Mark XXIV: Preparing for Jesus' Death - Mark 14:1-26

The first part of Mark 14 pulls us back out of the cosmic, all-encompassing events that would turn the world upside down in Mark 13 into the small-scale personal decisions that lead up to the arrest of Jesus. Taken together, the message of verses 1-26 is that preparing for the Passover and preparing for Jesus’ death is one and the same thing. Jesus presents His death as a new Passover, one that fulfills the original Passover and causes it to overflow with new meaning.

The joint celebration of the Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread was an exciting time, but also a dangerous time. It was pretty common for revolutionaries to try to turn the ancient history of being set free from oppression into current events. Rome had learned to quickly crack down on any disturbance during this time, and so the Jewish leaders knew that things could spin out of control if they arrested a popular rabbi during the feast. That’s why they were trying to figure out a way to take him and kill him without attracting attention.

In contrast to their plotting, Mark takes us to Simon the Leper’s house in Bethany, where a woman who remains anonymous in Mark comes to Jesus and anoints Him with precious oil. Jesus says that this is a beautiful act in preparation for His burial, so “gospel-appropriate” that it will be proclaimed along with the gospel all over the world.

But some of the guests and disciples didn’t see sacrificial love in her action; all they saw was wasteful folly. Because they did not understand who Jesus was and what He was about to do, those who complained could not see that showing costly love to Jesus is even better than saving for the future or giving to the poor. And it seems like this extravagant anointing is the last straw for Judas. The Roman-tax-paying, temple-smashing, ointment-wasting kingdom that Jesus is bringing is not the kingdom Judas wants. He sees only by sight, not by faith, and so he makes a horrible short-term bargain with eternally damning long-term effects. For a small pile of silver, he will lead the chief priests to Jesus so that they can arrest Him by stealth and kill Him.

After this plotting, anointing, and betraying, we come to the act of preparing in v.12-16. Jerusalem isn’t safe for Jesus, but the Passover must be eaten in Jerusalem, and so in a bit of a spy thriller moment, Jesus gives two disciples a coded message and tells them to follow the water-jar man to the secret Passover location where they can prepare the meal. Jesus isn’t being secretive out of fear, though. He has something very important to do with His disciples, and so He cannot allow Himself to be arrested just yet.

As they are eating the Passover, vv. 17-21 show us Jesus predicting His betrayal. His announcement causes a very profound reaction, as each one of the disciples engages in somber self-reflection: “Is it I?” Eleven of them had done nothing to betray Jesus, but all of them knew that they could. Jesus’ response calls Psalm 41:9 to mind, as He will be betrayed by a close friend who shares table fellowship with Him. He then gives a weighty word of theology, affirming in v. 21 that His betrayal is part of God’s sovereign plan, but at the same time, that doesn’t excuse Judas for the wicked choice he made.

What Jesus does in vv. 22-25 is much more profound than predicting His death and resurrection one more time. It goes far beyond simply teaching them about the meaning of His death, although it does do that. Jesus wants to do more than teach them and tell them something; He wants to share something with them, to commune with them, to make them participants in God’s story of redemption.

By choosing the Passover meal to establish His new covenant, Jesus is not merely saying that His passion is like the Passover. He embeds Himself into the Passover meal. The Passover is about Jesus! He is the lamb whose shed blood will cause the judgment of God to pass over them, because it falls on Him instead. And so despite their contrary intentions, by plotting Jesus’ death, Judas and the religious leaders are simply preparing the Passover meal for God to eat with His people. What they meant for evil, God meant for our eternal good.

When we eat and drink the Lord’s Supper together today, we are still sharing that same cup, still covered by the blood of the lamb who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus shares Himself with you and redeems you with His own blood. This is what the Apostle Paul understood when He wrote: “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore, let us keep the feast.”

Posted on Wednesday, September 12, 2018 by CJ Bowen