Plotting, betrayal, arrest, false witnesses and denial: Hardships open our eyes and enable us to deal with our true character. When we feel safe in our surroundings or we take life lightly, it is easy to consider ourselves prepared for anything. The disciples trusted in Jesus, but their trust came and went quickly. As long as the Lord was doing what they wanted, everything was fine. But when external circumstances changed and Jesus was arrested, the weakness of their faith was revealed.
Religious Leaders Plot to Kill Jesus / 14:1-2
14:1-2 The Passover commemorated the night the Israelites were freed from Egypt (Exodus 12), when God “passed over” homes marked by the blood of a lamb. This was the last great plague on Egypt; in the unmarked homes the firstborn sons died. After this horrible disaster, Pharaoh let the Israelites go.
The day of Passover was followed by the seven-day Festival of Unleavened Bread. This, too, recalled the Israelites’ quick escape from Egypt when, because they wouldn’t have time to let their bread rise, they baked it without leaven (yeast). All Jewish males over the age of twelve were required to go to Jerusalem for this festival (Deuteronomy 16:5-6). Jews from all over the Roman Empire would converge on Jerusalem, swelling the population from 50,000 to 250,000 people.
The Jewish leaders plotted secretly to kill Jesus. They had already decided that Jesus must die (see John 11:47-53); they just needed the opportunity. They did not want to attempt to arrest Jesus during the Passover because they feared that the crowd would riot on his behalf. They feared that such an uprising might bring the wrath of Rome.
A Woman Anoints Jesus with Perfume / 14:3-9
14:3 Bethany was located on the eastern slope of the Mount of Olives (Jerusalem is on the western side). This town was the home of Jesus’ friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha (who were also present at this dinner, John 11:2). Jesus had been returning to Bethany from Jerusalem each night during this final week (11:11). This night, Jesus was a guest of Simon. He did not have leprosy at this time, for lepers had to live separately from people because of the extreme contagiousness of the disease. Jesus may have healed Simon.
This woman was probably Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who lived in Bethany (John 12:1-3). She brought a beautiful jar of expensive perfume, which she poured on Jesus’ head. It was a common custom at some Jewish meals for the honored guests to be anointed with oil (see Luke 7:44-46), but it would not be so expensive. Such an anointing, with expensive oil, pictured a royal (messianic) anointing.
14:4-5 Where Mark says some, John specifically mentions Judas (John 12:4-5). This indignation over Mary’s act of worship would not have been based on concern for the poor, but on greed. Because Judas was the treasurer of Jesus’ ministry and had embezzled funds (John 12:6), he no doubt wanted the perfume sold so that the proceeds could be put into his care. This event probably pushed Judas over the edge in his determination to betray Jesus.
14:6-8 Jesus reprimanded the disciples, but comforted Mary. The expensive ointment poured on Jesus had been a good thing to do for him—a beautiful, acceptable, appealing act of love and sacrifice—and Jesus declared it to be so. This was a unique act for a specific occasion—an anointing that anticipated Jesus’ burial and a public declaration of faith in him as Messiah. Jesus was not saying that we should neglect the poor, nor was he justifying indifference to them. (For Jesus’ teaching about the poor, see Matthew 6:2-4; Luke 6:20-21; 14:13, 21; 18:22.) Jesus was affirming Mary’s unselfish act of worship. The essence of worshiping Christ is to regard him with utmost love, respect, and devotion, as well as to be willing to sacrifice to him what is most precious.
Jesus’ purpose in these words was to explain that the opportunity to show him such devotion and to anoint him with oil (in preparation for burial) would soon be past. The phrase, “I will not be here with you much longer,” meant that Jesus would soon be gone from them physically. However, they could and should show kindness to the poor, and opportunities to do so would continue, “You will always have the poor among you.”
Jesus’ words should have taught Judas and the disciples the valuable lesson that devotion to Christ is worth more than money. Unfortunately, Judas did not take heed; soon he would sell his Master’s life for thirty pieces of silver.
14:9 Mary’s unselfish act would be remembered forever. This has come true because we read about it today. While the disciples misunderstood Jesus’ mission and constantly fought about places in the Kingdom and while the religious leaders stubbornly refused to believe in Jesus and plotted his death, this one quiet woman so loved Jesus and was so devoted to him that she considered no sacrifice too great for her beloved Master. She is an example to us all of unselfish devotion to our Savior.
