We saw last week that Jesus is building a house in the fellowship of healed lepers, a house of God where the true sacrifice of His blood is shed for the remission of sins. This new house of Yahweh is the house of Israel that will be protected by the blood when the Angel of Death passes over. Jesus is keeping the Passover with his disciples.
The Garden of Gethsemane
Gethsemane means “oil press”. This reminds us that Jesus is the anointed one. We are told that Jesus goes to a garden in John’s gospel, and that is how we know that Gethsemane was a garden. It must not be forgotten that the first great betrayal in human history occurred in Eden, a garden on a mountain, and here, the last Adam is being betrayed in a garden on a mountain. The roles have been switched though: Jesus is the faithful, new Adam being betrayed by the old Adam (Judas). This presents the true nature of Adam’s first sin (and all sin). All sin is the implicit or explicit desire to kill God. Notice that after the actual betrayal there is a naked man running away in the garden; this is yet another echo of Eden where a man is fleeing in shame.
Prayer in the Garden
Jesus’ prayer here in the garden reveals a side of Christ that we have little witnessed to this point. If we look back at the gospel of Mark, Jesus is clearly pictured as a healer, a teacher, a scholar, a prophet, and a king, but here we see Jesus praying intensely. We are seeing God the Son as a human pleading with God the Father. This is a striking picture. Recall Jesus words to his disciples when they could not cast the demon out of the man’s son (Mk. 9:14ff). His response was “O faithless generation!” One is almost tempted to say, what about now Jesus? What about now? But this is not faithlessness in any way; instead it is faithfulness that turns to God in the darkest moments. And it is faith that both pleads with God and submits to His wisdom and grace. But consider this also a true reflection of the Trinity. Too often we mentally picture the Trinity like a ‘souped-up’ yin and yang. But the god of Eastern religion is a faceless force, impersonal energies ebbing and flowing in eternity. But we serve the Tri-person God, a God who in Christ pleaded with God the Father.
With Swords and Clubs
It is highly humorous and ironic that this mob comes out to fetch Jesus armed to the teeth. What were they thinking? Who are the robbers here, Christ praying in a garden or the mob with torches (ala John’s gospel) and swords and clubs? Of course one of Jesus’ disciples happens to be armed, and we are told in John’s gospel that it was Simon Peter who actually cut the ear off the high priest’s servant. It’s always an interesting study to see how the different gospels emphasize different aspects of the story: in this case, Matthew’s gospel emphasizes Jesus’ rebuke of the one who struck off the servant’s ear. John’s gospel tell us who it was (Peter), and Luke records that before they went out to the Mount Olives, Jesus had instructed his disciples to dress for travel and carry a sword, giving a plausible reason for why Peter was armed in the first place. Of interest to us is the fact that Mark gives none of these other details, but alone records the urgency of the disciples fleeing from the scene. Matthew does mention that the disciples fled, but Mark alone describes the young man who flees naked into the shadows. Mark is showing us the sheep being scattered, the temple being torn down.
Before the Sanhedrin
While they have great difficulty holding a judicial trial of the Lord, the one accusation that Mark records is that Jesus promised to destroy the temple and build another “made without hands.” As we have seen, Mark has made it abundantly clear that this is what Jesus is doing even though we’ve not seen it stated explicitly until this point. But the description is intriguing and should remind us of the book of Daniel yet again where Daniel tells Nebuchadnezzar his dream concerning the image which is destroyed by a stone cut out without hands that grows up into a mountain that fills the whole earth (Dan. 2:34ff). In an interesting parallel, once again it’s the wrong people declaring who Jesus is with the greatest clarity (cf. 1:24, 34, 3:11, 5:7).
Notice also it is ultimately Jesus who says what is necessary to invoke their guilty sentence. And he repeats what he has already told his disciples: he will ascend to the Ancient of Days in the clouds of heaven, fulfilling the prophecy of Daniel 7:13, to whom is given all power and dominion, a universal kingdom which will have no end. The high priest’s reaction is doubly significant. First, it is slightly humorous that he speaks as though he was getting somewhere with his witnesses (v. 63-64). Secondly, his actions are sacrilegious and prohibited by the law, for the high priest was explicitly prohibited by the law to tear his garments (Lev. 10:6, 21:10). This is an ironic action given what he is saying; he is enacting blasphemy even while accusing an innocent man of it.
The sign of having torn clothes is used throughout Scripture for those in great distress. It accompanies the death of loved ones and those who have barely escaped death (usually with bad news). But given the ceremonial context (the high priest’s action) we should remember the fact that torn clothes were the uniform of lepers (Lev. 13:45). Given the fact that we have seen Jesus’ actions in the temple as a leprosy inspection while dining with a healed leper (Simon) in Bethany, this imagery is hard to ignore. The high priest is a leper, but more importantly, their leprosy is not some ceremonial detail they have forgotten. Their leprosy is their rejection of Jesus. The rejection of the Messiah is their uncleanness and rejection.
Conclusion and Application
One of the hard but glorious things about the story of Jesus’ betrayal and conviction is the fact that meanwhile Peter is busy denying Jesus. This is a terrible, horrible sin, but the glory of it is that Jesus knew. Jesus knew that the flock was going to be scattered and that they would be made to stumble (14:27-30). Jesus knew that the house had to be broken down before a new one could be built. Remember Peter’s name means rock. And remember that God is still building His house with us today, and he’s using problem people like us, problem people like Peter. Therefore do not be haughty; be thankful and grow in grace.