Mark 14:12-21

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

February 28, 2013


There are certain days in our lives that are of such significance that the details of them are indelibly etched into our memories.  Some of those days deal with great moments in history.  For me, those days I will never forget include:

·         November 22, 1963 – The day President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas

·         January 28, 1986 – The day the space shuttle challenger exploded shortly after launch

·         September 11, 2001 – The day terrorist crashed airplanes into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and tried to crash a plane into the US Capital

And, in addition to those days marked by important historical events, there are some days that are etched into my memory because of personal events.

·         January 26, 1968 – The day Carol and I got married

·         September 4, 1973 – The day our daughter was born

·         July 8, 1978 – The day our son was born

·         January 31, 2008 – The day my father died

I can clearly remember some details of my life on those days that, had it not been for those historic events, would have longed escaped my memory.  And, no doubt, you have days in your life like that as well.


For the disciples of Jesus, the particular day at which we are going to begin looking in this session was one of those kinds of days.  Mark 14:12 begins Mark’s account of the day that Jesus and His disciples shared their last Passover meal together and the day that ended in Jesus’ arrest in the Garden of Gethsemane.  I suspect that the details of the events of that particular day were indelible etched into the memories of Jesus’ disciples.


In this session we are going to focus on Mark 14:12-21.  This section of Mark is divided into two paragraphs.

·         14:12-16 is an interesting account of the preparations that were made for the Lord and the disciples to observe the Passover meal together

·         14:17-21 tells of Jesus’ prediction that He would be betrayed by one of His disciples


Mark 14:12-16 – Preparation for the Passover

Verse 12

“…on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed…” On the surface this statement would seem to be self-contradictory.  Strictly speaking, the first day of Unleavened Bread would be Friday, Nisan 15.  The Passover lamb would have been slain on Thursday, Nisan 14.  However, as I mentioned last week by the 1st century, in Jewish thinking these two festivals were seen as a single event.  And while the Passover lamb would have been slain on Thursday afternoon, the Passover meal would have been taken the evening of that day.  Technically, in Jewish thinking, Friday began at sundown on Thursday.


      It was no accident that the death of Jesus occurred during the Passover celebration.  Passover was the most important feast of the Jewish year.  It commemorated the night the death angel passed over the homes of the Jewish families in Egypt who had spread the blood of a lamb on the lintel and doorpost of their homes, but killed the firstborn of all Egyptian families.  This was the final plague that God sent on the Egyptians, the one that convinced the Pharaoh to let them leave Egypt.  Exodus 12 tells the story and lays down guidelines for the observance of the feast of Passover.


The slaying and then eating of the Passover Lamb was a key part of the commemoration.  The New Testament makes it clear that Jesus is God’s perfect lamb, the perfect sacrifice for our salvation. 


When John the Baptist saw Jesus he exclaimed: ‘Behold the lamb of God … ’ (John 1:29). Paul wrote of ‘Christ our Passover lamb’ (1 Corinthians 5:7), while 1 Peter described Jesus as ‘like a lamb without blemish or spot’ (1:19), and the book of Hebrews went to extraordinary lengths to compare Jesus’ death with the sacrificial rituals of Judaism and to present it as in some way the fulfillment of them all.[1]


That’s gives special meaning to the events that occurred later in this chapter when Jesus instituted what we now refer to as the Lord’s Supper or Communion.   Just as the Jews ate the Passover lamb, so the bread and the wine symbolize our taking within us the perfect Lamb of God.


“His disciples said to Him, ‘Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” – The Passover was to be observed within the walls of Jerusalem.  Because this was a communal meal, normally for families, they assumed they would be taking the Passover meal with Him.


Verse 13

“…two of His disciples…” – This is an interesting piece of information that may have special meaning.  From rabbinical sources we know that only two from each household were allowed in the temple to offer the lamb with the help of a priest.[2]  Luke 22:8 identifies these two disciples as Peter and John.