Judas Agrees to Betray Jesus / 14:10-11
14:10 Why would Judas Iscariot want to betray Jesus? Very likely, Judas expected Jesus to start a political rebellion and overthrow Rome. As treasurer, Judas certainly assumed (as did the other disciples—see 10:35-37) that he would be given an important position in Jesus’ new government. But when Jesus praised Mary for pouring out the expensive perfume, Judas finally began to realize that Jesus’ Kingdom was not physical or political. Judas knew the leading priests had it in for Jesus, and he knew they would have the power to arrest Jesus. So that was where he went. Judas’s greedy desire for money and status could not be fulfilled if he followed Jesus, so he betrayed him in exchange for money and favor from the religious leaders.
14:11 Obviously the leading priests were delighted to have discovered a traitor among Jesus’ followers. They had been having difficulty figuring out how to arrest Jesus (14:1-2); so when an offer of help came from this unexpected corner, they took advantage of it. They promised Judas a reward, and Judas began looking for the right opportunity—when there would be no Passover crowds to prevent Jesus’ capture and no possibility of a riot (14:2).
Disciples Prepare for the Passover / 14:12-16
14:12 The Passover took place on one night and at one meal, but the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which was celebrated with it, continued for a week. The first day of the feast was technically the day after Passover, but the two were often equated. So, this was either Wednesday night (the day before Passover) or Thursday of Jesus’ last week (the night of the Passover meal). The highlight of the festival was the Passover meal, a family feast with the main course of lamb. The sacrifice of a lamb and the spilling of its blood commemorated Israel’s escape from Egypt when the blood of a lamb painted on their door frames had saved their firstborn sons from death. This event foreshadowed Jesus’ work on the cross. As the spotless Lamb of God, his blood would be spilled in order to save his people from the penalty of death brought by sin.
Jesus’ disciples assumed that they would eat the Passover meal together with Jesus. However, the meal had to be eaten in Jerusalem, so the disciples asked Jesus where they should go in order to make preparations.
14:13 The two disciples Jesus sent were Peter and John (Luke 22:8). Whether Jesus had supernatural knowledge in this instance or if he had made arrangements in advance is unclear (as in the incident with his Triumphal Entry, see 11:1-6). It seems that in this instance this room had been reserved previously and kept secret—none of the disciples knew where they would eat this meal. Jesus already knew that Judas would be looking for an opportunity to betray him without crowds around, so Jesus may have made these arrangements and kept them secret.
The two disciples were dispatched in the morning from Bethany to Jerusalem to prepare the Passover meal. Jesus told them that as they entered the city, they would meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Ordinarily women, not men, went to the well and brought home the water. So this man would have stood out in the crowd. This may have been a prearranged signal, or Jesus may have supernaturally known that this man (most likely a servant) would be there and would lead them to the right house.
14:14-16 The owner of this home was probably one of Jesus’ followers. He knew exactly who the Teacher was and probably knew the disciples by sight. Tradition says this may have been Mark’s home, so this would have been Mark’s father. Many homes had upstairs rooms large enough to accommodate Jesus and his twelve disciples. As before, when two disciples went to get the donkey for Jesus to ride into Jerusalem (11:1-6), these two disciples found everything just as Jesus had said. The preparations for the Passover would have included setting the table, buying and roasting the Passover lamb, and making the unleavened bread, sauces, and other ceremonial food and drink that were a traditional part of every Passover meal.
Jesus and the Disciples Share the Last Supper / 14:17-26
14:17 On that evening (Wednesday or Thursday), Jesus arrived in Jerusalem with the twelve disciples. The meal was not to be eaten until after sunset and was supposed to be finished by midnight.
14:18-20 As Jesus and the disciples were eating, Jesus spoke the stunning words, “One of you will betray me.” The betrayer was one of his own chosen twelve disciples, one with whom the meal was being shared. Jesus’ words caused quite a stir among the disciples. They had heard Jesus tell them three different times that he would soon die, but that one of them would actually betray Jesus saddened them greatly.
Although the other disciples were confused by Jesus’ words, Judas knew what he meant. Apparently Judas was not the obvious betrayer. After all, he was the one the disciples trusted to keep the money (John 12:4-6). So the disciples asked Jesus who the betrayer was; “I’m not the one, am I?” each one asked in turn. Matthew records that even Judas asked this question (Matthew 26:25).
