The scene in our text for this morning follows the story of Mary Magdalene anointing Jesus Christ for His burial. Breaking the alabaster flask of costly perfume, she poured it on His head, releasing its fragrance throughout the house, alerting all to the impending death of Christ. But with her act of worship came an indignant reaction instigated by Judas Iscariot. The costly perfume, worth a year's wages, became the subject of talk among the disciples. Mary's worship is attacked and criticized. Mark then, in typical fashion, jumps back to the intentions of Judas to betray Christ.
Our text for this morning deals with the disciples celebrating the Passover with their Lord, and in the midst of this celebration, Jesus drops a bombshell on them"one of you will betray me."
And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, "Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?" (Mark 14:12 NASB)
I mentioned in our last study that the annual Passover was a one-day feast followed by seven days of what's called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. So it wasn't unusual to refer to all eight days as the Feast of Unleavened Bread, which is what Mark is doing here.
What was the significance of Passover? After the Israelites, the chosen people of God, had been in slavery in Egypt for 430 years, God sent His servant Moses to redeem them. They were reluctantly released by Pharaoh only after God has chastened Egypt with a series of increasingly severe plagues. Nine had come and gone. but Pharaoh's heart was hard The tenth plague was the death of the first born sons of the land; only with this was Pharaoh's will broken, and he let God's people go. There was the offer of mercy to any family who did what God had said, that is, to kill a year old male lamb without a blemish "between the evenings," and sprinkle its blood on the door. In every home where this was done, the first born would be spared. The people in that home took shelter under the blood. They believed that with that covering, the death angel wouldn't destroy them. With the blood over them, the sword of God wouldn't smite them. "When I see the blood, I will pass over you," said God.
Of the many words that would best describe what happened in Egypt 3500 years agoone word says it bestREDEMPTION. The events were real, the miracles genuine all wrought by the God of the Hebrews, who was greater than all the gods of Egypt. A group of slaves were redeemed so they could worship the true and living God. But such a redemption was not without cost. Blood was to be shed to secure their redemption. The blood of a lamb, a Passover Lamb. All of those lambs sacrificed down in Egypt (one per household) pointed to the one true Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?"' 15 "And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; and prepare for us there." (Mark 14:13-15 NASB)
Jesus tells them, "Go into the city." We must understand that it was required that the Passover be celebrated within the city limits of Jerusalem:
"And you shall sacrifice the Passover to the LORD your God from the flock and the herd, in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name. (Deuteronomy 16:2 NASB)
Where was it to be sacrificed? "in the place where the LORD chooses to establish His name." This "place" where the LORD has chosen to establish His Name is Jerusalem:
And His parents used to go to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. (Luke 2:41 NASB)
So Jerusalem was packed! All the Israelites in the surrounding area were in Jerusalem. In his book, The Temple; Its Ministries and Services, Alfred Edersheim writes:
How large the number of worshipers was, may be gathered from Josephus, who records that, when Cestius requested the high-priest to make a census, in order to convince Nero of the importance of Jerusalem and of the Jewish nation, the number of lambs slain was found to be 256,500, which, at the lowest computation of ten persons to every sacrificial lamb, would give a population of 2,565,000, or, as Josephus himself puts it, 2,700,200 persons, while on an earlier occasion (AD 65) he computes the number present at not fewer than three million (Jew. Wars, vi. 9, 3; ii. 14, 3). These computations, being derived from official documents, can scarcely have been much exaggerated. Indeed, Josephus expressly guards himself against this charge.
Alright, so the city was packed, how were the disciples to find a man, whom they don't know, carrying a water pitcher?
And He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, "Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; (Mark 14:13 NASB)
Do you see anything unusual in this verse? It would have been very unusual to see a man carrying a jar of water; that was considered to be women's work. So this would have been an unusual sign. But even with this unusual sign. you have to realize Jerusalem wasn't a small place with a handful of people where this person could have easily been identified. So for these disciples to walk into Jerusalem, and at just that moment there is this man walking by with a jar of water, is evidence of God's perfect sovereign timing. They would follow Him exactly as Jesus said, and the details would unfold.
Who were these two disciples? Luke tells us:
Then came the first day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 And He sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the Passover for us, that we may eat it." (Luke 22:7-8 NASB)
So Peter and John go to Jerusalem, they find this man carrying water, and he leads them to a home with a large upper room.
