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Bible Commentaries

Joseph Benson's Commentary of the Old and New Testaments
Mark 14

 

 

Verses 1-9

Mark 14:1-9. After two days was the feast of the passover — For an explanation of these verses, see the notes on Matthew 26:1-13. Of ointment of spike-nard, very precious — “Either the word πιστικη,” says Dr. Whitby, “answers to the Syriac, pisthaca, and then it may be rendered, nardus spicata, ointment made of the spikes of nard; or, if it be of a Greek original, I think Theophylact well renders it πιστικη η αδολος και μετα πιστεως κατασκευασθεισα, that is, nard unadulterated and prepared with fidelity; the great price it bore tempting many to adulterate it, as Dioscorides and Pliny tell us.” Nard is a plant which was highly valued by the ancients, both as an article of luxury and medicine. The ointment made of it was used at baths and feasts as a favourite perfume. From a passage in Horace, it appears that this ointment was so valuable among the Romans, that as much as could be contained in a small box of precious stone was considered as a sort of equivalent for a large vessel of wine, and a proper quota for a guest to contribute at an entertainment, according to the ancient custom. Hor., lib. 4. ode 12. This author mentions the Assyrian, and Dioscorides the Syrian nard; but, it appears, the best is produced in the East Indies. “The root of this plant is very small and slender. It puts forth a long and small stalk, and has several ears or spikes, even with the ground, which has given it the name of spikenard; the taste is bitter, acrid, and aromatic, and the smell agreeable.” — Calmet. She brake the box and poured it on his head — As this spikenard was a liquid, and there appears to be no reason for breaking the box in order to get out the liquor, Knatchbull, Hammond, and some others maintain, that συντριψασα, the word here used, ought not to be translated she brake, but only that she shook the box, namely, so as to break the coagulated parts of the rich balsam, and bring it to such a degree of liquidity, that it might be fit to be poured out; and thus Dr. Waterland translates it. Dr. Doddridge and others, however, think the original word does not so naturally express this, and therefore imagine that the woman broke off the top of the vessel in which the balsam was contained. Dr. Campbell renders it, She broke open the box, observing, “I have chosen these words as sufficiently denoting that it required an uncommon effort to bring out the contents, which is all that the word here necessarily implies; and it is a circumstance that ought not to be altogether overlooked, being an additional evidence of the woman’s zeal for doing honour to her Lord. That the term ought not to be rendered shook, is to me evident. I know no example of it in this meaning in any author, sacred or profane. Verbs denoting to shake, frequently occur in Scripture. But the word is never συντριβω, but τινασσω, σειω, σαλευω.” Mr. Harmer understands it of the breaking the cement with which the vessel was closely stopped, a circumstance which, he thinks, appears natural, and an explanation which is justified by the phraseology of Propertius, a writer of the same age. There were some that had indignation — At this which the woman had done, being incited thereto by Judas; and said — Probably to the woman, Why was this waste of the ointment made — Of this rich and costly balsam? And they murmured against her — Spake privately among themselves against the woman, for what she had done. But Jesus, knowing every thing they spake or thought, said, Why trouble ye her — Without cause? She hath wrought a good work on me — Hath given a great proof of her firm faith, and fervent love to me; and therefore, instead of meriting your censure, deserves your commendation. She hath done what she could — To testify her affection for me. She is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying — Matthew, προς το ενταφιασαι με, corpus meum ad funus componere, to prepare my body for its burial. This vindication of the woman suggests the reason why Jesus permitted so expensive a compliment to be paid to him. Being desirous to impress his disciples with the thought of his death, he embraced every opportunity of inculcating it, whether by word or deed.