14:21 Jesus would indeed be betrayed and would indeed die as he had already told his disciples. His death would not occur merely because of the betrayer, for the Son of Man had to die to complete God’s plan and fulfill Scripture (for example, Psalm 41:9-13; Isaiah 53:1-6).
But how terrible it will be for the one who betrayed Jesus. Again Jesus’ words were reminiscent of Psalm 41, this time verses 10-12, where the sufferer was vindicated by God and his enemies punished. Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray him, and he also knew that Judas would not repent.
Luke wrote that “Satan entered into Judas Iscariot” before he went to the religious leaders (Luke 22:3). However, Satan’s part in the betrayal of Jesus does not remove any of the responsibility from Judas. In God’s sovereign will and according to his timetable, he uses sinful men. But that doesn’t excuse their sin. All people will be held accountable for their choices and actions. Whatever Judas thought, Satan assumed that Jesus’ death would end Jesus’ mission and thwart God’s plan. Like Judas, Satan did not know that Jesus’ death and resurrection were the most important parts of God’s plan all along.
John records that upon this pronouncement, Jesus told Judas to “hurry. Do it now” (John 13:27). Then Judas went out into the night. He was not present for the remaining words Jesus spoke.
14:22 Jesus and the disciples were eating the bread, and Jesus took the loaf of unleavened bread, asked God’s blessing on it, and broke it. Jesus told the disciples to “Take it, for this is my body.” His words “this is my body” symbolize the spiritual nourishment believers obtain from a personal relationship with the Savior.
Christians differ in their interpretation of the meaning of the commemoration of the Lord’s Supper. There are three main views: (1) The bread and wine actually become Christ’s body and blood; (2) the bread and wine remain unchanged, yet Christ is spiritually present by faith in and through them; and (3) the bread and wine, which remain unchanged, are lasting memorials of Christ’s sacrifice. No matter which view they favor, all Christians agree that the Lord’s Supper commemorates Christ’s death on the cross for our sins and points to the coming of his Kingdom in glory. When we partake of it, we show our deep gratitude for Christ’s work on our behalf, and our faith is strengthened.
Just as the Passover celebrated deliverance from slavery in Egypt, so the Lord’s Supper celebrates deliverance from sin by Christ’s death.
14:23-24 The celebrations in the Christian church (Communion, Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper) have first a sharing of bread (including a repetition of Jesus’ words, “This is my body”), and then a sharing of wine (including a repetition of Jesus’ words, “This is my blood, poured out for many”).
As with the bread, Jesus spoke words in figurative language. “This is my blood” means “This wine represents my blood.” Jesus’ blood, poured out on behalf of sinners, sealed the covenant between God and his people. In later manuscripts, the word “new” has been inserted before “covenant.” This insertion is based on Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25, where the word “new” appears in all Greek manuscripts. The word “covenant” refers to an arrangement established by one party that cannot be altered by the other party. In other words, God established the covenant and humans can only accept or reject it; they cannot alter it in any way.
What did Jesus mean by a “new covenant”? In Old Testament times, God had agreed to forgive people’s sins if they would bring animals for the priests to sacrifice. When this sacrificial system was inaugurated, the agreement between God and human beings was sealed with the blood of animals (Exodus 24:8). But animal blood did not in itself remove sin, and animal sacrifices had to be repeated day by day and year after year.
Jesus instituted a “new covenant,” or agreement, between humans and God. This concept is key to all New Testament theology and forms the basis for the name of the New Testament portion of the Bible. Under this new covenant, Jesus would die in the place of sinners. The old covenant was a shadow of the new, pointing forward to the day when Jesus himself would be the final and ultimate sacrifice for sin. Rather than an unblemished lamb slain on the altar, the perfect Lamb of God was slain on the cross as a sinless sacrifice so that our sins could be forgiven once and for all. Those who accept Christ’s sacrifice and believe in him receive forgiveness. Now all people can come directly to God through faith because Jesus’ death has made us acceptable in God’s eyes (Romans 3:21-24).
14:25 Again Jesus assured his disciples of his victory over his imminent death and of a future in the Kingdom of God. The next few hours would bring apparent defeat, but soon they would experience the power of the Holy Spirit and witness the great spread of the gospel message.
