THE GOSPEL OF MARK
Lesson 9: Chapters 12:13-14:16
Part IV: The Full Revelation of the Mystery Continues
Jesus' Last Week in Jerusalem
Father of power and Lord of mercy,
Direct our prayers and our steps in our everyday efforts. May the limits which our failings impose on hope and faith never blind us to You who are the source of every good. Faith in You gives us the promise of peace and makes us aware of the demands of Your command to love. Remove all the selfishness that blurs the vision of faith, and grant us the vision of Your Son and our Savior, Christ Jesus, in the mystery of His Passion and in His self-offing love in the Eucharist. Guide us in our study as we learn about Jesus' last days in Jerusalem and the preparation for His Passion. We pray in the name of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
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Do not think that I have come to
abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill.
Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter
or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have
Jesus crossed the Jordan River near Jericho and traveled to the town of Bethany on the Mount of Olives east of the city of Jerusalem. In Bethany, Jesus and His Apostles ate a Sabbath dinner with His dear friends Martha, Mary and Lazarus. It was six days before the Passover sacrifice (Jn 12:1). In this His final visit to Jerusalem, He has come to fulfill what He promised in His Sermon on the Mount: He will fulfill the Law of the Sinai Covenant and will establish a new and everlasting Covenant through the faithful remnant of the old Israel who will become the new Israel of His universal Kingdom.
The countdown to the Passion of the Christ
Count the days as the ancients counted with no zero-place-value by
counting the first in the series as day #1; note that sundown began the next
Jewish day, a tradition established in Genesis chapter 1). Jn 12:1 ~ Six
days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany....
Day #1, Saturday, Nisan 9th: Jesus ate the Sabbath dinner with His friends in Bethany and received His second anointing (Jn 12:1-11).
Day #2, Sunday, Nisan 10th: Jesus made His triumphal ride into the city of Jerusalem, cleansed the Temple a second time, and taught the people at the Temple (Mt 21:1-17; Mk 11:1-11; Lk 19:36-40; Jn 12:12-19).
Day #3, Monday, Nisan 11th: Jesus cursed the fig tree, cleansed the Temple a third time and taught at the Jerusalem Temple (Mt 21:18-23; Mk 11:12-19; Lk 20:1).
Day #4, Tuesday, Nisan 12th: Jesus continued to teach at the Jerusalem Temple (Lk 21:37-38).
Day #5, Wednesday Nisan 13th: Jesus' last day teaching in Jerusalem; He had dinner with friends in Bethany where He received His third anointing, and He was betrayed by Judas to the chief priests (Mt 26:1-2, 6-16; Mk 14:1, 3-11; Lk 22:1-6; Jn 13:1-2a).
Day #6, Thursday, Nisan 14th: The day of the Passover sacrifice (Mt 26:12-19; Mk 14:12-16; Lk 22:7-13). The liturgical service began at noon and the Passover sacrifices began after the offering of the Tamid sacrifice in the afternoon liturgical service (Mishnah: Pesahim 5:1).
Friday, Nisan the 15th (Preparation day for the Sabbath): Friday began at sundown on what we observe as Thursday night. Jesus celebrated the sacred meal of the Passover sacrifice on the first night of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. It was the Old Covenant sacred feast that was followed by the New Covenant sacred feast of the Last Supper (Mt 26:17, 26-28; Mk 14:12, 22-25; Lk 22:7, 14-20). Jesus was arrested in the early morning hours on the Mt. of Olives, tried by the Sanhedrin and condemned to death at dawn when He was taken to the Roman governor and reluctantly condemned to crucifixion. He was crucified at 9 AM and died at 3 PM (Mk 15:25, 34-37).
Saturday, Nisan the 16th : Jesus rested in the tomb but His spirit descended to the abode of the dead where He preached the Gospel of salvation to those who died in previous ages awaiting the coming of the Redeemer-Messiah (Eph 4:7-10; 1 Pt 3:18-20; 4:6; Apostles' Creed, CCC 633-64).
Sunday, Nisan the 17th: The day after the Jewish Sabbath, the 8th day after the 7th day Sabbath and the first day of the Jewish week which we call Sunday (Mt 28:1-10; Mk 16:9; Lk 24:1-2; Jn 20:1). Jesus arose from the dead. It is the first day after the Sabbath of the Holy Week of Unleavened Bread and therefore the Feast of Firstfruits (Lev 23:9-14).
Tuesday and Wednesday in Jerusalem: Jesus taught daily in the Temple
Mark 12:13-17 ~ Paying Taxes to the Roman Emperor
13 They sent some Pharisees and Herodians to him to ensnare him in his speech. 14 They came and said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful man and that you are not concerned with anyone's opinion. You do not regard a person's status but teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it lawful to pay the census tax to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?" 15 Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, "Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius to look at." 16 They brought one to him and he said to them, "Whose image and inscription is this?" They replied to him, "Caesar's." 17 So Jesus said to them, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God." They were utterly amazed at him.
The "they" refers to the chief priests, scribes and elders in Mark 11:27. Knowing from their earlier confrontation that Jesus can recognize them, the chief priests send others He might not recognize in an attempt to entrap Jesus. Once again we see the unlikely cooperation between the Pharisees, the rigid adherers and interpreters of the Law, and the Herodians, the Greek culture Jews who are supporters of the Romans (Mk 3:6). Their attempt to flatter Jesus in verse 14 and their plot to trap Jesus underscores their hypocrisy, malice and wickedness. However, Jesus, who can read hearts and minds, is not fooled by their attempt to both flatter and entrap Him: 15 Knowing their hypocrisy he said to them, "Why are you testing me?
Question: What is ironic about the way they attempt to flatter
Answer: What is ironic is that for once, even though they are insincere, their statements concerning Jesus are true.
Question: What is their question?
Answer: They are asking Jesus if it is "lawful," meaning acceptable according to God, to pay the Roman poll tax.
"Bring me a denarius to look at." 16 They brought one to him and he said to them, "Whose image and
inscription is this?" They replied to him, "Caesar's."
When Herod the Great's son, Archelaus, was deposed by the Romans in 6 AD, the Romans imposed direct rule by a Roman governor over Judea and began to collect an annual poll or head tax on all the men, women, and slaves from age twelve/fourteen to age sixty-five. The payment was one Roman silver denarius; it was the average daily wage for a common laborer.
