VII. Betrayal, Suffering, Death, and Resurrection (Mark 14:1–16:20)
VII. Betrayal, Suffering, Death, and Resurrection (14:1–16:20)
14:1-2 The Jewish leaders were determined to destroy Jesus, but they didn’t want to do anything during the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. They feared a riot among the people because of Jesus’s notoriety. They wanted things to proceed according to their timetable, but they were naïve. Jesus had predicted that he would be crucified and rise from the dead in Jerusalem (8:31; 9:30-31; 10:32-34). God is sovereign; everything proceeds according to his timetable.
14:3-4 While they were in a home in Bethany, less than two miles from Jerusalem, a woman—Mary the sister of Lazarus (see John 12:3)—poured a jar of very expensive perfume on Jesus’s head (14:3). Some of those present were angry. It could have sold for more than three hundred denarii—about a year’s wages—and the money given to the poor (14:4). Thus, they scolded her for wasting it on Jesus (14:4).
14:5-9 That’s when Jesus came to her defense. No service to Jesus is wasted. She had done a noble thing and anointed his body in advance for burial (14:6, 8). Mary knew about death and resurrection. It was a very real thing for her. Mary’s brother Lazarus had died, and she saw Jesus raise him back to life (see John 11:1-44). So she sought to honor Jesus by sacrificially anointing him. In response, Jesus honored her. He said, Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her (14:9). The Lord says, “Those who honor me I will honor” (1 Sam 2:30).
14:10-11 This was apparently the last straw for Judas Iscariot (14:10). Mark has already informed his readers that Judas would betray his master (see 3:19). Now, motivated by financial gain (14:11), he went to the chief priests and offered to betray Jesus to them (14:10).
14:12 As the Passover celebration was about to begin, the disciples asked Jesus where they should go to prepare for him to eat the related meal. Of all the festivals in the Jewish calendar, Passover was preeminent. It commemorated the long-ago night in Egypt when God brought his judgment on that nation, killing every firstborn, so that Pharaoh would set the Israelites free. God had instructed his people to slay unblemished lambs, wipe their blood on their doorposts, roast the lambs, and eat them. When he saw the blood on the doorposts of the Israelites, God would “pass over” them. A reminder of God’s deliverance from slavery, the Passover festival ultimately points to Jesus, “our Passover lamb” (1 Cor 5:7) who sets us free from sin (John 8:34-36).
14:13-16 Jesus told his disciples that upon entering Jerusalem they would meet a certain man carrying a jar of water (14:13). They were to ask him to prepare a room for Jesus to eat the Passover with his disciples (14:14-15). Everything happened exactly as Jesus had said, so the disciples prepared the Passover (14:16).
14:17-21 As the Passover meal began, Jesus delivered a shocking revelation to his disciples: one of you will betray me (14:18). The reader of Mark’s Gospel has known this (3:19; 14:10-11), but the apostles wondered who it could be. Each asked, Surely not I? (14:19). Jesus made it clear that his betrayer was one of the Twelve, one of his companions who had traveled with him and learned from him. It was one of those dipping bread in the bowl (14:20), a common bowl of sauce shared by all. To share a meal together is an act of friendship and trust, making Judas’s betrayal especially despicable. Yet, he would not escape divine judgment for his actions (14:21).
14:22-24 Jesus took the bread and wine, common elements during the Passover, and gave them new significance. He explained them in light of the new covenant. The bread represented his body, and the cup represented the blood that would be poured out for many. The sacrificial death of Jesus Christ on the cross would accomplish what the old covenant had anticipated. It would atone for sins and make it possible for people to be forgiven and have a relationship with God. The church is to celebrate this Lord’s Supper regularly by eating the bread and drinking the cup together. As often as we do this, we “proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26). It’s a visible proclamation of the gospel.
14:25-26 Jesus vowed that he would not drink of the fruit of the vine until he shared it with them in his millennial kingdom (14:25). Then they sang a hymn (probably a psalm), left the city, and went to the Mount of Olives for the night (14:26).
14:27-28 Jesus had delivered much shocking news to his disciples, and he wasn’t finished yet. He prophesied that all of them would fall away and abandon him, fulfilling the words of Zechariah 13:7 (14:27). Nevertheless, there was hope, for he also prophesied of their reunion and restoration after he had risen from the dead (14:28; see 8:31; 9:31; 10:34 for earlier predictions of his resurrection).
14:29-31 Finally, Peter spoke up: Even if everyone falls away, I will not (14:29). But Jesus informed Peter that not only would he fall away like the rest, he would also deny he even knew Jesus three times that very night (14:30). Though his motives may have been good, Peter was not as spiritual as he thought he was. His pride and spiritual weakness would give Satan something to take advantage of. When we pridefully exalt our abilities and fail to depend on God, we become bait for the evil one.
