Grace to You Resources
Grace to You - Resource

Now I said last Sunday that we were going to, this Passion Week, look at the gospel of Mark and see his accounts of the events that took place the week of the Lord’s crucifixion, and I want to stay with that. So you can open your Bible to Mark chapter 14, Mark chapter 14, and I will read a section of that. That will be the main focus in a moment. But I want to just sort of set the stage a little bit.

The Jewish ruling council, Supreme Court of Israel, called the Sanhedrin, all the religious leaders wanted Jesus dead. They were jealous of His power. They were jealous of His popularity. They hated His message of gracious salvation. And of course, He had amped up their hostility by attacking the entire operation of the Temple early in the week. And in the several days since He entered Jerusalem and assaulted the Temple, and threw out the money changers and the buyers and sellers, and denounced it as a den of robbers—since that time, He has engaged in ongoing dialogue with the leaders. And that has not helped because it is obvious that He denounces their religion and advocates something alien to them. They have been ready to kill Him for a while. And that’s where we pick up the story, in chapter 14 and verse 1.

“The Passover and Unleavened Bread were two days away”—this is Wednesday—“and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth and kill Him; for they were saying, ‘Not during the festival, otherwise there might be a riot of the people.’” They wanted to take Him prisoner, they wanted to execute Him, but were afraid because of His popularity. They were fearful that it might start a riot, so they had to find a clandestine way to do that. They needed help. They needed somebody to help them to seize Jesus in an inconspicuous time and place. And that introduces to the story Judas.

Go down to verse 10 of chapter 14: “Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. They were glad when they heard this, and promised to give him money. And he began seeking how to betray Him at an opportune time.”

Over into verse 17 of that same chapter, “When it was evening He came with the twelve”—our Lord did for the Last Supper—and “as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.’ They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, ‘Surely not I?’ And He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who dips bread with Me in the bowl. For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.’” Jewish leaders had a man, a man who would betray Jesus into their hands for thirty pieces of silver, basically the price of a slave. Now it was just a matter of figuring out how to pull it off.

After supper, we pick up the story in verse 32. It says the entourage, Jesus and the disciples, “came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, ‘Sit here until I have prayed.’ And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. And He said to them, ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.’ And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began [praying] that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. And He was saying, ‘Abba! Father! All things are possible for You; remove this cup from Me; yet not what I will, but what You will.’ And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? Keep watching and praying, that you [will] not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.’ Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. And He came the third time, and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping and resting? It is enough. The hour has come; behold, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who is betrays Me is at hand!’” In that moment, verse 42, Judas and the entourage appear. And the text that I want you to look at particularly is verses 43 to 52. We’re going to consider the betrayal and arrest of Jesus.

“Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one”—still speaking to the twelve—“one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.’ After coming, Judas immediately went to Him saying, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed Him. [And] they laid hands on Him and seized Him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you [within] the temple [grounds] teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.’ And they”—meaning the disciples—“all left Him and fled. A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.” What a sad, ugly, bizarre, dramatic, poignant scene, the betrayal and arrest of Jesus. With this, the execution of Jesus is placed into motion from a human standpoint, and this is exactly on God’s timetable.

In verse 43, we see the crowd that showed up. And just to understand what kind of a crowd it was, we’ll look a little closer at it. “Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and scribes and elders.”

I guess the most tragic statement that I can see in that verse is Judas being identified as one of the twelve. That is the ultimate tragedy—“one of the twelve,” the greatest opportunity and privilege any human being could ever have, to be with the Lord for three years. And he had shaken off all of that privilege and left the upper room earlier and gone to negotiate this moment. Matthew chapter 26, verses 14 to 16 talks about how he negotiates the price. It is now, for Judas, a very frantic night: a meeting with the Sanhedrin, negotiating the price, getting permission from Roman authorities to gather some soldiers to go so that there is protection. Maybe even permission had to have been gained from Pilate. This is a full-blown enterprise for Judas, all for thirty pieces of silver.

So he leads the crowd into the area of the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives. And it’s a formidable crowd. Just to add to what it says about “a crowd with swords and clubs . . . chief priests, scribes, elders.” That’s the Jewish part. John 18:3 says there was a cohort of Roman soldiers. A cohort, a speiran in Greek, is a tenth of a legion. Six thousand Romans were in a legion, so this could be six hundred soldiers, armed.