In Jesus' day the Roman denarius bore the image of the emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37 AD) and the Latin inscription Tiberius Caesar Divi Augusti Filius Augustus Pontiflex Maximus: "Tiberius Caesar, august son of the divine Augustus, high priest" (Harrington, Gospel of Matthew, page 310).(1) Tiberius was the adopted son of the previous emperor, Augustus (Octavian), who was worshipped as a god since his death in 14 AD. Payment of the tax had to be in the Roman coinage because it represented the people's subservience to Roman rule. The payment of the Roman tax was a sensitive political issue in first century AD Judea and will become the flash point of the Jewish Revolt against Rome in 66 AD that will result in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.
Question: What is the trap they intended to set for Jesus?
Hint: It was a two way trap depending on Jesus' answer.
Answer: If Jesus condemns the tax, He is encouraging the people to reject Rome's authority over Judea and the Jews, and if His opponents report Him, He could be arrested for encouraging insurrection. However, if He agrees that the tax should be paid to the Romans, He will be taking a position contrary to the feelings of the majority of the Jews if He appears to support Roman domination of Judea.
17 So Jesus said
to them, "Repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar"
Question: How does Jesus reverse the trap?
Answer: Since the tax had to be paid with Roman coinage that bore the image of Caesar, the coins belonged to Caesar. Paying the denarius was simply giving back to Caesar what was his.
But in addition to telling His adversaries, "Then
repay to Caesar what belongs to Caesar," He also says "and to God what
belongs to God." This
statement left His adversaries without an answer and They were utterly
amazed at him.
Question: What is the significance of Jesus' last statement that one must give "to God what belongs to God" in relation to Jesus' question about "the image" of the emperor on the coin that religious Jews, including the Pharisees, scribes and chief priests, could not have missed and which caused them to go away "amazed"? See Genesis 1:27.
Answer: While the Roman coin bears the image of the Roman emperor, the emperor was created by God and bears the image of his Creator. Therefore, the emperor is subject to God's sovereignty over his life. It was an answer the leaders could not refute or criticize.
Mark 12:18-27 ~ The Question about the Resurrection
18 Some Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him and put this question to him, 19 saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us, 'If someone's brother dies, leaving a wife but not child, his brother must take the wife and raise up descendants for his brother.' 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first married a woman and died, leaving no descendants. 21 So the second married her and died, leaving no descendants, and the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no descendants. Last of all the woman also died. 23 At the resurrection when they arise whose wife will she be? For all seven had been married to her." 24 Jesus said to them, "Are you not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven. 26 As for the dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'? 27 He is not God of the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled."
This is the first and only time Mark will mention the Sadducees.
To press their belief in the absurdity of a physical resurrection, the Sadducees allude to a passage in Deuteronomy 25:1-5. According to the Law, a man was forbidden to marry his brother's wife if she had borne children to his brother, but an exception was made if the brother died without an heir. In that case, it was his closest kinsman's obligation to marry the widow and give his deceased kinsman an heir (see the Book of Ruth 4:5). The Sadducees propose an extreme hypothetical case of a barren woman who was married seven times in turn to seven brothers. At the conclusion of their story, they ask whose wife she will be in the resurrection.
24 Jesus said to them, "Are you
not misled because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?
Jesus gives the Sadducees a shockingly strong rebuke, accusing His questioners of not knowing the Scriptures. Remember these are chief priests of the ministerial priesthood (also see Mt 22:29). The "power of God" refers to the resurrection of the dead (see verse 25). Jesus then instructs them in reverse order, telling them they do not understand the resurrection nor do they understand the Pentateuch (the Torah of Moses).
25 When they rise from the
dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the
angels in heaven.
Jesus tells them that resurrected life will be very different from life on earth. Since resurrected life is eternal, there is no longer any need to produce more generations of the temporal living and therefore, there is no longer any need for marriage (see 1 Cor 15:35-40).
26 As for the
dead being raised, have you not read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about
the bush, how God told him, I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the
God of Jacob'? 27 He is not God of
the dead but of the living. You are greatly misled."
Knowing that the Sadducees professed firm adherence to the Torah of Moses, Jesus uses the Torah to prove their imperfect understanding of the resurrection of the dead.
Question: What text from the Torah does He use as a proof-text for their misunderstanding of Scripture and the resurrection?
Answer: Jesus refers to what God told Moses to tell the children of Israel concerning the identity of the God who sent Moses to liberate His people in Exodus 3:15-16 during Moses' experience of the bush that did not burn up.
Question: What is Jesus' point in referring to this passage?
Answer: Jesus' point is that since God continues a personal relationship with the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob after their physical death, there must be a form of life for them in the future.
Jesus has shown that the Sadducees/chief priests do not understand the meaning of resurrected life nor do they understand that the Torah of Moses contains evidence for belief in the resurrection.(2) He will continue to prove His point on their failure to understand the Scriptures in His exchange with the religious leaders in Mark 35-37. The Sadducees, who believed that they were the authoritative interpreters of the Torah of Moses and the "shepherds of Israel," must have been both embarrassed and highly insulted.
Jesus is "coming against the false shepherds of Israel" as prophesied in Ezekiel 34:10-11 ~ Thus says the Lord GOD: I swear I am coming against these shepherds. I will claim my sheep from them and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep so that they may no longer pasture themselves. I will save my sheep that they may no longer be food for their mouths. For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
Mark 12:28-34 ~ The Greatest Commandment
28 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, "Which is the first of all the commandments?" 29 Jesus replied, "The first is this: 'Hear of Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! 30 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other commandment greater than these." 32 The scribe said to him, "Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other than he.' 33 And 'to love him with all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." 34 And when Jesus saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
In this episode a scribe who is aligned with the Pharisees who believe
in the resurrection, approves of Jesus' answer to the Sadducees. He steps
forward to test Jesus' understanding of the Torah (the Law of Moses) by asking,
"Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus answers by
quoting from two commandments from the Torah. The first is from a verse from
the collection of verses in the Shema (the Old Covenant profession of faith)
in Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and the second from the Holiness Code (Lev chapters 17-26)
in Leviticus 19:18.
Question: What does the first quote from Deuteronomy 6:7 command concerning one's relationship with God? What is the depth of that commitment?
Answer: One must give God one's undivided love and loyalty which encompasses one's entire being:
Question: What does Jesus list as the second law that leads to
eternal life? See Lev 19:18.
Answer: One must love one's neighbor as oneself.
Question: What in the Law do these two commandments summarize?
Answer: The two quotes summarize the Ten Commandments: the first three commands address man's relationship to God and other seven commandments address man's relationship with his fellow man.
