Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges
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.Ch. Mark 14:1-2. The Sanhedrim in Council
1. After two days] From St Matthew’s account we gather that it was as they entered Bethany that our Lord Himself reminded the Apostles (Matthew 26:1-2) that after two days the Passover would be celebrated, and the Son of Man be delivered up to be crucified. He thus indicated the precise time when “the Hour” so often spoken of before should come, and again speaks of its accompanying circumstances of unutterable degradation and infamy—death by Crucifixion.
and of unleavened bread] The Passover took place on the 14th of Nisan, and the “Feast of unleavened bread” commenced on the 15th and lasted for seven days, deriving its name from the Mazzoth, or unleavened cakes, which was the only bread allowed during that week (Exodus 12:34; Exodus 12:39; Deuteronomy 16:3). From their close connection they are generally treated as one, both in the Old and in the New Testament, and Josephus, on one occasion, even describes it as “a feast for eight days.” Jos. Antiq. II. 15. 1; Edersheim, p. 177.
and the chief priests] While our Lord was in quiet retirement at Bethany the rulers of the nation were holding a formal consultation in the court of the palace of Caiaphas (Matthew 26:3) how they could put Him to death. Disappointed as they had been in ensnaring Him into matter for a capital charge, they saw that their influence was lost unless they were willing to take extreme measures, and the events of the Triumphal Entry had convinced them of the hold He had gained over many of the nation, especially the bold and hardy mountaineers of Galilee. The only place where He appeared in public after the nights had been spent at Bethany was the Temple, but to seize Him there would in the present excited state of popular feeling certainly lead to a tumult, and a tumult to the interposition of Pilate, who during the Passover kept a double garrison in the tower of Antonia, and himself had come up to Jerusalem.
by craft] It was formally resolved therefore to take Him by craft, and for this purpose to wait and take advantage of the course of events and of any favourable opportunity which might present itself.
But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.
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.3–9. The Feast in Simon’s House. The Anointing by Mary
3. And being in Bethany] Meanwhile circumstances had occurred which in their result presented to the Jewish authorities a mode of apprehending Him which they had never anticipated. To relate these the Evangelist goes back to the evening before the Triumphal Entry, and places us in the house of
Simon the leper] He had, we may believe, been a leper, and possibly had been restored by our Lord Himself. He was probably a near friend or relation of Lazarus. Some suppose he was his brother, others that he was the husband of Mary.
as he sat at meat] We learn from St John that the sisters had made Him a feast, at which Martha served, while Lazarus reclined at the table as one of the guests (John 12:2).
there came a woman] This was Mary the sister of Lazarus, full of grateful love to Him, who had poured back joy into her once desolated home.
having an alabaster box] “hauynge a box of precious oynement spikanard,” Wyclif. At Alabastron in Egypt there was a manufactory of small vases for holding perfumes, which were made from a stone found in the neighbouring mountains. The Greeks gave to these vases the name of the city from which they came, calling them alabastrons. This name was eventually extended to the stone of which they were formed; and at length the term alabaster was applied without distinction to all perfume vessels, of whatever materials they consisted.
of ointment of spikenard] Or, as in margin, of pure (= genuine) nard or liquid nard. Pure or genuine seems to yield the best meaning, as opposed to the pseudo-nardus, for the spikenard was often adulterated. Pliny, Nat. Hist. xii. 26. It was drawn from an Indian plant, brought down in considerable quantities into the plains of India from such mountains as Shalma, Kedar Kanta, and others, at the foot of which flow the Ganges and Jumna rivers.
very precious] It was the costliest anointing oil of antiquity, and was sold throughout the Roman Empire, where it fetched a price that put it beyond any but the wealthy. Mary had bought a vase or flask of it containing 12 ounces (John 12:3). Of the costliness of the ointment we may form some idea by remembering that it was among the gifts sent by Cambyses to the Ethiopians (Herod. iii. 20), and that Horace promises Virgil a whole cadus (= 36 quarts nearly) of wine, for a small onyx box of spikenard (Carm. iv. xii. 16, 17),
“Nardo vina merebere;
“Nardi parvus onyx eliciet cadum.”
brake the box] i. e. she broke the narrow neck of the small flask, and poured the perfume first on the head, and then on the feet of Jesus, drying them with the hair of her head. She did not wish to keep or hold back anything. She offered up all, gave away all, and her “all” was a tribute worthy of a king. “To anoint the feet of the greatest monarch was long unknown; and in all the pomps and greatnesses of the Roman prodigality, it was not used till Otho taught it to Nero.” Jeremy Taylor’s Life of Christ, iii. 13.
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?4. And there were some] The murmuring began with Judas Iscariot (John 12:4), and his spirit of murmuring infected some of the others, simple Galileans, little accustomed to such luxury.
For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.5. for more than three hundred pence] i. e. for more than 300 denarii, =300 × 7½d. = about £10. To Judas it was intolerable there should be such an utter waste of good money.
they murmured] This word has already been explained in the note on chap. Mark 1:43. Wyclif renders it here “þei groyneden in to hir.” De Wette, “they scolded her.” The word “expresses a passionate feeling, which we strive to keep back in the utterance.” “St Mark, without a doubt, presents here the most accurate historic picture; St John defines most sharply the motive; St Matthew gives the especially practical historic form.” Lange.