Extra troops were, of course, stationed in Jerusalem for Passover crowds, which were massive crowds compared to the normal part of the year. And they had recently actually put down an insurrection led by a man named Barabbas, whom you will remember. These soldiers would have been under control and command of a chiliarch. They would have been associated with Fort Antonia, which was located, the Roman fort, on the north edge of the Temple ground. John says they came with torches and lanterns and weapons. Mark here tells us they came “with swords and clubs”: “swords,” the Roman machaira; “clubs,” which was basically a baton—you might call it a billy club or some kind of a nightstick used by Jewish Temple police to hit those who were out of line.

So this armed crowd comes to secure this one individual, and they are all there in order to quell any middle-of-the-night resistance. They couldn’t have hoped for a better time—middle of the night, when everybody was asleep. This is a mindless, cowardly, profane assembly of people led by the greatest human tragedy ever, Judas.

They arrive, in verse 44, and we see immediately that “he was betraying Him.” Notice, “was betraying Him.” It was a process, as I said, that he had gone through, through the night. “He who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, ‘Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” There was no way to recognize Jesus in the dark of the garden, in spite of what you might have seen in some medieval painting. He did not have a halo; He did not have an aura. They would not be able to identify Him in the dark unless someone pointed Him out.

And Judas, with amazing boldness, amazing boldness, says the sign will be a kiss. No, that’s not a kiss on the lips. That is a strong embrace, a sign of love, a sign of honor, a sign of respect, a sign of affection, a sign of friendship, a sign of loyalty. Inferiors in ancient times kissed the hand, slaves kissed the feet, equals kissed the cheek or the head. This is hypocrisy at its ugliest—bizarre effort to conceal his treachery from Jesus, thinking he could hide behind his shallow gesture. Jesus knew him well. Jesus had already said he was “a devil.”

The man of sorrows had many sorrows. This was surely one of the deepest. Verse 45 says, “After coming”—or arriving, we could say—“Judas immediately went to Him, saying, ‘Rabbi!’ and kissed Him.” And if you’re looking at your own mind and your own conscience and wondering, “How could he be that bold?” you have to remember that according to Luke 22 and verse 3, that same night, “Satan [had] entered Judas.” Satan had entered Judas. Maybe Judas on his own could not have behaved in this way. Maybe Judas on his own could not have brought himself to this gesture. But a Satan-controlled Judas really was not in control.

First he says, “Rabbi!” which means “teacher,” that’s a familiar title for the Lord, “and kissed Him.” And by the way, kataphileō, it’s an embrace of friendship, and it is to kiss someone fervently—a prolonged gesture of affection so that everybody would know exactly who Jesus was, and they could arrest Him. Luke 22:48, “Jesus said to him,” Luke tells us, “‘Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?’”

The Lord knew it all along. Matthew 26:50, “Friend,” Jesus said, “do what you have come for.” And by the way, when He said “friend,” He didn’t use philos, which is the normal word for “friend,” such as in John 15:15. He used a word that’s kind of a distant word, hetaire. It means, I suppose, “comrade,” “fellow”; nothing intimate.

Jesus did not destroy Judas on the spot. He did not incinerate him into ashes. Rather, He submitted to the shame of this betrayal because it was the Father’s will. And as we saw earlier in verse 36, Jesus had said, “Not what I will, but what You will.” Mark says no more about Judas. This is the last place where Judas appears in the gospel of Mark.

But Matthew fills in the story. Matthew 27 tells us he went out and hanged himself after he had thrown down the money, trying to give it back to the leaders. And Acts 1:18 says that his entire body was smashed and gushed out on the rocks. The combination of those two means he tried to hang himself, obviously, over some cliff; the branch broke. And both are true. He hanged himself, and he was crushed on the rocks below. He’s the greatest illustration of wasted opportunity.

So Jesus is identified. To understand the full story, I have to draw your attention to the eighteenth chapter of the gospel of John, because immediately after this—you can just listen, starting in verse 3: “Judas then, having received the Roman cohort and officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, came there with lanterns and torches and weapons. So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon Him, went forth and said to them”—Jesus approached them—“‘Whom do you seek?’ They answered, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ He said to them, ‘I am He.’ And Judas also, who was betraying Him, was standing with them. So when He said to them, ‘I am He,’ they drew back and fell to the ground.” When He said to the crowd, “I am He,” they fell over.