32 The scribe said to him,
"Well said, teacher. You are right in saying, 'He is One and there is no other
than he.' 33 And 'to love him with
all your heart, with all your understanding, with all your strength, and to
love your neighbor as yourself' is worth more than all burnt offerings and
The scribe approves of the Jesus' answer and also demonstrates that he has a spiritual understanding of what God requests in the offering of liturgical sacrifices.
> Question: To what passages in Scripture might the scholar of the law be referring when he speaks of the humility of "love" fulfilling the law and the ritual of sacrifice? What do these passages have in common? See 1 Sam 15:22; Ps 40:7-9; 51:18-19 and Am 5:21-25.
Answer: The Lord commanded and David and the prophet Amos understood that worship that is only external ritual devoid of a self-sacrifice and love and without a commitment to living in justice and obedience to the commandments of God is meaningless like a life without a soul.
34 And when Jesus
saw that he answered with understanding, he said to him, "You are not far from
the kingdom of God."
Jesus approves of the spiritual understanding of the scribe and tells him that he is not far from the kingdom of God, but Jesus' response to the scribe implies that something is lacking.
Question: What does the scribe need to be ready for the Kingdom of God?
Answer: He needs to accept Jesus as the Redeemer-Messiah.
And no one dared to ask him any more questions.
Jesus has defeated all attempts by the religious authorities to discredit Him with the people. This is the last time anyone will try to challenge Jesus on the understanding of the Scriptures. It is now Jesus' turn to ask a question.
Mark 12:35-37 ~ The Question about David's Son
35 As Jesus was teaching in the Temple area [hieron] he said, "How do the scribes claim that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, inspired by the Holy Spirit, said: 'The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies under your feet.'" David himself calls him 'lord'; so how is he his son?" The great crowd heard this with delight.
Jesus continues to address the crowd of people in the Temple, teaching in the outer courts. Jesus has successfully dealt with the questions of His adversaries. Their failure to discredit Jesus implies that they can no longer teach with authority on the Law. Now He will turn the tables on them and will ask them a question on the interpretation of Scripture asking "How do the scribes claim that the Messiah is the son of David? quoting Psalm 110 from the Septuagint. King David was considered to be a prophet (see Acts 1:16; 2:25; 4:25; 13:36) and the psalms was considered a prophetic book (Lk 24:44; Acts 1:20). The psalm Jesus quotes is LXX 110:1 [Ps 109:1 in some translations].(3)
36 David himself, inspired by
the Holy Spirit, said: The Lord said to my lord, "Sit at my right hand until I
place your enemies under your feet.'" David himself calls him lord'; so how
is he his son?"
Question: What is the point of Jesus' argument?
Answer: Jesus' point is that the psalm refers not only to an earthly descendant, one less than David, but also to one who is greater than David since the prophet David calls this person "Lord." "Lord" is a title that implies the person to whom David speaks is far above David and must point therefore to the promised Davidic Messiah.
The future king that David writes about in Psalms 110:1 is one the angel Gabriel spoke of who will not only inherit "the throne of David his father", but will also "rule over the house of Jacob forever and of his kingdom there will have no end" (Lk 1:32-33). St. Peter makes a similar argument during his homily on Pentecost Sunday in Acts 2:25-34.
The great crowd heard this with delight.
Question: Why did the crowd respond with "delight"?
Answer: It is obvious that Jesus has bested the religious authorities in every confrontation. It is obvious that He is superior to their understanding of the law and their understanding of Sacred Scripture.
Mark 12:38-40 ~ The Denunciation of the Scribes
38 In the course of his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to go around in long robes and accept greetings in the marketplaces, 39 seats of honor in synagogues, and places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour the houses of widows and, as a pretext, recite lengthy prayers. They will receive a very severe condemnation."
God the Son is continuing to "come against" the religious leadership if fulfillment of Ezekiel 34:1-25. Jesus' condemnation of the scholars of the Law for their hypocrisy is similar to His condemnation of both the Pharisees and scribes in Mark 7:2-5. Widows were especially vulnerable if they didn't have a living son to support them. Jesus' condemnation suggests the scribes in their business dealings confiscate the homes of widows who are unable to support themselves and at the same time pretend piety in their prayers and demand the positions of highest honor. Jesus proclaims that the judgment for their heartless acts against the poor will be severe (see Jesus' judgment on the heartless rich in Lk 6:24-26).
Mark 12:41-44 ~ The Poor Widow's Temple Donation
41 He sat down opposite the treasury and observed how the crowd put money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. 42 A poor widow also came and put in two small coins worth a few cents. 43 Calling his disciples to himself, he said to them, "Amen, I say to you, this poor widow put in more than all the other contributors to the treasury. 44 For they have all contributed from their surplus wealth, but she, from her poverty, has contributed all she had, her whole livelihood."
Within the Temple complex was a treasury where people could make donations for the support of the poor (Neh 10:38; Josephus, Jewish Wars, 6.5.2 ). The widow deposited two copper coins (lepta), the smallest value coins then in circulation (Johnson, The Gospel of Luke, page 316). Since there was only coinage at this period, when the wealthy threw in their contributions the sound of the coins made a lot of noise while the poor widow's two coins only made two small sounds as they fell into the box. She is one of the anawim, the "lowly ones" mentioned in the Old Testament. She is one of the poor and afflicted who find their solace in God alone (Is 29:19; 61:1; Zeph 2:3) and to whom Jesus promised justice and vindication in His Discourse on the Plain in Luke 6:20-26. Widows had no inheritance rights and had to rely on their children, or male relatives, or the charity of other members of the covenant family to take care of them as was commanded under the Law (Ex 20:12; Lev 19:3; Dt 14:28-29; 24:19-21).
Question: What contrast does Jesus make between the poor widow
and the pretentious scribes who "devour the houses of widows"?
Answer: In contrast to the hypocritical, pretentious and money loving scribes, Jesus points out a poor widow who does not place material wealth before her duty to God. Trusting God with a faithful and generous heart, she gives what little she has to support the poor. Her contribution counts more to God because she gave out of her poverty and so the percentage of her gift is far greater than the large donations others give out of substantial wealth.
The next chapter concerns Jesus prophecy of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. It is interesting that Mark will place Jesus' prophecy of judgment and destruction because of the failures of the people and religious leadership in their obligations to the covenant between stories of the generosity of two women who offer gifts at great personal cost: the poor widow who gives a donation to the Temple out of her poverty and the unnamed woman who uses expensive ointment to anoint her Lord.
Therefore, behold, I sent to you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and pursue from town to town, so that they may come upon you all the righteous blood shed upon earth, from the righteous blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the Sanctuary and the altar. Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.
