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Forum: The Passion According To Mark 14:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 28, 2009

[forum:10]

Note #1:  This post was previously published and is now offered as a forum for discussion.  It is  the first in a series focusing on the Passion according to St Mark.  Please feel free to leave comments, insights, questions, critiques, ect.  You can access these discussions by clicking on the “St Mark’s Forum” page listed above in the link field under this blog’s title.

Note #2:   I’m using the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible because it is not under copyright.  Some readers may find the translation a bit archaic, and for this reason I have provided links (see “RSV Text”) to the quoted passage in the RSV translation.

14:1 (RSV Text) Now the feast of the pasch and of the Azymes was after two days: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.

Passover (pasch) and unleavened bread (Azymes) were two feast which were closely connected.  Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan  (March/April) according to the Jewish calender.  The reason and ritual of the feast are described in Exodus 12:1-14 (See RSV Text)

Exo 12:1  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
Exo 12:2  This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first in the months of the year.
Exo 12:3  Speak ye to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses.
Exo 12:4  But if the number be less than may suffice to eat the lamb, he shall take unto him his neighbour that joineth to his house, according to the number of souls which may be enough to eat the lamb.
Exo 12:5  And it shall be a lamb without blemish, a male, of one year; according to which rite also you shall take a kid.
Exo 12:6  And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening.
Exo 12:7  And they shall take of the blood thereof, and put it upon both the side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
Exo 12:8  And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread with wild lettuce.
Exo 12:9  You shall not eat thereof any thing raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire; you shall eat the head with the feet and entrails thereof.
Exo 12:10  Neither shall there remain any thing of it until morning. If there be any thing left, you shall burn it with fire.
Exo 12:11  And thus you shall eat it: you shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat in haste; for it is the Phase (that is the Passage) of the Lord.
Exo 12:12  And I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast: and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the Lord.
Exo 12:13  And the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be; and I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you; and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt.
Exo 12:14  And this day shall be for a memorial to you; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord in your generations, with an everlasting observance.

The feast of unleavened bread began on the same day as Passover, but it continued for a total of seven days.  Here is what we read in Exodus 12:15-39 (See RSV Text) concerning this feast and the Israelites fulfillment of both ceremonies:

Exo 12:15  Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread: in the first day there shall be no leaven in your houses; whosoever shall eat any thing leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall perish out of Israel.
Exo 12:16  The first day shall be holy and solemn, and the seventh day shall be kept with the like solemnity: you shall do no work in them, except those things that belong to eating.
Exo 12:17  And you shall observe the feast of the unleavened bread: for in this same day I will bring forth your army out of the land of Egypt, and you shall keep this day in your generations by a perpetual observance.
Exo 12:18  The first month, the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the same month, in the evening.
Exo 12:19  Seven days there shall not be found any leaven in your houses: he that shall eat leavened bread, his soul shall perish out of the assembly of Israel, whether he be a stranger or born in the land.
Exo 12:20  You shall not eat any thing leavened: in all your habitations you shall eat unleavened bread.
Exo 12:21  And Moses called all the ancients of the children of Israel, and said to them: Go take a lamb by your families, and sacrifice the Phase.
Exo 12:22  And dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood that is at the door, and sprinkle the transom of the door therewith, and both the door cheeks: let none of you go out of the door of his house till morning.
Exo 12:23  For the Lord will pass through striking the Egyptians: and when he shall see the blood on the transom, and on both the posts, he will pass over the door of the house, and not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses and to hurt you.
Exo 12:24  Thou shalt keep this thing as a law for thee and thy children for ever.
Exo 12:25  And when you have entered into the land which the Lord will give you, as he hath promised, you shall observe these ceremonies.
Exo 12:26  And when your children shall say to you: What is the meaning of this service?
Exo 12:27  You shall say to them: It is the victim of the passage of the Lord, when he passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, striking the Egyptians, and saving our houses. And the people bowing themselves, adored.
Exo 12:28  And the children of Israel going forth, did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.
Exo 12:29  And it came to pass at midnight, the Lord slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharao, who sat on his throne, unto the firstborn of the captive woman that was in the prison, and all the firstborn of cattle.
Exo 12:30  And Pharao arose in the night, and all his servants, and all Egypt: and there arose a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house wherein there lay not one dead.
Exo 12:31  And Pharao calling Moses and Aaron, in the night, said: Arise and go forth from among my people, you and the children of Israel: go, sacrifice to the Lord as you say.
Exo 12:32  Your sheep and herds take along with you, as you demanded, and departing bless me.
Exo 12:33  And the Egyptians pressed the people to go forth out of the land speedily, saying: We shall all die.
Exo 12:34  The people therefore took dough before it was leavened; and tying it in their cloaks, put it on their shoulders.
Exo 12:35  And the children of Israel did as Moses had commanded: and they asked of the Egyptians vessels of silver and gold, and very much raiment.
Exo 12:36  And the Lord gave favour to the people in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them: and they stripped the Egyptians.
Exo 12:37  And the children of Israel set forward from Ramesse to Socoth, being about six hundred thousand men on foot, beside children.
Exo 12:38  And a mixed multitude, without number, went up also with them, sheep and herds, and beasts of divers kinds, exceeding many.
Exo 12:39  And they baked the meal, which a little before they had brought out of Egypt in dough: and they made hearth cakes unleavened: for it could not be leavened, the Egyptians pressing them to depart, and not suffering them to make any stay; neither did they think of preparing any meat.

