Mark 14

The chief priests and the teachers of the law conspire to arrest Jesus, but are afraid that if He is arrested during the Feast of the Unleavened Bread, the people will riot. While Jesus was in Bethany, reclining (presumably eating) at the home of Simon the Leper, a woman carrying an alabaster jar of nard, valued at a year’s wages, broke the jar and poured the perfume over Jesus’s head. People saw this as a waste of something that could have been sold to feed the poor, but Jesus said that she was anointing Him for burial and that we would always have the poor to assist.

Judas was apparently among those who was incensed at the waste of pouring expensive perfume on Jesus, because he went to the chief priests to offer to betray Jesus. They agreed to pay Judas for the betrayal.

On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Jesus sent two disciples ahead to make the preparations for the eating of the Passover dinner with the Twelve. There was apparently some secrecy, because first a man with a jar of water led them to the house with an upper room, and then they would ask the owner of the house to show them the guest room.

At the Passover meal, Jesus says that one of the Twelve will betray Him. Each of them, including Judas–who has already offered to betray Jesus– ask, “Surely not I?” Jesus warns that for His betrayer, it will be better if he had not been born. Then He offers up the bread as His body and the wine as the blood of the covenant. Jesus predicts they will all abandon Him. Against Peter’s protestations, Jesus predicts that he will deny Jesus three times. Jesus also prophesies that he will rise and lead them back to Galillee. Then they sing a hymn and go to the Mount of Olives, where Peter, James and John repeatedly fall asleep as Jesus prays to be spared His ordeal.

Judas arrives, leading an armed crowd sent by the chief priests, teachers of the law, and elders. He kisses Jesus as the signal of whom the crowd is to arrest, at which point someone strikes off the ear of the servant of the chief priest. All of Jesus’s followers flee, including a young man who abandons his clothing to escape arrest. Peter doubled back and followed Jesus’s jailers, even warming himself at the fire with the guards.

The chief priests, elders and teachers of the law, indeed the whole Sanhedrin served as Jesus’s tribunal. Jesus is silent until they ask Him if He is the Christ, the son of the Blessed One. Jesus asserts that He is, and that they will see the Son of Man seated by the Blessed One. This statement is condemned as blasphemy. Jesus is then spit upon, blindfolded, beaten, and ordered to prophesy.

Meanwhile Peter is meeting his own fate. A servant girl twice says that he was with Jesus. At first, he simply denies it, saying he doesn’t know what they are talking about. But then a stranger says that Peter must have been with Jesus, since Peter is a Galillean. At this point, Peter calls down curses upon himself and swears he doesn’t know Jesus. The cock crows, and Jesus’s prophecy about Peter is fulfilled.

Notes
1. Passover falls on the 14th day of Nisan, beginning the evening before the sunrise, and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread begins on Nisan 15 and runs for seven days. Passover, of course, celebrates the night when the Israelites marked the lintels of their doors with the blood of a freshly slain lamb so that the Angel of Death with pass over them and take only the firstborn children of the Egyptians. The Feast of Unleavened Bread represents the time of flight from the Egyptians, using bread baked without time for it to rise.
2.  Why would the Feast be a time when people might riot? It may be that this would have violated the prohibition against work.
3.  Why were the chief priests and the teachers of the law the primary conspirators against Jesus? Is this because this is a religious trial rather than a political event? 
4.  Alabaster is probably calcite. It can be deposited from stalagmites or from springs of calcium-rich water. Flawless calcite costs about $10/carat, with a carat equal to 2 grams. So the jar would presumably have cost at least a thousand dollars, and probably much more in modern terms.
5. Why did the woman break the jar, rather than simply opening it? The Greek for “break” is suntribo, and can mean “trample” or “crush.”
6.  Nard, or spikenard is derived from a plant of the valerian family found in Tibet, India, and China. It can be used as a sedative, particularly for insomnia or in childbirth.
7. Why will we always have the poor to assist? This seems to be a statement that the world will not covert to Christianity, because it would not take a very large number of people behaving as Jesus would have them behave to eliminate poverty.
8.  The Greek for Blessed One is eulogetos, which might be translated “the one well spoken of” or “the praised one.” It is only used eight times in the New Testament (Mark 14, Luke 1:68, Romans 1:25, Romans 9:5, 2 Cor. 1:3, 2 Cor. 11:31, Eph. 1:3, 1 Peter 1:3). There is another word used for blessed, makarios, which is about three times more common. Makarios, which might be translated “happy” or “fortunate” is used repeatedly in the Beatitudes, which word literally means “happiness” (Matthew 5, Luke 6)
9.  Note that the tribunal judging Jesus does not condemn Him to death. They only condemn Him as worthy of death. The Romans are the ones who have the actual power to order an execution. 

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