And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.8. she is come aforehand] The word thus rendered only occurs three times in the New Testament. (1) Here; (2) 1 Corinthians 11:21, “for in eating every one taketh before other his own supper;” (3) Galatians 6:1, “if a man be overtaken in a fault,” = “be surprised or detected in the act of committing any sin.” It denotes (1) to take beforehand; (2) to take before another; (3) to outstrip, get the start of, anticipate.
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.9. this gospel shall be preached] A memorable prophecy, and to this day memorably fulfilled. The story of her devoted adoration has gone forth into all lands.
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.10, 11. The Compact of Judas with the Chief Priests
10. And Judas Iscariot] The words “to the burying” must have fallen like the death knell of all his Messianic hopes on the ears of Judas Iscariot, “the only southern Jew among the Twelve,” and this, added to the consciousness that his Master had read the secret of his life (John 12:6), filled his soul with feelings of bitterest mortification and hostility. Three causes, if we may conjecture anything on a subject so full of mystery, would seem to have brought about his present state of mind, and precipitated the course which he now took: (1) avarice; (2) disappointment of his carnal hopes; (3) a withering of internal religion.
(i) Avarice. We may believe that his practical and administrative talents caused him to be made the almoner of the Apostles. This constituted at once his opportunity and his trial. He proved unfaithful to his trust, and used the common purse of the brotherhood for his own ends (John 12:6). The germs of avarice probably unfolded themselves very gradually, and in spite of many warnings from his Lord (Matthew 6:19-34; Matthew 13:22-23; Mark 10:25; Luke 16:11; John 6:70), but they gathered strength, and as he became entrusted with larger sums, he fell more deeply.
(ii) Disappointment of his carnal hopes] Like all his brother Apostles, he had cherished gross and carnal views of the Messianic glory, his heart was set on the realization of a visible kingdom, with high places, pomp, and power. If some of the brotherhood were to sit on thrones (Matthew 19:28), might he not obtain some post, profitable if not splendid? But the issue of the Triumphal Entry, and the repeated allusions of his Master to His death and His burying, sounded the knell of all these temporal and earthly aspirations.
(iii) A withering of internal religion] He had been for three years close to Goodness Incarnate, but the good seed within him had become choked with the thorns of greed and carnal longings. “The mildew of his soul had spread apace,” and the discovery of his secret sin, and its rebuke by our Lord at Bethany, turned his attachment to his Master more and more into aversion. The presence of Goodness so close to him ceasing to attract had begun to repel, and now in his hour of temptation, while he was angry at being suspected and rebuked, and possibly jealous of the favour shewn to others of the brotherhood, arose the question, prompted by none other than the Evil One (Luke 22:3), Why should he lose everything? Might he not see what was to be gained by taking the other side? (Matthew 26:15).
went unto the chief priests] Full of such thoughts, in the darkness of the night he repaired from Bethany to Jerusalem, and being admitted into the council of the chief priests asked what they would give him for betraying his Master into their hands.
And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.11. they were glad] They shuddered not at the suggested deed of darkness. His proposal filled them with joy.
and promised] How much he expected when he went over to them we cannot tell. But by going at all he had placed himself in their hands. He had made his venture, and was obliged to take what they offered. Thirty pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15), the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32), were equivalent to 120 denarii = 120x7½d. = about £3. 13s. of our money. At this time the ordinary wages for a day’s labour was one denarius; so that the whole sum amounted to about four months’ wages of a day labourer. It is possible, however, the sum, which seems to us so small, may have been earnest-money.
conveniently] That is without raising the hostility of the populace, and possibly after the conclusion of the Passover and the dispersion of the Galilean pilgrims to their own homes.
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?12–16. Preparations for the Last Supper
12. the first day of unleavened bread] Wednesday in Passion week would seem to have been spent by our Lord in deep seclusion at Bethany preparing Himself for the awfulness of the coming struggle, and is hidden by a veil of holy silence. That night He slept at Bethany for the last time on earth. “On the Thursday morning He awoke never to sleep again.” Farrar, Life, ii. p. 275.
when they killed the passover] i. e. the Paschal victim. Comp. Luke 22:7, “when the Passover must be killed;” 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our Passover (= Paschal Lamb) is sacrificed for us.” The name of the Passover, in Hebrew Pesach, and in Aramæan and Greek Pascha, is derived from a root which means to “step over,” or to “overleap,” and thus points back to the historical origin of the Festival. “And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I smite the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:13).
Where wilt thou] On this Thursday morning the disciples came to our Lord for instructions as to the Passover. They may have expected, considering the complete seclusion of Wednesday, that He would eat it at Bethany, for “the village was reckoned as regards religious purposes part of Jerusalem by the Rabbis, and the Lamb might be eaten there, though it must be killed at the Temple.” Lightfoot, Hor. Heb.
that we go and prepare] The lamb had, we may believe, already been bought on the tenth of Nisan, according to the rule of the Law (Exodus 12:3), the very day on which He, the true Paschal Lamb, entered Jerusalem in meek triumph.