Because the two days were so closely linked it was not uncommon to refer to them as one feast, as St Mark does here.

According to Exodus 12:19 the Jews were to rid their house of all traces of Leaven.  It was required that they do this on the day before the 14th of Nisan, but devout Jews then as now usually began cleaning the house of leaven up to a week before this.  The Exodus marked a new beginning in the relationship between the people and God, and leaven, which is a corrupting influence, came to symbolize that which adversely effected the relationship with God and the covenant.  For this reason the meticulous removal of leaven from the home came to symbolize the need for moral renewal.

At a time when devout Jews were engaging in such devotion, the chief priests and scribes were seeking to do evil by wiles.  The feast of Passover was a celebration of  God as the God of freedom and life, but as it approached we read that the chief priests and scribes were plotting how they might lay hold (i.e., arrest) our blessed Lord and put him to death.

This information lends poignancy to the literary connection St Mark has established between the opening of his Passion narrative and the end time discourse of chapter 13. Now the feast of the pasch and of the Azymes was after two days: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.

Now is a translation of the Greek de, which is what one may call an adversative conjunctive.  As a conjunctive it links up what is about to be written with what has just been written.  As an adversative it alerts the reader to some intended contrast between the conjoined texts.

In the opening verse of the passion narrative quoted above St Mark writes (literal Greek)And the chief priests and scribes kept on looking how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.  St Mark, by employing a site verb (zeteo) in the imperfect tense is emphasizing the intensity and commitment  the enemies of our Lord have toward gaining the end they have in view, namely, his death.  Now, as we will see (I do not want to get ahead of myself) the passion of our Lord inaugurates the end time, a period which, as the Lord made clear in his end time discourse, will include the attempt to delude and persecute his followers, hence the emphasis on watching and seeing:

Take heed (literally, “look out”) lest any man deceive you…(13:5 See RSV Text).   But look to yourselves. For they shall deliver you Up to councils: and in the synagogues you shall be beaten: and you shall stand before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony unto them (13:9 See RSV).  And when you shall see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not (he that readeth let him understand): then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains (13:14 See RSV).  And then if any man shall say to you: Lo (see, behold), here is Christ. Lo, he is here: do not believe.  For there will rise up false Christs and false prophets: and they shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce (if it were possible) even the elect.  Take you heed (look out) therefore: behold (see), I have foretold you all things (13:21-23 See RSV).  Now of the fig tree learn ye a parable. When the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves are come forth, you know that summer is very near.  So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know ye that it is very nigh, even at the doors.  Amen, I say to you that this generation shall not pass until all these things be done.  Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my word shall not pass away.  But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father.  Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is.  Even as a man who, going into a far country, left his house and gave authority to his servants over every work and commanded the porter to watchWatch ye therefore (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning): Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch (13:28-37 See RSV).

