In some ways, today’s passage from Mark’s gospel is the fulfilment of what the Lord said in earlier parts of the gospel. Back in chapter 8, after Peter confessed for the first time that he believed the Lord Jesus is the Christ — God’s Anointed King — the Lord announced that he would suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law; and that he would be killed before being raised after three days. That’s what he foretold, back in chapter 8. And here, in chapter 14, we read how this crowd came to arrest him: a crowd of armed soldiers sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders.
And then, back in Mark 10, the Lord foretold how he would be betrayed into the hands of the chief priests and teachers of the law who will condemn him to death. That’s what he foretold back in chapter 10. And here, in chapter 14, we read how Judas Iscariot betrayed the Lord Jesus into their hands; and then, when he stood before the Jewish leaders, they condemned him as being worthy of death.
But, of course, most of all what we read here in chapter 14 is the fulfilment of the Lord’s parable about the wicked tenants. Do you remember that parable in chapter 12? The Lord told a parable about a landowner who planted a vineyard and he rented it out to some tenants, before going off on a journey. At the time of the harvest, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the servants beat the servant and sent him away, empty-handed. He sent more servants, but the tenants beat some and killed others. Finally, the landowner decided to send his son, thinking that they will surely respect his son. But when the tenants saw the son, they recognised him as the son, and rather than have him rule over them, they decided to kill him.
That was the parable; and do you remember what it meant? The parable was a summary of the whole history of the people of Israel; so, the vineyard in the parable stood for the people of Israel; while the tenants in the parable stood for the leaders in Israel; and the servants in the parable stood for the prophets whom the Lord sent to his people in Israel again and again and again to appeal to them to repent of their wicked ways and to trust and obey the Lord. But they refused to listen to the prophets; they even beat them and killed them. And so, finally, finally, the Lord God sent his Son. Surely they will respect his Son? But they didn’t respect the Lord Jesus, because as we read in today’s passage, the leaders of the people — the elders and chief priests and the teachers of the law — sent soldiers to arrest him; and they falsely accused him of all kinds of wickedness; and they condemned him to death. Instead of respecting the Father’s Son, they plotted together against him; and they condemned him. And so, what we read in today’s passage is the fulfilment of what the Lord had foretold.
And it can be divided into three main parts: in the first part, we read about the Lord’s arrest; in the second part, we read about the Lord’s trial; and in the third part, we read about Peter’s denial.
Verses 43 to 52
In the first part of today’s passage we read about the Lord’s arrest. As he was speaking to his disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane, where he had been praying, Judas Iscariot — one of the twelve disciples — appeared. But Judas was not on his own, but had come with a crowd who were armed with swords and clubs, and were sent by the chief priests the teachers of the law and the elders. Now, since you didn’t have photographs in those days, the men who had come to arrest the Lord needed Judas to point out to them the man they were looking for. Probably none of them knew what the Lord looked like. And so, Judas had arranged a signal for them: they should arrest the one he kissed. And so, having come into the Garden, Judas went up to the Lord and betrayed him with a kiss. And immediately the men seized the Lord and arrested him. Someone — and Mark doesn’t tell us who it was; though John in his gospel tells us it was Peter — drew his sword and struck the servant of the High Priest.
However, we know from the other gospels that the Lord didn’t want his disciples to fight on his behalf; and he stopped them. And after the Lord’s arrest, Mark tells us that everyone deserted him and fled. Even this young man — again Mark doesn’t tell us who he was, though the early church said it was Mark himself — this young man who was following the Lord Jesus also fled whenever the soldiers went to seize him. And so, the Old Testament Scriptures were fulfilled which foretold that when Jesus the shepherd is struck, the sheep will be scattered. And sure enough, whenever the soldiers came to take the Lord by force, his disciples scattered and left him alone.
Verses 53 to 65
And so, the Lord was arrested. In the next part of this passage, we read about his trial. Verse 53 tells us how the men took him to the high priest. And the chief priests and the elders and teachers of the law assembled together. These all formed the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of law; and they assembled together in order that the Lord could stand trial before them. And Mark is very clear about what was in their mind and what the purpose of the trial was, because he tells us in verse 55 that they were looking for evidence against the Lord so that they could put him to death. That was their intention, that was their plan: they wanted to build a case against him so that they could condemn him.
At first it seems that they would be frustrated. You see, in those days, it was necessary to hear the testimony of at least two witnesses; and the witnesses had to agree in what they said. And Mark tells us that though they were many who testified against the Lord, none of their statements agreed. According to verse 58, one accusation against him was that he had threatened to destroy the temple and to rebuild it in three days. Now, the Lord did say something similar to this. In Mark 13 the Lord predicted that the temple would be destroyed and not one stone would be left on another. However, the Lord didn’t say that he would destroy the temple; only that someone would destroy the temple. Then in John 2:19 the Lord said:
Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up.