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.13. he sendeth forth two of his disciples] The Apostles Peter and John (Luke 22:8).
and there shall meet you] Observe the minuteness of the directions and of the predictions as to the events which would happen. It is the same mysterious minuteness which distinguishes the preparations for the Triumphal Entry.
a man] It was generally the task of women to carry water. Amongst the thousands at Jerusalem they would notice this man carrying an earthen jar of water drawn from one of the fountains. We need not conclude, because it was a slave’s employment to do this (Deuteronomy 29:11; Joshua 9:21), that he was a slave. The Apostles were to follow him to whatever house he entered.
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?14. say ye to the goodman of the house] The words addressed to him, and the confidential nature of the communication, make it probable that the owner of the house was a believing follower. “Discipulus, sed non ex duodecim,” Bengel. Some have conjectured it was Joseph of Arimathæa, others John Mark; but the Gospels and tradition alike are silent. “Universal hospitality prevailed in this matter, and the only recompence that could be given was the skin of the paschal lamb, and the earthen dishes used at the meal.” Geikie, ii. 462.
the guestchamber] Curiously translated by Wyclif, “my fulfilling, or etyng place.” The original word only occurs here, in the parallel Luke 22:11, and Luke 2:7, “and she brought forth her firstborn son, and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.”
And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.15. a large upper room furnished] “a greet souping place strewid,” Wyclif. The guest-chamber was on the upper floor, ready, and provided with couches, as the custom of reclining at meals required. We may conclude also from the word prepared that the searching for and putting away of every particle of leaven (1 Corinthians 5:7), so important a preliminary to the Passover, and performed in perfect silence and with a lighted candle, had been already carried out.
And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.16. they made ready the passover] This preparation would include the provision of the unleavened cakes, of the bitter herbs, the four or five cups of red wine mixed with water, of everything, in short, necessary for the meal. At this point it may be well to try to realise the manner in which the Passover was celebrated amongst the Jews in the time of our Lord. (i) With the Passover, by Divine ordinance, there had always been eaten two or three flat cakes of unleavened bread (Exodus 12:18), and the rites of the feast by immemorial usage had been regulated according to the succession of four cups of red wine always mixed with water (Psalm 16:5; Psalm 23:5; Psalm 116:13). These were placed before the master of the house where the Paschal Feast was celebrated, or the most eminent guest, who was called the Celebrant, the President, or Proclaimer of the Feast. (ii) After those assembled had reclined, he took one of the Four Cups, known as the “Cup of Consecration,” in his right hand, and pronounced the benediction over the wine and the feast, saying, “Blessed be Thou, Jehovah, our God, Thou King of the universe, Who hast created the fruit of the vine,” He then tasted the Cup and passed it round. (iii) Water was then brought in, and he washed, followed by the rest, the hands being dipped in water. (iv) The table was then set out with the bitter herbs, such as lettuce, endive, succory, and horehound, the sauce called Charoseth, and the Passover lamb. (v) The Celebrant then once more blessed God for the fruits of the earth, and taking a portion of the bitter herbs, dipped it in the charoseth, and ate a piece of it of “the size of an olive,” and his example was followed by the rest. (vi) The Haggadah or “shewing forth” (1 Corinthians 11:26) now commenced, and the Celebrant declared the circumstances of the delivery from Egypt, as commanded by the Law (Exodus 12:27; Exodus 13:8). (vii) Then the second Cup of wine was filled, and a child or proselyte inquired, “What mean ye by this service?” (Exodus 12:26), to which reply was made according to a prescribed formula or liturgy. The first part of the “Hallel,” Psalms 113, 114, was then sung, and the second Cup was solemnly drunk. (viii) The Celebrant now washed his hands again, and taking two of the unleavened cakes, broke one of them, and pronounced the thanksgiving in these words, “Blessed be Thou, O Lord our God, Thou King of the universe, Who bringest forth fruit out of the earth.” Then he distributed a portion to each, and all wrapping some bitter herbs round their portion dipped it in the charoseth and ate it. (ix) The flesh of the lamb was now eaten, and the Master of the house, lifting up his hands, gave thanks over the third Cup of wine, known as the “Cup of Blessing,” and handed it round to each person. (x) After thanking for the food of which they had partaken and for their redemption from Egypt, a fourth Cup, known as the “Cup of Joy,” was filled and drunk, and the remainder of the Hallel (Psalms 115-118) was sung. See Buxtorf, de Cœna Domini; Lightfoot, Temple Service; Edersheim, pp. 206–209.
And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.17–21. Commencement of the Supper. Revelation of the Traitor
17. in the evening] “It was probably while the sun was beginning to decline in the horizon that Jesus and the disciples descended once more over the Mount of Olives into the Holy City. Before them lay Jerusalem in her festive attire. White tents dotted the sward, gay with the bright flowers of early spring, or peered out from the gardens and the darker foliage of the olive-plantations. From the gorgeous Temple buildings, dazzling in their snow-white marble and gold, on which the slanting rays of the sun were reflected, rose the smoke of the altar of burnt offering.… The streets must have been thronged with strangers, and the flat roofs covered with eager gazers, who either feasted their eyes with a first sight of the Sacred City for which they had so often longed, or else once more rejoiced in view of the well-remembered localities. It was the last day-view which the Lord had of the Holy City—till His resurrection!” Edersheim’s The Temple and its Services, pp. 194, 195.
he cometh with the twelve] Judas must have stolen back to Bethany before daylight, and another day of hypocrisy had been spent under the penetrating glance of Him Who could read the hearts of men.