As the end time winds down the enemies of Christ and the Gospel will only become more zealous in their animosity.  Christians must be aware of what is going on around them and equally committed to holding fast to the faith and defending it.  Mark wrote his Gospel as persecution loomed, and it seems he was afraid many would succumb, and go the way of Judas.

Chief Priests and Scribes.  The animosity of the scribes began early in Jesus ministry, when at Capernuam Our Lord healed a paralytic and forgave him his sins.  “Who,” They asked, “can forgive sins but God alone?” and they accuse him of blasphemy.  This is in chapter 2.  Latter, in this same chapter, some scribes, along with some Pharisees, object to our Lord’s associating with sinners at a meal.  Latter still, in chapter 7, we see some scribes come to Jesus from Jerusalem itself and they are incensed by seeing His disciples eating food without having ritually purified themselves.  Only after this event with the Jerusalem scribes do we get an indication that Jesus will have trouble with the Chief priests.  This indication comes in his first passion prediction in chapter 8, where Jesus teaches that the elders, the chief priests and scribes will put him to death.  Apparently, the Jerusalem scribes brought back to the chief priests a report concerning our Lord which did not sit well with them.  So when Jesus entered Jerusalem and cleared the money changers-who, incidentally, belonged to the priestly families-when he cleared them from the temple the chief priests were probably already less than well-disposed towards him.  In fact, at the end of the account of the temple cleansing and the reasons for it in chapter 11, St Mark tells us that the chief priests and scribes sought to destroy him.

Mar 14:2 (See RSVBut they said: Not on the festival day, lest there should be a tumult among the people.  Jesus’ popularity among the people led the authorities to fear the crowd.  Any public move against Jesus would have been difficult as the leaders had already come to realize (11:18; 12:12), thus the necessity of wile (14:1).  For all their careful seeking and planning their desire will be thwarted, Jesus will die during the festival, for he and His Father are on their own time schedule, not that of their enemies.   Prophecy, not the will of man will be fulfilled.  Even their desire to put him to death will be thwarted, for he will rise again.

Posted in Bible, Notes on Mark, Passion of Mark | 2 Comments »

The Passion According To Mark 14:1-2

Posted by Dim Bulb on February 22, 2009

[forum:10]

Note #1:  This post is offered as a forum for discussion, and is the first in a series focusing on the Passion according to St Mark.  Please feel free to leave comments, insights, questions, critiques, ect.  You can access these discussions by clicking on the “St Mark’s Forum” page listed above in the link field under this blog’s title.

Note #2:   I’m using the Douay-Rheims translation of the Bible because it is not under copyright.  Some readers may find the translation a bit archaic, and for this reason I have provided links (see “RSV Text”) to the quoted passage in the RSV translation.

14:1 (RSV Text) Now the feast of the pasch and of the Azymes was after two days: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.

Passover (pasch) and unleavened bread (Azymes) were two feast which were closely connected.  Passover was celebrated on the 14th day of Nisan  (March/April) according to the Jewish calender.  The reason and ritual of the feast are described in Exodus 12:1-14 (See RSV Text)

