Setting Up a Betrayal: Mark 14:1-11

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Leading up to the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Mark’s gospel pulls two events together and connects them. However, it is likely that these two events did not happen as closely as Mark and Matthew describe them. Instead, while these two events happened within a week of each other, these two gospel writers connect the two events because together, these events give context for what will take place during the following weekend.

Reading this passage, which could be broken apart into three different parts, gives us an amazing insight into how God’s timing for events supersedes our timing and our planning. Let’s read about what happened, and discover what Mark teaches us about the events leading up to Jesus’ betrayal.

Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 14, and we will read from the New International Version. Starting in verse 1, Mark tells us:

Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him. “But not during the festival,” they said, “or the people may riot.”

Pausing our reading here, these two verses make up the first part in this passage. Basically, Mark tells us that the chief priests and other religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus secretly and kill Him, but they decided to wait until after the festival because they feared the people would riot.

However, Mark then jumps back to an event that happened a few days earlier. If what we just read happened on a Wednesday, then the event being described likely could have happened the Thursday, Friday, or Sabbath of the week before. We can conclude this because John’s gospel gives a clear timetable for the event Mark is about to describe.

Continuing in verse 3, Mark then tells us:

While he [referring to Jesus] 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.

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly.

“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “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. Truly I tell you, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

This marks the end of the second part of our passage. While Mark doesn’t say who prompted the condescending remarks towards the woman and her gift, the context of what happens next gives us a clear clue that Judas Iscariot was among those who were leading the belittling remarks towards this woman. John’s gospel also validates this by telling us it was clearly Judas Iscariot, and John tells us that he challenged this use of the money, not because he cared for the poor, but because he wanted a larger moneybag that he could more easily help himself to.

However, Jesus clearly foreshadows this event as preparing His body for burial. The two events in that culture where people were anointed were when they were set apart or dedicated as a ruler or king, and when they were a corpse and were being buried. The first anointing is a symbolic and spiritual action, while the second anointing was primarily for very practical reasons, otherwise known as masking the smell of decaying flesh.

While the woman anointing Jesus with the perfume likely could sense Jesus nearing the culmination of His ministry, everything in that culture pointed to the Messiah stepping into the role of king. She likely gave Jesus this type of gift because she wanted to be the first to anoint Him as king.

However, Jesus validates the gift she gives, but then attributes the symbolism onto the other reason for anointing. Instead of anointing Jesus who would become king, Jesus tells everyone present that this anointing was preparing Him for His burial.

We could add this statement as one more example of Jesus foreshadowing His upcoming death, and the disciples, Judas Iscariot especially, missing the obvious conclusion to Jesus’ clear statement.

The third part of this passage shifts back to the timing of the first event, just days before the Passover celebration. Continuing in verse 10, Mark tells us:

10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Jesus to them. 11 They were delighted to hear this and promised to give him money. So he watched for an opportunity to hand him over.

In these two concluding verses, we discover that while the chief priests and religious leaders decided to wait until after the festival, Judas Iscariot’s decision changes their plans. While Judas Iscariot may have plotted and planned how to respond to Jesus’ rebuking him because of his response regarding the woman’s gift, it took several days for Judas to conclude that betraying Jesus was the way to get back at Him.

Judas Iscariot ignored, forgot, or was blinded into discounting all the foreshadowing Jesus had shared regarding His upcoming death, His upcoming betrayal, and His upcoming resurrection. Prior to this weekend, even before Judas Iscariot knew he would be the betrayer, Jesus had warned the disciples about the events of this weekend.

Everything in this passage leads me to believe human timing for Jesus’ death should have happened after this weekend festival. However, God’s timing for this event clearly dictated the time Jesus would die, and all the details and human plans are rewritten during the 48 hours or so leading up to the cross to make humanity’s planning and timing match God’s plan. The religious leaders had decided to wait until after the Passover; however, Judas Iscariot’s offer of betrayal changes their plans to match the timing God had planned from the beginning of our world.

In our own lives, it is always good for us to remember that while we can plan and move towards goals in our own lives, it is always best to leave room in our plans and expectations for God to step in and redirect our lives to match His plan for each of us. When God steps in and changes our plans, we can choose to be upset, or we can be grateful that God is bringing us into alignment with His will. When faced with that choice, I always recommend being grateful because when God redirects our lives, it reminds us that He cares about us and that He wants the best for us from eternity’s perspective!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and leave room for Him to step in and change your plans and your goals to match His will for your life. Invite God to come into your heart and let the Holy Spirit lead and guide you into matching your goals and plans to His will for you!

Also, continue to pray and study the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to God each and every day. While other people can have ideas and great things to think about, filter everything you learn from other through the truth of the Bible! Through prayer and Bible study, discover how God opens our hearts to Him and His will and decide to invite Him into your heart!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year in Mark – Episode 38: Before beginning to describe the events of the night Jesus was betrayed and arrested, Mark pulls two separate events together that sets the stage for Jesus’ betrayal and the creation of a betrayer. In this event, discover how God’s plans and timing will always happen regardless of our planning or timing.

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