"And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; and prepare for us there." (Mark 14:15 NASB)
An upper room would be an extra room, built onto the flat roof of a typical Palestinian house. It was probably "furnished" (Greek stronnumi, which means: "to equip something with appropriate furnishings") with carpets and cushions on which guests would recline for their meal. Edersheim speculates that this was probably the house of a follower, perhaps Mark's parents' home.
Jesus told Peter and John, "Prepare for us there." That involved not only locating a suitable room, but Peter and John would need to sacrifice the Passover lamb at the temple. Where did they get the lamb? This lamb would already have been purchased and brought with them as they journeyed from the village of Bethany that morning. Why did they have to already have the lamb?
"Speak to all the congregation of Israel, saying, 'On the tenth of this month they are each one to take a lamb for themselves, according to their fathers' households, a lamb for each household. (Exodus 12:3 NASB)
Either Peter or John would have had to personally cut the lamb's throat at the appropriate time in the temple service. The slain lamb was then carried back to the upper room, and there it was roasted over an open fire on a spit made of pomegranate wood. The spit went right through the lamb with the head legs and tail still attached to the body. They also had to make sure that every trace of leaven was removed from the room. All that preparation needed to be done ahead of the Passover meal itself.
How did Jesus know about the man with the pitcher of water and the upper room? Bible students debate whether Christ had prearranged with the owner of the house for a man carrying a pitcher of water to lead them there or whether He just knew of their existence by His omniscience. One side says that what is described in that incident is a miracle; nothing short of it. Here is knowledge of the future in the most detailed way, a man carrying a pitcher of water, a house where an upper room is prepared, and what the owner will say; men, conversations, and responses are all drawn into the providence of God.
The other side would say that it is very apparent from this brief account that Jesus had made certain pre-arrangements for this day. He knew that He was coming into the city and that He was to fulfill prophecies which had been made hundreds of years earlier. Thus we do not need to see this as some miraculous supply of His need. Jesus no doubt had friends in many, many towns where He had stayed before, who have told Him, "If you need anythinganything!just let me know."
How did Jesus know about the man with the pitcher of water and the upper room? I think He pre-arranged it. I think this because it is my belief that when Jesus Christ walked this earth, He walked it as a man. Every miraculous thing that Jesus did, He did through the power of the Holy Spirit and not His divinity.
Jesus Christ is 100% God, no one is questioning that, He is exactly equal with God. Is God omniscient? Then so is Jesus Christ. Is God omnipresent? Then so is Jesus Christ. Is God omnipotent? Then so is Jesus Christ. Is God the creator? Then so is Jesus Christ. Is God the beginning and end? Then so is Jesus Christ. But Paul tells us that He functioned as a man and not God while on the earth:
who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, (Philippians 2:6 NASB)
Let me give you a Curtis paraphrase, "Who always being the exact essence of the eternal God, did not consider equality with God as something that must be demonstrated."
Our Lord did not consider the expression of His Divine essence such a treasure that it should be retained at all costs. He was willing to wave His rights to the expression of His Deity.
The first Adam senselessly sought to grasp at equality with God, and through pride and disobedience lost the glorious image of His maker. The Second Adam, Christ, enjoyed true equality with God, but refused to derive any advantage from it. He humbled Himself and became obedient, and God highly exalted Him. Which Adam are you patterning your life after?
Jesus Christ didn't grasp or clutch or cling to His rights. But as verse 7 says:
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:7 NASB)
The word "emptied" is the Greek word kenoo it means: "to make empty." Figuratively, it means: "to abase, naturalize, to make of none effect, of no reputation."
What doctrine is derived from this verse? The doctrine of the Kenosis--the self emptying of Jesus Christ. What did Jesus empty Himself of? Some say it was His divine attributes. If the Lord Jesus Christ laid down some or all of His attributes, then we cannot say that God is immutable, He can change. But God cannot change, because a change is either from better to worse or worse to better. So we cannot have an eternal God and a God who changes. We must have immutability, because all the promises of God depend upon divine immutability.
Our whole saving experience depends upon the fact that He is immutable. He has never changed, and He will never change in the future. Therefore, the promises of eternal life are valid forever. If He ever loved me, He loved me forever!
I believe that Jesus emptied Himself of the manifestation of His Glory:
"And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was. (John 17:5 NASB)
When Jesus Christ became a man, He laid aside the brilliant manifestation of His glory. He veiled His glory in the sense that He did not demonstrate His attributes. He did not walk this earth in the power of deity, He walked this earth in the power of the Holy Spirit in total dependence.