Jesus Foretells the Destruction of the Temple and His Discourse on the Great Tribulation
The Jerusalem Temple was built by King Solomon in the 10th century BC and was destroyed by the Babylonians in 587/6 BC. A modest Temple was rebuilt seventy years later by the returning Judean exiles in 517/16 BC. When Herod was appointed King of the Jews by the Romans, he began a rebuilding project to turn the modest Temple into one of the most beautiful buildings in antiquity in an attempt to win over the affections of the Jews. The project began in c. 20 BC and was completed only about seven years before it was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70 (see Josephus, The Jewish Wars, 1.21.1ff and Antiquities of the Jews, 15.11.1). In Jesus' first Temple cleansing in John 2:19, Jesus made the claim: "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up" (not referring to the literal Temple but to His body). The Jews responded, "This Temple has been under construction for forty-six years and you will raise it up in three days?" (Jn 2:20). Jesus' discourse on the judgment against Jerusalem and the Temple is the longest discourse in Mark's Gospel.
Mark 13:1-4 ~ Introduction to Jesus' Discourse
1 As he was making his way out of the Temple area one of his disciples said to him, "Look, teacher, what stones and what buildings! 2 Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down." 3 As he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple area, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately, "Tell us, when will this happen, and what sign will there be when all these things are about to come to an end?"
After a day of teaching in the Temple, Jesus leaves the city of Jerusalem and crosses the Kidron Valley to the Mount of Olives. Sitting on the Mount of Olives across from the Temple Mount, Jesus responds to the His disciples' admiration of the Jerusalem Temple and shocks them by prophesying its total destruction. The key to understanding this discourse is in reading it in light of Jesus' allusions to the books of the prophets, especially the Book of Daniel in which the prophet writes about visions associated with the end of Temple worship and the death of God's anointed (Dan 9:26-27; 12:8-13). Jesus intertwines these images with the end of His life and the end of human history. It seems confusing to us when prophecy weaves the threads of time from past, present and future, but in heaven there is no time.
Concerning the Temple, 2 Jesus said to him, "Do you see these great buildings? There will not be one stone left upon another that will not be thrown down."
Question: When had Jesus made a similar prophecy
earlier in His ministry and in that prophecy what was the true nature of His
prediction? What time of year was that prophecy made in relation to the
current season of the year when these events are taking place? See Jn 2:13-22.
Answer: At the same time of the year, at Passover in the first year of His ministry after Jesus had cleansed the Jerusalem Temple for the first time, He said: "Destroy this Temple and in three days I will raise it up" but He was referring to His Passion and resurrection.
Jesus' prediction of the destruction of the Temple provoked the two sets of brother Apostles (Peter and Andrew and James and John Zebedee), the first to follow Jesus (Mk 1:16-20), to ask Jesus about when this event will occur and what sign there be that these things are coming to an end. In the Gospel of Luke they ask: "Teacher, when will this happen and what sign will there be when all these things are about to happen?" (Lk 21:7). Their question leads to what is Jesus' discourse on the coming persecution in the life time of the Apostles and His Second Advent at the end of the Age which is recorded in all the Synoptic Gospels (Mt 23:34-24:31; Lk 21:5-34).
Mark 13:5-13 ~ The Coming Persecution
5 Jesus began to say to them, "See that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name saying, 'I am he,' and they will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet be the end. 8 Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the labor pains. 9 Watch out for yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as a witness before them. 10 But the Gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 When they lead you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say. But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who are speaking but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. 13 You will be hated by all because of my name. But the one who perseveres to the end will be saved.
The primary source for the historical event of the
destruction of Jerusalem in the late 1st century AD is the Jewish
priest/historian, Flavius Josephus (AD 37-100), who was an eyewitness to the
siege and capture of Jerusalem by the Roman legions in AD 70. The Jerusalem
Temple was one of the most beautiful buildings in antiquity. Josephus wrote
that whatever was not overlaid with gold was purest white (The Jewish
Question: What judgment does Jesus pronounce on the Jews who reject their Messiah in the discourse on the destruction of Jerusalem that begins in Matthew 23:34-39?
Answer: He said that Jerusalem was guilty of murdering God's prophets, and all the abuses against God's agents down through salvation history will fall upon Jesus' generation (Mt 23:36).
Jerusalem had not only killed the prophets of God in the past, but now she rejects and will kill the Redeemer-Messiah and after Him, His servants.
5 Jesus began to say to them,
"See that no one deceives you. 6 Many
will come in my name saying, 'I am he,' and they will deceive many.
In his description of the Jewish revolt against Rome and the destruction of Jerusalem, Josephus reports the appearance of many false prophets claiming to the Messiah who led the people astray (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.2 [285-87; 300-309]).
7 When you hear of wars and
reports of wars do not be alarmed; such things must happen, but it will not yet
be the end. 8 Nation will rise
against nation and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes from
place to place and there will be famines. These are the beginnings of the
Wars are always occurring somewhere in the world. But in the late 50's and into the 60's AD the Roman Empire, led by an evil and ineffective Emperor Nero, faced a number of insurrections in the provinces; beginning with Queen Boudicca's revolt in Brittan in c. 60/61 AD. Encouraged by these revolts challenging the power of Rome, the Jews began a revolt by massacring the Roman garrison in Caesarea in 66 AD. As for the natural disasters and signs in the sky in verse 11, there was a worldwide famine predicted by Agabus in Acts 11:28 which occurred from AD 44 to 48 during the reign of the Roman Emperor Claudius. This is a historical event attested by extra-biblical sources (i.e., Tacitus, Annals, 12:43). There were also a number of significant earthquakes in the Italian Peninsula and the Middle East and there may have been a sighting of Halle's comet. Josephus records that there were strange sightings in the sky before the Roman siege of Jerusalem, including a star resembling a sword which stood over the city and a comet that continued a whole year (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.3 [288-300]).
9 Watch out for
yourselves. They will hand you over to the courts. You will be beaten in
synagogues. You will be arraigned before governors and kings because of me, as
a witness before them. 10 But the
Gospel must first be preached to all nations.
Question: What role did Saul of Tarsus, who later adopted the Gentile Roman name Paulus/Paul, play in the persecution of Christians? See Acts 8:1-3.
Answer: Saul/Paul was an agent of the Sanhedrin (Jewish law court) who persecuted Christians. He was given the assignment to arrest entire Christian families.