14:26 The hymn they sang was most likely taken from Psalms 116–118, the second part of the Hallel that was traditionally sung after eating the Passover meal. John included a lengthy discourse that Jesus had with his disciples (John 13:31–17:26) before he and the eleven remaining disciples left the upper room and went out to the Mount of Olives, located just to the east of Jerusalem. Leaving the room did not surprise the disciples, for they had not been staying in Jerusalem at night and had left the city every evening to return to Bethany. This time, however, Jesus went only as far as the southwestern slope, to an olive grove called Gethsemane, which means “oil press.”
Jesus Again Predicts Peter’s Denial / 14:27-31
14:27-28 This was the second time in the same evening that Jesus predicted the disciples’ denial and desertion, which probably explains their strong reaction (14:31). (For Jesus’ earlier prediction, see Luke 22:31-34 and John 13:36-38.) That the disciples would desert him means that they would take offense at him and turn away. Fearing what would befall Jesus, they would not want to experience the same treatment. Jesus would go to the cross totally alone. The disciples’ desertion would also occur just as it had been predicted in Scripture, specifically Zechariah 13:7. In Zechariah, God commanded that the Shepherd be struck down. As a result, the sheep will be scattered. Without a shepherd and on their own, the sheep would go through a period of great trial and be refined. The refining process would strengthen them and create a new, faithful people for God. The disciples would be overwhelmed by what would happen to Jesus, but Jesus’ death would ultimately produce their salvation.
After his prediction of their desertion, Jesus then predicted their reunion after he would be raised from the dead. Jesus promised that he would go ahead of them into Galilee and meet them all there.
14:29-30 Peter, always ready to speak up at inopportune moments, declared that his allegiance to Jesus would prove to be much stronger than the others. Jesus explained, however, that instead of being the only loyal disciple, Peter would prove himself the least so. Not only would he desert Jesus, he would also deny him—not once, but three times. And this would happen in the space of the next few hours. Before the night was over, that is before the rooster crowed a second time, Peter would deny the Master to whom he claimed such loyalty. Only Mark recorded a second crowing of the rooster (see also 14:72). If Peter was, in fact, Mark’s source for this Gospel, he certainly remembered this minor detail.
14:31 Peter did not think it possible for him to actually deny any relationship with Jesus. Perhaps he was worried that he was the betrayer Jesus had mentioned during their meal (14:18). Not only Peter, but all the disciples declared that they would never deny Jesus. A few hours later, however, they all scattered.
Jesus Agonizes in the Garden / 14:32-42
14:32 After eating the meal, the disciples left Jerusalem and went out to Gethsemane (see John 18:1-2). The garden was in the Kidron Valley just outside the eastern wall of Jerusalem and just below the Mount of Olives. Jesus told eight of the disciples to sit down while he went farther in to pray.
Plenty of drama surrounds Mark’s terse account. The elders of Jerusalem were plotting to kill Jesus and had already issued a warrant for his arrest. Jesus left Jerusalem under cover of darkness in order to pray. The disciples must also have been physically and emotionally exhausted from trying to comprehend what would transpire. Instead of watching, they gave in to their exhaustion and fell asleep.
14:33-34 Jesus took three disciples, his inner circle, farther into the garden with him. To these closest friends, Jesus revealed his inner turmoil over the event he was about to face. The divine course was set, but Jesus, in his human nature, still struggled (Hebrews 5:7-9). His coming death was no surprise; he knew about it and had even told the disciples about it so they would be prepared. Jesus knew what his death would accomplish. As the time of this event neared, it became even more horrifying. Jesus naturally recoiled from the prospect.
Jesus asked Peter, James, and John (14:33) to stay and watch with him. Jesus knew Judas would soon arrive, and Jesus wanted to devote himself to prayer until that time came.
14:35 Jesus went still farther into the garden to be alone with God. His agony was such that he threw himself on the ground before God in deep spiritual anguish, praying that if possible the awful hour awaiting him might pass him by—that his mission might be accomplished some other way. Hour figuratively refers to the entire event Jesus was facing. The “hour” and the “cup” were used synonymously. Yet Jesus humbly submitted to the Father’s will. Luke tells us that Jesus’ sweat resembled drops of blood. Jesus was in terrible agony, but he did not give up or give in. He went ahead with the mission for which he had come.
