Mark 14:32–52comment (0)
February 18, 2010
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Mark 14:32–52
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHEN YOU HAVE DIFFICULT DECISIONS
“Gethsemane” means “oil press.” According to John 18:1–2, there was a garden Jesus and His group entered. Nothing says they prayed “’neath the old olive trees.” In that garden was a cave (today called The Grotto of Gethsemane) rigged as an olive press. When the first Christian pilgrims went to Jerusalem after the Roman emperor Constantine legalized Christianity, local believers took them to this cave and identified it as Gethsemane. Jesus left most of His disciples near the entrance but took Peter, James and John into the cave. The Lord went deeper still to pray.
In prayer, Jesus addressed His Father with the tender term “Abba” (“Daddy”). He confessed the omnipotence of the Father and asked that the coming hour of suffering and death might pass from Him, i.e., never come to Him at all. But then He humbly submitted to the Father’s will. What Jesus shied away from was not simple suffering but the “cup” of God’s wrath against sin He must drain to save sinners (Isa. 51:22; cf Mark 10:38). There is no need to be embarrassed about His request. The words show the real humanity of Jesus, who was tempted to avoid the cross both at the beginning of His ministry (cf Matt. 4:1–11) and here again at its end.
Had Peter and the rest kept vigil with Jesus in Gethsemane, they might have stood firm instead of forsaking Him. “Enter not into temptation” probably had the idea of not failing the test. A disciple should watch and pray so that he can stand when his hour of trial strikes.
Judas came leading a crowd. These verses serve several purposes in the context of the trial and death of Jesus. 1. They emphasize the despicable character of the traitor Judas, who would betray a friend with a kiss. 2. They make plain that despite the warlike preparations for His capture, Jesus was neither bandit nor revolutionary but a peaceable teacher who had nothing to hide. 3. They show, on Jesus’ own authority, that what happened was in accord with Old Testament prophecy. 4. They record the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy in Mark 14:27, thus confirming its supernatural character. 5. They hint that the record rests on eyewitness testimony. The somewhat trivial details in Mark 14:51–52 do not fit such a serious account. Probably they reflect the personal memories of the author of this Gospel, John Mark, who witnessed the events of the late evening. It was hardly necessary to identify Judas as “one of the Twelve,” but the reference underscores the horror of his dastardly deed. The officers with him included both temple guards with clubs and Roman soldiers with swords. They had agreed on a sign by which Judas could distinguish for the officers which of the men before them was Jesus. Judas’ “kiss” may have been the “cheek-to-cheek kiss the air” still used by men in the East, but the common way of showing respect to a rabbi was to kiss his hand.
When the officers laid hold of Jesus, one of the disciples slashed at the throat of the high priest’s servant (John says it was Peter and names the servant Malchus) but succeeded only in cutting off the servant’s ear when the fellow ducked to avoid the deathblow.
Jesus protested the manner of His arrest. They could have taken Him while He taught in the temple instead of apprehending Him here like a common criminal. Of course, His protest did no good. When the remaining disciples saw He would not resist arrest, their faith in Him collapsed and to a man they fled.
An unnamed man did not run immediately. He was following Jesus. Some think this was John Mark (whose mother had a house in Jerusalem, Acts 12:12, where the early church met and maybe the location of the “upper room”), the author of this Gospel. Perhaps Jesus and His band woke him when they left the upper room and he threw a sheet around himself and followed. That the cloth was “linen” marked him as upper class. Some officers tried to arrest this man, but when they grabbed his covering, he left it in their hands and fled naked into the night. Jesus faced His accusers alone. The aloneness of the Lord is the real point of the episode.