Question: Between Jesus' Ascension in the late spring of 30 AD
and the Jewish Revolt that began in 66 AD and reached its climax in the
destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, what persecutions did the faithful of the
New Covenant Church suffer? Were these persecutions prophesied by Jesus? See
examples in Acts 3:11-22;
5:19; 6:8-15; 7:58-60;
8:3; 9:2; 12:1-5; 16:23;
18:12-17; 21:30-33; 22:30;
23:12, 24, 26, 31-35;
24:10-27; 25:1-26:32; 27:1;
Answer: St. Peter and John were arrested, imprisoned, and spoke courageously before the Jewish high court that condemned Jesus. St. Stephen and St. James were martyred and St. Paul and other disciples were beaten. St. Paul was arrested by the Romans, imprisoned, and spoke the Gospel before two Roman governors (Felix and Festus), a Jewish King (Herod Antipas II) and two Jewish princesses (Drusilla and Bernice), before being taken as a prisoner to Rome. All spoke eloquently before their enemies. Everything that the early Christians suffered that was recorded in Acts was prophesied by Jesus.
11 When they lead
you away and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say.
But say whatever will be given to you at that hour. For it will not be you who
are speaking but the Holy Spirit. 12 Brother
will hand over brother to death, and the father his child; children will rise
up against parents and have them put to death.
Jesus assures the four Apostles that God the Holy Spirit will be with them in their sufferings and will give them the words they need to defend the Gospel. The struggle within families on whether or not to accept Jesus as the promised Messiah and to embrace the New Covenant of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ tore apart Jewish and Gentile families. While Jewish persecution of Christians began immediately after Jesus' Ascension, Roman persecution didn't begin until AD 64. Prior to the Emperor Nero's organized persecution of Christians, the Romans had been fairly ambivalent to Christians. St. Paul was even saved several times from Jewish crowds by the Romans (i.e., Acts 18:12-15; 21:30-36).
Mark 13:14-23 ~ The Great Tribulation of Jerusalem
14 When you see the desolating abomination standing where he should not (let the reader understand), then those in Judea must flee to the mountains, 15 and a person on a housetop must not go down or enter to get anything out of his house, and a person in a field must not return to get his cloak. 17 Woe to pregnant women and nursing mothers in those days. Pray that this does not happen in winter. 19 For those times will have tribulation such as has not been since the beginning of God's creation until now, nor ever will be. 20 If the Lord had not shortened those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect whom he chose, he did shorten the days. 21 If anyone says to you then, 'Look, here is the Messiah! Look, there he is!' do not believe it. 22 False messiahs and false prophets will arise and will perform signs and wonders in order to mislead, if that were possible, the elect. 23 Be watchful! I have told it all to you beforehand."
The "sign" is the presence of the "desolating abomination" (verse 14) that is the same sign that was prophesied in the Book of Daniel 9:27 when the Syrian Greeks set up a statue of Zeus within the Temple in 167-165 BC (1 Mac 1:11ff). This sign was repeated when Roman general Titus entered the Holy of Holies and the pagan insignias of the Roman legions were brought into the Temple: "And now, since Caesar was no way able to restrain the enthusiastic fury of the soldiers, and the fire proceeded on more and more, he went into the Holy Place of the Temple with his commanders" ... "And now the Romans, upon the flight of the seditious into the city, and upon the burning of the holy house itself, and of all the buildings round about it, brought their ensigns to the Temple and set them over against its eastern gate; and there did they offer sacrifice to them" (Josephus, The Jewish Wars, 6.4.7; 6.61).
False Messiahs have continually come forward since the Ascension of the Christ. Some include Mohammed the founder of Islam in the 7th century AD, Joseph Smith who founded Mormonism in the early 19th century, and Mary Baker Eddy who founded the Christian Science religion in the early 20th century. All these claimed to be either God's supreme prophet with His authority over all other prophets including Jesus or to have the true interpretation of Scripture instead of the Church founded by Jesus Christ.
This period of tribulation is not the "last days" when Christ will return after His Ascension but it will take place within the lifetime of the disciples. In Matthew 23:36 Jesus tells the disciples: "Amen, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation" and in Luke 21:19 Jesus says "By your perseverance you will secure your lives." In Mark 13:14 Jesus urges those who recognize the signs to flee to the mountains. Jesus also says if the time of tribulation had not been shortened, no one could survive (Mk 13:21). If these events are part of the Second Coming of Christ and Final Judgment, fleeing "to the mountains" or "surviving" will not be an option.(4)
Therefore, this part of Jesus' discourse has to be a prophecy of the destruction of Judea and Jerusalem by the Romans to suppress the Jewish Revolt that began in AD 66. The death and destruction during that time was literally the end of the world they had known for the Jews. The judgment on Jerusalem may be connected to an article of the Mosaic Law concerning the punishment for the daughter of a chief priest who was found to be guilty of the sin of prostitution or adultery: A priest's daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death (see Lev 21:9). It will be the judgment inflicted upon the holy city of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70. Israel is a priestly nation whose people were called to be a holy witness to the world of the One True God. Israel is seen symbolically in Scripture sometimes as God's daughter and at other times as God's holy covenant bride (Is 1:8; 10:32; 49:18; 62:4-5; Jer 6:23; Ez 16:8-14; Hosea 2:18 (16)-19 (17); Joel 1:8-10). Apostasy and idolatry in Sacred Scripture are compared to the sin of adultery and prostitution (Ez 16:15, 35-38; Hosea 2:4-7/2-5. Jerusalem is the religious capital and symbolically the priestly daughter of Yahweh. When Jerusalem falls into prostitution with the gods of pagan peoples and choses Caesar for a king over Jesus the Messiah, as they did when the crowd cried out at Jesus' trial "we have no king but Caesar" (Jn 19:14-15), Jerusalem will suffer the same fate as a priest's daughter which is judgment by fire.
On the 9th of Ab in 587/6 BC this was also Jerusalem's fate for her apostasy (see Ez 16:37-42). Yahweh sent the Babylonians as His instrument of judgment and Jerusalem and the Temple built by King Solomon were completely destroyed by fire. The Jerusalem of Jesus' time is equally guilty of sin; she has killed God's holy prophets (Mt 23:31-36), she has offered sacrifices for the Roman Emperor and the Roman people twice daily in the sacred Temple (Josephus: The Jewish Wars, 2.10.4; Against Apion 2.5), and then she rejected the Messiah who had offered her mercy, redemption, and the invitation to sin no more.
