Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers
After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.XIV.
(1, 2) After two days was the feast of the passover.—See Notes on Matthew 26:1-5. Better, was the passover, and the feast of unleavened bread. The latter designation is common to St. Mark and St. Luke, as an explanation intended for Gentile readers. The same fact accounts, perhaps, for the omission by both of the name of Caiaphas as the chief mover in the scheme.
And being in Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.(3-9) And being in Bethany.—See Notes on Matthew 26:6-13.
Ointment of spikenard.—The Greek word so translated is, as the various renderings in the margin show, of doubtful import. It is used by St. John (John 12:3) in his account of the same facts.
She brake the box.—As in the “breaking through” the roof in Mark 2:4, the vivid touch that brings the manner of the act distinctly before our eyes is found in St. Mark only. The Greek word implies not so much the breaking of the neck of the costly jar or flask, but the crushing it in its entirety with both her hands.
And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?(4) There were some that had indignation.—Note St. Mark’s limitation of the murmurers to “some,” as an intermediate stage between St. Matthew’s “the disciples” and St. John’s naming “Judas.”
For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.(5) For more than three hundred pence.—The specific mention of the sum, not given by St. Matthew, is one of the few points common to St. Mark and St. John (John 12:5).
And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.(6) She hath wrought a good work on me.—“Good” in the sense of “noble,” as implying the higher form of goodness. The use of the word here is peculiar to St. Mark.
For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.(7) Whensoever ye will ye may do them good.—Peculiar to St. Mark; the other words being given by him in common with St. Matthew and St. John.
And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.(10, 11) And Judas Iscariot.—See Notes on Matthew 26:14-15.
And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.(11) They were glad, and promised to give him money.—It may be noted (1) that the mention of the priests being “glad” is in common with St. Luke, and (2) that St. Mark does not name the specific sum which was promised as the price of blood.
And the first day of unleavened bread, when they killed the passover, his disciples said unto him, Where wilt thou that we go and prepare that thou mayest eat the passover?(12-21) And the first day of unleavened bread.—See Notes on Matthew 26:20-25.
When they killed the passover.—Better, when they used to sacrifice; the Greek tense implying a custom. Here, again, both St. Mark and St. Luke write as explaining the custom for their Gentile readers.
And he sendeth forth two of his disciples, and saith unto them, Go ye into the city, and there shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water: follow him.(13) And he sendeth forth two of his disciples.—The number is given by St. Mark; the names, Peter and John, by St. Luke only. The sign of the pitcher of water is common to both Gospels, but not to St. Matthew.
And wheresoever he shall go in, say ye to the goodman of the house, The Master saith, Where is the guestchamber, where I shall eat the passover with my disciples?(14) The goodman of the house.—Better, the master. The better MSS. give the reading, “Where is my guest-chamber,” a form which implies discipleship on the part of the owner of the house, even more than that given by St. Matthew. The word translated “guest-chamber” is the same as that which appears in Luke 2:7 as “inn.” It was, in fact, the generic term for a hired lodging.
And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.(15) Furnished and prepared.—The first word implied that it was not a bare, empty chamber, but set out with cushions or divans, on which the guests could recline; the second, that it was specially arranged for the Paschal Supper of that evening.
And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.(18) As they sat.—Better, as they reclined.
The Son of man indeed goeth, as it is written of him: but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! good were it for that man if he had never been born.(21) Good were it for that man.—St. Mark, it will be noted, omits the fact recorded by St. Matthew, that the last “Is it I?” was uttered by the Traitor.
And as they did eat, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and brake it, and gave to them, and said, Take, eat: this is my body.(22-25) As they did eat.—See Notes on Matthew 26:26-29.
Take, eat.—The latter word is wanting in many of the best MSS.
And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.(23) When he had given thanks.—St. Mark agrees with St. Matthew in using the word “blessing” of the bread, and “giving thanks” of the cup. St. Luke uses the latter word of the bread, and implies by the word “likewise” that the form was repeated with the cup.
And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.(24) Which is shed for many.—Better, is being shed, the participle, both here and in St. Matthew, being in the present tense.
Verily I say unto you, I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, until that day that I drink it new in the kingdom of God.(25) Of the fruit of the vine.—Better, of the product. Note the difference between “the kingdom of God” here, and “the kingdom of My Father” in Matthew 26:29.
And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.(26-42) And when they had sung an hymn.—See Notes on Matthew 26:30-46.
