The Book of Mark - Teachers Comments

2024 Quarter 3 Lesson 11 - Taken and Tried

Teachers Comments
Sep 07 - Sep 13

Key Text: Mark 14:1

Study Focus: Mark 14

Introduction: In Mark 14, we read about the plot to kill Jesus. Mark ex­plicitly tells us that the plot had been in development for some time, given the fact that “the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him covertly and kill Him” (Mark 14:1, NASB). Thus, the desire of Jesus’ enemies to put Him to death begins to take sinister shape.

Mark 14 narrates the events of Jesus’ betrayal and His condemnation by the religious leaders.

Lesson Themes: This week’s study analyzes three important events in the final days of Jesus’ life:

  1. The anointing of Jesus with costly perfume.

  2. Peter’s forsaking of Jesus.

  3. Jesus’ suffering as a direct fulfillment of prophecy.

Part II: Commentary

Three Attitudes Toward the Savior

Mark 14:1–11 is the first pericope, or section, of the chapter. In this segment, Mark introduces two scenes with three main characters or groups of characters: (1) the priests and scribes; (2) an unidentified woman; and (3) the disciples, including Judas Iscariot. The first group is willing to pay a considerable amount of money to put Jesus to death, as revealed in Mark 14:1, 11. Their willingness is evidence of how corrupt the leaders of the temple and its services had become. Jesus was right when He said to them, “ ‘You have made [the temple] a den of robbers’ ” (Mark 11:17, NASB). So great was their desperation to put Him to death, at any cost, that they resorted to bankrolling one of the members of His own inner circle to achieve their purposes. The text also seems to imply that the religious leaders paid people to seize Jesus: “A crowd with swords and clubs who were from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders” (Mark 14:43, NASB). It is also possible that the religious leaders were behind the “people [who] were giving false testimony against Him, and so their testimonies were not consistent” (Mark 14:56, NASB). In light of these conjectures, it is interesting to ponder how much money the priests and the rest of the Israelite leaders spent to ensure the Messiah’s death.

The second character is an unknown woman who was willing to expend an exorbitant amount of her own capital on Jesus. She bought a very expensive perfume to anoint Jesus’ head and feet. The disciples assessed the perfume to be worth a great amount of money, more than 300 denarii (Mark 14:5). A denarius was the basic Roman currency: “It seems to have been equal to a full day’s wage for an average worker (Matt. 20:1–16).”—Lee Martin McDonald, “Money in the New Testament Era,” in The World of the New Testament: Cultural, Social, and Historical Contexts, eds. Joel B. Green and Lee Martin McDonald (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2013), p. 573. With this information in hand, we can infer that the woman spent an amount equivalent to a wage from almost a year’s work. Perhaps she saved the money from many years of hard labor. At any rate, it is, indeed, a lot of money. The woman desired to show her gratitude to Jesus, at great personal cost and sacrifice to herself. Jesus, in turn, greatly rewarded her gift, which showed how deeply she valued Him. Mark 14:9 records, “Wherever the gospel is preached in the entire world, what this woman has done will also be told in memory of her” (NASB).

The characters in the third scene, as noted, are the disciples and Judas. Unlike the unnamed woman, they considered the perfume too costly to waste on Jesus. They insist that “ ‘this perfume could have been sold for over three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor’ ” (Mark 14:5, NASB). Though the money was not theirs to begin with, they, nonetheless, blamed and discredited the woman for bestowing the bounty on Jesus.

Judas was willing to receive money to hand Jesus over to the ones who plotted His death. Mark does not provide details about the negotiation of the price for Jesus’ death. What we know of the negotiations, we learn from Matthew’s Gospel. According to Matthew, Judas asked the priests, “ ‘What are you willing to give me to betray Him to you?’ And they set out for him thirty pieces of silver” (Matt. 26:15, NASB). The expression “thirty pieces of silver,” also translated thirty silver shekels, comes from the Greek triakonta argyria. Each of these argyria is equivalent to about four drachmas. The drachma was “the basic standard Greek coin, [it] was equivalent in value to the Roman denarius. . . . It is likely that this is the coin in which Judas received his ‘thirty pieces of silver,’ or 120 denarii (Matt. 26:15).”—McDonald, “Money in the New Testament Era,” pp. 573, 574.

The amount paid by the priests and accepted by Judas was inferior in relation to the amount paid by the woman for the perfume. In short, a lone woman paid approximately 300 denarii to anoint Jesus with perfume as a memorial, while Judas accepted only 120 denarii to betray Him. The discrepancy speaks volumes. It shows how little Judas and those who sympathized with his view valued their Master.

