ‘Whom do you seek?’” - “Who are you looking for?” - “They answered Him, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’” And then Jesus says something very interesting. In the original, He says simply, “Ego Eimi,” which means, literally, “I am.” He doesn’t say, “I am He,” or “I’m the One you’re looking for.” He says, “I Am.” Does that ring a bell? Do you remember in Exodus when Moses was talking to Yahweh and he says, “Look, I’m going back to the Sons of Israel. They’re not going to believe that I’ve been talking to God or Yahweh. You’ve got to give me some information. What can I tell them about You? What’s Your name?” And God says, “You tell them ‘I am.’ I am the existed One. You can’t bind Me to time. You can’t put a label on Me. Simply ‘I am.’ I’m sovereign.” And so Jesus, when they come to Him saying, “We seek Jesus of Nazareth,” He responds saying, “I am.”
But notice what happens next. Look at verse 6, “When therefore He said to them, ‘I am,’” - implied “He,” literally, “I am,” look what happens - “they drew back, and fell to the ground.” Now, imagine with me, you’re in the garden, 600 soldiers armed with all of these weapons. They rush into this garden and there’s Jesus standing calmly. And they rush up and Jesus says, “Who are you seeking?” “We seek Jesus of Nazareth.” The lanterns are swinging in the night air and the swords are raised, they’re infuriated. And Jesus says, “I am.” BOOM! Like a big group of dominoes, just flat on their backs, stunned. What happened? I think, for just one split second, Jesus pulled back the blinders from their eyes so that they could see that He was God. And they did what you and I would do, they fell flat. I want you, ladies and gentlemen, to understand that in this garden, there isn’t some radical who’s plans have just been found out. We’re not looking at an impostor who’s just been crushed, you know, his plans have just been discovered. These are His plans. This is His plan. He’s a sovereign Christ who, for just one moment, let them see that they were, in fact, arresting God in the flesh.
Turn back to Mark, chapter 14, again. And I want you to notice what Judas does next. And then after that happened, he came, probably picking himself up off the ground. He, probably, staggers toward the Lord and says, with fake affection, “Rabbi!” - Teacher, Master. You know, up to the very end, Judas is playing a role, he’s deceiving. As if Jesus didn’t know. You know, there’s nothing more despicable than a turncoat. You would have to agree. When’s the last time you ran into somebody named Judas? You know, would you name your boy Benedict Arnold? No. There’s something about it that just makes us cringe. And, up to the very last second, he comes and he says, “‘Rabbi!’ and kissed Him.” The word “kiss,” is an intensive word. Now, in that day, they did a lot of kissing. If a slave would show affection, he would kiss his masters feet. An inferior would kiss the superior’s back of the hand. And, perhaps if they were very close, the inferior, perhaps a pupil, would kiss the palm of his teacher. But only intimate friends would kiss on the cheek, as they did, as was their custom. Judas comes up and kisses Jesus on the cheek, as if He is an intimate friend. It makes my blood boil to think that here was a man who was possessed by Satan and here was a Man who was possessed of God, God in the flesh, Satan in the flesh embracing in the garden. I can imagine that the sparks of that kiss were heard throughout the universe. And yet, he feigns affection. In fact, the verb “kiss,” is present tense and it actually means he continually kissed Him. He kissed Him over and over and over again. And, I imagine, the Lord just stood there as Judas kissed Him time and time again, in mock affection. And finally, one of the other gospel writers says, that Jesus responds, probably with all the compassion in the world, “Friend,” - “betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” And then, another gospel writer includes that Jesus said, “What you do, do quickly.” In other words, “Get it over with.” If I had been Jesus, you know, if he’d gotten just that close, I think I would have popped him good. But here is One, who knows exactly what’s happening, who sees the deception. Not only that but He knows that he is being controlled by Satan himself. And yet, Jesus still would call him, “Friend.”
Well, after that, “they laid hands on Him, and seized Him.” Although they really didn’t need to. And in verse 47, Peter gets another chance to show his true character. He pulls out his little sword and he whacks off the ear of the servant of the high priest. You know, as I thought about this, it is so typical of Peter. He always talked without thinking and here he’s shooting without aiming. Perhaps, however, he’s really going for the high priest. I don’t know. I imagine, he was a better shot than that but he pulls out his sword and, I think, he lunged at the high priest. And, perhaps at the last second, the servant pushes him out of the way and Peter clips his ear. And the Lord does something that He’d never done before and that was, He healed a flesh wound. He picked up that fragment of ear and He reattached it. And, I imagine, that ear heard better than it had ever heard before. And they went on their way.