And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.18. And as they sat] Grouping together the four narratives, which, as they approach the Passion, expand into the fulness of a diary, we infer that (i) when the little company had taken their places on the triclinia, the Saviour as Celebrant or Proclaimer of the Feast, remarking that with desire He had desired to eat this Passover before He suffered, took the first cup and divided it amongst them (Luke 22:15-18). (ii) Then followed the unseemly dispute touching priority (Luke 22:24-30), to correct which and to teach them in the most striking manner possible a lesson of humility, He washed His disciples’ feet, covered with dust from their walk along the road from Bethany (John 13:1-11). Then the meal was resumed and He reclined once more at the table (John 13:12), the beloved disciple lying on His right, with his head close to the Redeemer’s breast.
One of you which eateth with me shall betray me] He had already said, after washing their feet, “now ye are clean, but not all” (John 13:10), but at this moment the consciousness of the traitor’s presence so wrought upon Him (John 13:21) that He broke forth into words of yet plainer prediction.
And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?19. they began to be sorrowful] The very thought of treason was to their honest and faithful hearts insupportable, and excited great surprise and deepest sorrow.
one by one] Observe the pictorial and minute details of St Mark.
Is it I?] None of them said “Is it he?” So utterly unconscious were they of the treachery that lurked in their midst.
And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.20. he answered and said unto them] “Answered” is omitted in the best MSS. The intimation was made privately to St John, to whom St Peter had made a sign that he should ask who could be so base (John 13:23-26).
one of the twelve] One of His own “familiar friends” (Psalm 41:9).
that dippeth with me] “He who is just about to dip with Me a piece of the unleavened cakes into the charoseth”—a sauce consisting of a mixture of vinegar, figs, dates, almonds, and spice, provided at the Passover—“and to whom I shall give some of it presently” (John 13:26). To this day at the summit of Gerizim the Samaritans on the occasion of the Passover hand to the stranger a little olive-shaped morsel of unleavened bread enclosing a green fragment of wild endive or some other bitter herb, which may resemble, except that it is not dipped in the dish, the very ‘sop’ which Judas received at the hands of Christ.” Farrar, Life, ii. p. 290.
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.21. woe to that man] The intimation just given was uttered privately for the ear of St John alone, and through him was possibly made known to St Peter; but the incident was of so ordinary a character, that it would fail to attract any notice whatever, and could only be a sign to the Apostle of Love. Then aloud, as we may believe, the Holy One uttered His final warning to the Traitor, and pronounced words of immeasurable woe on him by whom He was about to be betrayed, “It were good for that man if he had never been born.” But the last appeal had no effect upon him. “Rabbi, is it I?” he inquired, steeling himself to utter the shameless question. “Thou hast said,” replied the Saviour, in words probably heard only by those close by, and gave him “the sop,” and Satan entered into him, as St John tells us (Mark 13:27) with awful impressiveness. “That thou doest, do quickly,” the Saviour continued; and the traitor arose and went forth, and it was night (John 13:27-30), but the night was not darker than the darkness of his soul.
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.22–25. Institution of the Holy Eucharist
22. And as they did eat] On the departure of the Traitor the Saviour, as though relieved of a heavy load, broke forth into words of mysterious triumph (John 13:31-35), and then, as the meal went on, proceeded to institute the Holy Eucharist.
Jesus took bread] that is one of the unleavened cakes that had been placed before Him as the Celebrant or Proclaimer of the Feast.
and blessed] giving thanks and pronouncing the consecration, probably in the usual words, see above, Mark 14:16.
Take, eat] “Eat” is omitted here in the best editions.
this is my body] St Luke adds, “which is being (or on the point of being) given for you;” St Paul (1 Corinthians 11:24), “which is being (or on the point of being) broken for you,” while both add, “do this in remembrance of Me.”
And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.23. he took the cup] probably the third Cup, and known as the “Cup of Blessing.” See above, Mark 14:16.
And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.24. This is my blood of the new testament] or rather, Covenant. Some of the best MSS. here omit “new.” He reminds them of the old Covenant also made in blood with their fathers in the wilderness (Exodus 24:8).
which is shed for many] i. e. which is being (or on the point of being) shed for many. St Matthew (Matthew 26:28) adds, “unto the remission of sins;” St Paul adds (1 Corinthians 11:25), “Do this, as oft as ye shall drink it, in remembrance of Me.” Thus did our Lord ordain Bread and Wine to be the “outward part” or “sign” of the Sacrament of our Redemption by His death. In the ordinary Paschal Feast these elements had been subordinate. He now gives to them the first importance. In the ordinary Paschal Feast the Lamb occupied the chief place. Now the type was succeeded by the Antitype; now the “very Paschal Lamb” was come, and was about to offer Himself from the altar of His Cross for the sins of the whole world. Of the Jewish Paschal Lamb, therefore, no word is said, but in its place our Lord puts the Bread and Wine, the Sacramental Symbols of His Body and Blood. Gradually and progressively He had prepared the minds of His disciples to realise the idea of His death as a sacrifice. He now gathers up all previous announcements in the institution of this Sacrament.