After the Ascension of God the Son, God the Father gave the people of the Sinai Covenant 40 years to come to the New Covenant as a new generation in Christ just as He gave Israel 40 years in the wilderness to fully embrace the Sinai Covenant. But judgment finally came in AD 70 when the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. When the Romans broke into the city after a three and a half month siege, Josephus wrote: "No pity was shown on account of age or out of respect for anyone's dignity; children and elderly, lay people and priests alike were slain. The battle surged ahead and surrounded everybody, including both those who begged for mercy and those who resisted. The flames spread out to a great distance and its noise mixed with the groans of the perishing; and such was the height of the ridge and the magnitude of the burning that one would have imagined the whole city was aflame" (The Jewish Wars, 6.5.1). The majority of those men, women and children who survived were sold into slavery by the Romans. This was a disaster that occurred at the same time of the year as Jesus' last visit to Jerusalem and His crucifixion, as Josephus records: "Now the number of those that were carried captive during this whole war was collected to be ninety-seven thousand; as was the number of those that perished during the whole siege [of Jerusalem] eleven hundred thousand ... for they were come up from all the country to the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and were on a sudden shut up by an army [the Roman army]" (The Jewish War, 6.9.3). Judgment came when the Roman army utterly destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple by fire. After the fire died down, the Roman soldiers poured water on the hot rocks to extract the gold that had melted into the cracks of the rocks from the gold ornaments that decorated the Temple and the golden fence that topped the Sanctuary. The rocks broke apart and, as Jesus prophesied, "not one stone was left upon another." The Temple was never rebuilt; it was the house Jesus spoke of when He said: "Look! You house will be deserted" (Mt 23:38).
Mark 13:24-27 ~ The Coming of the Son of Man
24 "But in those days after that tribulation the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. 26 And then they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds' with great power and glory, 27 and then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, for the end of the earth to the end of the sky."
Now Jesus moves from the time of the future tribulation in the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple to "after that tribulation" (verse 24) and another event in which time itself will be altered: the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, 25 and the stars will be falling from the sky, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. In the traditional language of the prophets, Jesus uses the symbolism of cosmic events to describe the powerful intervention of God in mankind's history. The sun moon and stars were used to record the passing of the seasons and the reckoning of time. In this passage, Jesus may be referring to the event of His Second Coming when the Christ will return in glory to collect "his elect" in the Resurrection of the Just and to act as mankind's divine Judge in the Last/Final Judgment. Notice Jesus uses the language of Daniel 7:13-14 to describe His Parousia, a term that in Jesus' time referred to the return of a king or ruler to his vassal people to judge their obedience in his absence: As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient one and was presented before him, he received dominion, glory, and kingship; nations and peoples of every language serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed (Dan 7:13-14).
But He might also be speaking of His Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit to fill and indwell the Church that will gather His elect from the four corners of the earth into His Kingdom. Some scholars hold this interpretation based on verse 30: Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place (emphasis added; also see Mt 23:36; Lk 21:37).
Mark 13:28-31 ~ The Lesson of the Fig Tree
28 "Learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that he is near, at the gates. 30 Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."
Jesus uses the symbolism of the fig tree once again but in this case it is the sign of what is coming. In the same way that leaves on a fig tree appear in the spring as a sign that the summer season is coming, when these things He has mentioned begin to happen, they will know that the judgment He prophesied is near.
Mark 13:32-37 ~ Be Watchful and Alert.
32 "But of that day or hour, no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man traveling abroad. He leaves home and places his servants in charge, each with his work, and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch. 35 Watch, therefore; you do not know when the lord of the house is coming, whether in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or in the morning. 36 May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to all: 'Watch!'"
In this passage Jesus appears to be referring to His
return in glory. He tells a short parable in which He is the man who leaves
and places his servants (the Apostles and disciples and those of future
generations) in charge of His "house" the Church. The "gatekeeper" on the
watch refers to the chief steward of the Kingdom of Jesus Christ, St. Peter and
his successors. The periods of time Jesus mentions are the names of the four
night watches that were observed during the period of the Roman occupation: evening
watch, midnight watch, cockcrow watch and morning/dawn watch.
The Four Night Watches:
#1: Evening Watch from sundown (c. 6 PM) to 9 PM
#2: Midnight Watch from 9 PM to midnight
#3: Cockcrow Watch from midnight to 3 AM (the trumpet that signaled the end of the watch at 3 AM was called the "cockcrow")
#4: Dawn Watch from 3 AM to dawn (c. 6 AM)
A trumpet blast named for each watch announced the changing from one watch to the next. The same movement in time from the coming events in the destruction of the Temple and the end of the Sinai Covenant to the return of Jesus in the Second Coming of Christ occur in Matthew and Luke's Gospels. But the point may be that the end of the Old Covenant, finalized in the destruction of the Temple, signals the Messianic Age and the rule of Christ's Kingdom that has been established. It will be an age that will be concluded in the Second Coming of Christ and the judgment of the nations. The key word for all generations in this passage is the command to "Watch!"
So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and said "What are we going to do? This man is performing many signs. If we leave him alone, all will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation." But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish."
Mark 14:1-2 ~ The Conspiracy to Against Jesus
1 The Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread were to take place in two day's time. So the chief priests and the scribes were seeking a way to arrest him by treachery and put him to death. 2 They said, "Not during the festival, for fear that there may be a riot among the people."
The religious leadership has decided that Jesus must die
(Jn 11:47-50), but they know they cannot arrest him when the crowds of pilgrims
are present without causing a riot. Mark sets the countdown to the day of the
Passover sacrifice. It is two days away (also see agreement in Mt 226:1-5). The
Gospel of John identifies the day of Jesus' crucifixion as the day before the
Sabbath (Jn 19:31), and the Passover sacrifice was the day before His arrest.
Question: If Passover falls on the Thursday of Jesus' last week in Jerusalem, what day is it that the chief priests decide to arrest Him? This is also the last day Jesus teaches at the Jerusalem Temple. Remember to count as the ancients counted.
Answer: It is Wednesday.
Mark 14:3-9 ~ Dinner at Bethany and Jesus' Third
3 When he was in Bethany reclining at table in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head. 4 There were some who were indignant. "Why has there been this waste of perfumed oil? 5 It could have been sold for more than three hundred days' wager and the money given to the poor." They were infuriated with her. 6 Jesus said, "Let her alone. Why do you make trouble for her? She has done a good thing for me. 7 The poor you will always have with you, and whenever you wish you can do good to them, but you will not always have me. 8 She has done what she could. She has anticipated anointing my body for burial. 9 Amen, I say to you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her."