Exo 12:1  And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:
Exo 12:2  This month shall be to you the beginning of months; it shall be the first in the months of the year.
Exo 12:3  Speak ye to the whole assembly of the children of Israel, and say to them: On the tenth day of this month let every man take a lamb by their families and houses.
Exo 12:4  But if the number be less than may suffice to eat the lamb, he shall take unto him his neighbour that joineth to his house, according to the number of souls which may be enough to eat the lamb.
Exo 12:5  And it shall be a lamb without blemish, a male, of one year; according to which rite also you shall take a kid.
Exo 12:6  And you shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; and the whole multitude of the children of Israel shall sacrifice it in the evening.
Exo 12:7  And they shall take of the blood thereof, and put it upon both the side posts, and on the upper door posts of the houses, wherein they shall eat it.
Exo 12:8  And they shall eat the flesh that night roasted at the fire, and unleavened bread with wild lettuce.
Exo 12:9  You shall not eat thereof any thing raw, nor boiled in water, but only roasted at the fire; you shall eat the head with the feet and entrails thereof.
Exo 12:10  Neither shall there remain any thing of it until morning. If there be any thing left, you shall burn it with fire.
Exo 12:11  And thus you shall eat it: you shall gird your reins, and you shall have shoes on your feet, holding staves in your hands, and you shall eat in haste; for it is the Phase (that is the Passage) of the Lord.
Exo 12:12  And I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and will kill every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast: and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments; I am the Lord.
Exo 12:13  And the blood shall be unto you for a sign in the houses where you shall be; and I shall see the blood, and shall pass over you; and the plague shall not be upon you to destroy you, when I shall strike the land of Egypt.
Exo 12:14  And this day shall be for a memorial to you; and you shall keep it a feast to the Lord in your generations, with an everlasting observance.

The feast of unleavened bread began on the same day as Passover, but it continued for a total of seven days.  Here is what we read in Exodus 12:15-39 (See RSV Text) concerning this feast and the Israelites fulfillment of both ceremonies:

Exo 12:15  Seven days shall you eat unleavened bread: in the first day there shall be no leaven in your houses; whosoever shall eat any thing leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that soul shall perish out of Israel.
Exo 12:16  The first day shall be holy and solemn, and the seventh day shall be kept with the like solemnity: you shall do no work in them, except those things that belong to eating.
Exo 12:17  And you shall observe the feast of the unleavened bread: for in this same day I will bring forth your army out of the land of Egypt, and you shall keep this day in your generations by a perpetual observance.
Exo 12:18  The first month, the fourteenth day of the month, in the evening, you shall eat unleavened bread, until the one and twentieth day of the same month, in the evening.
Exo 12:19  Seven days there shall not be found any leaven in your houses: he that shall eat leavened bread, his soul shall perish out of the assembly of Israel, whether he be a stranger or born in the land.
Exo 12:20  You shall not eat any thing leavened: in all your habitations you shall eat unleavened bread.
Exo 12:21  And Moses called all the ancients of the children of Israel, and said to them: Go take a lamb by your families, and sacrifice the Phase.
Exo 12:22  And dip a bunch of hyssop in the blood that is at the door, and sprinkle the transom of the door therewith, and both the door cheeks: let none of you go out of the door of his house till morning.
Exo 12:23  For the Lord will pass through striking the Egyptians: and when he shall see the blood on the transom, and on both the posts, he will pass over the door of the house, and not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses and to hurt you.
Exo 12:24  Thou shalt keep this thing as a law for thee and thy children for ever.
Exo 12:25  And when you have entered into the land which the Lord will give you, as he hath promised, you shall observe these ceremonies.
Exo 12:26  And when your children shall say to you: What is the meaning of this service?
Exo 12:27  You shall say to them: It is the victim of the passage of the Lord, when he passed over the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt, striking the Egyptians, and saving our houses. And the people bowing themselves, adored.
Exo 12:28  And the children of Israel going forth, did as the Lord had commanded Moses and Aaron.
Exo 12:29  And it came to pass at midnight, the Lord slew every firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the firstborn of Pharao, who sat on his throne, unto the firstborn of the captive woman that was in the prison, and all the firstborn of cattle.
Exo 12:30  And Pharao arose in the night, and all his servants, and all Egypt: and there arose a great cry in Egypt; for there was not a house wherein there lay not one dead.
Exo 12:31  And Pharao calling Moses and Aaron, in the night, said: Arise and go forth from among my people, you and the children of Israel: go, sacrifice to the Lord as you say.
Exo 12:32  Your sheep and herds take along with you, as you demanded, and departing bless me.
Exo 12:33  And the Egyptians pressed the people to go forth out of the land speedily, saying: We shall all die.
Exo 12:34  The people therefore took dough before it was leavened; and tying it in their cloaks, put it on their shoulders.
Exo 12:35  And the children of Israel did as Moses had commanded: and they asked of the Egyptians vessels of silver and gold, and very much raiment.
Exo 12:36  And the Lord gave favour to the people in the sight of the Egyptians, so that they lent unto them: and they stripped the Egyptians.
Exo 12:37  And the children of Israel set forward from Ramesse to Socoth, being about six hundred thousand men on foot, beside children.
Exo 12:38  And a mixed multitude, without number, went up also with them, sheep and herds, and beasts of divers kinds, exceeding many.
Exo 12:39  And they baked the meal, which a little before they had brought out of Egypt in dough: and they made hearth cakes unleavened: for it could not be leavened, the Egyptians pressing them to depart, and not suffering them to make any stay; neither did they think of preparing any meat.