Verse 7, “He asked them again, ‘Whom do you seek?’ And they said, ‘Jesus the Nazarene.’ Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am He; so if you seek Me, let these go their way.’” What’s He doing here? He’s saying, “You’ve come for Me and only Me, and you have no right to take the disciples.” He’s protecting the disciples, who at this point are so weak they couldn’t possibly survive an arrest. This is protection.

And He tells us that in verse 9: Jesus protected them “to fulfill the word which He spoke, ‘Of those whom You have given Me I lost not one.’” That’s an amazing statement. Those who belong to Jesus cannot be lost, not because they’re not capable of being lost but because He will never let them be in a situation that would result in their defection. “They’re Mine; and as weak as they are, I’m going to hold onto them.” But imagine that entire entourage collapsing to the ground just because Jesus said, essentially, “I AM”—the name of God, of course. So deep in the darkness of night, we meet the crowd; we see the betrayer.

Back to Mark’s gospel. After “they [had] laid hands on Him,” in verse 46, “and seized Him. One of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.” Now we know this is Peter. And why is he doing this? Well, if you go back to verse 29 in chapter 14, you remember that Jesus said—go back to verse, first of all, verse 27—“You will all fall away,” He said to the disciples, “because it is written, it is written, ‘I will strike down the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered’”—Zechariah 13:7. “‘But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.’ [Then] Peter said to Him, ‘Even though all may fall away, yet I will not,’” “I will not.”

So maybe it’s this boast of Peter that he’s trying to uphold. And he grabs the sword—back in Mark 14—and starts swinging it. I don’t think he tried to cut off his ear; he’s not that good. I think he tried to cut off his head. Now there’s some boldness in this, definitely some courage in this—six hundred Roman soldiers and the Temple police and this massive crowd.

Back in Luke 22, Jesus had told them in the future when they go forth, they’d better have swords to defend themselves—self-defense. And Peter was armed and impulsive and courageous, and probably thinking that if he got into any trouble, the Lord would take care of him because he had just seen the Lord knock all of them down. What he had just seen happen in the Lord’s act of protecting them from being arrested was enough to give him confidence.

Now Mark doesn’t tell us who it was, maybe because Peter had enough bad press, but John does in John 18:10. And the name of this servant of the high priest is Malchus. He just happens to be the guy in the way. Not a soldier, not a Temple police, but serving Caiaphas. Luke says, “Jesus . . . said, “Stop! No more of this.” “Stop.” Peter’s act was impulsive, wrong-headed, could have resulted in Peter’s death by capital punishment. And John 18:11 records that Jesus said, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?” And later on in John 18, He said, “My kingdom is not of this world. . . . My servants [don’t fight].” So we see the crowd, and we see the betrayer, and we see Peter the leading apostle.

Then Jesus takes center stage in verse 48: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” Again, our Lord is always, always in control.

Jesus takes charge: “Have you come against Me as if I were a common robber?” He sees Himself not as a victim. His power had already laid them flat. He had controlled the action they might have taken against the eleven, keeping them safe. The whole scene is ridiculous. The Roman soldiers and Temple police are there to protect their religious leaders from a riot, thinking things should get out of hand, and they have little understanding of the fact that nothing will get out of hand because prophecy is being fulfilled.

“I’ve been here,” He says, “since Monday. Why now are you arresting Me? Why now? Why Wednesday?” This has taken place to fulfill Scripture. The plan for the Crucifixion was that it take place on Friday, and there needed to be a day for the unjust trials. Everything is timed by God and completely controlled by Him.

Back in Matthew 16, you remember that Satan tried to keep Jesus from the cross. Remember, Jesus said to Peter when Peter said, “No, no, You’re not going to die,” “Get behind Me, Satan!”

Satan wanted to keep Him from the cross. Then the question comes, “Why did Satan enter Judas?” To turn Him over to His killers and have Him move toward the cross. Why didn’t Satan increase his efforts to prevent the cross? Well, I don’t think we can expect Satan to reason rationally. Nor is Satan sovereign, and can’t necessarily get his way with anyone. But at this point, what we can say is Satan’s only hope in stopping the cross was to subject Jesus to the worst treatment that could be imagined, make the lead up to the cross so horrendous that Christ would say, “That’s enough.”