And Jesus saith unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this day, even in this night, before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice.(30) Before the cock crow twice.—The word “twice” is omitted in many MSS. It agrees, however, with the emphatic mention of the cock crowing a “second time” in Mark 14:72, and with the form of the prediction in the same verse, and may fairly be regarded as the true reading, the omission in some MSS. being accidental.
But he spake the more vehemently, If I should die with thee, I will not deny thee in any wise. Likewise also said they all.(31) He spake the more vehemently.—The Greek tense implies frequent and continuous speaking.
And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.(32) While I shall pray.—Literally, till I shall have prayed.
And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;(33) Began to be sore amazed.—Note St. Mark’s use of the stronger word as compared with St. Matthew’s “to be sorrowful.”
And he said, Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee; take away this cup from me: nevertheless not what I will, but what thou wilt.(36) And he said, Abba, Father.—The record of the word “Abba” as actually uttered, is peculiar to St. Mark. We, perhaps, find traces of the impression it made on the minds of men in the “Abba, Father” of Romans 8:15, Galatians 4:6.
And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?(37) Simon, sleepest thou?—Note that while St. Matthew and St. Luke give the question in the plural, St. Mark reports it in the singular, and joins it with the emphatic utterance of the name of the disciple. His report, too, includes the two questions which appear separately in the other two Gospels.
And he cometh the third time, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest: it is enough, the hour is come; behold, the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners.(41) And he cometh the third time.—We may note St. Mark’s omission of the third repetition of the prayer.
It is enough.—Peculiar to St. Mark, and probably noting the transition from the half-reproachful permission, “Sleep on now, and take your rest,” to the emphatic and, as it were, startled exclamation, “the hour is come.”
Is betrayed.—The tense, as in St. Matthew, is present, “is at this moment being betrayed.”
And immediately, while he yet spake, cometh Judas, one of the twelve, and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.(43-45) And immediately, while he yet spake.—See Notes on Matthew 26:47-50. Note the re-appearance of St. Mark’s characteristic “immediately.” Many of the better MSS. add the distinguishing “Iscariot” to the name of Judas.
And he that betrayed him had given them a token, saying, Whomsoever I shall kiss, that same is he; take him, and lead him away safely.(44) Take him.—Better, seize.
And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.(45) Master, master.—Better, Rabbi, Rabbi. All the MSS. give the Hebrew word, and not its Greek equivalent.
And they laid their hands on him, and took him.(46-50) Took him.—Better, as before, seized. See Notes on Matthew 26:51-56.
And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?(48) As against a thief.—Better, as against a robber, the word implying the bolder form of theft.
I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.(49) Ye took me not.—Better, ye seized Me not, or, ye laid no hold on Me.
And there followed him a certain young man, having a linen cloth cast about his naked body; and the young men laid hold on him:(51) And there followed him a certain young man.—The remarkable incident that follows is narrated by St. Mark only. It had clearly made a deep impression on the minds of some of the disciples (probably enough, on that of Peter), from whom, directly or indirectly, the report came. Who it was that appeared in this strange fashion we are left to conjecture. Some have supposed that it was St. Mark himself, but for this there is obviously no ground but the fact that this Evangelist alone records it. A careful examination of the facts suggests another conclusion as probable. (1) The man was “young,” and the self-same term is applied to the ruler who had great possessions (Matthew 19:20). (2) He had apparently been sleeping, or, it may be, watching, not far from Gethsemane, with the linen sheet wrapped round him, and had been roused by the approach of the officers and the crowd. This suggests one who lived somewhere on the Mount of Olives, and so far points to Lazarus or Simon of Bethany, as the only two conspicuous disciples in that neighbourhood. (3) He was one who so loved our Lord that he went on following Him when all the disciples forsook Him and fled, and this also was what might be expected from Lazarus. On the supposition suggested in (1), he was now obeying almost literally the command, “Take up thy cross, and follow Me.” (See Notes on Matthew 19:16-22.) (4) He was one whom the officers (the words “the young men” are omitted in the better MSS.) were eager to seize, when they allowed all the disciples to go their way, and this agrees with the command which had been given by the priests, that they should take and kill Lazarus also (John 12:10). (5) As the “linen sheet” or sindôn (see Note on Matthew 27:59) was especially used for the burial of the dead, it is conceivable, on this supposition, that what had been the winding-sheet of the dead Lazarus had been kept and used by him in memory of his resurrection. (6) On the hypothesis thus suggested, the suppression of the name stands on the same footing as that of the name of the sister of Lazarus, who poured the precious ointment on our Lord’s head at Bethany (Matthew 26:7, Mark 14:3), whom the Evangelists must have known, but whom they mention simply as a “woman.” Their lips were sealed as to the family of Bethany until the circumstances, whatever they may have been, that called for silence had passed away. It is obvious that so far as this identity is established it suggests many thoughts of profound interest. What had seemed impossible to men had proved possible with God. He who had gone away sorrowful because he had great possessions, had given freely to the poor (see Notes on Matthew 26:6; Matthew 26:9), and had proved more faithful than the Twelve, and so the last had become the first.