Because the two days were so closely linked it was not uncommon to refer to them as one feast, as St Mark does here.

According to Exodus 12:19 the Jews were to rid their house of all traces of Leaven.  It was required that they do this on the day before the 14th of Nisan, but devout Jews then as now usually began cleaning the house of leaven up to a week before this.  The Exodus marked a new beginning in the relationship between the people and God, and leaven, which is a corrupting influence, came to symbolize that which adversely effected the relationship with God and the covenant.  For this reason the meticulous removal of leaven from the home came to symbolize the need for moral renewal.

At a time when devout Jews were engaging in such devotion, the chief priests and scribes were seeking to do evil by wiles.  The feast of Passover was a celebration of  God as the God of freedom and life, but as it approached we read that the chief priests and scribes were plotting how they might lay hold (i.e., arrest) our blessed Lord and put him to death.

This information lends poignancy to the literary connection St Mark has established between the opening of his Passion narrative and the end time discourse of chapter 13. Now the feast of the pasch and of the Azymes was after two days: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.

Now is a translation of the Greek de, which is what one may call an adversative conjunctive.  As a conjunctive it links up what is about to be written with what has just been written.  As an adversative it alerts the reader to some intended contrast between the conjoined texts.

In the opening verse of the passion narrative quoted above St Mark writes (literal Greek)And the chief priests and scribes kept on looking how they might by some wile lay hold on him and kill him.  St Mark, by employing a site verb (zeteo) in the imperfect tense is emphasizing the intensity and commitment  the enemies of our Lord have toward gaining the end they have in view, namely, his death.  Now, as we will see (I do not want to get ahead of myself) the passion of our Lord inaugurates the end time, a period which, as the Lord made clear in his end time discourse, will include the attempt to delude and persecute his followers, hence the emphasis on watching and seeing:

Take heed (literally, “look out”) lest any man deceive you…(13:5 See RSV Text).   But look to yourselves. For they shall deliver you Up to councils: and in the synagogues you shall be beaten: and you shall stand before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony unto them (13:9 See RSV).  And when you shall see the abomination of desolation, standing where it ought not (he that readeth let him understand): then let them that are in Judea flee unto the mountains (13:14 See RSV).  And then if any man shall say to you: Lo (see, behold), here is Christ. Lo, he is here: do not believe.  For there will rise up false Christs and false prophets: and they shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce (if it were possible) even the elect.  Take you heed (look out) therefore: behold (see), I have foretold you all things (13:21-23 See RSV).  Now of the fig tree learn ye a parable. When the branch thereof is now tender and the leaves are come forth, you know that summer is very near.  So you also when you shall see these things come to pass, know ye that it is very nigh, even at the doors.  Amen, I say to you that this generation shall not pass until all these things be done.  Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my word shall not pass away.  But of that day or hour no man knoweth, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father.  Take ye heed, watch and pray. For ye know not when the time is.  Even as a man who, going into a far country, left his house and gave authority to his servants over every work and commanded the porter to watchWatch ye therefore (for you know not when the lord of the house cometh, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock crowing, or in the morning): Lest coming on a sudden, he find you sleeping.  And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch (13:28-37 See RSV).