Verses 10-16

Mark 14:10-16. Judas went unto the chief priests, &c. — Immediately after this reproof, having anger now added to his covetousness. See these verses explained in the notes on Matthew 26:14-19. There shall meet you a man bearing a pitcher of water — It was highly seasonable for our Lord to give them this additional proof, both of his knowing all things, and of his influence over the minds of men; follow him — If our Lord meant that the man would be coming out of the city as the disciples were going in, his order implied, that they were to turn back with him, the house whither he was carrying the water being somewhere in the suburbs; but if he meant that the man would meet them at the crossing of a street, or the turning of a corner, they were to go with him perhaps farther into the city. The expression used by Luke, συναντησει υμιν, seems to favour this supposition. Say ye to the good man of the house — To the master of the family; The Master saith, Where is the guest-chamber, &c. — Commentators on this passage tell us, from the Talmudists, that in Jerusalem, at the passover, the houses were not to be let, but were of common right for any one to eat the passover in them. He will show you a large upper room furnished — Greek, εστρομενον, stratum, spread, namely, with a carpet; and prepared — Having beds or couches placed to recline on. “The English word,” says Dr. Campbell, “which comes nearest the import of the Greek, is carpeted. But when this term is used, as here, of a dining-room, it is not meant only of the floor, but of the couches, on which the guests reclined at meals. On these they were wont, for the sake both of neatness and of conveniency, to spread a coverlet or carpet. As this was commonly the last thing they did in dressing the room, it may not improperly be employed to denote the whole.” There make ready for us — There provide the unleavened bread, the lamb, and the bitter herbs, and make all things ready against the time of our coming. Christ does not order one or both of these disciples to return and inform him and the others where they had made this preparation, and to direct them to the house. This was unnecessary; for the same prophetic gift which enabled Jesus to predict these circumstances, would easily guide him to the house; and it is a beautiful modesty in the sacred historian not to notice it. His disciples went forth — After our Lord had given these particular instructions, the two disciples whom he sent went out from thence, came into the city, and found all the circumstances as Jesus had predicted. It is justly observed by Mr. Scott here, that “nothing could be less the object of natural sagacity and foresight than the events here mentioned. Had the two disciples come to the place specified rather sooner or later than they did, the man bearing the pitcher of water would either not have arrived, or would have been gone. But our Lord knew that the owner of a certain commodious house in Jerusalem favoured him; he foresaw that at a precise time of the day he would send his servant for a pitcher of water; that the disciples would meet him just when they entered the city; that by following him they would find out the person whom he intended; and that by mentioning him as the master, or the teacher, the owner of the house would readily consent to accommodate them in an upper chamber. When the disciples found all these circumstances so exactly accord to the prediction, they could not but be deeply impressed with a conviction of their Lord’s knowledge of every event, and of his influence over every heart.”


Verses 17-25

Mark 14:17-25. In the evening he cometh with the twelve — See notes on Matthew 26:20-29. This is my blood of the new testament — Or, covenant; that is, this I appoint to be a perpetual sign and memorial of my blood, as shed for establishing the new covenant, that all who shall believe in me, may receive all its gracious promises. I will drink no more of the fruit of the vine, &c. — That is, I shall drink no more before I die: the next wine I drink will not be earthly, but heavenly.


Verses 26-31

Mark 14:26-31. And they went out into the mount of Olives — At the conclusion of the supper; Jesus and his disciples sung a proper psalm, or song of praise, together, as was customary at the close of the passover, and then he set out for the mount of Olives, choosing to retire thither, that he might prevent a riot in Jerusalem, and bring no trouble upon the master of the house where he celebrated the passover. Jesus said, All ye shall be offended this night — See the notes on Matthew 26:30-35. The Jews, in reckoning their days, began with the evening, according to the Mosaic computation, which denominated the evening and the morning the first day, Genesis 1:5. And so, that which after sunset is here called this night, is, Mark 14:30, called this day, or, to-day, as σημερον should rather be translated. The expression there is peculiarly significant: Verily I say unto thee, that thou — Thyself, confident as thou art; to-day — Even within four and twenty hours; yea, this night — Before the sun be risen; nay, before the cock crow twice — Before three in the morning; wilt deny me thrice. Our Lord, doubtless, spake so determinately as knowing a cock would crow once before the usual time of cock-crowing. By Mark 13:35, it appears, that the third watch of the night, ending at three in the morning, was commonly styled the cock-crowing. Dr. Owen, in his Observations on the Four Gospels, p. 56, observes, that as the Jews, in the enumeration of the times of the night, took notice only of one cock- crowing, which comprehended the third watch, so Matthew, to give them a clear information that Peter would deny his Master before three in the morning, needed only to say, that he would do it before the cock crew; but the Romans, (for whom, and the other Gentiles, Mark wrote his gospel,) reckoning by a double crowing of the cock, the first of which was about midnight, and the second at three, stood in need of a more particular designation; and therefore Mark, to denote the same hour to them, was obliged to say, before the cock crew twice. Juvenal uses exactly the same phrase to specify the same hour. Sat. 1. ver. 107.


