The Beginning of the End for the Great King


The Beginning of the End for the Great King

The Beginning of the End for the Great King

Mark 14:53-72

Main Idea: Even amid the falling away of all His followers, Jesus remained faithful to His calling.

  1. Jesus Makes the Faithful Witness as to Who He Is (14:53-65).
    1. A false witness will find ways to lie no matter the facts (14:53-59).
    2. A true witness will tell the truth no matter the consequences (14:60-65).
  2. Peter Models the Unfaithful Witness as to Who He Is for (14:66-72).
    1. Some say of Jesus, “I do not know what you are talking about” (14:66-68).
    2. Some say of Jesus, “I do not belong to Him” (14:69-70).
    3. Some say of Jesus, “I do not even know Him” (14:70-72).

338If you were to ask my four sons what were some of their dad’s favorite sayings, I am sure one would be, “Life is not fair.” Most of us would readily agree with this proverb.

In the case of our Savior, not only was life unfair; His final hours were unjust and illegal. Jesus endured six hearings in a matter of hours—three ecclesiastical trials before the Jewish religious authorities and three civil trials before the Roman political authorities (Matt 26-27; Mark 14-15; Luke 22-23; John 18-19). It is difficult to count up all the violations of Jewish law. For example, in capital cases like Jesus’, trials at night were forbidden. In cases where a guilty verdict was reached, a second day and session were required to ensure a fair trial. Such a trial should not convene on a Sabbath or festival. In addition, a charge of blasphemy could not be sustained unless the defendant cursed God’s name, and then the penalty was to be death by stoning, not crucifixion. In Jesus’ case no formal meeting of the Sanhedrin ever took place in the temple precincts, which was the proper location for a trial. Nor was Jesus provided or even offered a defense attorney.

These violations are not without their explanations. Pastor Sam Storms has noted that “contrary to the opinion of some, rabbinic law actually insists that the execution of a rebellious teacher take place on one of the three primary feast days to serve as a more visible example and deterrent to the people” (Storms, “Truth”). Furthermore, His trial was at night because criminals could not be executed on the Sabbath. If Jesus was arrested on Thursday night, things had to move swiftly if He was to be killed and buried by dusk on Friday, before the start of the Sabbath. Regarding the time of the trial, “an all-night session of the Jewish authorities was demanded by the fact that Roman officials like Pilate worked early in the morning and then refused to take on new cases for the rest of the day. If Jesus could not be presented to Pilate early Friday morning, the case would drag on till after the Sabbath—along with mounting risks of mob violence” (Carson, Matthew, 550).

Other irregularities are easily understandable once we remember that many of the legal procedures in rabbinic law were theoretical and were rarely put into practice. Also, these religious leaders were motivated by expediency. Judicial procedure was of little concern to them when the hour demanded quick action. When there is a will to quickly remove an undesirable enemy, a way will be found!

So it is the beginning of the end for the great King. Religious and political authorities will conspire to put Him to death. And His closest companion will draw near only to deny that he ever knew Him. He is all alone. How will things go for Him?

Jesus Makes the Faithful Witness as to Who He Is


Mark 14:53-65

In Revelation 1:5 the risen and glorified Christ is called the “faithful witness.” Under exceptional duress and persecution, Jesus will stand up and speak out, bearing clear testimony concerning who He is and what He will do (Mark 14:62). He knows it will seal His fate. He knows it is what He must do. Our very souls and eternal destiny hang in the balance!

A False Witness Will Find Ways to Lie No Matter the Facts (Mark 14:53-59)

Jesus was taken to the high priest, a man named Joseph Caiaphas. He succeeded his father-in-law, Annas, who had been removed by the Romans but still wielded enormous influence. The soldiers took Jesus to Annas first (John 18:12). Then the 71-member Sanhedrin quickly convened for a night session to deal with Jesus (Mark 14:53).

Peter, apparently alone, “followed Him at a distance, right into the high priest’s courtyard.” He certainly deserves some credit at this point. Soon, that will not be the case.

The kangaroo court of the chief priest and Sanhedrin sought witnesses against Jesus but struck out! The false witnesses they were able to enlist “did not agree” with one another (vv. 56, 59). Some accused Him of saying He would destroy and rebuild the temple in three days (vv. 57-58). Jesus had indeed said something like this, but He was speaking metaphorically of His body and the resurrection (John 2:19-21). No wonder their testimony did not agree (Mark 14:59). Destruction of a worship place was a capital offense, but the Scriptures require agreement from at least two witnesses for a conviction (Deut 17:6; 19:15; Num 35:30). Still, as far as this tribunal was concerned, Jesus was guilty until proven innocent, and He was not going to be found innocent. The Mishnah said, “A Sanhedrin which as often as once in seven years condemns a man to death, is a slaughterhouse” (Keller, “Mark,” 195). Nevertheless, on this night they were determined to slay their victim.