As the end time winds down the enemies of Christ and the Gospel will only become more zealous in their animosity.  Christians must be aware of what is going on around them and equally committed to holding fast to the faith and defending it.  Mark wrote his Gospel as persecution loomed, and it seems he was afraid many would succumb, and go the way of Judas.

Chief Priests and Scribes.  The animosity of the scribes began early in Jesus ministry, when at Capernuam Our Lord healed a paralytic and forgave him his sins.  “Who,” They asked, “can forgive sins but God alone?” and they accuse him of blasphemy.  This is in chapter 2.  Latter, in this same chapter, some scribes, along with some Pharisees, object to our Lord’s associating with sinners at a meal.  Latter still, in chapter 7, we see some scribes come to Jesus from Jerusalem itself and they are incensed by seeing His disciples eating food without having ritually purified themselves.  Only after this event with the Jerusalem scribes do we get an indication that Jesus will have trouble with the Chief priests.  This indication comes in his first passion prediction in chapter 8, where Jesus teaches that the elders, the chief priests and scribes will put him to death.  Apparently, the Jerusalem scribes brought back to the chief priests a report concerning our Lord which did not sit well with them.  So when Jesus entered Jerusalem and cleared the money changers-who, incidentally, belonged to the priestly families-when he cleared them from the temple the chief priests were probably already less than well-disposed towards him.  In fact, at the end of the account of the temple cleansing and the reasons for it in chapter 11, St Mark tells us that the chief priests and scribes sought to destroy him.

Mar 14:2 (See RSVBut they said: Not on the festival day, lest there should be a tumult among the people.  Jesus’ popularity among the people led the authorities to fear the crowd.  Any public move against Jesus would have been difficult as the leaders had already come to realize (11:18; 12:12), thus the necessity of wile (14:1).  For all their careful seeking and planning their desire will be thwarted, Jesus will die during the festival, for he and His Father are on their own time schedule, not that of their enemies.   Prophecy, not the will of man will be fulfilled.  Even their desire to put him to death will be thwarted, for he will rise again.

Posted in Bible, Passion of Mark | Leave a Comment »

The Passion According To Mark (part 1)

Posted by Dim Bulb on January 16, 2007

Mark’s eschatological (end time) discourse and the events leading up to it (11:1-13:37) immediately precede his passion narrative [1] and should be seen as closely connected to it. Some of the following connections are these:

1. Jesus cleanses the temple, an event that should be seen as a prophecy in action. The full significance of this event becomes clear when Jesus predicts the temples destruction (13:1-8). This connects with the passion narrative which describes the rending of the temple veil when Our Lord expires on the cross (15:38).

2. In his parable of the wicked tenants (12:1-12) Jesus clearly alludes to his death. This is, of course, a major theme of the final narrative.

3. In his eschatological discourse Our Lord speaks of the sun being darkened (13:24); an event that happens at his crucifixion (15:33). [2]

4. A number of times in the eschatological discourse our Lord exhorts his followers to “watch” (13:5, 9, 23, 33, 34, 35, 37; see also 29), indeed, the final word of that discourse is “watch;” as we will see, the theme of watchfulness looms large in the opening of the passion narrative and in the garden scene.

14:1-11: The opening scene is divided into three concentrically arraigned parts. This means one story (or theme) is interrupted by another and only then concluded. Mark interrupts the story of the conspiracy against Jesus with an account of one woman’s beautiful act of discipleship.

A1) Jewish leaders plot against Jesus (14:1-2)
B) A woman anoints Jesus for his impending burial (14:3-9)

A 2) Judas joins the plot against Jesus (14:10-11).

14:1-2

Vs 1 Now the passover and the feast of unleavened bread were two days away, and the chief priests and the scribes were constantly looking to take hold of him by guile, and kill him;

Vs 2 saying, “not during the feast, lest there be a tumult among by the people.” (My translation)
We are to understand that the events being narrated in 4:1-11 (Judas’ plot and the supper) took place immediately after the end time discourse. Two days away according to Jewish reckoning means that the events happened sometime between the sundowns of Tuesday and Wednesday . Since Jesus is at a meal in vss 3-9 it is likely that this event occurred sometime on Wednesday, two days before his death, which took place near sundown on Friday.