14:36 Abba was Aramaic for “father” and implied familiarity and closeness. Only Jesus could have used the word Abba in a prayer to God, because Jesus had a special Father-Son relationship with him. Jesus’ using it showed his surrender to and faith in the Father’s will. Children addressed their fathers as Abba, but the term was far too familiar for adult Jews to use in speaking to God. Paul used the term in Romans 8:15 and Galatians 4:6, showing that the early church picked up the term from this prayer of Jesus.
The words, everything is possible for you, indicate God’s omnipotence. He could accomplish anything. Jesus was affirming God’s sovereign control over the coming suffering (see 10:27). With the words, take this cup of suffering away from me, Jesus was referring to the agony, the separation from God, and the death he would have to endure in order to atone for the sins of the world. Jesus, as God’s Son, recoiled from sin, yet part of his task would be to take the sins of the whole world upon himself. This was a cup he truly hated to drink. The physical suffering would be horrible enough, but what God’s Son feared most was the cup of spiritual suffering—taking on sin and being separated from God (Hebrews 5:7-9). Yet Jesus reaffirmed his desire to do what God wanted by saying, “Yet I want your will, not mine.”
God did not take away the “cup,” for to judge the sins of the world was his will. Yet he did take away Jesus’ extreme fear and agitation. Jesus moved serenely through the next several hours, at peace with God, knowing that he was doing God’s will.
14:37-38 Jesus got up from his prayer to return to the three disciples. He had told them to stay and keep watch (14:34), but instead of showing support for Jesus by remaining awake with him and praying themselves for strength in the coming hours, they had fallen asleep. The hour was very late, perhaps after midnight.
Jesus spoke to Peter, calling him Simon, his name before he had met Jesus. Apparently Peter’s recent boasting (14:31), present sleepiness, and coming denial rendered him less than Peter, the “rock” (see John 1:42). Peter had said he would never leave Jesus; yet when Jesus needed prayer and support, Peter had fallen asleep. So, Jesus rebuked him for his failure to keep watch for even one hour. Only Mark mentions the Lord’s words to Peter. Perhaps Peter wanted Mark to tell this part of the story.
Jesus told the disciples that this was the time to keep alert and pray, for soon difficult temptation would come. Jesus wanted them to pray that their faith would not collapse. The word temptation can mean testing or trial. Jesus wanted his disciples to pray for strength to go through the coming ordeal. The disciples were about to see Jesus die. Would they still think he was the Messiah? The disciples’ strongest temptation would undoubtedly be to think they had been deceived. Their spirit might be willing, but their body would be weak. Their inner desires and intentions would be, as they had previously boasted, to never deny Jesus and to die with him. Yet with all their human inadequacies, fears, and failures, the disciples would have difficulty carrying out those good intentions.
14:39-40 Jesus left the three disciples and went back to his previous pleadings with the Father (14:35-36). When he returned to them, they were asleep again. Despite his warning they just couldn’t keep their eyes open. Apparently Jesus again awakened them, and in their embarrassment, they didn’t know what to say.
14:41-42 Jesus went away to pray a third time, only to come back and find the disciples still asleep. The disciples had not taken the opportunity to pray, and there would be no more time to do so—the time had come. So Jesus did not again tell them to pray. Jesus had spent the last few hours dealing with the Father, wrestling with him, and humbly submitting to him. Now he was prepared to face his betrayer and the sinners who were coming to arrest him.
Jesus Is Betrayed and Arrested / 14:43-52
14:43 Even as Jesus spoke to his disciples to rouse them from their sleep, Judas arrived. The leading priests had issued the warrant for Jesus’ arrest, and Judas was acting as Jesus’ official accuser. The mob, armed with swords and clubs, came in the middle of the night when most of the people were asleep and they could arrest Jesus without commotion. Although there were no crowds to worry about, Jesus was surrounded by eleven loyal followers who the Temple guards feared might put up a fight.
14:44 Judas had told the crowd to arrest the man to whom he would give the kiss of greeting. This was not an arrest by Roman soldiers under Roman law, but an arrest by the religious leaders. Judas pointed Jesus out, not because Jesus was hard to recognize, but because Judas had agreed to be the formal accuser in case a trial was called. A kiss on the cheek or hand was a common form of greeting in the Middle East, so this was not unusual.