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.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.26–31. The Flight of the Apostles foretold and the Denials of St Peter
26. when they had sung an hymn] In all probability the concluding portion of the Hallel. See above, note on Mark 14:16.
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.27. And Jesus saith unto them] These words really were uttered as they sat at the table just after the institution of the Holy Eucharist.
for it is written] The words are taken from Zechariah 13:7. The Good Shepherd quotes the allusion to Himself in His truest character (John 10:4).
But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.28. after that I am risen] The Angel afterwards referred to these very words at the open Sepulchre on the world’s first Easter-Day (Mark 16:6-7).
But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.29. But Peter said unto him] Ardent and impulsive as ever, the Apostle could not endure the thought of such desertion. His protestations of fidelity are more fully given in Matthew 26:33 and John 13:37.
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.30. in this night] Before the dawn of the morrow should streak the eastern sky, and in the darkness the cock should twice have crowed, he who had declared he would never be offended, would thrice deny that he had ever known his Lord. St Mark, as usual, records two points which enhance the force of the warning and the guilt of Peter, viz. (a) that the cock should crow twice, and (b) that after such warning he repeated his protestation with greater vehemence.
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.31. If I should] Literally, If it be necessary for me to die with Thee; as Wyclif renders it, “if it bihoue me to dye to gidere with thee.” After this the Lord engaged in earnest conversation with His Apostles, not as at the ordinary Passover on the great events of the Exodus, but on His own approaching departure to the Father and the coming of the Comforter (John 14:1-31); of Himself as the true Vine and His disciples as the branches (John 15:1-6); of the trials which the Apostles must expect and the assured aid of the Comforter (John 16); and at the close lifting up His eyes to heaven solemnly committed them to the care of the Eternal Father, and dedicated to Him His completed work (John 17). Then the concluding part of the Hallel (Psalms 115-118) was sung, i. e. chanted, and the little company went forth into the darkness towards the Mount of Olives. A perusal of these Psalms will reveal their appropriateness to this solemn occasion.
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.32. And they came] They would pass through one of the city gates, “open that night as it was Passover,” down the steep side of the Kidron (John 18:1), and coming by the bridge, they went onwards towards
a place which was named Gethsemane] The word Gethsemane means “the Oil-Press.” It was a garden (John 18:1) or an olive orchard on the slope of Olivet, and doubtless contained a press to crush the olives, which grew in profusion all around. Thither St John tells us our Lord was often wont to resort (John 18:2), and Judas “knew the place.” Though at a sufficient distance from public thoroughfares to secure privacy, it was yet apparently easy of access. For a description of the traditional site see Stanley’s Sinai and Palestine, p. 455.
32–42. The Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane
And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;33. he taketh with him] the three most trusted and long-tried of the Apostolic body, who had been before the privileged witnesses of the raising of the daughter of Jairus and of the Transfiguration.
began to be sore amazed] “To drede,” Wyclif. We have already met this word in ch. Mark 9:15, where it was applied to the amazement of the people when they saw the Lord after the Transfiguration, and we shall meet with it again in ch. Mark 16:5-6, where it is applied to the holy women at the Sepulchre. St Mark alone applies the word to our Lord’s sensations at this crisis of His life.
to be very heavy] “to heuye,” Wyclif. The original word thus translated only occurs (1) here, (2) in the parallel, Matthew 26:37, and (3) in Php 2:26, “for he (Epaphroditus) longed after you all, and was full of heaviness.” Buttmann suggests that the root idea is that of being “away from home,” and so “confused,” “beside oneself.” Others consider the primary idea to be that of “loathing” and “discontent.” Truly in respect to His human nature our Lord was far from home, far from His native skies, and the word may be taken to describe the awfulness of His isolation, unsupported by a particle of human sympathy,—a troubled, restless state, accompanied by the keenest mental distress.
And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.34. My soul is exceeding sorrowful] Here again we have a remarkable word. We met with it before (ch. Mark 6:26), where “Herod is said to have been “exceeding sorry” at the request for the Baptist’s head; St Luke also uses the word (Luke 18:23-24) to describe how the rich young ruler was “very sorrowful,” when he was bidden to sacrifice his wealth. It points here to a depth of anguish and sorrow, and we may believe that he, who at the first temptation had left the Saviour “for a season” (Luke 4:13), had now returned, and whereas before he had brought “to bear against the Lord all things pleasant and flattering, if so he might by aid of these entice or seduce Him from His obedience, so now he thought with other engines to overcome His constancy, and tried Him with all painful things, as before with all pleasurable, hoping to terrify, if it might be, from His allegiance to the truth, Him whom manifestly He could not allure.” Trench’s Studies, pp. 55, 56, and above, Mark 1:12.
and watch] “with Me” adds St Matthew (Matthew 26:38). Perfect man, “of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting,” He yearned, in this awful hour, for human sympathy. It is almost the only personal request He is ever recorded to have made. It was but “a cup of cold water” that He craved. But it was denied Him! Very Man, He leaned upon the men He loved, and they failed Him! He trod the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with him (Isaiah 63:3).