A True Witness Will Tell the Truth No Matter the Consequences (Mark 14:60-65)

The trial has not gone as planned. The case is unraveling and headed for disaster from the perspective of the religious leaders. But then the high priest Caiaphas rises and begins to interrogate Jesus. Any idea of judicial340 impartiality flies out the window. He asks Jesus to respond to the charges of the false witnesses, “But He kept silent and did not answer anything” (v. 61). Once more Isaiah 53 is fulfilled: “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth. Like a lamb led to the slaughter and like a sheep silent before her shearers, He did not open His mouth” (Isa 53:7).

No doubt full of frustration by now, the high priest addresses Jesus again and asks Him (under oath, Matt 26:63), “Are You the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?” (Mark 14:61). “Blessed One” is a title for God (cf. 2 Sam 7:11-16; Ps 2). James Edwards notes the irony of the question:

The effect is to put a full christological confession into the mouth of the high priest! ... His arch-prosecutor confesses his name! How ironic that in the Gospel of Mark the two most complete christological confessions from humans occur in the mouth of those responsible for Jesus’ death: the high priest in 14:61 and the centurion at the cross in 15:39. (Edwards, Mark, 446)

Numerous times in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus asked those who followed Him and those He healed to be silent concerning His identity. The time for the “messianic secret” has now come to an end. Called, under divine oath, to bear witness to His true identity, He directly and openly affirms, “I am.” He also identifies the Messiah with Daniel’s apocalyptic Son of Man: “And all of you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power [God] and coming with the clouds of heaven” (v. 62). Jesus weds Daniel 7:13-14 with Psalm 110:1 in identifying Himself as the Messiah and God’s Son (cf. Mark 12:35-37). Today I stand before you, but there is coming a day when you will stand before Me in judgment! A great reversal is coming!

Jesus’ words set the high priest off in an uproar of self-righteous indignation. As far as they are concerned, Jesus has condemned Himself with His own words. The high priest rules He is guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense, and first says that no other witnesses are needed and second asks what the verdict of the Council will be. “And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.”

Things move from unjust to shameful. (1) They begin to spit on Him, an act as insulting then as it is today (cf. Num 12:14; Deut 25:9; 30:10; Isa 50:6). (2) They cover His face, blindfolding Him for further mockery and abuse. (3) They begin to strike Him with their fists, taunting Him to “prophesy” as to who His attackers are (cf. Isa 11:2-4), and once more our Lord remains silent (cf. Isa 53:7). (4) “The temple police also took Him and slapped Him.” They join the party and beat and slap the innocent, kind, loving man who, as Acts 10:38 says, “went about doing good and healing all341 who were under the tyranny of the Devil, because God was with Him.” It is hard to put into words the severity of this miscarriage of justice. And it will get much worse.

Peter Models the Unfaithful Witness as to Who He Is For

Mark 14:66-72

“I’ve got your back” is a popular saying. Basically the idea is, “I am your friend, and I am watching out for what’s behind you as you are busy looking ahead. You can trust me to look out for you, to even ‘take a bullet for you’ if necessary.” It is a pledge of devotion, loyalty, and true friendship. Such friends are few and should be cherished as precious gifts.

Just a few hours earlier Peter had pledged, “Even if all the other disciples fall away, I won’t” (v. 29). And in verse 31 he said, “If I have to die with You, I will never deny You.” Well, in verse 50 Peter had run away just like everyone else when Jesus was arrested. Now, however, we find him, and only him, drawing close to the place where our Lord is being held. Maybe he does have Jesus’ back.

Some Say of Jesus, “I Do Not Know What You Are Talking About” (Mark 14:66-68)

Peter is said to be “in the courtyard below,” indicating Jesus was in a large upper room in the substantial home of the high priest, a man who had profited through religion. A servant girl noticed Peter and said, “You also were with that Nazarene, Jesus” (v. 67). Given his earlier promise of fidelity, we are confident Peter will step up and declare his loyalty. We and, more importantly, Jesus are sadly disappointed.

Peter blatantly rejected her accusation: “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about” (v. 68). To avoid further scrutiny, Peter moved out into the entryway, “and a rooster crowed” (see v. 30)! Apparently, this had no impact on Peter. He was too busy claiming ignorance and trying to go undetected. This “rock” is beginning to crack!