Laying aside His glory involved the surrender of the voluntary use of the divine attributes, He laid aside the prerogatives of His deity. Christ veiled His pre-incarnate glory by taking on humanity, but He did not destroy or diminish any part of it. From His own will, Jesus Christ did not use His attributes to benefit Himself. They were not surrendered, but voluntarily restricted in keeping with the Father's plan. Christ gave up any independent exercise of certain divine attributes in living among men with their human limitations that He might become truly man. Dependence is a necessary characteristic of real humanity. Christ lived in dependence upon the Holy Spirit in all that He did:
"But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. (Matthew 12:28 NASB)
If Jesus Christ did indeed divest Himself of the exercise of the divine nature and lived among men in real dependence upon His Father and found His strength and wisdom in a pure humanity empowered by the Holy Spirit, then we can understand that His prayers were real prayers, His decisions were real decisions, His actions and reactions were genuinely human, and He is indeed our example in all things.
So I said all that to say that it is my opinion that Jesus had pre-arranged all of this; the man with the water and the room. Why all the secrecy about this meeting place? Why the coded signs? What does our context show?
Now the Passover and Unleavened Bread was two days off; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to seize Him by stealth, and kill Him; (Mark 14:1 NASB)
And Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests, in order to betray Him to them. (Mark 14:10 NASB)
There was a very serious risk that Judas, if he knew the location ahead of time, would have sought an opportunity to have returned to the religious leaders to give them His whereabouts. To keep the location secret, therefore, was to restrict Judas' betrayal until at least the Passover meal had been finished. Jesus was making sure that He had some more time with the twelve before His arrest.
Isn't it interesting that the Sovereign God uses means, a secret location for the Passover meal, to accomplish His predetermined plans. Couldn't God have sovereignly restrained Judas from betraying Jesus until after the Passover meal? Yes, He could have, but God most often uses means to accomplish His ends.
Jesus seems to have known where the room was situated for we read nowhere of the disciples' return to Bethany to bring Him to the place they'd been directed to. In this way, Jesus and the band of remaining disciples (and, probably, a fair number of other disciples and friends who weren't part of the band of twelve) would have made their way from the village towards the late part of the day to arrive in time at the place being prepared.
And the disciples went out, and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. (Mark 14:16 NASB)
Peter and John find everything just like Jesus said they would. They see first hand how the Lord Jesus has predestined everything that was happening, and that He was working all things after the counsel of His own will.
And when it was evening He came with the twelve. (Mark 14:17 NASB)
When everything is ready, Jesus and the rest of the Apostles show up.
And as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me-- one who is eating with Me." 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, "Surely not I?" (Mark 14:18-19 NASB)
At some point in the meal, perhaps after singing part of the great Hallel, Psalms 113-118, Jesus said, "Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me." Maybe it followed the singing of Psalm 118 and those Messianic words:
The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief corner stone. 23 This is the LORD'S doing; It is marvelous in our eyes. (Psalms 118:22-23 NASB)
In the midst of this joyous celebration comes a very painful declaration. Jesus drops this bombshell: "One of you will betray me." The celebration stops, and they are shocked and grieved. And each of them responds with, "Surly not I." It seems that none of them thought it possible that he could do such a wicked act. "Surely not I," is emphatic and expects a negative answer. They asked it in a way (in the Greek) that expected Jesus to say "No, not you." Is this an expression of over-confidence on their part, something like that of Peter?
But Peter said to Him, "Even though all may fall away, yet I will not." (Mark 14:29 NASB)
Do you realize the evil potential of your heart? Do you realize what you are capable of apart from the grace of God? Paul warned all believers when he said:
Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. (1 Corinthians 10:12 NASB)
Who is to take heed? It's the one who thinks he stands, the one who thinks he is strong. Unlike the disciples, we must realize that apart from the grace of God, we are capable of the worst of sins. We must always live in a state of dependence upon the grace of God.
Luke informs us that the conversation at the Passover meal when Jesus dropped the bombshell seems to have quickly deteriorated into a finger-pointing session, where the disciples seemed to look more at one another to find the culprit than to look within themselves. Indeed, they actually ended up in an argument over which of them was the greatest:
And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing. 24 And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest. (Luke 22:23-24 NASB)
The Fourth Gospel's account is distinct, as usual, giving us yet another perspective on this event. The writer, who I believe is Lazarus, begins by reminding the reader that the devil had already prompted Judas to betray the Lord Jesus. He further informs us that when Peter prompted Him as to who the betrayer was, Jesus indicated that it was Judas, though no one seems to have understood this at the time. By giving Judas the piece of bread, Jesus indicated to the disciples (in answer to Lazarus' question) that Judas was the betrayer.
