The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 14E

Chapter 14:43-52

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  • Tonight, we pick back up on the scene in the Garden of Gethsemane right after Jesus’ agony in prayer has transpired, regarding taking the cup of the wrath of God.

    • If you recall, Jesus and His disciples have been in the garden for several hours, a familiar place of gathering for them in prior Passover celebrations.

      • And it is here that Jesus was seeking from the Father, “if there would be a way to bypass taking on the hour that was to come.”

      • Remember that the term “the hour” and “the cup” are both interchangeable and relate to the pouring out of the wrath of God.

    • We came to understand that the coming physical pain that He would endure, although great, was not the cause of His agony, but rather it would be the separation He would soon experience from the Father.

      • With the Lord in prayer for several hours, we find that He came to the same conclusion every time which was, “Not My will but Your Will, Father”.

      • Understand, this is the second member of the Trinity who has always existed with the Father and in perfect unity despite the agony of His humanity.

      • And here again, He responds in submission to the Father’s plan they agreed upon before the foundation of the world.

    • What a beautiful moment of truth for us to take away: That our wills must always align with the Father’s will regardless of what lies before.

      • God is Sovereign and as His created beings, we are to submit to our Creator!

    • As the appointed moment for Jesus to be handed over was drawing near, where the disciples should have been praying to not give into temptation, Jesus awakens them a third time with the news of His coming betrayal.

      • It was in this third time of prayer, that after having been ministered to by the angel sent to Him, that Jesus has garnered the strength to enter into this appointed time not in agony.

      • It will be in this next scene, that where the disciples anticipated demonstrating great resilience in defending Jesus, that they realize they bit off more than they could chew.

    • If I were to put an outline together for us, we are going to see the following things:

      • 1. A Betrayal (v.43-47)

      • 2. A Question (v.48-50)

      • 3. A Strange Man (v.51-52)

    • If I were to put a tag on our text for tonight, it would be: “Abandoned with a Kiss”.

      • With that being said, pick me up at Mark 14:43-52 for our reading tonight.

Mark 14:43  Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, *came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 
Mark 14:44   Now he who was betraying Him had given them a signal, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him and lead Him away under guard.” 
Mark 14:45   After coming, Judas immediately went to Him, saying, “Rabbi!” and kissed Him. 
Mark 14:46   They laid hands on Him and seized Him. 
Mark 14:47   But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear. 
Mark 14:48   And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 
Mark 14:49   Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.” 
Mark 14:50   And they all left Him and fled.
Mark 14:51   A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him. 
Mark 14:52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.
  • Mark begins this transitional section in verse 43 with the word “Immediately”.

    • If you recall our intro teaching to this book, I mentioned that the word “immediately” is normative to the writing style of Mark’s style in his gospel.

      • We see Mark moves us from one scene to the next as if it were a comic book storyline.

      • It is here that he leads us to the moment of the betrayal of Jesus as was coordinated prior between the Sanhedrin Council and Judas.

      • It is as if Judas’ arrival on the scene is happening right as Jesus has woken the disciples for a third time from their slumber.

    • The text tells us that while Jesus was still speaking, that Judas arrived to the exact location He was praying in, yet Judas was not alone.

      • That rather than being accompanied alongside the disciples, he is in lockstep with what Mark says was “a crowd with swords and clubs” in whom were sent by the Sanhedrin council.

      • Remember, the council included the chief priest, the scribes, and the elders of the people.

    • Although Mark’s account doesn’t provide us with who this crowd was made up of, John’s gospel provides us a bit more detail as to who was accompanying Judas at Gethsemane.

      • It’s in John 18:3 that we see the Sanhedrin Counsel supplied Judas with a Roman cohort and temple officers.

    • One question that comes to mind at this point is: “How many people were included in a Roman cohort?”

      • A Roman cohort consisted of about 600 men who were armed and ready.

      • The term “cohort” was Roman military terminology which meant that this group of men were preparing as if they were coming against some sort of insurrectionist.

    • On top of that, the text tells us that temple officers were included alongside this 600 number.

      • So, it is estimated that there were close to nearly 1,000 men in the garden at this moment.

    • One detail that I want to mention here is that as the scene has transitioned from Jesus waking the disciples to now Judas arriving with this large group of soldiers, it seems as though a line has been drawn in the sand regarding where Judas’ allegiance fell.

      • I mention this because Mark feels the need to remind the reader that Judas is, “one of the twelve”.

      • Why even mention this detail at this point if we know throughout the account who Judas was and what he had done?