The dinner on Saturday was at the home of Martha, Mary and Lazarus. The dinner on Wednesday, Jesus' last day teaching in Jerusalem, is at the home of a man named Simon, a former leper. Simon was probably a man Jesus had healed of leprosy. Lepers could not keep company with healthy people and had to remain isolated from the population (Lev 13:45-46). The guests "reclined" at table, indicating that this was a formal banquet. Reclining at a banquet table was a sign of the privilege of free men. Slaves stood to eat. At this banquet honoring Jesus, He is anointed for a third time by an unnamed woman.
Since Jesus and His Apostles spent every night either in Bethany or on the Mount of Olives (Mt 21:17; Mk 11:11), Jesus' good friends in Bethany probably took turns hosting dinners for Him and the Apostles. When Jesus ate dinner at the home of Martha, Mary, and Lazarus on Saturday, it was Mary who anointed Jesus' feet (Jn 12:3). That was Jesus' second anointing. His first anointing was early in His ministry in Luke 7:36-38 by a sinful woman in the home of a Pharisee.
There is controversy among Bible scholars over how many times Jesus was anointed and the apparent discrepancy over what day St. John recorded Jesus' dinner in Bethany as opposed to the Synoptic Gospels. The accounts agree if there were two different dinners at Bethany the last week of Jesus' life and two different anointings that week, for a total of three different anointings during the course of Jesus' ministry by three or possibly two different women (Mary of Bethany may have anointed Christ twice: once on Saturday and a second time on Wednesday of His last week in Jerusalem). Each anointing of Christ symbolized the three holy offices He fulfilled as God's supreme Prophet, High Priest, and Davidic King (CCC 436):
At the time of Jesus' anointing by Mary of Bethany on
Saturday, Judas Iscariot complained about the waste of the ointment that could
have been sold and the wages given to the poor (Jn 12:3-5). St. John records
that Judas complained not because he cared about the poor but because he was
a thief and held the money bag and used to steal the contributions (Jn 12:6). This time others repeat Judas' complaint.
Question: In the anointing on Saturday, where did Mary anoint Jesus? See Jn 12:3. Where has Jesus been anointed this time? See Mt 26:7 and Mk 14:4.
Answer: On Saturday His feet were anointed and on Wednesday His head was anointed.
There are many similarities between the two accounts of Jesus being anointed His last week in Jerusalem in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark during the dinner at Bethany two days before the Passover sacrifice, indicating that Matthew and Mark are recording the same event. However, there are many differences when compared with the Gospel of John's account of the dinner at Bethany six days before the Passover in John 12:1-13 (see handout 3).
The same word in Greek, muron, is used in all the accounts to describe the ointment, and the accounts in the Gospels of John and Mark identify the cost of the bottle as 300 denarii. This information seems to suggest that the jar of ointment used on Saturday was the same jar used on Wednesday. Also note the difference between Jesus' command to the woman "to keep it for the day of my burial" when Mary of Bethany anointed His feet in the Gospel of John on Saturday and His statement "she did it to prepare for the day of my burial" on Wednesday in St. Matthew's Gospel. Also note that Jesus told the disciples that she "has anointed my body beforehand for its burial" in St. Mark's Gospel on Wednesday when the unnamed woman anointed His head in both accounts in Matthew and Mark's Gospels as opposed to His feet at the Saturday dinner.
St. Mark includes a significant detail in Jesus' third anointing on Wednesday: She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on his head (Mk 14:3b). It is reasonable to assume that in obedience to Jesus' command on Saturday that Mary of Bethany kept the half-used jar of ointment and on Wednesday, knowing that Jesus has prophesied His death she has broken open the bottle to get the last of the ointment to anoint His head. Both Matthew and Mark record that the Wednesday dinner was after Jesus' ride into Jerusalem and "Jesus hour had come," but John's account occurs prior to Jesus' entry into Jerusalem and there is no mention of His "hour."
Question: What is ironic about the woman disciple's action at
the Wednesday dinner opposed to the attitude of the men?
Answer: She believes the prophecy of His coming death and takes action, but the men do not seem to understand and even protest her loving act.
The last significant detail that indicates there are two dinners at Bethany, one on Saturday (Jn 12:1-11) before Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and the other on Wednesday that is Jesus' last teaching day in Jerusalem, is Judas' betrayal of Jesus in his first meeting with the chief priests (Mt 26:14-16 and Mk 14:3-9). No betrayal to the chief priests is recorded in John's Gospel after the Saturday dinner. However, both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark record Judas' visit to the chief priests to betray Jesus after the Wednesday dinner (Mk 14:10-11). Luke also records Judas' betrayal just prior to the Last Supper (Lk 22:1-6). It is Jesus' betrayal that signals Jesus "hour has come."
It is obvious that these are two different anointings during Jesus' last week in Jerusalem but they may have been carried out by the same woman, Jesus' faithful disciple, Mary of Bethany. In the earlier anointing on Saturday Jesus defended Mary and said "Let her keep this for the day of my burial..." (Jn 12:7). That day has come and it is probably Mary who has broken open the jar to get the last of the nard to anoint Jesus' feet in preparation for His Passion.
Mark 14:10-11 ~ Jesus is Betrayed
10 Then Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, went off to the chief priests to hand him over to them. 11 When they heard him they were pleased and promised to pay him money. Then he looked for an opportunity to hand him over.
Judas has walked away from the "Light" that is Christ
into the darkness of sin. He loved money more than he loved Jesus. He
followed Jesus but he did not believe in Him. There is no way to defend his
actions. He stands in contrast to the faith and purity of soul of the other
Apostles and serves as a reminder that in the Church there will be wolves among
Question: What do we know about Judas? See Jn 8:44; 12:6
Answer: Judas is described as a thief and a murderer; we are told that he was the treasurer of the group but that he stole from the money collected for the poor.
When people complain about abuses committed by priests and sinners within the Church, we need to remember Judas. Would you have left Jesus because of Judas? Nor should one entertain thoughts of leaving the Church when a modern day Judas is unveiled.
Mark 14:12-16 ~ The Preparations for the Sacred Meal
of the Passover Sacrifice
12 On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb*, his disciples said to him, "Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?" He sent two of his disciples and said to them, "Go into the city and a man will meet you, carrying a jar of water. Follow him. Wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, "Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?"' Then he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready. Make the preparations for us there." The disciples then went off, entered the city, and found it just as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover. *the word "lamb" is not in the Greek text of Mark but was added by the modern translators.