When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified, and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me." 22 The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking. 23 There was reclining on Jesus' breast one of His disciples, whom Jesus loved. (John 13:21-23 NASB)
We now know that "the disciple whom Jesus loved" was not John, but Lazarus.
Simon Peter therefore gestured to him, and said to him, "Tell us who it is of whom He is speaking." 25 He, leaning back thus on Jesus' breast, said to Him, "Lord, who is it?" 26 Jesus therefore answered, "That is the one for whom I shall dip the morsel and give it to him." So when He had dipped the morsel, He took and gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 And after the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Jesus therefore said to him, "What you do, do quickly." (John 13:24-27 NASB)
Lazarus asks who it is, and Jesus responds, "Judas." Judas had asked Jesus if he was the one, and Jesus had indicated that he was:
And Judas, who was betraying Him, answered and said, "Surely it is not I, Rabbi?" He said to him, "You have said it yourself." (Matthew 26:25 NASB)
Now just picture that scene. None of them realized it was Judas. When Jesus said, "One of you will betray me," no one shouted, "I know who it is, it's Judas." Everything that he did appeared to be the loyal devotion of a dedicated disciple; so much so, that the rest of the disciples felt confidence with Judas handling the group's money bag. He had everyone convinced he was a follower of Jesus. But Jesus knew. And Jesus is identifying that He knew exactly what was happening. In the Near East it was considered to be the ultimate act of treachery to betray someone with whom you would share in a meal. As a matter of fact, that's still considered true in the Middle East today:
And He said to them, "It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. (Mark 14:20 NASB)
Many people have the idea that it was only Jesus and the twelve Apostles that were at this Passover meal. But the Bible does not say that "the twelve" were the only ones present with Jesus at that Passover. Nowhere are we told that they dined alone. Nor will you find any verse that indicates that other disciples could not participate. If Jesus and "the twelve" were the only ones at that last Passover, then why would Jesus need to include the stipulation: "It is one of the twelve" in His answer here in verse 20? If "the twelve" were the only ones present, Jesus doesn't really answer them. He had already said in verse 18 that one of them would betray Him. Now He is being more specific, it's one of "the twelve."
Think about this with me for a minute, Judas had so much, He was, "one of the twelve." For three years, Judas spent time watching Jesus Christ, listening to His teaching, seeing the tenderness of His compassion and love, and breathing the brilliant air of His presence. He saw water turned into wine, the blind receiving sight, the lame made to walk, deaf ears opened, mute tongues loosed, the demonized delivered, and even the dead raised. He was present when Jesus called forth Lazarus from the grave. He saw lepers immediately healed of that flesh-rotting disease. He helped to pass out the loaves and the fish when Jesus fed the multitudes. He witnessed Jesus walking on the water and calming the wind and the waves by command. He heard the demons confessing Jesus Christ to be the Son of God.
Yet, in spite of so many privileges, Judas not only turned from Christ, but even willingly sold Him for thirty pieces of silver, about a month's wages for an average worker. Perhaps it was because Judas believed Jesus was the Messiah that he did what he did. He tried to force Jesus' hand. Judas took matters into his own hands by betraying Jesus to His accusers. We don't really know exactly why, we can only speculate at this point. The preponderance of evidence, however, seems to indicate that Judas felt that if he could force a confrontation between Jesus and Rome, perhaps all-out revolution would occur, with Jesus leading the Jewish opposition; perhaps even calling legions of angels to overthrow the yoke of Rome. It could have been that Judas thought nothing could really hurt Jesus. In any case, Judas had a victory theology which did not allow for the Cross.
"For the Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." (Mark 14:21 NASB)
"The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him." What was happening to Christ, even in the betrayal, followed the eternal decrees of God for our salvation. Was Judas guilty and wrong? Absolutely, and he payed for the wickedness of his action. Yet this happened according to God's plan. It was prophesied in the Psalms:
Even my close friend, in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me. (Psalms 41:9 NASB)
Jesus quoted those words in John 13:18 to show that His betrayal at the hands of Judas came according to God's decree.
Notice that it doesn't say that the Son of Man will go just as Judas has planned? The death of Christ is not in Judas' hands. "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him." What God said in Genesis 3 about bruising the head of the serpent will happen. What the Psalmist wrote about the Messiah in Psalm 22 is going to take place. What Isaiah said about Him in chapter 53 is going to occur. That is God's plan from eternity. Christ is the Lamb of God slain in God's decree from the beginning, even before the foundation of the world.