    • This is included to speak to the great severity of betrayal of Judas towards Jesus.

      • Here is the man that has called you, walked with you, loved you despite the condition of your heart and yet Judas chooses to go all the way through with his desire to sell out the Messiah for 30 pieces of silver.

      • It will be some time later where this great betrayal will come back to bite Judas in the behind, as he will try to give back the money to redeem himself after realizing what he had done.

    • Judas has arrived to do what he had already planned and that was to betray the Lord Jesus, and in doing so, he has coordinated a signal to help the soldiers know which individual to seize.

      • The sign in which Judas gives the soldiers is a “kiss”.

    • A kiss on the cheek to a Rabbi or teacher of that day was nothing obscure. It was a gesture of affection and reverence from the disciple to the teacher.

      • So, why would this be a sign to capture One in whom loved you and cared for you?

    • This sign had to be one in which, to Judas’ fellow disciples, would be inconspicuous but to the Roman guard must be obvious.

      • At best, the other disciples would assume Judas has returned from the duties that Jesus dismissed him to do earlier in the Upper Room for the Passover Seder.

    • So, these means of an incognito sign would cover Judas’ method of betrayal and keep the disciples from trying to strangle Judas for this act of treachery.

      • This even more goes to show us that the disciples were not following nor understood what Jesus was saying as it related to the “awkward moment” at Supper when Jesus dismissed Judas to do what he must do.

    • So, this kiss is the signal by which would trigger the moment for the handing over of Jesus; a transfer from one trusted member of the twelve to the hands of the religious leaders.

      • We will get to the direct discourse of the kiss soon.

      • Now, if we move too fast past verse 44, we will miss the weight of the language because the phrase in 44b is hugely important.

    • The term “to seize” is often linked to a person who has committed some sort of illegal activity.

      • Here it is, the innocent Messiah is being approached by close to a thousand men with swords and weapons wielded as if He has committed some sort of heinous crime as if He were a criminal.

      • And as we move along in this gospel account, we will see that this very point becomes “a primary question for Pilate”.

    • Pilate seeks to understand, “what crime has Jesus done to be found in this predicament to which he finds “no fault”.

      • In other words, these religious leaders are seeking false allegations to prohibit the ministry of Jesus, yet all the while failing to see that they are going right along with the Father’s plan to accomplish the means of salvation.

    • It would be through these false allegations that an innocent man would be sent to a cross, die a death that He didn’t deserve, so that we would become the righteousness of God!

      • This becomes yet another demonstration of the beauty of God’s Sovereign plan – knowing that what man means for evil, God will turn for good. (Genesis 50:20).

    • It’s in verse 45-46 that we find the abbreviated version of the exchange between both Judas and Jesus regarding Judas’ betrayal and kiss.

      • Mark mentions that upon Judas seeing Jesus a ways ahead of the cohort, that Judas said to Jesus, “Rabbi! and kissed Him”.

      • The word “kissed” here in Greek is interesting because this term, kataphileo, is an intensive form of the word kiss.

      • The sense of this form speaks to an elaborate or prolonged kiss as if to exaggerate the affection as an earnest gesture.

      • And exaggerated it was so that the guards would know exactly who it was in which these men were to arrest.

    • Some thoughts come to mind here which is: “With Jesus having been such as well-known figure, wouldn’t these men have known who He was?”

      • The fact that most of these men are probably here in Jerusalem as security measures for the heightened time for the Jewish Festival of Passover, they may not have known what Jesus looked like, necessarily.

      • Therefore, these men would depend heavily upon Judas’ sign to know who to arrest and take into custody.

      • And as we see in verse 46, once Judas gave the signal, the guards immediately commenced in seizing Jesus as if He were a criminal.

    • What makes this moment such a disheartening time is knowing that in Matthew’s gospel, even to the very end, Jesus still called Judas, “Friend”. (Matthew 26:50)

      • I am reminded of Proverbs 27:6 in this moment. Here is what the text reads:

Proverbs 27:6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend,
But deceitful are the kisses of an enemy.
    • How could it be that even with Jesus knowing the betrayal that would come from Judas that He would still call Him friend, is a testament to the love of the Son even to the end. That even for the worse of us, Jesus died.

      • His love knows no bounds. This is the Love of God – that He desires all men to know Him, yet when we reject that Love we reject the very means of true joy and friendship (intimacy) found in a loving Savior.

      • But most importantly, what I see the text provides us with is how mercy can still be provided to our enemies.