14:45 Judas had expected to find Jesus and the disciples in Gethsemane. He entered the garden followed by the armed band and walked up to Jesus. In a friendly gesture of greeting and affection, Judas called Jesus “Teacher” and then gave him a kiss (on the cheek or on the hand), a sign of respect.
14:46 The religious leaders had not arrested Jesus in the Temple for fear of a riot. Instead, they had come secretly at night, under the influence of the prince of darkness, Satan himself. Jesus offered no resistance and was grabbed and arrested. Although it looked as if Satan were getting the upper hand, everything was proceeding according to God’s plan. It was time for Jesus to die.
14:47 According to John 18:10, the person who pulled out a sword was Peter, who cut off the right ear of a servant named Malchus. Peter was trying to prevent what he saw as defeat. He wasn’t going to let this crowd arrest Jesus without putting up a fight. Luke 22:51 records that Jesus immediately healed the man’s ear and prevented any further bloodshed. Jesus then told Peter to put away his sword and allow God’s plan to unfold. Peter didn’t realize that Jesus had to die in order to gain victory. But Jesus demonstrated perfect commitment to his Father’s will. His Kingdom would not be advanced with swords, but with faith and obedience.
14:48-49 Jesus protested, not his arrest, but the way he was arrested. They did not need to come against him with weapons, for he was voluntarily surrendering himself. Jesus was not a dangerous criminal leading a rebellion; he was a religious teacher who had been teaching in the Temple daily during the past week. Jesus also mocked their show of worldly power. He who could summon angels was not afraid of swords. Did the guards imagine that swords would intimidate Jesus? They didn’t understand who he was. Jesus knew why the events were unfolding as they were—to fulfill what the Scriptures say. Judas’s treachery, the coming mockery of a trial against Jesus, and its ultimate outcome had all been prophesied (see, for example, Psalms 22:7-8, 14, 16-17; 41:9; Isaiah 50:6; 53:7-8).
14:50 Just hours earlier, these disciples had vowed never to desert Jesus (14:31). Judas’s kiss marked a turning point for the disciples and Jesus’ loyal disciples deserted him and ran away. The teacher who had held forth in the Temple was now under arrest. The treasurer had become a traitor. The garden sanctuary that had always been “safe” was turned into the place of confrontation. What confusion! The disciples’ primary loyalty to Jesus should have kept them from running. But fear took its toll.
14:51-52 Only Mark records the incident of this young man who also fled the scene. Tradition says that this young man may have been John Mark, the writer of this Gospel, in whose home the Last Supper may have taken place. If that is true, at some point Mark had awakened from sleep (he had probably been sleeping in a linen nightshirt or had a sheet wrapped around him) and had followed the disciples to the garden. Perhaps soldiers had come to the house looking for Jesus and this young man had attempted to warn Jesus before the soldiers reached him. But in Gethsemane, the crowd had already arrested Jesus and the disciples had fled. Someone grabbed this young man, perhaps hoping to use him as a witness. At that, the young man escaped and ran away naked.
Caiaphas Questions Jesus / 14:53-65
14:53 By now it was very early Friday morning, before daybreak. Jesus was taken under guard from the garden back into Jerusalem. First he was questioned by Annas, the former high priest and father-in-law of Caiaphas. Annas had been Israel’s high priest from a.d. 6 to 15, when he had been deposed by Roman rulers. Then Caiaphas had been appointed high priest. He held that position from a.d. 18 to 36 / 37. According to Jewish law, the office of high priest was held for life, but the Roman government had taken over the process of appointing all political and religious leaders. Caiaphas served for eighteen years, longer than most high priests, suggesting that he was gifted at cooperating with the Romans. Caiaphas was the first to recommend Jesus’ death in order to “save” the nation (John 11:49-50). However, many Jews still considered Annas to be the high priest. Annas may have asked to question Jesus after his arrest and was given first rights to do so. This hearing is described in John 18:12-24.
After that preliminary hearing, Jesus was taken to the high priest’s home. That all the religious leaders had been speedily assembled shows that this was a trial by the Jewish council of religious leaders consisting of seventy members plus the high priest. Because of their haste to complete the trial and see Jesus die before the Sabbath, less than twenty-four hours later, the religious leaders first met in Caiaphas’s home at night to accomplish the preliminaries before their more formal meeting in the Temple at daylight. They finally had Jesus where they wanted him, and they were determined to accomplish their plans as quickly as possible.