The Impetuous Peter: Near and Far From Jesus

The final character in the scenes under discussion in Mark 14 is Peter. Peter has an active role in the final chapters. He was among those commis­sioned to prepare the Passover (Mark 14:12, 13; compare with Luke 22:8). Later, when Jesus foretold how His disciples would abandon Him at His arrest, “Peter repeatedly said insistently, ‘Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!’ ” (Mark 14:31, NASB; compare with Mark 14:29).

Peter could not fulfill Jesus’ request to “keep watching and praying” (Mark 14:38, NASB). Later, he also intervened on Jesus’ behalf and in violence cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant (John 18:10; compare with Mark 14:47).

Yet another scene in which Peter appears is the episode in which Jesus is led to the high priest. Peter followed Jesus at a distance (Mark 14:54). Later, he is confronted by those who expose him as one of Jesus’ followers. In reply to his accusers, “he began to curse himself and to swear, ‘I do not know this man of whom you speak!’ ” (Mark 14:71, NASB).

Finally, the chapter ends with Peter bursting into tears of bitter remorse. The depiction of Peter in these six scenes is a portrait of the experience of many followers of Jesus today. One moment, we may be a shining paladin in Jesus’ cause, but the next moment, we vacillate and become the unexpected villain who betrays Him. To avoid this instability of character, Jesus advises us: “ ‘Keep watching and praying, so that you will not come into temptation’ ” (Mark 14:38, NASB). The story of Peter does not end in defeat. Guided by the Holy Spirit, he becomes a pillar of the Christian community.

Jesus and the Fulfillment of the Prophecy

Finally, let us highlight Jesus’ agony in the scenes of Mark 14. How painful it must have been for Jesus that His own disciples, His most intimate associates, did not understand His mission. At the sight of His anointing by the woman, the disciples argued over the great waste of money involved in her pouring a costly perfume on His head. How heartbreaking it must have been to Jesus that two of His disciples would betray Him and the rest would abandon Him. How deeply devastating it must have been to Him to witness the religious leaders and teachers of His very own people try to kill Him, the announced Messiah. Jesus lived on this earth as a Man. He felt all the sorrow the human heart could ever bear amid these traumatic circumstances. “He said to [His followers,] ‘My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death’ ” (Mark 14:34, NASB). However, nothing and no one can derail Him from His chosen path: the path of death.

Jesus has a clear understanding of His fate. He knows why He is going down His chosen path and where it will lead. He says, “ ‘For the Son of Man is going away just as it is written about Him’ ” (Mark 14:21, NASB). He is conscious that what is happening to, or against, Him is all part of a divine plan. He perceives that “this has taken place so that the Scriptures will be fulfilled.” For this reason, when Peter tried to convince Him to renounce God’s will for Him in the plan of salvation, Jesus plainly saw Satan speaking through him as he once spoke to Eve through the medium of the serpent. Jesus came to this world to give His life as a ransom for humanity. Thus, the Bible predicted, “the Messiah will be cut off and have nothing” (Dan. 9:26, NASB), or literally “have no one.” This dire fate is exactly what happened.

Part III: Life Application

Ask your students to discuss the following question: Why did the disciples consider the perfume poured over Jesus’ head to be a waste? In light of this discussion, ask your students to consider the thoughts below.

“The words spoken in indignation, ‘To what purpose is this waste?’ brought vividly before Christ the greatest sacrifice ever made,—the gift of Himself as the propitiation for a lost world. The Lord would be so bountiful to His human family that it could not be said of Him that He could do more. In the gift of Jesus, God gave all heaven. From a human point of view, such a sacrifice was a wanton waste. To human reasoning the whole plan of salvation is a waste of mercies and resources. Self-denial and wholehearted sacrifice meet us everywhere. Well may the heavenly host look with amazement upon the human family who refuse to be uplifted and enriched with the boundless love expressed in Christ. Well may they exclaim, Why this great waste?’ ”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 565.

Have you thought of the reason why Judas betrayed Jesus? Before you give your answer, read the paragraph below.

“Judas reasoned that if Jesus was to be crucified, the event must come to pass. His own act in betraying the Saviour would not change the result. If Jesus was not to die, it would only force Him to deliver Himself. At all events, Judas would gain something by his treachery. He counted that he had made a sharp bargain in betraying his Lord.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 720.