St. Mark identifies the day: On the first day of the Unleavened Bread, when they kill the Passover, his disciples said to him, "Where do you desire that going we may prepare that you may eat the Passover?" (Mk 14:12; literal translation IBGE, vol. IV, page 140). The Passover and the week-long celebration of Unleavened Bread are listed as two separate feasts in the Old Testament (i.e. Ex 12 -13; Lev 23:4-8; Num 28:16-25) and only Unleavened Bread is listed as the pilgrim feast (Ex 23:14-17; 34:18-23; Dt 16:5-17; 2 Chr 8:13). However, in Jesus time (30 AD) the names of the two feasts were used interchangeably to refer to the entire 8 holy days. Josephus (37-100 AD) records that in his time the term "Passover" came to mean the celebration of both feasts as one festival event: As this happened at the time when the feast of Unleavened Bread was celebrated, which we call the Passover ... (Antiquities of the Jews 14.2.1; also see 17.9.3; Jewish Wars, 5.3.1). Like Josephus, St. John refers to the two feasts as "Passover" as do Jews today. Actually, modern Jews do not keep the Passover. They keep the feast of Unleavened Bread from the 15th-21st because there is no Temple or sacrificial altar where the Passover victims can be offered.
Note that in the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Old and New Testament the victim is never referred to as the Passover "lamb" as it is in many English translations. The animal could be a lamb or a goat-kid. The instructions for the selection of the victim in the first Passover in Egypt required the people to select, A flock-animal, a perfect one, a male, a yearling shall be to you. You shall take from the sheep or from the goats. And it shall be for you to keep until the fourteenth day of this month. And all the assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it between the evenings [twilights] (Ex 12:5-6, IBHE, vol. I, page 170). Between the "twilights" can be interpreted as between dawn and dusk, high noon.
It was the practice of the residents of Jerusalem to generously open their homes to Jewish pilgrims during the Passover/Feast of Unleavened Bread and to provide rooms for the sacred meal of the Passover victim, a meal that had to be eaten within the walls of the holy city on the first night after the Passover sacrifice. Sundown the day of the sacrifice was the beginning of the next day, Nisan the 15th, the beginning of the seven-day pilgrim Feast of Unleavened Bread. The owner of the banquet chamber must have already secured the Passover goat-kid or lamb for Jesus, perhaps on the 10th of Nisan when the Passover lambs and kids were chosen for sacrifice in the first Passover (Ex 12:3).(5)
When Peter and John arrived at the house, they discovered that an upper room had already been arranged with the banquet tables and the couches for reclining at the meal (Mk 14:15a). However, as Jesus told them, Peter and John still needed to make certain necessary preparations (Mt 26:19). They needed to be certain that there was an adequate supply of red wine for the banquet's four ritual communal cups and the additional wine that the guests were to consume during the meal (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1C). They needed to insure that there were stone vessels filled with enough water for the three ritual hand washings during the meal. They needed to provide the other necessary foods for the women to prepare for the meal, and if it was not already prepared, they needed to set up a roasting pit and spit of pomegranate wood to roast the Passover sacrifice (Mishnah: Pesahim, 7:1B).
In addition to all those arrangements, Peter and John also had to personally inspect the premises to be certain that all leaven, a sign of sin, had been removed (Ex 13:7). According to the Law, prior to noontime on the day before the beginning of Unleavened Bread (the day of the Passover sacrifice) it was necessary for the covenant people to do a thorough search of the rooms of their houses in Jerusalem to be certain that all leaven had been removed for the seven days of the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Ex 13:6-7; Mishnah: Pesahim, 1:3-1:4). They were also required to begin their fast at noon: On the eve of Passover [meal] from just before the afternoon's daily whole offering, a person should not eat, until it gets dark (Mishnah: Pesahim, 10:1A). The "afternoon's daily whole offering" is the afternoon liturgical worship service and sacrifice of the Tamid, of an unblemished lamb, and the "eve of Passover" refers to the Passover meal eaten on the first night of Unleavened Bread (the Mishnah and the writings of the Rabbis only refer to the entire eight days as "Passover," as does the Gospel of John). The preparations are ready, and Apostles are about to begin a journey that will reveal the fulfillment of Jesus' three time prophecy concerning His Passion and Resurrection.
3. Psalm 110 is the most often quoted or alluded to psalms by Jesus in the Gospels (for example see Mt 22:44; 26:64; Mk 12:36; 16:19; Lk 22:69). It is an important proof text for the resurrection (see Acts 2:33-34; 1 Cor 15:25; Heb 1:3) and for the Resurrected and Ascended Jesus Christ seated at the right hand of God in the heavenly Sanctuary (Rom 8:34; 1 Cor 15:25; Eph 1:20, 22; Col 3:1; Heb 1:13; 2:8; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2).
4. In his 4th century Church History, Bishop Eusebius records that the Christians of Judea recognized the signs Jesus gave them, and were also warned by a revelation. The faithful, led by Simon, Bishop of Jerusalem, left just before the Jewish Revolt in 66 AD and traveled across the Jordan River into Perea, saving all the members of the Christian faith community (Church History, III.5.3). Indeed, there are not any records of Christian communities perishing during the Jewish Revolt or during Rome's suppression of the revolt.
5. Choosing the Passover lambs and kids on the 10th of Nisan was a requirement that was no longer observed in the first century AD (Mishnah: Pesahim, 9:5). However, that does not mean that Jesus, who clarified and fulfilled in His ministry the Sinai Covenant's commands and prohibitions, failed to keep this obligation like His contemporaries. It is either an amazing coincidence that His Messianic ride into Jerusalem was on the 10th of Nisan, the day according to the commands of Exodus 12:3 that the Passover victim was to be selected, or it was the God ordained first step in the plan to fulfill the greater exodus redemption that the first Passover liberation prefigured.
Questions for reflection or group discussion:
What was the significance for Jesus in choosing this particular feast day in the liturgical calendar of the Old Covenant to inaugurate the sacred meal of the Eucharist? Eating the sacred meal on the first night of Unleavened Bread was an unbreakable covenant obligation for the people of the Sinai Covenant. Do we have a similar obligation in the New Covenant in Christ Jesus?
Michal Hunt, Copyright © 2014 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.
|Mk 12:17||CCC 450||Mk 12:35-37||CCC 202|
|Mk 12:24||CCC 993||Mk 12:38-40||CCC 678|
|Mk 12:25||CCC 1619||Mk 12:41-44||CCC 2444|
|Mk 12:27||CCC 993||Mk 13||CCC 2612|
|Mk 12:28-34||CCC 575||Mk 13:9||CCC 2849|
|Mk 12:29-31||CCC 129, 2196||Mk 13:23||CCC 2849|
|Mk 12:29-30||CCC 202||Mk 13:32||CCC 474, 673|
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