The trial by the Jewish leaders had two phases. This first phase occurred during the night (recorded here in 14:53-65); then another meeting was held “very early in the morning” (15:1) to satisfy a law that allowed trials only during the daytime. That meeting was a mere formality held at daybreak, during which the verdict was given and Jesus was led off to the Roman procurator for sentencing. The Jewish council was the most powerful religious and political body of the Jewish people. Although the Romans controlled Israel’s government, they gave the people power to handle religious disputes and some civil disputes; so the council made many of the local decisions affecting daily life. But a death sentence had to be authorized by the Romans (John 18:31).
14:54 Although all the disciples had fled when the soldiers arrested Jesus, two of them, Peter and another disciple (perhaps John), returned to where Jesus was taken (John 18:15). The high priest’s residence was a palace with gates and outer walls enclosing a courtyard. Here a charcoal fire was burning, around which the servants and guards were warming themselves against the early morning chill. Peter’s story continues at 14:66.
14:55-56 Upstairs in the high priest’s palace, the leading priests and the entire high council (meaning the group of seventy-one leaders of the Jews—priests and respected men) assembled in the middle of the night to get this trial under way, but they had a dilemma on their hands. They were trying to find witnesses who would testify against Jesus, so they could put him to death, but they couldn’t find any—only false witnesses who contradicted each other. The obvious conclusion should have been that Jesus was innocent of any crime. But this was not a trial for justice; it was a trial to accomplish an evil purpose. These leaders held a trial, in keeping with all the trappings of their law, while their whole purpose was to kill Jesus. Ironically, these religious guardians of the law were breaking one of the Ten Commandments, “Do not testify falsely” (Exodus 20:16).
14:57-59 Finally they found some men who would testify against him with a lie regarding Jesus’ words about the Temple. These men twisted Jesus’ words because their testimony, even on this same point, did not agree.
The witnesses claimed that Jesus had said he could destroy the Temple in Jerusalem—a blasphemous boast. Such a claim would bring wrath from even the Romans because destroying temples was considered a capital offense throughout the Roman Empire. However, Jesus had not spoken in the first person (“I will destroy”); nor had he said anything linking his words with the Temple building. Instead, Jesus had spoken in the second person plural, issuing a command, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19). Jesus, of course, was talking about his body, not the building. Ironically, the religious leaders were about to destroy Jesus’ body just as he had said, and three days later he would rise from the dead.
14:60 Caiaphas, the high priest, was getting frustrated. Now his only hope was to get Jesus to say something that would give them evidence to convict him. The religious leaders had tried and failed on prior occasions to trap Jesus with trick questions (12:13-34); Caiaphas tried to make up in intimidation what was lacking in evidence. He asked Jesus to answer his accusers and then to explain the accusations against him.
14:61 Jesus refused to say anything. He had nothing to say to the group of liars who had spoken against him, and he had no reason to explain a bunch of false accusations. So he made no reply. This had been prophesied in Scripture (Isaiah 53:7). With Jesus’ silence, the court proceedings ground to a halt. But Caiaphas had another tactic up the sleeve of his priestly robe. He decided to ask Jesus point blank, “Are you the Messiah?” The council must have held its collective breath in anticipation. Here was the question that could make or break the entire plot. Would Jesus outright claim to be the Messiah, the Son of the blessed God? We may wonder why Jesus refused to answer the first question and then chose to answer this one. Matthew’s account points out that Caiaphas put Jesus under oath (Matthew 26:63) so that Jesus would be forced to answer by law (Leviticus 5:1); so he would be forced to incriminate himself. Caiaphas’s action was unlawful in trial proceedings, but no one voiced that fact to him. As mentioned above, this trial had nothing to do with justice; it was merely a ploy to get rid of Jesus.
14:62 To the first questions (14:60), Jesus made no reply because the questions were based on confusing and erroneous evidence. Not answering was wiser than trying to clarify the fabricated accusations. But if Jesus had refused to answer the second question (14:61), it would have been tantamount to denying his deity and his mission. So Jesus answered without hesitation, “I am.” The two words, “I am,” both answered the high priest’s question and alluded to Jesus divinity (“I am” being God’s self-designation, see Exodus 3:14).