14:32-36 They arrived at Gethsemane at the foot of the Mount of Olives, and Jesus asked his disciples to wait while he went away to pray (14:32). Then he took Peter, James, and John with him, asking them to stay awake with him because he was so distressed and troubled (14:33-34). Jesus knew what lay ahead—not only a wretched execution but, even worse, separation from God the Father as he bore the sins of the world. The true and full humanity of the Son of God is on display here. He asked that the cup of God’s wrath might be taken away if it were possible; nevertheless, he was fully prepared to submit to his Father’s will (14:36).
14:37-42 Jesus returned to find his disciples sleeping. Even Peter, who had boasted of his commitment (14:29), had succumbed to weariness in spite of his Master’s plea that he stay awake with him (14:37). Jesus challenged them to watch and pray so that they might have strength to deal with the temptation that was approaching. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak indicates that they had an inner desire to follow Jesus, but their physical exhaustion would make them susceptible to the devil (14:38). They needed to seek the strengthening that only God could provide, yet twice more Jesus returned to find them sleeping (14:40-41). Finally, the time was at hand. His betrayer had arrived (14:42).
14:43-46 Judas arrived with a mob carrying swords and clubs. The chief priests, the scribes, and the elders had sent them under cover of darkness to carry out their wicked desires (14:43). But the mob needed to know which man to grab, so Judas had given them a sign: whomever he kissed would be the one to arrest (14:44). To the very end, then, Judas’s act of betrayal was vile. With a kiss—an act of kindness, friendship, intimacy—he handed over the Son of God to those who hated him (14:45-46).
14:47-49 We know from the other Gospels that it was Peter who struck the servant with violence and that Jesus rebuked him (14:47; see Matt 26:52-54; John 18:10). Then Jesus rebuked the mob for treating him like a common criminal (14:48). He had been teaching in the temple daily, where they could’ve arrested him (14:49). But their evil plans had to be carried out at night because they feared the daytime crowds (see 11:32; 14:1-2). Nevertheless, God used their wicked choices to fulfill the Scriptures and accomplish his will (14:49).
14:50-52 All the disciples ran away (14:50), just as Jesus had predicted (14:27). But Mark tells about a young man who was apparently caught sleeping, since he was only wearing a linen cloth. When they tried to seize him, he fled (14:51-52). Some interpreters believe this to be a veiled reference by the author (Mark) to himself.
14:53-59 When the mob led Jesus away to the high priest, Peter secretly followed them to the high priest’s courtyard, warming himself by the fire (14:53-54). He assumed he wouldn’t be noticed; he was wrong (see 14:66-72).
As Jesus had prophesied, he appeared before the Jewish religious leaders in a mock trial (14:53; see 8:31; 10:33). Acting with evil motives, they had already decided that they wanted him put to death. But though many gave testimony against Jesus, none of the witnesses were credible or consistent (14:56-59).
14:60-62 All the while, Jesus remained silent. So the high priest confronted him, asking him how he could remain quiet regarding all of the charges being made against him (14:60-61). Jesus had no obligation to answer the charges of witnesses who couldn’t even agree with one another, so finally the high priest demanded that Jesus confess: Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One? (14:61). To this, he responded, I am. But Jesus didn’t stop there. He attributed to himself the language of Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13 (14:62), passages that prophesy of the glorious Messiah, human yet divine. Though the high priest was presiding over Jesus’s “trial,” one day all humanity will stand before Christ’s judgment throne.
14:63-65 There can be no doubt that Jesus was affirming his deity as the Son of God, for the high priest tore his robes and accused him of blasphemy (14:63-64). No further witnesses were needed as far as the leaders were concerned. In their opinion, this Galilean rabbi had condemned himself (14:64). At that point, the floodgates were opened. They spit on him . . . beat him . . . mocked him as a prophet, and slapped him (14:65). “He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth” (Isa 53:7). Don’t skim over how the Son of God suffered for you.
14:66-72 Meanwhile, outside in the courtyard, one of the high priest’s maidservants recognized Peter as a companion of Jesus (14:66-67). Immediately, he denied it, and a rooster crowed (14:68). Though Peter didn’t realize it, Jesus’s prediction was coming to pass (see 14:29-31). When the maidservant told others, Peter again denied it, probably fearing for his life (14:69-70). After being accused a third time, Peter resorted to cursing and swearing in order to convince everyone that he had nothing to do with Jesus of Nazareth (14:70-71). That’s when the rooster crowed again, and Peter remembered. Filled with grief and guilt, the once-bold disciple broke down and wept (14:72).