And he started that in the garden, didn’t he, where Satan tempted Jesus in a furious way so that He literally sweat, as it were, great drops of blood. Satan had piled the pain and the suffering on Job, you remember; and he’s piling it on Jesus, but it doesn’t work. According to Matthew 26, verses 53 and 54, Jesus says, “Look, if I wanted to, I could call twelve legions of angels.” That would be twelve times six thousand. My math says that’s seventy-two thousand angels. That would be plenty to deal with the crowd. If He wanted to, He could call the angels. But He will not because this is the plan, His death, and this is the time.

And then this little section ends as we look at the apostles, verses 50 to 52. This is most interesting: “They all left Him and fled.” They couldn’t handle it. This proves how important it was for Him to make sure they didn’t get arrested. They could never have handled that, and He knew that. “They all left Him and fled.” That’s what was to be expected. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep are scattered,” Zechariah 13—weak, afraid, unfaithful.

Hard to imagine, really, because the night, you remember now, the night had been held in the upper room, recorded in John 13 to 16; and for hours and hours they had sat with the Lord, and He’d made these amazing promises that He was going to protect them and that He was going to grant them all spiritual blessings, and He was going to provide protection and peace and joy and power and truth in the Holy Spirit—all these amazing promises. And they knew He was a speaker of truth. And then He had demonstrated His power by knocking down the whole crowd when He just said, “I AM.” All those promises, all the miracles they’d seen for three years, the very act of protecting them in that marvelous way of knocking down His would-be arresters—and yet they all left Him and fled.

The conclusion of this little section is most fascinating: “A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body”—probably just his undergarment—“and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.” What a strange scene. Some people have suggested this might be Lazarus. But there’s no reason to pick him.

Let me give you a better possibility. This is likely Mark, the author of the gospel, who doesn’t give his name, as John, the writer of the gospel of John, so frequently did not give his name when referring to himself in his gospel. Did Mark do that as well? This incident only occurs in Mark. It seems to have the feel of a very personal incident, an eyewitness account.

Apparently what happened was the eleven fled and one straggler stayed behind as a follower of Jesus. He was following Him. He didn’t leave, apparently, immediately, until they grabbed him. He was wearing a linen sheet, a linen cloth of some kind over his body, and they seized him to put him under arrest. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.

Here’s the possible scenario. This is Mark. If the mob had first gone to the house of John Mark’s mother, where the Passover may well have been held, Mark would have been awakened and hurried to follow. Perhaps in the hurry, he rushed and just threw a linen cloth over himself without taking time to dress. He then escaped capture when they grabbed the loose-fitting linen, and he ran out from under it in his undergarment. That’s a very real possibility.

What’s the point of this story? The point of this story is this: Jesus is absolutely forsaken by everyone, everyone. One last, straggling disciple can’t hold on. He is forsaken by everyone. Alone then, they lead Him into the darkness of the night to a kangaroo court with a plan to try Him in an unjust way, scourge Him, and crucify Him, get the whole trial done before the city even begins to react. And that’s what they did, verse 53, “They led [Him] away to the high priest” to start the process of execution. He is definitely a lamb being led to slaughter.

What strikes me about this is how forsaken Jesus was. He was forsaken by the apostles. He had been forsaken by Judas. He was clearly forsaken by Peter. And if you go over to verse 66 of chapter 14, you have the whole story of Peter’s denial, the ugliest apostolic event in the gospels. He was forsaken by the rest of them as they all fled. Even one malingering follower couldn’t hold out. He was forsaken by the Jews, the religious leaders.

“They led Jesus away to the high priest; and all the chief priests and elders and scribes gathered together. Peter [following] at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest . . . sitting with the officers and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, they were not finding any.”

Over in verse 61, when He was confronted by the high priest, He “kept silent, did not answer.” And they kept “saying to Him, ‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?’ And Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, ‘What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy. How does it seem to you?’ They all condemned Him to be deserving of death. Some began to spit on Him, and to blindfold Him, and to beat Him with their fists, and say to Him, ‘Prophesy!’ And the officers received Him with slaps in the face.”

