The proximity of the Passover festival temporarily halted the plans of the chief priests and the teachers of the law from scheming and how to secretly arrest and kill Jesus. They were afraid that the capture of Jesus during the time when Jerusalem was already flooded with tourists from the surrounding states, would only diminish their control over the situation and they would be helpless in preventing a riot. They knew that any uprising would cause the Roman government to take away any ounce of sovereignty that was left with the Jewish leaders. Their actions were motivated by self-preservation as they look for an opportune time to kill the obstacle in their path and that opportune moment was provided to them by one of Jesus’ own.
Jesus Anointed Before His Death
While Jesus visited Jerusalem, He would usually stay in the neighbouring town of Bethany as He had many followers in that region. At the house of one of His followers, Simon the Leper, Jesus was reclining at the table when a woman anointed His head with a jar of pure nard.
While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.Mark 14:3 (NIV)
The aroma of the nard had filled the room but the onlookers were not pleased. They were rather indignant at the supposed contempt for money that the woman had displayed by wasting the expensive perfume. The travelling band of followers did not work for a living and would have been dependent on donations to sustain their nomadic lifestyles, apart from the occasional leftovers they received from Jesus’ miracles. To them the perfume represented an opportunity to be sold and used for a better cause, perhaps to feed the needy. Though Mark does not mention any specific follower or disciple who started the grumbling against the woman, John reveals that Judas, the keeper of the money bag was the one who protested.
But one of his disciples, Judas Iscariot, who was later to betray him, objected,John 12:4 (NIV)
The woman unknowingly had completed the burial rituals even before the death of Jesus. She brought her entire life savings at the feet of Jesus to thank Him for what He had done for her. But God fit her offering into His plans for Jesus. We might do something unknowingly but God will use us to accomplish His purpose.
“Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial.Mark 14:6-8 (NIV)
It is this incident that is cited as the turning point in Judas’ life as he went straight to the Jewish leaders and presented them with the opportunity that they were waiting for. We can respond to Jesus’s rebuke in different ways. We can sulk and get offended or we can apply what He is teaching us and grow closer to Him. Most of us can’t stand being corrected by anyone, even Jesus, and end up ending our relationship with Him. However, just like God used the woman’s offering for His purpose, He used Judas’ betrayal to further His plan for redemption for all of us.
The Final Meal
On the first day of the Passover, Jesus wanted to spend time with His disciples and have one last meal with them. He gave them instructions on the preparations and they followed it to a T.
So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”Mark 14:13-15 (NIV)
As they ate their meal, reclining at the table, Jesus informed the group that among them, there was one who, in just a few hours’ time, would betray Jesus. This shocked the disciples as each one started looking at the other and asserting their loyalty to Jesus.
The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.Mark 14:21 (NIV)
We often limit the above verse to the life of Judas forgetting that the rest of the disciples had also betrayed Him by abandoning Him on the cross. Each one of them at one point or the other ended up betraying Jesus. We too betray Jesus when we give into our temptations and go against His will. The statement is true for anyone who goes against God with the punishment of eternal damnation. But we never want to apply the above verse in our lives and have earmarked it for Judas, ‘the ultimate betrayer’. The crown of the ultimate betrayer belongs to satan, as he fools us each day into thinking that we deserve our salvation. That our God delights in our tithes and offerings, that we can do something to deserve the gifts of the Spirit. The truth is that Jesus knowing all our imperfections still chose to die for us. Can we not show Him an ounce of respect by not putting on a facade of righteousness and depend on Him for everything?
The New Passover Lamb
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”Mark 14:22-24 (NIV)
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.
The earlier covenant of Passover was replaced now with a new covenant. Jesus gave the disciples bread and wine which symbolised his body and blood that was broken and shed for our sins. The Passover lamb was a reminder to the Israelites of how God brought them out of slavery in Egypt. The lamb was cut and cooked and to be eaten completely by the members of the household. The blood of the lamb was to be painted on their doorposts as the destroyer will then Passover their house. Thus the lamb’s blood protected them from the destroyer. Similarly, God has brought us out of the slavery of sin by shedding the blood of a much greater lamb, His Son, Jesus. If we accept Him as our saviour and paint His blood at the doorposts of our hearts, the destroyer has no hold over us and we are free.
“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:Mark 14:27 (NIV)
“‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’
They all insisted that they will not leave Jesus’s side with the loudest voice amongst them being Peter’s. Jesus gave the exact details on how he would deny even knowing His name. He told this to him not to get him down but to build his faith when he sees these things happening just the way Jesus said it would. We often misunderstand God’s word in our life and take it as a rebuke when he is trying to build our faith. Peter’s denial of Jesus is one of the few passages that has been recorded by all four gospel writers and for good reason too. Seeing how he became the foundation of the early church, the first-century believers would have been shocked to know how wavering his faith was during his early days. That would have given them hope when they too went through similar ordeals.
- Why did Jesus say that “The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me”?
- How had the woman prepared the body for Jesus’ burial before His death?
- How did Jesus replace the Passover with His death?