Peter had brashly vowed to stand with Jesus, even if everyone else ran away. But he had placed his confidence in himself. Our flesh, no matter how sincere, cannot achieve righteousness apart from yielding to and depending on the Lord.
15:1 In the morning, the Sanhedrin, the Jewish council over which the high priest presided, met and determined to hand Jesus over to Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea (from AD 26–36). Since the Jews were under Roman rule, they couldn’t carry out the death penalty (see John 18:31); they would need the Roman governor’s help. Pilate was a cruel man who was more than willing to execute enemies of Rome. Normally he would’ve been in Caesarea Maritima on the Mediterranean Sea, but given the number of Jewish pilgrims who traveled to Jerusalem for Passover, he was present in the holy city to maintain order.
15:2 In order for Pilate to be willing to execute Jesus, he would need to be guilty of a crime against Rome—like sedition. Since he claimed to be the Messiah, a Jewish King, this was the charge the Sanhedrin brought against him. The Jews were to have no king but Caesar. So Pilate asked, Are you the King of the Jews? Jesus’s answer, You say so, is an affirmation. After all, this was the basis for his crucifixion (15:18, 26, 32). But Jesus didn’t share Pilate’s conception about what it meant to be the King of the Jews (see John 18:36).
15:3-14 As the chief priests leveled many accusations at Jesus, he refused to respond, and his silence annoyed and amazed Pilate (15:3-5). But Pilate knew how to deal with the situation. Each year during the Passover festival, he had a custom of releasing a prisoner that the Jews requested as a way of placating them (15:6, 8). He was aware that the Jewish leaders wanted Jesus killed simply because they were jealous of him (15:10).
So Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted him to release the popular teacher, the King of the Jews (15:9). However, the chief priests stirred up the crowd to ask instead for Barabbas, a murderer who had been part of a rebellion against Roman rule (15:7, 11). When Pilate asked what they wanted him to do with Jesus, the people demanded that he be crucified (15:12-13). Pilate was no kindhearted man, but he recognized that their demand made no sense. What has he done wrong? Yet the people had been worked into a frenzy and wanted blood (15:14). Incited by their religious leaders, the very ones who had been celebrating Jesus’s teaching and miracles only a few days before were now calling for his death.
15:15 In the end, Pilate wasn’t concerned about justice. He simply wanted to avoid a riot. In order to satisfy the crowd, he released a murderer and handed over the sinless Son of God to be crucified. Before that, Jesus was flogged. This was a brutal means of punishment in which a whip, with pieces of bone or metal tied into its ends, was applied to the back of a person until his flesh was ripped to shreds.
15:16-20 Soldiers led Jesus away for his execution, but not before mocking him in front of the whole company (15:16). They faked homage to him by putting a purple robe on him, pressing a crown of thorns into his head, crying out, Hail, King of the Jews, and bowing before him (15:17-19). They also beat him with a stick and spat on him (15:19). Then they took him away to crucify him (15:20). Hear the words of the author of Hebrews, fellow Christian: “Consider him who endured such hostility from sinners against himself, so that you won’t grow weary and give up” (Heb 12:3).
15:21-22 After intense suffering in prayer, enduring an all-night trial, and being ruthlessly beaten, Jesus was too weak to carry his cross. So the soldiers had it carried by a passerby: Simon, a man from Cyrene, which was the capital city of the Roman district of Cyrenaica in northern Africa (15:21). The place of crucifixion was called Golgotha, an Aramaic name meaning Place of the Skull (15:22). Our English word Calvary is derived from the Latin translation, Calvaria. Scripture does not tell us why it had this name. Maybe people called it this because it was a customary place for executions, or perhaps it was because the place actually looked like a skull. What we do know is that it was near Jerusalem, outside the city walls (see John 19:20; Heb 13:12).
15:23-27 They offered Jesus wine mixed with myrrh to help dull the intense pain he was experiencing, but he refused it (15:23). He was determined not to lessen the suffering that he had voluntarily submitted to. Once they had crucified him between two criminals, the soldiers cast lots (a practice like rolling dice) for his clothes—all in fulfillment of Psalm 22:16-18 (15:24, 27). The charge against him was posted on his cross: The King of the Jews (15:26). Ironically, the charge was true. Below it hung the divine King, atoning for the sins of the world.
15:29-32 A few days prior, Jesus was praised as the coming King (11:1-10). Now everyone who passed by hurled insults at him (15:29). This included the chief priests and the scribes (15:31). Seeing Jesus put to death wasn’t enough for them; they also wanted to mock him in his agony. They challenged him to come down . . . from the cross if he was truly the Messiah, the King of Israel (15:32). But remaining on the cross until death was exactly what the Messiah had to do.