Once again, the Lord was not saying that he would destroy the temple; and in any case, on that occasion he wasn’t referring to the literal temple in Jerusalem, but he was referring to his body which would be destroyed by death, but raised on the third day. In other words, the witnesses seem to have overheard something the Lord said, but they have mis-heard it or they have misunderstood it. In any case, once again Mark tells us that their testimony did not agree.
And so, according to verse 60, the high priest stood up and began to question the Lord Jesus. Since the testimony of the witnesses was no use to them, this high priest was going to interrogate the Lord himself, hoping no doubt that the Lord would say something to incriminate himself. At first the Lord said nothing, but when the high priest asked him directly whether he was the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One, the Lord replied and said:
I am. I am the Christ, God’s Anointed King. And one day you will see me sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming in the clouds of heaven.
The Lord’s confession was true, wasn’t it? He is the Christ; and everything we have read about him in Mark’s gospel demonstrates that he is the Christ, because by the miracles he performed and by the things he taught he revealed again and again that he is God’s Anointed King. The Lord’s confession was true; but the high priest did not believe in him; and therefore it seemed to the high priest that the Lord was guilty of blasphemy. And so, he tore his clothes and appealed to the rest of the Sanhedrin to make up their minds and to reach a verdict. And they all agreed and condemned the Lord as being worthy of death. And with that, they began to abuse him, by spitting in him and by blind-folding him and by hitting him and by mocking him and by beating him.
Verses 66 to 72
And so, we’ve read about the Lord’s arrest; and we’ve read about his trial; in the next part of today’s passage, we read about Peter’s denial.
Mark suddenly turns his attention away from the trial to Peter, who was in the courtyard, warming himself by a fire. And when a servant girl saw him, she recognised him as one of the Lord’s disciples. But he denied it and moved away. But the servant girl saw him again and said to those around her that Peter was one of the Lord’s disciples. Again he denied it. But then, others spoke to him and said to him that surely it’s true and he is one of them, because, after all, he’s from Galilee just like the other disciples. And Peter again denied it, this time calling down curses on himself as a way of convincing them that they’re dead wrong about him.
And Mark tells us that immediately, immediately the cock crowed; and Peter remembered the Lord’s words when he foretold that before the cock crowed, Peter would disown him three times. And Peter — the one who had boasted that he would die for the Lord rather than disown him — broke down and wept.
And so, there you have it: the Lord’s arrest; and the Lord’s trial; and Peter’s denial.
Let’s go back to the account of his arrest and think about what should have happened. We read about Judas, who betrayed the Lord with a kiss; and about the men who came to arrest the Lord with swords and clubs. But instead of betraying the Lord and arresting him, Judas and the men ought to have yielded their lives to him and sworn their allegiance to him, because he is the Christ, God’s Anointed King who even now is building his kingdom throughout the earth, a kingdom that will never end; and to all who yield their lives to him, he gives everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom. And so, instead of coming against him, as his enemies, they should have submitted to him as his servants and confessed that he is Lord, and the one they ought to love and obey and serve. But instead of submitting to him, they opposed him and arrested him.
And that’s the way people are in every generation. We ought to yield our lives to Christ the King, and bow before him and acknowledge that he is Lord and worthy of our love and obedience. We ought to submit to him and offer to serve him as our Great King. But instead of submitting to him and offering to serve him, men and women and boys and girls in every generation refuse to obey him. The gospels testify to us that he is Christ the King, because all the miracles he performed and the things he taught reveal who he is. But people in every generation refuse to believe in him and they refuse to submit to him.
But the day is coming when Christ the King will come again in glory and with great power to overthrow and destroy all those who in this life refused to believe or submit to him. And so, since that day is coming, what should we do? We should bow before him in this life and confess him as our King and promise to love and serve him always. ‘Kiss the Son’, the psalmist says. Kiss him, not as Judas did, as an act of betrayal, but kiss him as a sign of our loyalty and love, because all who confess him as their King are allowed to enter his kingdom, where they will find peace and joy and everlasting life in Christ’s everlasting kingdom.