And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.35. forward a little] “about a stone’s throw” (Luke 22:41), perhaps out of the moonlight into the shadow of the garden.
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.36. Abba] St Mark alone has preserved for us this word. St Peter could not fail to have treasured up the words of murmured anguish, which, “about a stone’s throw” apart, he may have caught before he was overpowered with slumber. It is used only twice more in the New Testament, and both times by St Paul, Romans 8:15, “we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father” and Galatians 4:6, “God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying Abba, Father.” In Syriac it is said to have been pronounced with a double b when applied to a spiritual father, with a single b when used in its natural sense. With the double letter at all events it has passed into the European languages, as an ecclesiastical term, ‘abbas,’ ‘abbot.’ See Canon Lightfoot on Galatians 4:6.
Father] St Mark adds this probably to explain the Aramaic word, after his wont.
And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?37. and saith unto Peter] who had made so many impetuous promises.
Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.38. the flesh is weak] It is not of course implied that His own “will” was at variance with that of His Father; but, very Man, He had a human will, and knew the mystery of the opposition of the strongest, and at the same time the most innocent, instincts of humanity. The fuller account of the “Agony” is found in St Luke 22:43-44.
And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.
And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.40. their eyes were heavy] “sopli her yzen were greuyd,” Wyclif. Even as had been the case on the Mount of Transfiguration. The original word supported by the best MSS. only occurs here, and denotes that the Apostles were utterly tired, and their eyes “weighed down.”
neither wist they what to answer him] A graphic touch peculiar to the second Evangelist, just as the imperfect tense equally graphically implies that the eyes of the Apostles were constantly becoming weighed down in spite of any efforts they might make to keep awake. Comp. the scene at the Transfiguration, Mark 9:6.
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.41. the third time] The Temptation of the Garden divides itself, like that of the Wilderness, into three acts, following close on one another.
Sleep on now] for ever if ye will. The words are spoken in a kind of gentle irony and sorrowful expostulation. The Golden Hour for watching and prayer was over.
it is enough] Their wakefulness was no longer needed.
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.43–52. The Betrayal
43. And immediately] while He yet spake, the garden was filled with armed men, and flashed with the light of numerous lanterns and torches, though the Paschal moon was at the full, for “in the rocky ravine of the Kidron there would fall great deep shadows from the declivity of the mountains and projecting rocks, and there were caverns and grottoes in which a fugitive might retreat.” Lange, Life of Christ, iv. 292.
cometh Judas] During the two hours that had elapsed since he had gone forth from the Upper Room he had not been idle. He had reported to the ruling powers that the favourable moment had come, and had doubtless mentioned “the Garden” whither his Master was wont to resort. He now returned, but not alone, for
with him a great multitude with swords and staves] These consisted partly (a) of the regular Levitical guards of the Temple, the apparitors of the Sanhedrim, and partly (b) of the detachment from the Roman cohort quartered in the Tower of Antonia under the “chiliarch” or tribune in command of the garrison (John 18:3; John 18:12). The high-priest, we may believe, had communicated with Pilate, and represented that the force was needed for the arrest of a false Messiah, dangerous to the Roman power.
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.44. a token] Judas had never imagined that our Lord would Himself come forth to meet His enemies (John 18:2-5). He had anticipated the necessity of giving a signal whereby they might know Him. He had pressed forward and was in front of the rest (Luke 22:47). The word translated “a tokene,” Wyclif, only occurs here.
take him] Or rather, seize Him at once.
And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.45. and kissed him] Rather, kissed Him tenderly or fervently. The customary kiss of a disciple to his teacher. The same word in the original with its intensifying preposition is used to express (i) the kissing of our Lord by the woman who was a sinner (Luke 7:38; Luke 7:45); (ii) the kissing of the prodigal son by his father (Luke 15:20); and (iii) the kissing of St Paul by the Christians on the sea-shore of Miletus (Acts 20:37). The Latin compound, having the same force, is “deosculari,” or “exosculari.”
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.47. And one of them that stood by] This we know from St John was Simon Peter (John 18:10), displaying his characteristic impetuosity to the end. Some think the Apostle’s name was omitted by the Synoptists lest the publication of it in his lifetime should expose him to the revenge of the unbelieving Jews.
a servant of the high priest] In none of the Synoptic Gospels do we find mention of his name either. This we are told by St John was Malchus. St John was an acquaintance of the high-priest’s, and probably a frequenter of his house; hence he knew the name of his servant.
his ear] Both St Mark and St John use a diminutive = little ear. St Luke alone (Luke 22:50) tells us it was his right ear. Perhaps it was not completely severed, for St Luke, who alone also records the healing, says that our Lord simply touched it and healed him.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?48. answered and said unto them] Those to whom He now spoke were, as we learn from St Luke 22:52, some chief priests and elders and officers of the Temple guard, who had been apparently watching His capture.
a thief] Rather, a robber or bandit. See above, note on ch. Mark 11:17.
I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.49. the scriptures must be fulfilled] Rather, but that the Scriptures may be fulfilled all this has come to pass.
And they all forsook him, and fled.50. they all forsook him, and fled] Even the impetuous Peter who had made so many promises; even the disciple whom He loved.
