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Passage: Mark 14:1-15:47

Mark 14:1-15:47 – Jesus Is the Temple and Is Crucified and Confessed as the Son of God

Summary

Mark's Passion Narrative proceeds in four stanzas, corresponding to the four watches of the night.

Analysis

The Passion Narrative opens dramatically in the home of Simon the leper, where an unknown woman anoints Jesus' head with pure nard. Jesus responds to those who protest her extravagance by saying that "she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial" (14:8). Judas Iscariot seeks an opportunity to betray Jesus, and the disciples seek a place where they can eat the Passover meal as the passion drama continues to unfold (14:10-16).

The first watch of the night, evening, is the setting for the Passover meal, where Jesus announces his betrayal by one who eats with them (14:17-31). During the meal Jesus offers the bread of his body and the cup of the covenant poured out for many. Following the meal Jesus and the disciples go to the Mount of Olives where Jesus announces a prophetic word from Zechariah 13:7: "I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered" (14:27). Jesus also promises to precede his followers into Galilee after he is "raised up" (14:28) and announces that Peter will deny him before the cock crows twice (14:29-31).

The second watch of the night, midnight, is in the garden of Gethsemane (14:32-52). Taking Peter, James, and John, Jesus is "distressed and agitated." Directing his prayer to "Abba, Father," he asks that the cup of suffering might pass from him. Three times Jesus returns to find his disciples unable to watch as sleep has overtaken them (14:37, 40, 41). The betrayer comes, identifying Jesus with a kiss of betrayal, and in fear the disciples all flee (14:50).

The third watch of the night, cockcrow, takes place as Jesus is brought before the Jewish religious leaders. False witness is brought against him (14:53-72). In anger the high priest challenges Jesus in his silence, "Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus responds, "I am; and 'you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,' and 'coming with the clouds of heaven'" (14:62, with reference to Daniel 7:13 and Psalm 110:1). This is the critical point of divulging Jesus' identity in the Gospel of Mark, and his words bring forth the charge of blasphemy. Meanwhile Peter is recognized in the courtyard of the high priest as one who was with Jesus, although he vehemently denies the claims. When the cock crows a second time, Peter remembers Jesus' words that he would deny him three times, and he weeps (14:72).

In the fourth watch of the night, dawn, the Jewish religious leaders deliver Jesus to Pilate. Pilate discerns that it is out of jealousy that Jesus has been brought to him, and in his perplexity he seeks to release Jesus. The chief priests stir up the crowd, crying out for Jesus to be crucified. Inside the palace courtyard, Jesus is mocked, crowned with thorns, and led out to be crucified (15:1-20). At this point the time mentioned in the narrative slows down to mark hours. Jesus is mocked and crucified on the third hour (15:21-32), and darkness falls over the land from the sixth hour until the ninth, when Jesus cries out, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" (15:34, with reference to Psalm 22:1). A sponge of vinegar is put to his lips, and Jesus breathes his last. As the temple curtain is torn from top to bottom, a centurion proclaims, "Truly this man was God's Son." Three women who have followed Jesus now observe him from a distance (15:33-41). Evening has come, and because it is the day of Preparation for the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea asks Pilate for the body. Taking him down from the cross, Joseph buries Jesus in a tomb hewn of rock. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses witness the burial (15:42-47).