With Swords and Clubs – Mark 14

After finishing their meal, Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn and left for a place called Gethsemane. Jesus had come to the earth to accomplish the will of the Father and His ministry of more than three years was culminating to this very day. His soul was overwhelmed with sorrow as the hour of reckoning was drawing closer. He shared His burden with His disciples and asked them to stay awake and pray with Him.

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

Mark 14:35-36 (NIV)

Jesus was not having second thoughts about carrying out His Father’s will but even the thought of being separated from the Father for a few days was too much to bear for Him. He poured out His heart before His Father as He prepared to drink from the cup that was meant for Him. It was late into the night and the disciples would have been exhausted as they just could not stay awake. Whenever Jesus returned from His personal prayer, He would rebuke them for falling asleep and ask them to pray unceasingly for Him. But Peter and the other disciples did not understand the gravity of Jesus’s request and what was about to come.

The hour has come. Look, the Son of Man is delivered into the hands of sinners.

Mark 14:41 (NIV)
Mob with Swords and Clubs sent to Capture Jesus

The Capture

As soon as Jesus said those words Judas Iscariot returned to them but he had not come alone. With him were a swarm of chief priests, teachers of the law, elders and crowds armed with swords and clubs to capture the self-proclaimed Messiah of the Jews. Judas greeted Jesus by kissing Him, which was the cue for His captors to come and arrest the ‘prophet of Nazareth’. Jesus did not resist the arrest but questioned the tactics of His critics as they could have easily arrested Him when He was preaching in their temple courts every day. He made them realise that they were not carrying out their own will when they were arresting the Son of God but were actually fulfilling the scriptures that they had chosen to blatantly ignore.

Every day I was with you, teaching in the temple courts, and you did not arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.

Mark 14:49 (NIV)

Jesus’ popularity was soaring as more and more people started putting their trust in Him. Jerusalem was the religious headquarters of the Jews, tightly controlled by the Sanhedrin. However, in the country, it was a different story as people were gathering in large numbers just to get a glimpse of the Messiah. During the Passover festival, Jerusalem would transform itself from a quiet fortified city nestled in the hills to a bustling tourist hotspot with pilgrims from all over the land visiting the temple.

The religious leaders were not in control of these crowds and feared that arresting Jesus in an open marketplace would cause a riot amongst His travelling supporters. The Roman government might even impose a lockdown spoiling their Passover celebrations. They were afraid to lose the little authority that they had over the Jewish population, as they went on celebrating meaningless festivals. They had forgotten what the Passover meant and were about to initiate God’s plan for a new Passover.

The Sanhedrin

They took Jesus to the high priest, where all the chief priests, the elders and the teachers of the law had gathered together under one roof. These groups might have had their own differences but they were united in their cause to get rid of their Jesus problem. They were trying to build up their case against Jesus before they could hand Him over to the Roman government to be put to death. They brought up many witnesses who gave false testimony against Him, but their statements could not be corroborated. Then the high priest tried a different approach and asked Jesus to speak out in defense of Himself hoping that He would say something incriminating. But Jesus knew that they had already made up their minds and remained silent, fulfilling another prophecy about the silent lamb that was being led to slaughter (Isaiah 53:7).

Although the Jewish laws stated that the punishment for blasphemy is death, the Roman government did not allow for Jews to execute their own. They could only disbar people from the synagogues and bring up cases before the courts that would then decide the fate of the people. The chief priests and the teachers of the law knew very well that Jesus had not committed any crime and that His conviction in Pilate’s court would be highly unlikely. That is why they gathered countless false witnesses to back up their theory of Jesus being a rebel and an anarchist against the Roman government. To the Jews, who hated the Roman regime, they presented a completely different charge that Jesus was blaspheming when He called himself the Son of God.

Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?”
“I am,” said Jesus. “And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”

Mark 14:61-62 (NIV)

Jesus labelling himself as “I am” is the trigger that the Jewish leaders needed to convince their people. The high priest tore his clothes and condemned him worthy of death. Some people spat on Him and some even started punching Him. They found what they were looking for, evidence to execute the Son of God. The guards beat him and took him away to be judged before Pilate.

The Denial

Peter, who had initially cut the ear of the servant of the high priest, had managed to escape and was following the crowds from a safe distance. He made it to the high priest’s courtyard where he was warming himself along with others who had gathered for the trial. The disciple who was accompanying him had gone in, perhaps to inquire about the verdict, leaving Peter alone in the courtyard. The servant girl of the high priest came by and when she saw Peter, she immediately recognised him as one of the men who travelled with the Prophet of Nazareth. Peter immediately denied it and acted like he did not even understand what the girl was talking about. The servant girl informed the people standing around that Peter was one of Jesus’ disciples, Peter again denied it. After some time another group of people approached Peter and said, “Surely you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” After being almost recognised for the third time, Peter threw caution to the wind and began to call down curses and swore to them that he was not one of Jesus’ followers.

Immediately the rooster crowed the second time. Then Peter remembered the word Jesus had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows twice you will disown me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

Mark 14:72 (NIV)

When Peter was boldly proclaiming that He would never leave Jesus’ side it was not him but the devil in him that gave him the confidence. Even though Peter travelled with Jesus for the better part of the last three years, he did not fully understand Jesus or His mission. This is what satan does as he continues to intercept anything that Christ wants to do for us. We may think that we are part of a fellowship and are growing in Christ, but unbeknownst to us, satan continues to have a hold on us all the while, separating us from Christ. We must understand that Jesus did not prophecy about Peter’s denial to make him feel guilty or ashamed but He wanted him to know who Jesus truly is and experience the greatest Love that one cannot even fathom.

Discussion Questions

  • Why did Jesus pray for the cup of suffering to be taken away from Him?
  • Why did the temple leaders not arrest Jesus in broad daylight?
  • Why did the Jewish leaders want to gather evidence against Jesus when they could have simply killed Him?
  • What makes Peter brave to cut the ear of the servant but afraid of standing up for Jesus in front of a little servant girl?

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