    • Well, not too soon after the guards go to arrest Jesus, Mark mentions that “one of those who stood near with his sword” struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear.

      • Now, Mark’s account doesn’t identify for us who this individual was, but Matthew’s gospel (Matthew 20:31), provides us a with a hint that this rambunctious individual was one of the twelve.

      • Furthermore, the beauty of all four gospels is that we can gather data from various viewpoints, and lo and behold we find in John 18:10 that this rambunctious rebel is none other than our boy, Peter.

John 18:10 Simon Peter then, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave, and cut off his right ear; and the slave’s name was Malchus.
    • And it happens that the slave of the high priest Caiaphas, was a man by the name, Malchus.

    • Mark doesn’t provide the discourse that happens at this moment regarding Jesus’ response to Peter’s actions or even to the Roman cohort’s response to Jesus upon their arrival, but Matthew and John’s gospel provides insight on the actions of Peter.

      • At face value we can see this is Peter’s attempt to prove not only to Jesus but himself that he was not going to let Jesus be handed over, neither was Peter going to deny him.

      • And so, the best move for Peter, in his mind, was to allow his actions to speak louder than his words.

    • It’s at this point in Matthew’s gospel that he is driving the point home to his audience that Jesus came to fulfil the scriptures, in which we discussed last week.

      • Jesus mentioned that “He must be handed over and from there the sheep would scatter.”

    • Therefore, Peter’s response is to prove to himself that this will not be the case. Again honorable move, yet God’s will must be done.

      • It’s like a child trying to disprove what the parent has already told the child will be done, yet the child refuses to submit to the parent’s lead.

      • And in this case Jesus has spoken, yet Peter does not want to come to the realization of that truth.

      • So, where Peter is trying to do things in his own strength, Jesus is telling Peter, it must be done this way and the way Jesus does so is so powerful!

    • Jesus says (paraphrasing) “you are trying to fight a battle that requires a spiritual response!”

      • Jesus tells Peter, put down the sword and continues by saying that He could have appealed to His Heavenly Father who, if He so chose would dispense more than twelve legions of angels.

      • Just to provide us with numerical understanding, one legion equaled 6,000 troops which means twelve legions is the equivalent to 72,000 angels!

      • So 1,000 Roman soldiers compared to 72,000 angels, there is no match!

      • And in this same way, Peter’s defense of Jesus, although with great intentions was detracting from the point of the moment.

    • Jesus had to be handed over to die so that He could become the ransom for the many. (Mark 10:45)

      • Before we move forward, there is another angle in which John captures that the other gospels do not.

    • John’s gospel provides us with some detail between Mark 14:47-48, which once again demonstrates both Jesus’ Sovereignty over all things, most specifically, Jesus’ willingness to be captured and turned over, and Jesus’ power over all things.

      • In John 18:4-8, John writes that upon Judas and the army’s arrival, that Jesus asked “Whom do you seek?” to which they responded, “Jesus of Nazareth”.

      • It is at that point that Jesus says, “I am He”, however in the original manuscripts it reads, “I AM”.

      • This very statement from Jesus in John 18:6 causes this group of 1,000 men to “draw back and fall to the ground”.

      • It’s as if Jesus’ very words of who He was caused these men to shutter to the floor.

    • In other words, Jesus’ mentioning of being the “I AM” caused a Powerful moment that only God could cause.

      • I mention this point because, we should not think that Jesus at any point sought to escape this moment even though He was without fault.

      • Jesus embraced what He came to the earth to fulfil and that was the will of the Father.

    • As we move to verses 48-49, we will see that the question in which Jesus asks the commander of the army and the temple officer is not a question of abdication, but rather a question of confirmation.

Mark 14:48   And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, as you would against a robber? 
Mark 14:49   Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfill the Scriptures.”
  • Jesus, seeing the extent by which the Sanhedrin Council and Judas had gone to capture Him, looked to be a bit on the exaggerated end.

    • From verse 43 and 47 we see that the gathering of close to 1,000 men to capture one person was a bit excessive.

      • This is to say, that there was a sense in which the Sanhedrin council assumed that Jesus and His followers could potentially try to resist this capture.

      • Let’s note that at this point in the account, it’s probably around 1/2AM which means it is still dark outside.

      • Therefore, the method by which the Sanhedrin council were seeking to capture Jesus was at a time when no one would expect it.

    • As we discovered a few weeks ago, the religious leaders did not want to capture Jesus in the daytime because there would have been a great uproar from the people, but at night they would have a better advantage.