The Greek text states that the priests and scribes were constantly looking for a way to get at Jesus. Their plotting didn’t just begin on Wednesday of holy week (see 8:31; 10:32; 11:18, 27), but certainly his confrontation with them after his entry into Jerusalem had “put bees in their bonnets.” Because of this emphasis on the constant watching of the leaders, and because of Judas’ looking for a way to betray Jesus (vs 11), Wednesday of Holy Week is known in the Catholic liturgical tradition as “spy Wednesday.” As the opponents and one disciple of our Blessed Lord carefully seek his death, the remainder of those disciples seem blissfully unaware; including Peter, James and John who, along with Andrew, had heard the end time discourse and the repeated exhortations to watch.

14:3-9

Vs 3 And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head.

Vs 4 There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was this ointment wasted like that?

Vs 5 “For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her.

Vs 6 But Jesus said. “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.

Vs 7 “For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me.

Vs 8 “She has done what she could; she has anointed by body beforehand for burial.

Vs 9 “And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

Vs 10 Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went up to the chief priests in order to betray him to them.

Vs 11 And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him.
Jesus first entered into controversy with the Jewish leaders in 2:1-3:6, which consists of five controversies regarding aspects of Jewish law and practice. These five controversies were prefaced by the account of Jesus healing a leper and telling him to fulfill the law of Moses, thus showing Jesus to be a devout Jew. Now, as the Jewish leaders plot to take hold of (arrest) him, he reclines at the table of a leper as a free man [3].

With the feasts of passover and unleavened bread looming, devout Jews would be preparing for the feasts by emptying their house of leaven (Exodus 12:14-15), a symbol of corruption (1 Cor 5:6-8) which our Lord once applied to the leaders (Mark 8:14). Now, as corrupt Jewish leaders unwittingly prepare for the true passover (1 Cor 5:7) sacrifice, a woman anoints Jesus in anticipation of it.

The ointment she uses could have been sold for three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor. One of the greatest and most important of Jewish devotions was the giving of alms to the poor. This took on special meaning during passover time, for the feast was a celebration of their liberty and enrichment (see Exodus 3:19-22 and 12:35-36). Jesus was a poor man (see Mark 10:21; Matt 8:20) who would die a criminals death and be buried in a borrowed tomb. Plotted against by greedy men who “ate up widow’s houses” (12:40) but who nonetheless were glad…to give him (Judas) money they stand in marked contrast to the woman and the beautiful thing she has done. Judas’ perfidy will be forever remembered; his name forever associated with treachery; and the words Jesus spoke of him “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! Better for him if he had never been born” (14:21) will always send a chill down ones spine. But this nameless woman who did a beautiful thing for Jesus, “Wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.”

These words Jesus spoke concerning the woman immediately precede the story of Judas’ betrayal. That story opens up by identifying Judas as one of the twelve. There is intense irony here when one remembers the calling of Judas: “And he went up a mountain and he called to him those he desired, and they came to him. And he appointed twelve so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons. He appointed twelve…(including) Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.” (3:13-19). Sadly, the thing done by the woman, which was to be preached in the whole world, would not be preached by Judas, one of the twelve.

For more on the Passion of Mark go:

HERE

HERE
For detailed outlines to various parts of Mark, go here.

NOTES

1. Strictly speaking the final narrative of the Gospel, 14:1-16:20, includes the resurrection.

2. In 13:24-27 Jesus is talking about his second coming when he will “gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.” The darkening of the sun immediately precedes this event. The sun is darkened when Jesus dies and with his death the pagan (gentile) centurion confesses him to be the Son of God (15:33-39). I see this as the initial gathering of the elect to faith, which foreshadows the final salvation of the elect with the second coming.

3. In the ancient world reclining while eating was a sign of freedom.

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