Mark 14: 1-31: Jesus the Housebuilder
Mark’s gospel is now drawing to its climax. Remember that Mark is concerned with royal themes. We’ve talked about the political/royal dimensions of the word gospel; we’ve also considered how Jesus’ teachings and parables are marks of a Solomonic king. But remember there has been a great deal of secrecy from the beginning of Mark only somewhat eclipsed by the declaration by Jesus that he will be betrayed and handed over to the Jewish leaders to be killed and raised from the dead.
Passover and Leaven
Notice the irony of it being Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the chief priests and scribes are plotting to kill the Son. The disciples are preparing for the feast in one way (14:12ff) while the Jewish leaders are preparing in another way (14:1-2). Remember that Jesus has warned his disciples of the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod (8:15). While these are perhaps not the exact same folks, it is plausible that there would have been some overlap. When the Jewish leadership should be getting rid of their bad leaven, they’re cultivating it.
Jesus is found “laying” in Simon the Leper’s house here in chapter 14. This particular word for “laying” is used several times at the beginning of Mark describing sick people. Simon’s Mother in Law was “laying” in her house sick with a fever in chapter 1 and the paralytic was “laying” on his bed when his friends let him down through the roof in chapter 2. Later in chapter 2 Jesus is “laying” at a feast with Levi and other tax collectors and sinners. This parallel is yet another indication that feasting and eating is part of Jesus’ identification with and ministry to the lost, the sick and the outcasts. Of course being in the house of a leper or (presumably) one who formerly was a leper is itself stigmatizing enough. Bethany is where Jesus as been staying the entire time of his teaching in the temple (11:1, 11-12), and perhaps he has been staying at Simon’s house for much of this time. Although we know that he spent at least some time in Mary, Martha and Lazarus’s house prior to this (Jn. 12:1-2). This would create an interesting parallel where Jesus is staying in the house of a cleansed leper while performing the inspection of the Temple according to the regulations for leprous houses in Leviticus.
Anointing the Head
Notice that the woman who anoints Jesus’ head parallels the widow who gave all that she had to the temple (12:43-44). But Jesus’ reaction is entirely different. If we remember that Mark’s gospel has pictured Jesus drawing a new Israel to himself then it is not too difficult to see these parallel stories pointing to the fact that Jesus is himself taking upon himself the status of the temple. The widow woman has been manipulated and/or robbed of her lively hood by conniving scribes, but this nameless woman has anointed the true temple that is about to be destroyed and rebuilt (14:58). John’s gospel indicates that this was the second time an incident like this had happened. It had occurred once (6 days before the Passover) prior to the triumphal entry where his feet were anointed (Jn. 12:1-8). But the anointing itself is another indication that Jesus is himself the new house of God because this is precisely how the Tabernacle was dedicated and consecrated (Ex. 40:9, Lev. 8:10).
The Widow’s Blood Money
Judas is betraying Jesus out of concern for money. Notice the ruckus is all over wasting money, but Judas has no problem taking money in exchange for Jesus. This of course proves that Judas didn’t give a damn about the poor people. And John’s gospel makes this clear. John tells us explicitly that Judas wanted the money for himself because he was a thief. The final proof of this is the fact that Judas is being financed by Temple money, money given by the widow who gave all that she had. This adds yet another layer to Jesus’ rejection of the Temple. Its destruction is being financed by widows. While there are many different kinds of trouble makers in the Church, we should recognize that greed and envy top the charts, and usually the trouble makers make their “concerns” known in the name of some high principle like caring for the poor and needy.
Another Triumphal Entry
When Jesus is asked about preparing for the Passover we see a very similar scene to when Jesus sent disciples for the donkey prior to his entry in to Jerusalem (11:2ff). One way to see this parallel is as a fulfillment of His enthronement. He came first as a king riding on a donkey amid shouts of acclamation, and now he is coming to the city once again as king to eat a royal banquet with his subjects (14:22ff). Another angle is to see the first entrance as a type of this second entrance. Jesus is king, but his enthronement is not like the kings of this world. His enthronement is in a meal with his disciples and his betrayal, death, and finally his resurrection. This would add to some of the temple imagery as well. Jesus came the first time in the garb of a king and symbolically condemns the temple and prophesies its destruction. Jesus comes a second time and enacts a sacrificial meal with his disciples signifying the arrival of a new temple where His blood is shed for many (14:24).
The Temple’s Destruction
While Jesus and his disciples are on their way out of the city to Gethsemane, Jesus tells his disciples that they will stumble in fulfillment of a prophecy from Zechariah. Consider Zechariah 12-14 where Jesus is quoting from (Mk. 14:27 is from Zech. 13:7). The passage is apocalyptic and certainly not an easy read, but it is clearly seen that there is simultaneous destruction and redemption of Judah taking place wrapped up in the event of the Pierced One (12:10) and the Shepherd who has been struck (13:7) and this event will establish Yahweh’s rule over all the earth (13:9). Remember this is the same book that Jesus has only recently signified in his entry into Jerusalem (Zech. 9:9). Given the close identity with Jesus and his actions with the Temple, it is not too much of a stretch to see Jesus’ own death and resurrection as the beginning of the destruction of the Temple. Jesus is fulfilling Zechariah’s prophecy, and it will result in Yahweh’s house being cleansed and purified (Zech. 14:21).
Conclusion and Application
From Creation to the end of the world, it can be argued that God’s main objective has been to build a house for himself. God is a house builder; this should give hope to us.