      • This also goes to show us that the deeds of evil men always tend to be accomplished at night when no one is watching.

    • So here are the Roman cohort and the temple officers with swords and clubs in hand as if they are coming for a mob, anticipating hostility.

      • Yet, Jesus asks this beautiful question to reveal the heart of the situation at hand, especially the heart of Judas and the religious leaders.

      • Jesus says, “Have you come out with swords and clubs to arrest Me, “as you would against a robber?”

    • He then further expounds this point of secrecy further confirming for us that the officers present on scene were, indeed, Temple officers.

      • He says, “Every day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize Me; but this has taken place to fulfil the scriptures.”

    • In other words, Jesus makes mention that these men had the opportunity every day during the day to do their deed of arresting Him in the Temple, yet because of their wicked hearts they waited until no one was around.

      • The arrest being at night rather than the daytime showcased the cowardice of the religious leaders and the great betrayal of Judas, himself, yet even in the face of great hostility, Christ exuded great humility to accomplish the will of God.

      • This night in the garden would become a mere picture of the hearts of men and would reflect the reality in which Christ would take upon Himself the cross. “For God would soon ignore Him while men despise Him.”

    • This present reality was to fulfill one of many of the Messianic prophecies in the Hebrew Bible, more specifically, Psalm 22:6. Check out the text:

Psalm 22:6 But I am a worm and not a man,
A reproach of men and despised by the people.
    • This was a Psalm written by David speaking to what he felt as God’s abandonment from him, yet towards the end of this psalm there would be an eventual joining in of praises to the Lord in Israel for His glorious salvation.

      • This Suffering Servant and soon coming King was, from this point forward, despised as a “subhuman worm” by men yet, through his suffering and being despised, would come great joy for Israel and the world through His victory over death!

    • But one notable Old Testament text that would speak even more clearly to this grief and abandonment that Christ would endure is none other than Isaiah 53:3.

Isa.53:3 He was despised and forsaken of men,
A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
And like one from whom men hide their face
He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
  • From the great suffering that would soon commence, it would seem like the weight of that pressure was growing so much so that it would collapse upon the disciples.

    • The text mentions in verse 50 that after Jesus’ mention of this secretive arrest, which would lead to a faulty trial, that “they all left Him” and fled.

    • Once Jesus’ willingness to accept this coming suffering and death was made clear to His disciples, both the disciples’ loyalty and confidence shrieked back and collapsed. (All 11 loyal disciples fled the scene, just as Jesus predicted.)

      • Where Peter was once confident and assured, he became cowardly and ran for cover.

      • Where he once boasted of his unwavering allegiance, he now became weary.

      • Where Peter raised the sword to the defense of Jesus, he now dropped the sword and ran.

      • Where Peter spoke unequivocally about Jesus being the Christ the Son of the Living God, he now abandoned the very one in whom would be his very deliverer.

    • This had to have been a heart-breaking reality. I could imagine as Peter leaves the scene in utter fear of what could be potentially coming for Him, that He looked back at the Lord Jesus, now isolated and alone with no one beside him.

      • He had just done what he said he would never do, even if it meant death for him. This had to have weighed heavy on him.

    • Herein lies the Christian life for believers even today, that we have these great moments of living for Jesus and doing for Jesus, but often when the pressure is turned up that confidence seems to fade away.

      • Perhaps this is the case because our confidence was more centered on what we can do than what Christ has done?

      • Where Christ was once surrounded by His disciples He is now faced with abandonment as He makes His way to the cross, yet Jesus did not lose sight of what was before Him – the cross was His call and purpose.

      • We now arrive to our last two verses tonight. Two verses that spark great mystery while yet providing clarity to these preceding verses. Check out verses 51-52.

Mark 14:51   A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they *seized him. 
Mark 14:52 But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked.
  • We find ourselves at a strange section of our text tonight.

    • These 2 verses have brought about much speculation ranging from the credibility of this gospel account to the literary abilities of the writer, John Mark.

      • Along with these speculations arise the question that you might be asking yourself, and that is, “who is this “young man?”

      • This very question is up for debate as the identification of this man is not revealed and has therefore given way to meaningless conjecture.

    • There are some that say that this mystery man is none other than John Mark, himself. This notion comes from a 13th century Coptic manuscript, discovered by Rupert Allen.

      • It is said that in the footnotes of this manuscript in Aramaic were the possible identities of this mystery man. The names were either James, son of Joseph and Mark the Evangelist.