Verses 32-38

Mark 14:32-38. They came to Gethsemane — For an explanation of these verses see the notes on Matthew 26:36-39. And began to be sore amazed — Greek, εκθαμβεισθαι, to be in a consternation. The word implies the most shocking mixture of terror and amazement: the next word, αδημονειν, which we render, to be very heavy, signifies to be quite depressed, and almost overwhelmed with the load: and the word περιλυπος, in the next verse, which we translate exceeding sorrowful, implies, that he was surrounded with sorrow on every side, breaking in upon him with such violence, that, humanly speaking, there was no way to escape. Dr. Doddridge paraphrases the passage thus: “He began to be in very great amazement and anguish of mind, on account of some painful and dreadful sensations, which were then impressed on his soul by the immediate hand of God. Then, turning to his three disciples, he says, My soul is surrounded on all sides with an extremity of anguish and sorrow, which tortures me even almost to death; and I know that the infirmity of human nature must quickly sink under it without some extraordinary relief from God. While, therefore, I apply to him, do you continue here and watch.” Dr. Whitby supposes, that these agonies of our Lord did not arise from the immediate hand of God upon him, but from a deep apprehension of the malignity of sin, and the misery brought on the world by it. But, considering how much the mind of Christ was wounded and broken with what he now endured, so as to give some greater external signs of distress than in any other circumstance of his sufferings, there is reason to conclude, there was something extraordinary in the degree of the impression; which in all probability was from the Father’s immediate agency, laying on him the chastisement of our peace, or making his soul an offering for our sins. See Isaiah 53:5; Isaiah 53:10. He went forward a little — Luke says, about a stone’s cast, and fell on the ground — Matthew, fell on his face, and prayed that the hour might pass from him — That dreadful season of sorrow, with which he was then almost overwhelmed, and which did pass from him soon after. And he said, Abba, Father — That is, Father, Father: or, perhaps, the word Father is added by Mark, by way of interpreting the Syriac word, Abba. All things are possible unto thee — All things proper to be done. Take away this cup from me — This cup of bitter distress. Nothing is more common than to express a portion of comfort or distress by a cup, alluding to the custom of the father of a family, or master of a feast, sending to his children or guests a cup of such liquor as he designed for them. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what thou wilt — As if he had said, If thou seest it necessary to continue it, or to add yet more grievous ingredients to it, I am here ready to receive it in submission to thy will; for though nature cannot but shrink back from these sufferings, it is my determinate purpose to bear whatsoever thine infinite wisdom shall see fit to appoint. And he cometh, &c. — Rising up from the ground, on which he had lain prostrate: he returns to the three disciples; and findeth them sleeping — Notwithstanding the deep distress he was in, and the solemn injunction he had given them to watch; and saith unto Peter — The zealous, the confident Peter! Simon, sleepest thou? — Dost thou sleep at such a time as this, and after thou hast just declared thy resolution to die with me? dost thou so soon forget thy promise to stand by me, as not so much as to keep awake and watch one hour? Hast thou strength to die with me, who canst not watch so little awhile with me? Watch ye and pray — Ye also, who were so ready to join with Peter in the same profession; lest ye enter into temptation — Lest ye fall by the grievous trial which is now at hand, and of which I have repeatedly warned you. Observe, reader, watching and praying are means absolutely necessary to be used, if we wish to stand in the hour of trial. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak — I know your mind and will are well inclined to obey me, but your experience may convince you, that your nature is very weak, and your resolutions, however sincere and strong, easily borne down and broken. Every one is apt to flatter himself, when he is out of danger, that he can easily withstand temptations; but without prayer and particular watchfulness the passions are wont to prevail over reason, and the flesh to counteract the motions of the Spirit. It is justly observed by Archbishop Tillotson, (Sermons, vol. 2. p. 435,) that “so gentle a rebuke, and so kind an apology as we here read, were the more remarkable, as our Lord’s mind was now discomposed with sorrow, so that he must have had the deeper and tenderer sense of the unkindness of his friends. And, alas! how apt are we, in general, to think affliction an excuse for peevishness, and how unlike are we to Christ in that thought, and how unkind to ourselves, as well as our friends, to whom, in such circumstances, with our best temper, we must be more troublesome than we could wish.”