So the apostles had forsaken Him, the religious leaders had forsaken Him. What about the people? Over in chapter 15, verse 12, Pilate says to the people, “‘What shall I do with Him whom you call the King of the Jews?’ They shouted back, ‘Crucify Him!’ But Pilate said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done?’ But they shouted all the more, ‘Crucify Him!’”

Forsaken by the apostles, forsaken by the Jews. He was also forsaken by the Gentiles, by the one who was supposed to uphold justice. Chapter 15, verse 15, “Wishing to satisfy the crowd, Pilate”—who had said, “I find no fault in this man; He’s guilty of nothing”—“released Barabbas for them”—the insurrectionist—“and after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified.” Jewish religion rejected Him. Gentile justice rejected Him.

Over in chapter 15 and verse 40, there’s an interesting note: “There were also some women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the Less and Joses, and Salome. When He was in Galilee, they used to follow Him and minister to Him; and there were many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem.”

Where are the other women? And what does it mean that these women were looking on from a distance? Earlier in the cross event, they were at the cross. Now they’re moving away. Where are the other women, to start with, and why are these women moving off at a distance?

You could also say that He had been forsaken by the angels. Luke 22 says that when He was suffering in the garden, an angel came and comforted Him. No angels now. Oh, He could have called a legion, but there are no angels.

Forsaken by the apostles, the Jews, the Gentiles, the women, and even the angels. And then the worst of all, verse 34 of Mark 15, “At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ which is translated, ‘My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?’” You could add God to the list.

So when you think about the cross of Christ, you have to think about the fact that He was forsaken by absolutely everyone. And in that forsaken condition, verse 37, He “uttered a cry, and breathed His last.” He went to the cross alone, utterly and absolutely alone.

You’d think that that would be such a horrific scene that no one would have a positive response. But verse 38 says, “And the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.” And then this most amazing moment. Mark records, “When the centurion”—he’s in charge of the Romans doing the crucifixion—“when the centurion who was standing right in front of Jesus,” managing His execution, “saw the way He breathed His last, He said, ‘Truly, this man was the Son of God!’” Amazing.

Judas, who’d seen Him for three years, couldn’t see that He was the Son of God. A Roman soldier who’d seen Him in three hours of darkness was convinced that He was the Son of God, even when utterly forsaken. The demonstration of His majesty cannot be missed, it cannot be hidden, and it was seen in that very hour by the most obscure of people, a Roman centurion.

Judas went to his own place, to hell, after three years of being with Jesus. This man you’re going to find in heaven, after a few hours of being with Jesus. Judas saw Him at His best and rejected Him, sold Him for thirty pieces of silver. The centurion saw Him at His worst and believed in Him.

What about you? Where are you in this scene? He puts on a display of His majesty in His life and in His death. And even if all you ever saw was His death and how controlling He was for every aspect of that event, down to the fact that He gave up His own life—“No man takes it from Me, I lay it down by Myself.” He decided to give up His life. He chose when He would breathe His last.

That centurion knew it was far too early for such a healthy man to die. This man had given His life, in total, sovereign control, because He had accomplished its purpose. He had purchased eternal redemption for His people forever. And He said—what were His last words? “It is finished,” and yielded up His Spirit.

Father, as we come this evening to the Table and think about the sacrifice that our Lord made, we thank You for sending Him for us. Blessed Christ, we thank You for coming to be our Redeemer. Holy Spirit, we thank You for opening our hearts to understand the glory of the gospel. And now as we come to this Table, may we understand that this is a simple gesture that You asked us to fulfill, to remember Your body given for us in the bread and Your blood shed for us in the cup, but to understand that in so doing, we have to be honest and say, “I’m doing this because You’re my Savior.”

This is not for everyone to do. This is not some kind of nice, token gesture toward Jesus. To do this and not be a Christian, a true believer in Christ, is to bring judgment on yourself because it is a kind of Judas kiss. You can’t partake of the bread and the cup, embracing Christ and His death as He gave His body and blood for us, unless you have acknowledged Him as your Lord and your Savior. So open your heart to the Lord, ask Him to cleanse your sin, affirm your love for Him, thank Him for your salvation; and we’ll remember Him in this way.

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