But as they began to depart, I want you to notice what Jesus says. He announces His sovereignty. Look at what He says in verse 48, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as against a robber?” - “I mean, do you think I’m a thief?” “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me:” - notice here - “but this has happened that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” I want you to listen and I’m going to read to you a couple of passages. I don’t want you to turn but Acts, chapter 4, verses 27 and 28, says this as Peter is speaking, “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,” - now note this - “ to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur.” Again, Acts, chapter 2, verse 22, Peter is preaching, “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, . . . this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God”. You know, to the believer that gives us a tremendous sense of the sovereignty of Christ. He knew prior to the event and He knew after the event exactly what was going to happen. It wasn’t taking Him by surprise. He wasn’t fooled. He wasn’t shocked. In fact, He could have snapped His fingers, (snap fingers), and those 600 men would turn to dust. He voluntarily gave Himself up to die. What a sovereign Christ.
Now, I want you to notice, in the next few verses, and we can’t take a lot of time to go through the proceedings of this trial, but I want you, if you are taking notes, to jot down three things about the injustice of the Jewish leaders. First of all, they had predetermined His sentence. Look at verse 55, “Now the chief priests and the whole council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death”. You see, they had already determined that He was going to die. They just needed to find something, somehow, some way, some incriminating statement. They had determined He was guilty. And so, they had predetermined the verdict.
Secondly, they produced false testimony. Look at verse 56, “For many were giving false testimony against Him, and yet their testimony was not consistent. And some stood up and began to give false testimony against Him, saying, ‘We heard Him say, ‘I will destroy this temple made with hands, and in three days I will build another made without hands.’’ And not even in this respect was their testimony consistent.” You know, according to the Old Testament law, these men should have been taken out and stoned. They were guilty of perjury. They were guilty of lying. And here are the high priests, the ones who uphold the law of Moses. Do you remember the Pharisees? Every jot and tittle, every single element of the law, they followed it. And here, in mockery, they were watching it being set aside.
Thirdly, I notice here that, Jesus was denied proper defense. They predetermined the sentence, they produced false testimony, and they prevented proper defense. I want you to notice something interesting in verse 60, “And the high priest stood up and came forward and questioned Jesus”. Now, in that day, it was against the law for the high priest, who was the judge, to become the prosecutor. That was against all procedure. And here they were so infuriated, they were so trying to catch Him in His words, that finally, he got up from behind his bench and he comes down and he gets right in the face of Jesus. And he says, look at the text, verse 60, “‘Do you make no answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?’ But He kept silent, and made no answer. Again the high priest was questioning Him” - playing the prosecutor, which was against the law - “saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’”
Now here He speaks. It’s interesting that Jesus does not vindicate His cause until He is asked to make a claim to His deity. And now He speaks. In fact, in the original, the high priest, literally, put Jesus under an oath. And He says, “Under God, if You remain silent, You are incriminated. So You might as well speak up. Are You Christ?” And Jesus affirms His deity, He says, again you notice the phrase, “I am”. “I am”. “Ego Eimi,” “I am”. He also pronounces judgment, notice what He says, “and you shall see the Son of Man” - that’s future tense - “and you shall” - one day, middle voice - “with your very own eyes, see Me in the heavens, coming with power and majesty.” Why did this infuriate the high priest so much? Because in Daniel, chapter 7, verse 13, Daniel had a vision. And he saw, “the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” So Jesus pulls from one of their revered prophets a quote. And He says, “I’m the One Daniel was prophesying about. I’m the One he had a vision about. I am the Son of Man.” But He pronounces judgment because, “You, with your very own eyes, will one day see Me coming, seated at the right hand of Power.” It reminds me of Philippians, chapter 2, and one day - “every knee should bow, . . . and . . . every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. But, by that time, it’s too late. By the time they recognize Him, it’s all over. So, He pronounces judgment and He reaffirms His Messiahship.
Now, while all of this is taking place, we have another subplot going on outside. Notice verse 66, Peter is having his demise. Look at this, “And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant-girls of the high priest came”. If you have notes, I’ve split this up to help you follow it. There are three denials. The first one is to a servant girl. And his first response is very frustrated. She says, “You, too, were with Jesus the Nazarene. But he denied it, saying, ‘I neither know nor understand what you are talking about.’” - which is a typical response, when you’re lying, you just say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” He was kind of frustrated. You know, it’s amazing that I think Peter would have gone to the cross if Jesus had said, “Hey, out there is Peter. Peter, come here.” Peter would have marched right in. “Peter, will you go to the cross with Me?” I think Peter would have said, “You bet, to the end.” And yet, he’s caught off-guard by a little servant girl, who says, “Wait, you were with Him weren’t you?” And he’s paralyzed with fear. You see, this is a little test. He was expecting the big one. And the little one threw him off-guard and he kind of said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Denial.