Verses 39-42

Mark 14:39-42. And he went away and spake the same words — It is plain, by comparing Mark 14:35-36, with Matthew 26:42, that the words were not entirely the same; and it is certain that λογος, here rendered word, often signifies matter. So that no more appears to be intended than that he prayed to the same purpose as before. Sleep on now, &c. — Dr. Waterland and some others read this interrogatively, Do ye sleep on still and take your rest? The passage, however, may be read with propriety agreeably to our own version; (see the note on Matthew 26:42-45;) as much as to say, My previous conflict is now over, and you may sleep on, because I have no further occasion for your watching. It is enough, or rather, as Campbell renders απεχει, All is over, or, it is done. the time is expired. The intention of the phrase was manifestly to signify, that the time wherein they might have been of use to him, was now lost; and that he was, in a manner, already in the hands of his enemies. Rise up, let us go — See notes on Matthew 26:46-49.


Verses 43-45

Mark 14:43-45. Immediately, while he yet spake — And gave his disciples the alarm just mentioned; Judas came, and with him a great multitude — Persons of different stations and offices in life, sent with authority from the chief priests, with swords and staves — Or clubs, as it seems ξυλων ought here to be rendered. “A staff, in Greek, ραβδος, is intended principally to assist us in walking; a club, ξυλον, is a weapon both offensive and defensive. To show that these words are, in the gospels, never used promiscuously, let it be observed, that, in our Lord’s commands to his apostles, in relation to the discharge of their office, when what concerned their own accommodation in travelling is spoken of, the word παβδος is used by all the three evangelists, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, who take particular notice of that transaction. But, in the account given by the same evangelists of the armed multitude sent by the high-priests and elders to apprehend our Lord, they never employ the term παβδος, but always, ξυλον.” — Campbell.


Verses 46-49

Mark 14:46-49. They laid their hands on him, and took him — After they had first gone backward, and fallen to the ground, upon Jesus’s saying, I am he, as is recorded John 18:5-6. This paragraph is explained in the notes on Matthew 26:51-56.


Verse 51-52

Mark 14:51-52. There followed him a certain young man — The ancients, or at least many of them, supposed, that the young man here mentioned by Mark was one of the apostles; though Grotius wonders how they could entertain such an idea, and apprehends it was some youth who lodged in a country-house, near the garden, who ran out in a hurry to see what was the matter, in his night vestment, or in his shirt, as we should express it. Dr. Macknight thinks it might be “the proprietor of the garden, who, being awakened with the noise, came out in the linen cloth in which he had been lying, cast around his naked body, and, having a respect for Jesus, followed him, forgetting the dress he was in.” And the young men οι ανεανισκο, a common denomination for soldiers, among the Greeks. “Though this incident, recorded by Mark, may not appear of great moment, it is, in my opinion,” says Dr. Campbell, “one of those circumstances we call picturesque, which, though in a manner unconnected with the story, enlivens the narrative. It must have been late in the night when (as has been very probably conjectured) some young man, whose house lay near the garden, being roused out of sleep by the noise of the soldiers and armed retinue passing by, got up, stimulated by curiosity, wrapped himself (as Casaubon supposes) in the cloth in which he had been sleeping, and ran after them. This is such an incident as is very likely to have happened, but most unlikely to have been invented.” Laid hold on him — Who was only suspected to be Christ’s disciple; but were not permitted to touch them who really were so!