Then Jesus spoke startling words: the Son of Man, sitting at God’s right hand, refers to Psalm 110:1, and coming back on the clouds of heaven recalls Daniel 7:13-14. The clouds represented the power and glory of God. Both verses were considered to be prophecies of the coming Messiah, and Jesus applied them to himself.
14:63-64 Tearing one’s clothing was an ancient expression of deep sorrow (see Genesis 44:13). The law forbade a priest from tearing his garments over personal grief (Leviticus 10:6; 21:10), but it was appropriate in an instance when blasphemy had been spoken in his presence. Blasphemy was the sin of claiming to be God or of attacking God’s authority and majesty in any way. Caiaphas tore his clothing to signify his horror at the audacity of the claims of this mere teacher from Nazareth. These religious leaders thought that Jesus was leading the people astray and bringing dishonor to God’s holy name. For any other human being, this claim would have been blasphemy; in this case, the claim was true.
Blasphemy was punishable by death (Leviticus 24:15-16). “Why do we need other witnesses?” asked Caiaphas without expecting any answer. Jesus had incriminated himself. Caiaphas asked for their verdict. The Jewish leaders had the evidence they wanted, so they all condemned him to death.
14:65 Next some of the members of the council acted in a most brutish way. Jesus was blindfolded, and they took turns hitting him and then asking him to tell who it was that hit him. When they finished with Jesus, the guards came and also beat Jesus. Yet even this had been prophesied in Scripture (Isaiah 52:14). Jesus suffered great pain, humiliation, and brutality to take away our sin.
Peter Denies Knowing Jesus / 14:66-72
14:66-68 This servant girl was actually guarding the gate to the inner courtyard (John 18:16). She had seen Peter enter. Jesus’ trial had been held in an upper story of the high priest’s palace; so, Peter was below in the courtyard. When the girl saw Peter’s face more clearly in the light of the fire, she looked at him closely and recognized him as one who had been with Jesus (that is, one of Jesus’ disciples). This put Peter in a difficult position. Standing among the soldiers and servants right there in enemy territory, Peter did not necessarily want to be identified with the man in an upstairs room on trial for his life. So Peter made a natural and impulsive response—he lied. He simply got out of this sticky situation by saying he didn’t understand what the girl was talking about; then he scooted out into the entryway, away from the fire. Temptation came when Peter least expected it, and this warns us to be prepared. Peter had been ready to fight with a sword but not to face the accusations of a servant.
14:69-71 Once again Peter was put to the test. Another servant girl (Matthew 26:71) saw him. She didn’t question him; she began telling the others around that Peter was indeed one of them, meaning one of Jesus’ disciples. But he denied it again. This was Peter’s second denial.
About an hour passed (Luke 22:59) and some other bystanders also recognized Peter by his Galilean accent (Matthew 26:73). Peter’s dialect was closer to Syrian speech than to that of the Judean servants in that Jerusalem courtyard. While Peter may have hoped to seem a natural part of the group by joining in the conversation, instead he revealed, by his speech, that he did not belong there. Once again Peter lied, this time more vehemently. So Peter decided to make the strongest denial he could think of by denying with an oath, “I swear by God, I don’t know this man.” This was the third denial (14:30).
14:72 Immediately upon Peter’s final words, the rooster crowed the second time. When Peter heard the rooster crowing and then saw Jesus look down at him from the upper story where the trial was being held (Luke 22:61), Jesus’ previous words flashed through his mind. Peter had indeed denied Jesus three times before the rooster crowed.
Peter broke down and cried, not only because he realized that he had denied his Lord, the Messiah, but also because he had turned away from a very dear friend. Unable to stand up for his Lord for even twelve hours, he had failed as a disciple and as a friend.
Fortunately, the story does not end there. Peter’s tears were of true sorrow and repentance. Peter reaffirmed his love for Jesus, and Jesus forgave him (see 16:7; John 21:15-19). From this humiliating experience, Peter learned much that would help him later when he became leader of the young church.
Tomorrow is the crucifixion in chapter 15. Praying that you will continue to GROW in Christ,
For more about The Ridge Fellowship go to www.RidgeFellowship.com
Life Application Concise New Testament Commentary
Life Application Bible Notes
New American Commentary
Preacher’s Outline and Sermon Bible – Commentary
Preaching the Word Commentary