Jesus tells the disciples two things in the upper room: He tells them that one of them was going to betray Him, and, "The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him." It is an amazing juxtaposition of man's responsibility and the divine sovereignty absolutely typical of all of Scripture.
What God sovereignly decrees in eternity, man will choose in time. Jesus tells them, "One of you will betray me," but He never felt He was a pawn in the hands of Judas, or the victim of the hatred of the chief priests. The hand of His heavenly Father had guided the writers of the Psalms and the Prophets to predict His death, and now that same hand was guiding Judas and the chief priests and Pilate and the mob so that the Son of Man was going to go from the world just as it was written about Him. His Father was in control, and that was Jesus' peace:
"For the Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." (Mark 14:21 NASB)
Our verse also says, "woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born." That is responsibility! Woe to Judas, it would have been good for him if he had not been born. That is a strong statement. People want to argue if Judas was a believer, and if he went to heaven. This verse seems to clearly answer that question. But look what else Jesus says:
"But there are some of you who do not believe." For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, "For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me, unless it has been granted him from the Father." (John 6:64-65 NASB)
Jesus is saying Judas did not believe, he was not granted faith from the Father. Notice what else Jesus says about Judas:
Jesus answered them, "Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?" 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:70-71 NASB)
I don't think there should be much question about Judas's destiny.
Peter was in that upper room listening to everything that Jesus said, he saw sovereignty, and he saw responsibility, and six weeks later on the day of Pentecost he gets up and vigorously preaches both of these truths to the same crowd who had cried, "Away with him! Crucify him!" He tells them two things in Acts:
this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. (Acts 2:23 NASB)
He says that Jesus Christ was "delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God." The only way they could have laid a finger on the Son of God was that God had first planned it.
Peter went on with his sermon saying, "you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death." God's sovereign purpose was the death of the Messiah, yes, he had written it in the Bible, but that in no way excused them. They'd acted out of the hatred of their hearts, and His blood was on their heads. Peter's words could not have been clearer.
What, practically, do we take home from this text in Mark? We see here that God not only created the universe, He controls it, all of it. And He controls it all in accordance with what He has ordained. Do you realize that whatever takes place in time is what God planned from eternity past? The Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way:
God, from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass (chapter 3, section 1).
The Bible puts it this way:
also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will, (Ephesians 1:11 NASB)
All that comes to pass in our lives is according to the eternal plan of the all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving great God and our Father. That should bring us comfort in every situation. Our loving heavenly Father is ruling over everything.
March of 2005 was a never-to-be-forgotten day in the life of a 26 year-old Christian widow named Ashley Smith of Atlanta. As she was walking home in the early hours of Saturday morning, a man named Brian Nichols stuck a gun in her ribs and forced his way into her house, tying her up and putting a towel over her head. He was a man on the run from the law having escaped from a court-room the previous day where he was on trial accused of rape. He had snatched a gun and shot and killed four people, including a judge and policeman. A few years prior to this, Ashley Smith had been born again, putting her faith in Jesus Christ. This occurred just after her husband had been killed. During her first couple of years as a Christian, she'd come to believe in certain great truths of the Bible. A Times reporter explained some of Ashley's convictions to The Times readers like this: "Firstly, everythingeven the terrible twist of fate that brings an alleged multiple-murderer into your homeis the will of God. And since God is loving, something good must inevitably come out of all horror, even tragedy. The second is that it's never too late to repent, to bring God's purpose into your life, and the third is that God, not man, is the ultimate judge."
So once Ashley got over her initial dry-mouthed fear, she began to talk increasingly boldly to the man and showing him photographs of her late husband and child. She was reading Rick Warren's The Purpose Driven Life, and she started to read aloud some of it to Brian Nichols. These are some sentences of what she read: "We serve God by serving others. The world defines greatness in terms of power, possessions, prestige, and position. If you can demand service from others, then you've arrived. In our self-serving culture, with its 'me-first' mentality, acting like a servant is not a popular concept." The man on the run said to her, "Read that again." She did, and then he said to her, "But I'm as good as dead." "No," she said, "Hand yourself in, accept your punishment, but when you go to prison minister to the other inmates." In a while he gave himself up. She had no training in counseling, negotiation, or psychiatry, but she used what understanding she had. She was only a young Christian. but she knew that her Lord was in control of her life. He was in charge of everything happening in that room. His providence never leads us where His grace cannot keep us. What a comfort to know that.
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