      • However, this later discovery was long refuted through the assertion of Papias, the 2nd century bishop of Hierapolis that stated that Mark, “neither heard the Lord nor followed him’ (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 3.39.15)

      • The list of possibilities goes on and on!

    • This leads me to believe that despite the identification of the man’s name, yet Mark’s inclusion of these 2 verses, where the other gospel writers excluded this event, that the Holy Spirit deemed these two verses necessary to be included in the canon.

      • The question to that deduction becomes: “What was Mark doing in including these 2 verses?”

    • Clearly the name of the man is unimportant, therefore there has to be some meaning found in the text in a literal sense. (This event happened)

      • Well, in order for us to find that meaning, there are a few terms we need to look at in the text. Those words include:

        • 1. Following, Escaped Naked

        • 2. Linen Sheet

      • Let’s begin with the word “following”.

    • The word “following” in Greek is synakoloutheo which means to go or travel along with another or others or to accompany someone.

      • The text makes it clear that this young man, whoever he was, has been “following Jesus” or has been accompanying Jesus along the way.

      • To “follow” Jesus was what the disciples had been doing during Jesus’ earthly ministry (the root word: akoloutheo) which we see in passages such as (Mark 2:14;8:34;10:21).

      • So, what this young man is doing is following along with Jesus as He has been arrested…maybe following behind at some distance of sorts, which means that this young man potentially was another follower/disciple of Christ, just not within the 12.

    • At this point it seems that this follower, at first read, seems to be going the extra mile, farther than what the remaining 11 have gone because they have fled.

      • But verse 51b mentions that the young man is seized. The same Greek word used in verse 46 regarding Jesus’ arrest.

      • It’s at this point in which verse 52 mentions that the young man pulled free and escaped.

      • There becomes here a picture of sorts, that where the disciples once followed Jesus, so did this young man, yet at the very same time, where the disciples fled due to pressure, even having gone a step further, so did the young man flee.

    • Therefore, this sense of fleeing amid fear demonstrated the disciples’ failure.

      • In other words, where at one point they gave up everything to follow Him, they now left “their everything” to abandon Him.

      • Therefore, this young man’s nakedness speaks to the complete abandonment and shame of the disciples at this point in Mark’s narrative.

    • As Donahue and Harrington mention in their commentary of Mark’s gospel, “The disciples had chosen shame over fidelity to Jesus.”

      • Let’s now examine the linen sheet.

    • The term “linen cloth” (sindon) appears twice in Mark 14:50-51. The next time that this term “linen cloth” comes up is in Mark 15:46 where it is mentioned twice as well.

      • That where this young man, at one point is wearing this garment of clothing, it is soon pulled from him and he runs away naked and ashamed, yet in Mark 15:46, the next mentioning of linen cloths is where Jesus is wrapped in linen cloths for burial.

      • So what could be seen here in the text is the garments used in Mark’s gospel is utilized as a literary device (motif).

    • In other words, where the disciples run away in despair and shame from Jesus, it would be Jesus himself who would put upon Himself our shame and grief so that in exchange, we would be made right before God.

      • The beautiful lesson here, regarding discipleship, is that the development of the believer rests in the position in which the believer has been placed and that is in Christ alone.

    • When we put the word up to our lives, as a mirror, we see that we too are like this unnamed man (disciples), prone to wonder and fail.

      • Yet, when we look to Jesus, He remains consistent despite the collapse of trust.

      • When we look to Jesus, He remained faithful to the Father’s will – even to the point of death!

    • The moment that we think we can go further on our own rather that depending upon the Lord through it all, is the moment we too will fall short.

      • I am reminded of the hymn, “He Will Hold Me Fast”, written by Ada Habershon and Matthew Merker. The lyrics say:

When I fear my faith will fail
Christ will hold me fast
When the tempter would prevail
He will hold me fast
I could never keep my hold
Through life's fearful path
For my love is often cold
He must hold me fast
He will hold me fast
He will hold me fast
For my Saviour loves me so
He will hold me fast
Raised with Him to endless life
He will hold me fast
'Til our faith is turned to sight
When He comes at last!
  • Friends, it is Christ who holds us near. His work alone sustains us!

    • His work alone preserves us. His work alone justifies us. And by His Spirit, He alone sanctifies us.

      • Where we are weak, Christ is strong. May we lean upon the arms of Christ for Salvation is found in Him alone.

      • Let’s Pray.