“…a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water…” - It was highly unusual in this culture for a man to carry water and especially to carry it in a pitcher. If men were needed to carry large amounts of water they used sheep or goat skins, not clay pitchers.[3]  This seems to have been a prearranged meeting.  Jesus knew that by this time the authorities were seeking to arrest and kill Him.  They knew He would be coming back to Jerusalem to observe the Passover meal.  Jesus did not want to tip them off as to where He would be.  This rather clandestine meeting with a man carrying a pitcher, who would have been easy to spot, was a way for the disciples to find the room without having to ask where they could be overheard.


Verse 14

“…owner of the house…” – It is possible that this referred to a woman named Mary who was the mother of Mark.  (See Acts 1:12 and Acts 12:12)


Verse 15

“…a large upper room…” – This was the location of several of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances and it became the Jerusalem headquarters for the early Christians.


“…furnished and ready…” – Furnished probably means rugs on the floor, a low table, and cushions for reclining.  Ready may mean the owner had gathered the necessary ingredients for the Passover meal.


“…prepare for us there…” - Presumably preparing the Passover meal involved roasting the lamb, setting out the unleavened bread and wine, and preparing bitter herbs along with a sauce made of dried fruit moistened with vinegar and wine and combined with spices.[4]


One thing we can learn from this paragraph is that preparation is important.  Very few things that are significant or meaningful in life happen by accident.  Jesus obviously had made careful preparation for the historic events that would transpire that evening in the upper room.  Some people have the misguided idea that in the realm of the spiritual, planning and preparation indicate a lack of faith.  Jesus obviously did not buy into that kind of thinking.



Mark 14:17-21 – The Prediction of Betrayal

We saw in Mark 14:10-11 that Judas had already decided to betray Jesus into the hands of the Jewish authorities.  Now we are told that Jesus was aware of Judas’ intentions.


Verse 17

“And when it was evening…” - The Jewish day begins at twilight (cf. Gen. 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31). This was the Passover meal because usually Jewish evening meals were in late afternoon. Only the Passover meal was eaten after 6:00 p.m., which would be the 15th of Nisan.[5]


Verse 18

“…reclining…” – Originally the Passover meal was eaten from a standing position.  Exodus 12:11 says,  Now you shall eat it in this manner: with your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it in haste—it is the Lord’s Passover.”  However, the Jews in the 1st century had adopted the Persian custom of eating from a reclining position.  A low table, usually in the shape of a “u” to facilitate the serving of food, was surrounded by cushions.  The people would recline on their left elbow with their feet behind them and eat with their right hand.


“Truly…” – The word is literally “amen.”  It is from the Hebrew word for truth, emeth.


“…one of you…eating with Me…” – Obviously Jesus knew who the betrayer was, so why didn’t He just identify Him?  I think two reasons:

·         To emphasize that what was about to happen to Him was the fulfillment of Scripture. (See Psalm 41:9)

·         To get each of the disciples thinking about the depth of their commitment to Him.


Verse 19

“…one by one, ‘Surely not I?’…” – Each of the disciples, even Judas, asked this question.  Literally, the question is “It is not I, is it?”  This indicates that not one of them, not withstanding Peter’s bold statement later on that evening, was absolutely certain of the depth of his commitment to Jesus.


Verse 20

“…one who dips with Me in the bowl…” - Bread or meat was dipped into a central bowl of sauce. The detail emphasizes the deep personal betrayal, since table fellowship was a token of genuine friendship. [Reformation Study Bible]


Verse 21

“…woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed…”- Judas is an enigma. His motives for betraying Jesus are never revealed. Some see him as a noble Jewish patriot (i.e. zealot) trying to force Jesus to act militarily against Rome. Others see him as a committed Jew who was upset with Jesus’ rejection of the Oral Tradition and His fellowship with the outcasts and sinners of Jewish society. The Gospel of John depicts him as a thief from the beginning, someone who was driven by his love of money. However, Judas’ actions after Jesus’ arrest do not fit this characterization. Whatever the true motive or rationale, whatever the involvement of Satan, whatever the foreknowledge involved in predictive prophecy, Judas is responsible for his actions, as are all of us (cf. Gal. 6:7).[6]


In the previous session we saw a contrast between the radical commitment of Mary who poured the very expensive vial of perfume over Jesus and the partial commitment of Judas who decided to betray Jesus.  In this passage, the self-centeredness of Judas is contrasted with the others-centeredness of Jesus who voluntarily became took the role of the Passover lamb and gave His life that we might live.