Some Say of Jesus, “I Do Not Belong to Him” (Mark 14:69-70)

This servant girl was persistent and unrelenting in her (or God’s!) pursuit of Peter. She, along with others (cf. Matt 28:71; Luke 22:58), began to say, “This man is one of them” (Mark 14:69). James Edwards well says, “A change in place is no substitute for a change of heart. Like a guilty conscience, the servant girl accuses Peter a second time” (Mark, 450).

342Peter is now on the spot, in the hot seat, in front of others. Here is his chance to “man up,” regain his courage, and take a stand for the Jesus for whom he had expressed undying loyalty. Unfortunately, “again he denied it” (v. 70). The tense of the verb he used means he kept on denying that he belonged to Jesus. It was not a one-time slip of the tongue. The fracture of this rock is growing.

Some Say of Jesus, “I Do Not Even Know Him” (Mark 14:70-72)

Peter failed the Lord three times in the garden of Gethsemane (vv. 37-42). Now he fails Him three times in the courtyard of the high priest. Initially, he failed Him by sleeping when he should have been praying. Now he fails Him by denying Him when he should have confessed Him. The rock named Peter crumbles and is pulverized under the pressure.

Again the bystanders call to Peter, “You certainly are one of them, since you’re also a Galilean” (v. 70). This was all Peter could take. He puts himself under a divine curse. “If I am lying may God strike me dead” is a modern idiom that captures Peter’s sentiment. “I don’t know this man you’re talking about!” Peter will not even mention Jesus’ name, thereby distancing himself even further from this now convicted capital criminal.

“Immediately, a rooster crowed a second time” (v. 72). Peter then “remembered” that Jesus had predicted his denial. This broke him, and he, overwhelmed by this betrayal and cowardice, “began to weep.” At the very moment he was voicing his third denial, Jesus “turned and looked at Peter” (Luke 22:61). Sinclair Ferguson says, “That look was to be his salvation, for he saw in those eyes not condemnation but compassion. That was the turning point in his life.... Now, in this most painful and memorable of ways, Peter saw himself as he really was, repented, and was remade into the great apostle” (Mark, 252).

Peter would repent, turn to Christ for forgiveness, and receive a full pardon. By contrast Judas would only feel regret, run to the religious leaders to try to make amends, and go out and hang himself (Matt 27:5). If only he had turned again to the Lord Jesus like Peter. Though his sin was great, he would have discovered that God’s grace was even greater.


Balthasar Hubmaier has been called “the Simon Peter” of the evangelical Anabaptists of the sixteenth century. The movement’s greatest theologian, he would see six thousand believers baptized at Nikolsburg in 1526-27. And because of severe persecution, he would compromise and deny his commitment to Christ on at least two different occasions. Yet, like Peter, he would343 be brought by God to deep repentance. In a work titled Short Apology, he would write, “O God, pardon me my weakness. It is good for me that you have humbled me” (Estep, Anabaptist, 63).

On what appears to be a third occasion of torture, Hubmaier, with uncompromising fortitude, remained true to Jesus. One week later, on March 10, 1528, Hubmaier was burned at the stake. As he faced the fire, he shouted loud for the onlooking crowd to hear, “O my gracious God, grant me grace in my great suffering.” As the flames engulfed his beard and hair, his last words were simple: “O my heavenly Father! O my gracious God! ... O Jesus!” Witnesses said that in his death “he appeared to feel more joy than pain.” Such is the grace of God poured out on any sinner, no matter what the sin, who flees to Jesus in repentance, who flees to God in his hour of need. The great King in His passion has made it possible. Praise His name!

Reflect and Discuss

  1. Why do people get upset when they perceive that something is not fair?
  2. Have you ever been in a situation where normal procedures were set aside for the sake of expediency? When is this warranted? How was the Sanhedrin reasoning with regard to expediting Jesus’ trial?
  3. What was the Sanhedrin looking for in the witnesses who were called? In what situations do we sometimes look for evidence to support preconceived conclusions? How do we avoid this error?
  4. What was the significance of Jesus’ using the phrases “I am” and “Son of Man” in His answer?
  5. Have you ever trusted a friend to defend you and then been disappointed? Were you able to forgive that person and restore the friendship?
  6. In what situations are you tempted to make excuses in order to avoid being identified as a Christian? Are there other situations where you tend to simply lie low and avoid the subject?
  7. Was there a time in your past where you denied knowing Jesus? Was there a time when you were not confronted, but still you could have spoken up and did not?
  8. Do you feel shame and remorse over situations where you could have stood up for Jesus? Ask forgiveness from God, go back and correct your witness to that person where possible, and resolve, with God’s help, to be courageous in the future.
  9. How were Judas’s and Peter’s sins similar? How were their responses to guilt different?
  10. How did Peter’s experiences on that night prepare him for his ministry? What experiences have you had that help you communicate grace and compassion to others?