Verse 53-54

Mark 14:53-54. And they led Jesus away to the high-priest — To Annas first, who had been high-priest, and afterward to his son-in-law, Caiaphas, who then sustained the office. And with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes — Or the chief persons of the sanhedrim, with their proper officers, convened by Caiaphas on this important occasion. And Peter followed him afar off — Though he had at first forsaken Christ, and shifted for himself, as the rest of his companions did, yet afterward he and John bethought themselves, and determined to return, that they might see what would become of him: even unto the palace of the high-priest — See on Matthew 26:57. It appears, from the circumstance of Peter and John’s being ready to go into Caiaphas’s house with the band which conducted Jesus, that they had quickly recovered themselves after their flight.


Verses 55-59

Mark 14:55-59. And all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death — Which they were determined to do. They had seized him as a malefactor; and now they had him, they had no indictment to prefer against him, no crime to lay to his charge: but they sought for witnesses against him. They artfully sifted some by sly interrogatories, offered bribes to others to prevail on them to accuse him, and endeavoured by threats to compel other, to do it. The chief priests and elders were, by the law, intrusted with the prosecuting and punishing of false witnesses, Deuteronomy 19:16, yet they were now ringleaders in a crime that tended to the overthrow of all justice. Deplorable is the condition of a country, when those that should be the conservators of peace and equity are the corrupters of both! And found none — What an amazing proof of the overruling providence of God, considering both their authority, and the rewards they could offer, that no two consistent witnesses could be procured to charge him with any gross crime! Their witness, their evidences, agreed not together — So also the Vulgate, Convenientia testimonia non erant. But the Greek words, ισαι ουκ ησαν, which, literally rendered, are, were not equal, are understood by many to signify, Not equal to the charge of a capital crime. So Dr. Hammond; they did not accuse him of that upon which a sentence of death might be founded; no, not by the utmost stretch of their law. Dr. Campbell, who considers the phrase in the same light, renders it, Their testimonies were insufficient; observing, “On a doubtful point, where the words appear susceptible of either interpretation, we ought to be determined by the circumstances of the case. Now there is nothing in the whole narrative that insinuates the smallest discrepancy among the witnesses. On the contrary, in the gospels the testimony specified is mentioned as given by all the witnesses. The differences in Matthew and Mark, one saying, I will rebuild, another, I can rebuild; one adding, made with hands, another omitting it; not only are of no moment in themselves, but are manifestly differences in the reports of the evangelists, not in the testimony of the witnesses; nor are they greater than those which occur in most other facts related from memory. What therefore perplexed the pontiffs and the scribes was, that, admitting all that was attested, it did not amount to what could be accounted a capital crime. This made the high-priest think of extorting from our Lord’s mouth a confession which might supply the defect of evidence. This expedient succeeded to their wish; Jesus, though not outwitted by their subtlety, was no way disposed to decline suffering, and therefore readily supplied them with the pretext they wanted.” The same expression is used in the 59th verse. See the note on Matthew 26:59-61. There arose certain, and bare false witness — There is no wickedness so black, no villany so horrid, but there may be found among mankind fit tools to be used in it: so miserably depraved and vitiated is human nature! Saying, We heard him say, I will destroy this temple, &c. — It is observable, that the words which they thus misrepresented were spoken by Christ at least three years before, (John 2:19.) Their going back so far to find matter for the charge was a glorious, though silent attestation, of the unexceptionable manner wherein he had behaved, through the whole course of his public ministry.