In the book Holy Sweat , Tim Hansel writes the following: 


In Ernest Gordon’s true account of life in a World War II Japanese prison camp, Through the Valley of the Kwai, there is a story that never fails to move me. It is about a man who through giving it all away literally transformed a whole camp of soldiers. The man’s name was Angus McGillivray. Angus was a Scottish prisoner in one of the camps filled with Americans, Australians, and Britons who had helped build the infamous Bridge over the River Kwai. The camp had become an ugly situation. A dog-eat-dog mentality had set in. Allies would literally steal from each other and cheat each other; men would sleep on their packs and yet have them stolen from under their heads. Survival was everything. The law of the jungle prevailed...until the news of Angus McGillivray’s death spread throughout the camp. Rumors spread in the wake of his death. No one could believe big Angus had succumbed. He was strong, one of those whom they had expected to be the last to die. Actually, it wasn’t the fact of his death that shocked the men, but the reason he died. Finally they pieced together the true story.

The Argylls (Scottish soldiers) took their buddy system very seriously. Their buddy was called their “mucker,” and these Argylls believed that is was literally up to each of them to make sure their “mucker” survived. Angus’s mucker, though, was dying, and everyone had given up on him, everyone, of course, but Angus.

He had made up his mind that his friend would not die. Someone had stolen his mucker’s blanket. So Angus gave him his own, telling his mucker that he had “just come across an extra one.”


Likewise, every mealtime, Angus would get his rations and take them to his friend, stand over him and force him to eat them, again stating that he was able to get “extra food.” Angus was going to do anything and everything to see that his buddy got what he needed to recover.

But as Angus’s mucker began to recover, Angus collapsed, slumped over, and died. The doctors discovered that he had died of starvation complicated by exhaustion. He had been giving of his own food and shelter. He had given everything he had—even his very life. The ramifications of his acts of love and unselfishness had a startling impact on the compound. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12).

As word circulated of the reason for Angus McGillivray’s death, the feel of the camp began to change. Suddenly, men began to focus on their mates, their friends, and humanity of living beyond survival, of giving oneself away. They began to pool their talents—one was a violin maker, another an orchestra leader, another a cabinet maker, another a professor. Soon the camp had an orchestra full of homemade instruments and a church called the “Church Without Walls” that was so powerful, so compelling, that even the Japanese guards attended. The men began a university, a hospital, and a library system. The place was transformed; an all but smothered love revived, all because one man named Angus gave all he had for his friend. For many of those men this turnaround meant survival. What happened is an awesome illustration of the potential unleashed when one person actually gives it all away. [Holy Sweat, Tim Hansel, 1987, Word Books Publisher, pp. 146-147]]


What happened in that upper room in Jerusalem on the evening of Passover is a graphic reminder that the reason Jesus came to our world was to give His all for us.  And because He did that, it makes all the difference in the world in our lives.

[1] Drane, J. W. (2000). Introducing the New Testament (Completely rev. and updated.) (83). Oxford: Lion Publishing plc.

[2] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (176). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[3] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (176). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[4] Walvoord, J. F., Zuck, R. B., & Dallas Theological Seminary. (1985). The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Mk 14:16). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

[5] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (177). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.

[6] Utley, R. J. D. (2000). Vol. Volume 2: The Gospel according to Peter: Mark and I & II Peter. Study Guide Commentary Series (177). Marshall, Texas: Bible Lessons International.