And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.(53-65) And they led Jesus away.—See Notes on Matthew 26:57-66.
And Peter followed him afar off, even into the palace of the high priest: and he sat with the servants, and warmed himself at the fire.(54) Sat . . . and warmed himself.—Better, was sitting and warming himself.
With the servants.—Better, with the officers.
At the fire.—Literally, at the light; the word bringing out very vividly the effect of the glare of the charcoal fire on St. Peter’s face,
For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.(56) Their witness agreed not together.—St. Mark gives what St. Matthew only implies as the cause of the failure.
And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,(57) There arose certain.—St. Mark is here less definite than St. Matthew, who, writing for Jews, was apparently anxious to show that the rule which required “two or three witnesses” in support of a criminal charge had barely been complied with.
We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.(58) This temple.—The word here, as in Matthew 26:61 and John 2:19, is that which indicates generally the sanctuary or shrine, and here the “Holy Place” of the Temple.
Made with hands . . . made without hands.—The antithesis is peculiar to St. Mark, but we may, perhaps, trace an echo of it in the “more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands,” of Hebrews 9:11.
But neither so did their witness agree together.(59) Neither so did their witness agree together.—This, again, is peculiar to St. Mark. We are not told in what respects their evidence failed to agree; possibly in details of time and place, possibly in the absence or presence of the words reported in the previous verse.
But he held his peace, and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked him, and said unto him, Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?(61) The Son of the Blessed.—In St. Matthew and St. Luke we have simply “the Son of God;” but the use of “the Blessed” as a name of God in doxologies and other solemn formulæ was a common practice.
Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?(63) Then the high priest rent his clothes.—It is noticeable that St. Mark uses the word for the inner garment, St. Matthew that for the outer.
Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.(64) Guilty of death.—Here, as in Matthew 26:66, the translators follow the old English usage, and connect the word “guilty,” not as we now do, with the crime of which a man is convicted, but with the punishment to which he is liable.
And some began to spit on him, and to cover his face, and to buffet him, and to say unto him, Prophesy: and the servants did strike him with the palms of their hands.(65) And to cover his face.—It was this (recorded by St. Mark and St. Luke, but not by St. Matthew) which gave point to the taunt “Prophesy.” They blindfolded the Prophet, and then called on Him to use His power of supernatural vision.
The servants did strike him.—Better, as before, the officers. The two forms of outrage, with the clenched fist and with the open palm, are specified by both St. Matthew and St. Mark.
And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:(66) And as Peter was beneath.—See Notes on Matthew 26:69-75.
And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.(67) Thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.—The order of the words varies in the MSS.; but the better ones give the words as spoken with an emphatic scorn, “And thou also wast with the Nazarene, Jesus.”
But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.(68) And he went out into the porch.—The noun is not the same as that used by St. Matthew, but signifies literally “the space before the palace,” i.e., the vestibule. Substantially, of course, it comes to much the same meaning.
And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.(69) A maid.—Better, the maid—i.e., the one that had pointed him out before.
And he denied it again. And a little after, they that stood by said again to Peter, Surely thou art one of them: for thou art a Galilaean, and thy speech agreeth thereto.(70) And thy speech agreeth thereto.—Singularly enough, the words, which seem so natural, are wanting in many of the best MSS., and may, therefore, possibly have been an interpretative addition, possibly made by St. Mark himself, in what we may call a revised edition of his Gospel.
And the second time the cock crew. And Peter called to mind the word that Jesus said unto him, Before the cock crow twice, thou shalt deny me thrice. And when he thought thereon, he wept.(72) When he thought thereon.—The Greek word is a somewhat peculiar one, and means literally “throwing at,” or “on.” The English version assumes that it means “casting his mind or thoughts,” just as “to reflect” is “to bend the mind,” and is probably right. The marginal readings give two conjectures. Yet another may be found in the idea that the word describes St. Peter’s action “casting himself down, he wept,” but there is not enough authority for any other interpretation to justify a change in the text.