Verses 60-62

Mark 14:60-62. The high-priest stood up in the midst, &c. — See notes on Matthew 26:62-64, where this paragraph is largely explained. Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed — Here one of the peculiar attributes of the Deity is used to express the divine nature. Supreme happiness is properly considered as belonging to God: and as all comfort flows from him, suitable ascriptions of praise and glory are his due. But this form of speech was conformable to the ancient custom of the Jews, who, when the priest in the sanctuary rehearsed the name of God, used to answer, Blessed be his name for ever. The title of the Blessed One, signified as much as the Holy One; and both, or either of them, the God of Israel. Hence such expressions are frequent in the rabbis. See also Romans 1:25; 2 Corinthians 11:31. “This is a very sublime and emphatical method of expressing the happiness of God. It conveys such an idea of the divine blessedness, that, comparatively speaking, there is none happy but he.” — Macknight.


Verses 63-65

Mark 14:63-65. Then the high-priest rent his clothes — Rending of clothes was an expression sometimes of deep grief, sometimes of holy zeal. The precepts, Leviticus 10:8; Leviticus 21:10; forbidding the high-priest to rend his clothes, relate only to the pontifical garments and to private mourning: that is, mourning on account of the calamities befalling himself or friends. Griefs of this kind the chief minister of religion was not to make public by any outward sign whatever. But it was neither unlawful nor unusual for him to rend his ordinary garments on account of public calamities, or instances of gross wickedness, as a testimony of his grief for the one and abhorrence of the other. See 1 Maccabees 11:71. That the high-priest was clothed in his ordinary apparel on this occasion, appears from Exodus 29:29-30, where the pontifical garments are ordered to descend from father to son; and therefore were to be worn only at their consecration, and when they ministered. And saith, What need we any further witnesses — Namely, of his being guilty of blasphemy. Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? — What punishment do you judge him to have deserved? They all condemned him, to be guilty of death — Namely, all present; for it is probable Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea, and some more, who were his disciples, or favourably disposed toward him, were not present: or if they were, they doubtless remonstrated against the iniquity of this sentence. And some began to spit on him — See note on Matthew 26:67-68.


Verses 66-72

Mark 14:66-72. And as Peter was beneath in the palace — This whole paragraph respecting Peter’s three-fold denial of Christ is explained at large in the notes on Matthew 26:69-75. When he thought thereon he wept — In the original it is, και επιβαλων εκλαιε, which words are interpreted very differently by different commentators. Dr. Whitby thinks our translation of the words may be maintained; “for though Casaubon,” says he, “gave no instance of this signification of the word, Constantine proves, out of Philoponus, Dionysius, and Basil, that it signifies κατανοειν, to consider of, and ponder, or fix the mind upon a thing. So Eustathius; ‘the word επιβαλλω, respects either the action, and then it signifies exactly to take it in hand, or the mind, and then it signifies to consider of it, as we are able;’ or as Phavorinus interprets it, επιβαλως νοειν, aptly and wisely to consider of it.” Dr. Campbell, also, after a critical examination of the text, and of the different interpretations which learned men have given of it, says, “I think, with Wetstein, that the sense exhibited by the English translation is the most probable.” Dr. Macknight, however, gives it as his opinion, that the original expression should be rendered, and throwing his garment (that is, the veil which the Jewish men used to wear) over his head, he wept; “For the expression,” says he, “is elliptical, and must be supplied thus, επιβαλων ιματιον τη κεφαλη αυτου, as is evident from Leviticus 19:19, LXX. Besides, it was the custom of persons in confusion to cover their heads, Jeremiah 14:3-4.” Thus also Elsner, Salmasius, Bos, and Waterland understand the words. It may not be improper to mention one more interpretation of the passage, adopted by Raphelius and some other learned critics, which is, throwing himself out of the company, namely, in a passionate manner, (which it is very probable he did,) he wept. This exposition, it must be acknowledged, makes Mark’s words agree in sense with those of the other evangelists, who say, He went forth and wept; and “plain it is,” says Dr. Whitby, “that in the book of Maccabees the word often signifies, irruens, or se projiciens, rushing, or, casting one’s self out.”

 


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Bibliography Information
Benson, Joseph. "Commentary on Mark 14:4". Joseph Benson's Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rbc/mark-14.html. 1857.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, November 14th, 2019
the Week of Proper 27 / Ordinary 32
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