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:51. a certain young man] This forms an episode as characteristic of St Mark as that of the two disciples journeying to Emmaus is of St Luke. Some have conjectured he was the owner of the garden of Gethsemane; others Lazarus (see Professor Plumptre’s Article on “Lazarus” in Smith’s Bible Dict.); others Joses, the brother of the Lord; others, a youth of the family where Jesus had eaten the Passover. It is far more probable that it was St Mark himself, the son of Mary, the friend of St Peter. The minuteness of the details given points to him. Only one well acquainted with the scene from personal knowledge, probably as an eyewitness, would have introduced into his account of it so slight and seemingly so trivial an incident as this.
having a linen cloth] He had probably been roused from sleep, or just preparing to retire to rest in a house somewhere in the valley of Kidron, and he had nothing to cover him except the sindôn or upper garment, but in spite of this he ventured in his excitement to press on amongst the crowd. The word sindôn in Matthew 27:59, Mark 15:46 and Luke 23:53 is applied to the fine linen, which Joseph of Arimathæa bought for the Body of Jesus. The LXX. use the word in Jdg 14:12 and in Proverbs 31:24 for “fine under garments.”
the young men] This is omitted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles. The crowd was probably astonished at the strange apparition.
And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.52. naked] This need not imply that he was absolutely naked. It may mean, like the Latin nudus, “with only the under robe on.” Comp. 1 Samuel 19:24; John 21:7; Virg. Georg. i. 299.
And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.53–65. The Jewish Trial
53. And they led Jesus away] They bound Him first (John 18:12), and then conducted Him across the Kidron and up the road leading into the city.
to the high priest] This we know from St John was Caiaphas. But our Lord was first brought to the palace of Annas his father-in-law (John 18:13). This was either at the suggestion of some of the ruling powers, or in accordance with previous arrangement, that his “snake-like” astuteness as president of the Sanhedrim might help his less crafty son-in-law. The palace seems to have been jointly occupied by both as a common official residence, and thither, though it was deep midnight, the chief priests, elders, and scribes repaired.
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.54. And Peter] Before the palace or within its outer porch appears to have been a large open square court, in which public business was transacted. Into it Peter and John ventured to follow (John 18:15). The latter, as being acquainted with the high-priest, easily obtained admittance; Peter, at first rejected by the porteress, was suffered to enter at the request of his brother Apostle.
and warmed himself] The night was chilly, and in the centre of the court the servants of the high-priest had made a fire of charcoal, and there Peter, now admitted, was warming himself at the open hearth.
And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.55. And the chief priests] St Mark passes over the details of the examination before Annas and the first commencement of insult and violence, recorded only by St John (John 18:19-24). He places us in the mansion of Caiaphas, whither our Lord was conducted across the courtyard, and where a more formal assembly of the council of the nation had met together.
sought for witness] By the Law they were bound to secure the agreement of two witnesses on some specific charge. Before Annas an attempt had been made to entangle the Accused with insidious questions. A more formal character must now be given to the proceedings.
For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.56. but their witness agreed not together] “þe witnessingis weren not couenable,” Wyclif. The Law required that at least two witnesses must agree. See Deuteronomy 17:6; Deuteronomy 19:15. But now some who came forward had nothing relevant to say, and others contradicted themselves.
And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,57. And there arose certain] Two at last came forward, whose evidence appeared likely to be more satisfactory.
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.58. We heard him say] The statements now made are given with more detail by St Mark than any other of the Evangelists. He alone tells us they said that they had heard our Lord declare, “He would destroy the Temple made with hands and in three days build another made without hands.” In the opposition made with hands and made without hands we have proof of the falseness of the accusation.
But neither so did their witness agree together.59. neither so] The utterance of words tending to bring the Temple into contempt was regarded as so grave an offence that it afterwards formed a capital charge against the first martyr, Stephen (Acts 6:13). But dangerous as was the charge, it broke down. The statements of the witnesses did not tally, and their testimony was therefore worthless. Their memories had travelled over three years to the occasion of the first Passover at Jerusalem and the first cleansing of the Temple. But they perverted the real facts of the case (John 2:18-22). St Mark alone notices the disagreement of their testimony. “The differences between the recorded words of our Lord and the reports of the witnesses are striking: ‘I can destroy’ (Matthew 26:61); ‘I will destroy’ (Mark 14:58); as compared with ‘Destroy … and I will raise’ (John 2:19).” Westcott’s Introduction, p. 326 n.
And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?60. And the high priest stood up] The impressive silence, which our Lord preserved, while false witnesses were being sought against Him (Matthew 26:62), was galling to the pride of Caiaphas, who saw that nothing remained but to force Him, if possible, to criminate Himself. Standing up, therefore, in the midst (a graphic touch which we owe to St Mark alone), he adjured Him in the most solemn manner possible (Matthew 26:63) to declare whether He was “the Malcha Meschicha”—the King Messiah, the Son of the Blessed.