The second denial, after the cock crows according to one gospel account, the cock crows twice, another servant girl saw him. Verse 69, “and began once more” - now this time she’s saying to the bystanders, she’s letting everybody in on it, she’s just talking full tilt. And Peter’s probably saying, “Hush,” you know, in his heart. And she says, “to the bystanders,” - “Hey,” - “This is one of them!” And Peter, then, has to match it with a little bit more infuriation. And he denies it, and it’s imperfect, he continuously denied it, over and over and over again.
Now, all of this is taking place over a two hour period. So, perhaps, near the end of the two hours, as Jesus is being tried, as He is being slapped and buffeted about, finally the bystanders say to Peter, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean too.” And this time he begins, “to curse and swear”. You know, it’s amazing that Peter, just an hour ago, rushed 600 soldiers with a sword. And now, he is denying Christ in front of a few. But when he curses, in verse 71, it’s a compound word, “katanathematizo,” which, right in the middle of it, is the word “anathema.” And an anathema means, “you are invoking the judgment of God on your head, if you are lying.” You are saying, “If I’m not telling the truth, may God damn me to hell,” literal translation. Peter says to this crowd, “If I’m lying, may God strike me dead.” And, I imagine, he kind of ducked. He called an anathema down on his head, hoping that that would convince them. I’m not sure if it did or not but, all I know, the cock crowed again, the second time. And Luke, chapter 22, verse 61, freezes this like a picture. Luke, chapter 22, says, right at the moment of the cock crowing, Jesus, who is visible, turns and He catches the eyes of Peter. And, I just want to freeze it right there, and think about that just a moment. Jesus knew what was going on out here because He was omniscient. And He was facing His persecutors, He was being buffeted about. We don’t know that He ever looked at Peter until that moment. Peter denies Him, calls down a cursing from God, and he happens to look over through the courtyard and he sees Jesus. Jesus turns to him and their eyes meet. And it says that Peter, after that, leaves, “And he began to weep.” - the word means to sob heavily.
The difference between Peter and Judas was seen in their repentance. In fact, the true Peter is seen, not in his denial but, in his repentance. Because, the truth of the matter is, ladies and gentlemen, you and I deny Him time and time again. And the key is that Peter went out and began to weep bitterly in repentance. And Judas went out and ended his life.
I remember reading a story, it’s almost a little too hard to believe, of a woman who lived in her apartment with her little daughter, little baby. Somehow a fire started in the bedroom and, by the time the mother rushed into the bedroom, the crib was on fire and the little baby was laying in a circle of fire. And the mother reached through that fire and pulled her baby to safety. And in the process, her hands and her face were permanently scarred and disfigured. She was a hideous sight. The girl grew up to become a very beautiful young lady. And one day, as Seniors in high school, they went on a trip. And they needed chaperones and this mother volunteered. They were on a boat, sunning, a houseboat, and the mother happened to walk by the girls on one occasion, never having had anything to do with school up until this point, and all the girls noticed this woman as she walked by. And they all, when she walked by, said, “My stars! What a horrible looking person. Who is she?” And the mother heard her daughter, casually reply, “I don’t know.” Intensify that a million times over, when we, who represent Jesus Christ, are asked by the crowd, when we, who follow Him, are given opportunity to speak and we, by our silence, say, “I don’t know Him.”
By way of application, I think this passage demands examination. God didn’t parade these people in front of us for us to point at them and say, “Uh-huh, Judas, I knew it! Peter, you should never have done that.” He didn’t bring them in front of us so that we could get all puffed up and think, “Why, if I were there, I would never have done that.” He brings them before our view so that we can examine ourselves by looking at them and, in them, see us. When do you find it most difficult to claim that you follow Christ? Is it in the high school locker room? Is it on the college campus? In the philosophy classroom? Is it to that next door neighbor? On the job? When we deny Him by remaining silent.
I think this passage, though, also commands our worship. To the believers, what a mighty God we serve. Oh, how we must worship the Lamb of God, who voluntarily, though He was sovereign. Why, just the word, “I am,” they fall back. Think of what He could have done. He could have exonerated Himself. He could have gotten out of all of that. And yet, for you and me, He went to the cross. So, to the believer, it should develop in us a heart of love.
If you are here, this morning, and you don’t know Christ as your Savior, I want you to see, in this passage, that Jesus was forsaken by everyone. So that, if you believe in Him, you will never be forsaken. Alone, He faced His persecutors. Alone, He died. Alone, He went through all of this agony. So that you, if you believe in Him, will never be alone. “Hallelujah! What a Savior.”