Reflections From Mark’s Gospel: Chapter 14 “The Weighty Passion of Christ”


            Jesus’ teaching of the end times now progresses into Jesus’ passion.  His enemies were looking for an opportune time to kill him (vv.1-2); a woman anoints Jesus for his burial (vv.3-9); and Judas plots Jesus’ betrayal (vv.10-11).  In the last Passover meal with his disciples, Jesus predicts his betrayal (vv.17-21):

“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.” (v.21)

That statement must have ruined the disciple’s appetite!  Imagine being one of the twelve and hearing these words from the Masters lips.  Perhaps someone’s stomach turned (Judas?) or even fear gripped them that a cold clammy sensation rushed through their bodies?  Yes, perhaps.  Nevertheless, Jesus knowing this continues to break bread with them (vv.22-26):

22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it.24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (vv.22-25)

Notice that Jesus accentuates this final hour as the end of the old covenant and the inauguration of the new, not through the blood of bulls and goats but with his own blood, which was to be shed not for all but for many. 

This text seems to be pointing to some kind of “limited’ atonement which goes along with (Mk.10:45) and accentuates the personal nature of Jesus’ death; “he laid down his life for his friends”—the disciples—those who will abandon all to follow him shortly (vv.26-31), the thought of which at best must have been unnerving and at worst perhaps horrific.

Jesus tells his trained men that: “you will all fail me tonight; you will all show yourselves to be cowards, just fare weathered friends”.  I can’t imagine how difficult that was for the disciples to hear.  How often do I deny Jesus by my life that tends to stray from the truth?  Don’t I emulate the disciples here when I willfully rebel against my Master?  Sounds like a horribly true contradiction.

What an incredible Savior who knows we will deny him and yet chooses to die on our behalf.  What an amazing illustration of love’s extent: even in betrayal Jesus would still die to ransom those he came to rescue.  Amazing!  Now Mark’s account transitions from the table to the Garden of Gethsemane where unlike in Eden, the second Adam demonstrates a resoluteness to do the will of the Father (vv.32-52).

Here, Jesus’ love for the disciples is evidenced by his invitation for them to enter into his pain by toiling in prayer with him:

32 They came to a place named Gethsemane; and He said to His disciples, “Sit here until I have prayed.” 33 And He took with Him Peter and James and John, and began to be very distressed and troubled. 34 And He said to them, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death; remain here and keep watch.”35 And He went a little beyond them, and fell to the ground and began to pray that if it were possible, the hour might pass Him by. 36 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.” 37 And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not keep watch for one hour? 38 Keep watching and praying that you may not come into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Again He went away and prayed, saying the same words. 40 And again He came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him. 41 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. 42 Get up, let us be going; behold, the one who betrays Me is at hand!”

Jesus’ prediction of betrayal and death were about to be fulfilled.  The gravity of the moment increasingly intensifies step by step.  First, the adjectives of his temptation: “very distressed and troubled”, “My soul is deeply grieved to the point of death”.  Physical pain is, and can be unbearable, but the pain of soul who can measure, its magnitude is difficult to fathom, and often seems impossible to cure, much less endure.

Second, its stunning Jesus would ask these weak men to enter into his pain, to struggle with him in prayer, but he does.  Here we see the Master telling them to, “keep watch”.  What vulnerability, what a friend!  Solomon writes that it’s better to be in the house of mourning then in the house of feasting.  Why?  Perhaps it’s because grief and trouble alarm us out of the stupor that so easily engulfs us.  Perhaps it’s because on this side sorrow reminds us that things are not the way they ought to be.  Perhaps it’s a reminder of our own mortality and that we too must face death and God who awaits us.

Jesus here invites the three disciples to peer into his darkest hour of mourning, but they could not grasp its gravity—they fell asleep.  So, at table the disciples are informed that they will betray him, in the Garden they are invited to suffer with him, but Jesus had another source for comfort in anguish.

Third, Jesus cries out to God as “Abba, Father”.  He acknowledges his Father in the midst of this horrible experience.  The intimacy revealed in this cry is hard for me to swallow.  Here, Jesus’ relationship to the Father is unveiled for us to see that it’s unlike any other relationship recorded in human history.  The Son in whom the Father is well pleased is crying out to Him.  I’m stunned!  Here’s an ineffable moment for me.

The request of the Son to the Father, “Remove this cup—of God’s wrath—from me”  But Jesus remains faithful even to deaths door, “…yet not what I will, but what You will.”  Note that what results in this most intimate painful encounter is utter submission to Gods plan and desire.  A Godward life of prayer always produces God honoring submission to the /father, not rebellion.

Fourth, the disciples failed to pray three times for Jesus but he did not hold that against them.  Instead of retaliating he gave his life for them.  What manner of love is this?!


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