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.62. And Jesus said. I am] Thus adjured, the Lord broke the silence He had hitherto maintained. His answer to such a question must be liable to no misinterpretation. Peter in an ecstatic moment had declared He was the King Messiah, “the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16), and He had not refused the awful Name. Thousands also of Galilean pilgrims had saluted Him with Hosannas in this character through the streets of Jerusalem. But as yet He had not openly declared Himself. The supreme moment, however, had at length arrived, and He now replied, “I am—the Messiah, the Son of God, the Son of Man—and hereafter ye shall see Me sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” Comp. Daniel 7:13; Psalm 8:4; Psalm 110:1.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?63. Then the high priest] Caiaphas had now gained his end. The Accused had spoken. He had criminated Himself. All was uproar and confusion. The high-priest rent his linen robes. This was not lawful for him to do in cases of mourning (Leviticus 10:6; Leviticus 21:10), but was allowable in cases of blasphemy (see 2 Kings 18:37). It was to be performed standing, and so that the rent was to be from the neck straight downwards. The use of the plural “his clothes,” by St Mark, seems to intimate that he tore all his clothes, except that which was next his body.
Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.64. they all condemned him] Worse than false prophet, worse than false Messiah, He had declared Himself to be the “Song of Solomon of God,” and that in the presence of the high-priest and the great Council. He had incurred the capital penalty. But though they thus passed sentence, they could not execute it. The right had been taken from them ever since Judæa became a Roman province. The sentence, therefore, needed confirmation, and the matter must be referred to the Roman governor.
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.65. And some began] It was now about three o’clock in the morning, and till further steps could be taken our Lord was left in charge of soldiers of the guard and the servants and apparitors of the high-priest.
to spit on him] In those rough ages a prisoner under sentence of death was ever delivered over to the mockery of his guards. It was so now with the Holy One of God. Spitting was regarded by the Jews as an expression of the greatest contempt (Numbers 12:14; Deuteronomy 25:9). Seneca records that it was inflicted at Athens on Aristides the Just, but it was only with the utmost difficulty any one could be found willing to do it. But those who were excommunicated were specially liable to this expression of contempt (Isaiah 50:6).
did strike him with the palms of their hands] “The hands they bound had healed the sick, and raised the dead; the lips they smote had calmed the winds and waves. One word and His smiters might have been laid low in death. But as He had begun and continued, He would end—as self-restrained in the use of His awful powers on His own behalf as if He had been the most helpless of men—Divine patience and infinite love knew no wearying.”
And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:66–72. The Denial of our Lord by St Peter
66. And as Peter] During the sad scene enacted in the hall of trial above, an almost sadder moral tragedy had been enacted in the court below.
And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.67. warming himself] This seems to have been shortly after his entrance, as related above. The maid who approached probably was the porteress who had admitted him.
she looked upon him] with fixed and earnest gaze, as the original word used by St Luke (Luke 22:56) implies.
But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.68. but he denied] Thrown off his guard and perhaps disconcerted by the searching glances of the bystanders, Peter replied at first evasively, that he neither knew nor understood what she meant. See Lange, Life, iv. p. 316. Others think it means, “I know Him not, neither understand I what thou sayest.”
into the porch] Anxious probably for a favourable opportunity of retiring altogether, the Apostle now moved towards the darkness of the porch. Here the second denial took place (Matthew 26:71-72), and for the first time a cock crew.
And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.69. a maid saw him again] Recognised at the porch, Peter seems to have returned once more towards the fire, and was conversing in his rough Galilean dialect with the soldiers and servants when, alter the lapse of an hour, another maid approached.
to them that stood by] On this occasion she addressed herself to the bystanders, amongst whom was a kinsman of Malchus (John 18:26).
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.70. And he denied it again] This denial was probably addressed to those round the fire. But escape was hopeless. “Surely,” said one, “this fellow is one of them;” “Thou art a Galilæan,” said another, “and thy speech agreeth thereto.” These last words are omitted by Lachmann, Tischendorf, and Tregelles. “Thy speech bewrayeth thee” are the words used by St Matthew (Matthew 26:73). The Galilean burr was rough and indistinct. Hence the Galileans were not allowed to read aloud in the Jewish synagogues.
But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.71. he began to curse and to swear] Assailed by the bystanders just mentioned and by the kinsman of Malchus (John 18:26), the Apostle now fell deeper still. With oaths and curses he denied that he had ever known the Man of whom they spoke, and at that moment, for the second time, the cock crew, and at the same moment the Lord, either (a) on His way from the apartments of Annas across the courtyard to the palace of Caiaphas, or (b) thrust back into the court after His condemnation, turned and looked upon Peter (Luke 22:61).
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.72. And Peter called to mind] That glance of sorrow went straight to the Apostle’s heart; all that his Lord had said, all His repeated warnings rushed back to his remembrance, and lit up the darkness of his soul. He could contain himself no longer, and
when he thought thereon] for so we have rendered the original word. Others render it (i) abundantly = “he wept abundantly,” as in the margin; others (ii) “he began to weep;” others (iii) “he threw his mantle over his head;” others (iv) “he flung himself forth and wept,”
he wept] Not with the remorse of Judas, but the godly sorrow of true repentance. Observe that the Apostle has not lessened his fault, for it is from him, doubtless, through St Mark, we are informed “that the first crowing of the cock did not suffice to recal him to his duty, but a second was needed.” Lange.