15:33-34 At noon an unnatural darkness came over the whole land (15:33), signifying God’s judgment on sin. Then Jesus cried out, My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? (15:34)—once again fulfilling the words of Psalm 22 (Ps 22:1). Though the Trinitarian nature of God remained unbroken, yet the Son experienced a judicial separation from the Father as he suffered for the sins of the world.
15:35-38 Some misunderstood Jesus’s cry and thought he was calling for Elijah (15:35). In jest they mocked him, offered him a drink of sour wine, and said, Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down (15:36). Finally, Jesus cried in a loud voice and breathed his last (15:37). His willing sacrificial death had been accomplished. And at that moment, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom (15:38). This symbolized that he had achieved what he came to do—granting human beings access to God. Indeed, by atoning for sin, Jesus made it possible for people to come into God’s presence. We have no need for a mere human high priest to offer sacrifices repeatedly so that we can be right with God. Jesus Christ, the God-Man, is our great high priest who offered himself for sin once and for all (see Heb 4:14; 7:27; 10:10, 12).
15:39-41 When Jesus died, the centurion standing at the cross said, Truly this man was the Son of God! (15:39). In the midst of judgment on sin, then, salvation came to a Gentile centurion who confessed the truth. Jesus’s disciples were nowhere to be seen, but the women who’d followed him and took care of him were there (15:40-41). Whereas the men had fled, these women stood faithfully by Jesus in his dying moments.
15:42-47 It was the day before the Sabbath, so Jesus would need to be buried before sunset (15:42). Therefore, Joseph of Arimathea . . . went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body (15:43). This took great courage because Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin, which had condemned Jesus. However, he “had not agreed with their plan and action” (Luke 23:50-51) but was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God (15:43). He identified with Jesus’s kingdom message and wanted to honor him. Once Pilate had obtained verification from the centurion that Jesus was indeed dead, he allowed Joseph the corpse. Then Joseph buried him in his own tomb (15:44-46; see Matt 27:59-60). Two of the women who’d followed Jesus, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses, saw where he was buried (15:47), planning to visit the tomb after the Sabbath.
16:1-4 On the first of the week—Sunday—the women went to the tomb to anoint Jesus’s body (16:1-2). They were discussing the fact that they needed someone to roll away the stone that covered the entrance to the tomb (16:3). But when they arrived, they saw that the large stone had already been moved (16:4). What had happened? Who rolled the stone away?
16:5-6 As the women stepped into the tomb, they expected to see a dead body—not a live one. A young man dressed in a white robe was sitting inside. Entering a dark tomb to find someone speaking to you is enough to alarm anyone, but this man immediately told them, Don’t be alarmed. We know from Matthew’s Gospel that the man was actually an angel (Matt 28:5), so his words come with divine authority: You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen! (Mark 16:6). Jesus had told his disciples in advance, again and again, that it would happen (8:31; 9:31; 10:34). Now it had come to pass. Jesus Christ had risen from the dead.
16:7-8 The divine messenger told the women that they themselves were to be messengers, informing the disciples and Peter that he would meet them in Galilee (16:7). Peter, the one who had denied Jesus, was perhaps singled out to reassure him of the Lord’s forgiveness. The women were so initially overwhelmed at what they had seen that they ran in fear and delayed carrying out the instructions (16:8), but they soon obeyed the angel and told the disciples the good news (see Matt 28:8; Luke 24:9-10).
16:9-20 Some of the earliest existing ancient manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark do not contain this section. Therefore, many scholars believe that Mark originally concluded at 16:8 and that these verses were added later by someone other than the author. Most of what appears in these verses is reported in the other Gospels.
Mary Magdalene was the first person who saw the risen Lord Jesus and informed the disciples (16:9-11; see Matt 28:1, 8-10; Luke 24:10-11; John 20:1-3, 11-18). The two to whom Jesus appeared while they were walking seem to be the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus (16:12-13; see Luke 24:13-35). Later, Jesus appeared to all of the disciples and commissioned them to preach the gospel of the kingdom throughout the world (16:14-16; see Matt 28:16-20; Luke 24:36-49; John 20:19-22). Those who believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life will be delivered in eternity. Those who are baptized will be delivered (i.e., “saved”) in history through their public identification with Christ (i.e., discipleship). He also promised them that they would perform miraculous signs as apostolic confirmation of the truth of their message (16:17-18; see esp. Heb 2:3-4; also Acts 2:1-13; 3:1-10; 5:12-16; 20:7-12; 28:1-6). Then the Lord Jesus ascended to heaven to the right hand of God the Father, and the disciples began their ministry (16:19-20; see Luke 24:50-53; Acts 1:9).