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God’s Word for You

Mark 14:1-2 Treachery to kill him

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, November 25, 2023

We will return to the Song of Solomon after we have finished the Gospel of Mark.

14:1 It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus through treachery, and kill him. 2 “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people will riot.”

The Passover was the commemoration of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt, led by Moses in the days of the Pharaohs (probably in the reign of Pharaoh Thutmose III, 1446 BC). The original Passover was so named because the angel of God came down for the tenth plague of Egypt, the killing of all the firstborn sons. The Israelites were commanded to roast a lamb for their meal that night and to paint the blood of the lamb on the lintels and doorposts of their homes; the angel would see the blood and pass over that house, and everyone inside—Israelite, Egyptian, or otherwise—would be spared (Exodus 12:23). It was the night of the first full moon of the Hebrews’ year, the 14th of Nisan. This was followed by a festival that lasted a whole week. In the year when Jesus was crucified, Passover fell on a Thursday evening (the Hebrew day ended and began with sundown). The term “Preparation Day” is a reference to the day before the Sabbath (John 19:14), but Passover was and is not on the same day of the week each year, but moves around according to the calendar. Since Passover was on a Thursday night / Friday on this year, two days before would have been Tuesday night or Wednesday.

Mark doesn’t mention the Pharisees in the conspiracy at this point. Neither Matthew, Mark, or Luke mention the Pharisees at all during the latter part of Holy Week until after Jesus had died (see Matthew 27:62), and John only says that some Pharisees were present when Jesus was arrested in Gethsemane (John 18:3). It was the chief priests and scribes who appear to have done most of the conspiring to actually kill Jesus.

Why downplay the role of the Pharisees here? The Pharisees were a branch of Judaism. The conspiracy to kill Jesus was not a matter of what we might call a ‘denomination’ (although that word would be inaccurate), but a matter of the leadership of the priests (“the chief priests”) and those Levites who were experts and teachers of the Law of Moses (“the scribes”). The average Jew, and perhaps even the average Pharisee, did not know about this plot or participate in it.

The meeting was actually in the home of Caiaphas, the high priest (Matthew 26:3-4). They were trying to come up with a clever way to arrest him. The Gospels use the same word, dolos (δόλος), which means “through deceit or treachery.” “The wicked man,” David says, “hunts down the weak, who are caught in the schemes he devises… His mouth is full of curses and lies and threats; trouble and deceit (dolos) are under his tongue” (Psalm 10:2,7).

These were men who had set aside all reason, all rational thought, and they decided for themselves that Moses and the Prophets must have been wrong to prophesy that this man was the Messiah, because they wanted a Messiah in their own image, not in God’s image. David had foreseen this when he said in the Second Psalm: “The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Christ (Anointed One). ‘Let us break their chains,’ they say, ‘and throw off their fetters’” (Psalm 2:2-3).

“How could they think this way?” we wonder. “How could they possibly deny Jesus?” They were professional theologians. A danger for some theologians is that they become obsessed with their own opinions, their own private version of what it means to be holy. They become blind to their own sins, which is of course a temptation for anyone; everyone. But their love for others? They forget that God wants us to love one another. “A friend loves at all times” (Proverbs 17:17), “but he who loves a quarrel loves sin” (Proverbs 17:19). The high point of loving one another is pointing each other to Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

So these leaders were jealous, in a way, of John the Baptist, for he is the one who pointed to Christ instead of them (John 1:29).

They were jealous of Jesus himself and the fame that was mounting higher and ever higher (Isaiah 66:19); news about Jesus had spread through Galilee (Mark 1:28), to Judea and the surrounding country (Luke 7:17, and even to Syria, the Decapolis, and other places (Matthew 4:24-25).

They were jealous of his miracles, and constantly demanded that he do one for them (John 2:18; Matthew 16:1), but he only used their demand to prophesy his own resurrection (John 2:19).

Finally, they were jealous of God’s word and of God’s power. “It was out of envy that they handed Jesus over” (Matthew 27:18). That God would use a carpenter (Mark 6:3), a man who hammered nails for a living, enraged and infuriated them. They would see who would do the hammering!

They thought they were clever. They knew that they needed to avoid this festival of the Passover. The crowds, they thought, would never stand for their hero being arrested and killed. They would orchestrate the moment.

But God is the one who is in control of all things. It was his will, not the chief priest’s will, for his Son to die for the sins of the world on the day that commemorated the salvation of his people Israel from their bondage in Egypt. It would be his own Son’s blood that smeared the wood. It would be his Lamb that was slaughtered. Jesus: the pure for the impure, the sinless for the sinful, the guiltless for the guilty. His death would bring life. He would grasp mortality so that we might be handed immortality.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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