And then let’s go back to the account of his trial and think about what should have happened. We read about the high priest who accused him and who did not believe in him. And we read about the members of the Sanhedrin who all condemned him as being worthy of death. We read about how they all sat in judgment over Christ the King. That’s what they did, but instead of sitting in judgment over him, they should have humbled themselves before him and confessed their own sin and guilt and asked him to pardon them, because the one they were accusing is in fact the Saviour, who offers forgiveness and peace and everlasting life to all who come to him in humility and ask him for mercy. If they had done that, they would have discovered that he was willing to show them mercy and to forgive them for their guilt and sin.
Isn’t that what Mark has been teaching us? Mark recorded for us the story of Jairus, the synagogue ruler, who came to the Lord humbly and asked the Lord to help his dying daughter. And the Lord went with him and brought his daughter back to life. And Mark recorded for us the story of Blind Bartimaeus, who cried out to the Lord for mercy. And the Lord stopped and asked Bartimaeus what he wanted him to do for him. And when Bartimaeus said he wanted to see, the Lord healed him. The Lord demonstrated again and again how he would show mercy and he would help all who came to him, humbly confessing their need. And so, if only the members of the Sanhedrin had kneeled before him and asked for mercy, he would have forgiven them.
But it’s the same in every generation, because in every generation men and women and boys and girls sit in judgment over the Saviour, demanding that he should prove himself to them before they will believe. But instead of sitting in judgment over him, we need to humble ourselves before him, because he’s the only Saviour of the world, who gave up his life as the ransom to set us free from condemnation; and he gives forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life to all who come to him and who humbly confess their need of forgiveness.
And then let’s go back to the account of Peter’s denial and think about what should have happened. Peter was asked three times whether he was one of the Lord’s disciples. And Peter was afraid, wasn’t he? He was afraid about what would happen to him if he admitted that he was one of the disciples. He was afraid that he too would be arrested and condemned if he admitted that he knew the Lord Jesus. And so, in order to save his life in this world, he denied knowing the Lord.
But what should he have done? Well, think back to chapter 8 when Peter confessed for the first time that he believed the Lord Jesus is the Christ. Do you remember? The Lord went on to teach them that anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for the Lord and for the gospel will save it. What good is it, he said, for a man to gain the whole world, if he forfeits his soul? Well, that was Peter, wasn’t it? He wanted to save his life in this world; and in order to save his life in this world, he denied knowing the only Saviour of the world and the one who is able to give us everlasting life in the world to come. Instead of denying him, he ought to have confessed him as his Saviour. And, we face the same challenge in every generation, because in every generation, an unbelieving world hates those who belong to the Saviour. But instead of disowning the Saviour, and denying him, we ought to cling to him with faith and confess him as our Saviour, because whoever believes in him receives forgiveness and the hope of everlasting life. The world may hate you for believing in him; the world may despise you for walking in his ways; the world may persecute you because you belong to him, but even if you lose your life in this world, the Saviour promises you everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom.
Before we finish today, notice one last thing. In verse 62 the Lord Jesus testifies to his resurrection and exaltation. He said to the high priest that they will see him as the Son of Man, sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. By these words, the Lord was alluding to one of the visions in the Old Testament book of Daniel, where Daniel saw ‘one like a son of man’ who approached the Lord Almighty in Heaven. And this ‘one like a son of man’ received authority and glory and sovereign power; and all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion, Daniel learned, is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away; and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. That’s what Daniel saw in a vision. And here in Mark 14, the Lord was saying that he is in fact the Son of Man whom Daniel saw. And though the chief priest will sentence him to die, God the Father in heaven will install him as King over all.
And sure enough, after the Lord’s death on the cross, and his burial in the tomb, he was raised from the dead; and he was exalted to heaven to sit at his Father’s right hand in glory. That’s where he is right now, and he’s building his kingdom on the earth, a kingdom that will never end. And he’s building his kingdom through the preaching of his word, by which he summons sinners to turn from their sins and to believe in him. And whoever repents and believe is added to his kingdom. And then one day — and we don’t know when — but one day he will come with the clouds to gather his believing people together so that we might be glorified with him and live with him for ever and ever. And so, instead of standing against him, as the guards did, we should yield our lives to him. And instead of sitting in judgment over him, we should humble ourselves before him and ask him for forgiveness. And instead of denying him, we should confess him as our Saviour.
And so, now that we’ve read about his arrest and his trial and Peter’s denial, will you — if you have not already done so — will you yield your life to him? And will you humble yourself before him and ask for him to forgive you? And will you confess him as your Saviour? Whoever believes in him will be saved, because the reason he came into this world and died on the cross was to save sinners. And so, if you trust in him, the only Saviour of the world, you will be saved from the punishment you deserve for your sins; and you will receive the hope of everlasting life in his everlasting kingdom.