The final decision
Pp Mark 14:1-11, Luke 22:1-6
In the house of Simon the ex-leper
Matthew chapter 26 begins the record of the events surrounding the crucifixion of Jesus but the division of the text after the previous chapter clouds the fact that there’s really no considered break in the original work. The author’s first two verses are linked carefully to what’s just transpired on the Mount of Olives and his opening line that Jesus’ statement which follows occurred (Mtw 26:1)
‘When Jesus had finished all these sayings...’
places the statement as being spoken to them after the three ‘end times’ parables and would have had the effect of bringing their minds back to the issues at hand rather than to dwell on the future event of world history when the Son of man would return to set up a visible Kingdom, and when the Temple in Jerusalem was to be destroyed.
Both Mark and Luke’s parallels aren’t as detailed as Matthew’s at this point, the latter simply stating (Luke 22:1) that
‘...the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover’
while Mark, similarly to Matthew, notes that the time period before the imminent festival was two days (Mark 14:1 - we have no trouble accepting this statement to mean something less than 48 hours and more like ‘two parts of a day’ or ‘on the second new day’ but we seem to struggle with Jesus’ statement about Him being three days and nights in the heart of the earth, thinking that it must be taken literally - Mtw 12:40). This statement of Jesus, therefore, seems best to be placed on Tuesday afternoon after the exit the final time from the Temple (Mtw 24:1) and that the two days mentioned here would take the listener to the Thursday on which the Passover lamb was sacrificed in the Temple and the feast prepared (Mtw 26:17-19).
On the next web page I’ve noted in the final two articles that it’s impossible to be certain what the title ‘the first day of Unleavened Bread’ (Mtw 26:17) refers to without some further description as to what was occurring on the day, for the actual structure of the days of Passover and the names given to them don’t appear to have been fixed at this point - even though the lamb was definitely sacrificed on the 14th of Nisan and then eaten on the 15th during the evening, a time which, according to our present system, would still be the 14th’s evening (it gets complicated, I know).
That Mtw 26:17 is referring to Thursday is fairly certain, however, when we note that it was the day on which they prepared the Passover (as opposed to the ‘Day of Preparation’ which was only ever a title rightly attributed to the day before a Sabbath - this is also explained in my Passover notes) and, as Jesus was buried on the day before the Sabbath - the same day on which He died (Mtw 27:57ff Cp 27:62), the chronology holds together well.
Mathag has opted for an unusual chronology of the last few days before the resurrection and shouldn’t be followed at this point. He places the official Jewish Passover meal as occurring on a sabbath and, therefore, probably after Jesus’ crucifixion. As can be seen from my chronology on the previously cited Passover page, there’s no problem with the traditional chronology even though some would take statements in the text to mean something which they do not. Matmor places the official Passover meal as occurring ‘Friday evening’ but this is only correct if, by that phrase, he means the Jewish time period which would have taken place on our Thursday night. Mathen places the eating of the Passover lamb on Thursday the 14th of Nisan and is obviously incorrect. Although the lamb was sacrificed on the 14th, it was eaten on the 15th when evening had come, even though our division of time would place it in the same midnight to midnight period. Having said that, it appears as if Mathen is using our calendar of days rather than the Jewish one.
When the reader studies these chapters by himself, a careful note of time periods is essential because, as has just been shown, there’s a multiplicity of methods and systems involved!
If a strict chronology is intended in Matthew’s Gospel in these opening verses, the statement of Mtw 26:1-2 should be seen to have occurred on the Tuesday afternoon (Matcar states that it was ‘late Tuesday evening which, by Jewish reckoning, would be the beginning of Wednesday’ - if this was the case, however, it’s difficult to imagine how they might ever have been able to see the Temple in the dark from across the valley - Mtw 24:1ff - and it would have made their journey to Bethany more difficult. A time before sundown is much better to attribute to the statement), Mtw 26:3-5 to have occurred probably at about the same time or later towards the evening over a meal (which would have made the time of its occurrence to be Wednesday - the Jewish day began upon sundown), Mtw 26:6-13 was most definitely the evening meal and therefore on Wednesday in the Jewish reckoning and, finally, Mtw 26:14-16 would place Judas as travelling on His own to the city of Jerusalem on Wednesday morning to meet with the religious leaders and to agree to deliver Jesus into their hands.
If we couple the silence of the Gospels on this two day period and Jesus’ plain statement in Mtw 23:39 that they would not see Him again until a future time, it appears that Jesus remained in and around Bethany for all of Wednesday before giving instruction to His disciples early on Thursday morning (which I favour
on the following web page) to prepare the Passover meal (Mtw 26:17-19).
On the web page where I dealt with the subjects of foreknowledge, freewill and predestination, I attempted to show the reader that each of these concepts could not be considered to be operational without the other two and that, if we emphasise one at the expense of the others, we necessarily tend to become unbalanced in our approach to Scripture.
It isn’t that God has fixed (that is, predestined) all the events necessary for Jesus to die on the cross independently of the response of man’s freewill but that, in His foreknowledge of man’s response, He’s able to predestine events which are conclusions which His will has brought about.
Therefore, although Judas’ betrayal of the Son of man was a choice which the individual made, it was equally pivotal in bringing Jesus into the place where He could be sentenced to crucifixion - but we cannot then go on to confine his freewill choice to the sovereign will of God in prompting him to do what he did. Rather, God’s will or intended plan stands as a conclusion to man’s freewill response that was foreknown.
Examples of all three elements can be seen in this short sixteen verse passage and, in my notes previously cited, the reader will find an application of the principle not only to this short passage but to the entire three chapters which end the Gospel of Matthew.
Firstly, foreknowledge can be clearly seen in the first two verses (Mtw 26:1-2) and on the three previous occasions where Jesus had predicted His suffering by the hands of men and of His ultimate death (Mtw 16:21, 17:22-23, 20:18-19) but a new detail emerges in this prediction - namely, that the time for its fulfilment is imminent and will take place
‘...after two days...’
In the latter of the previous three predictions, Jesus had previously spoken about Him dying on their current trip into Jerusalem but now the actual day is being specified, paralleled with the festival of Passover (Mtw 26:2).
Because Jesus foreknew the outcome of the events which were even now in progress (that is, the matter was revealed to Him by God the Father), it doesn’t follow that God predestined them to occur regardless of man’s freewill but that, as will be seen, He predestined the crucifixion of the Son of man as a direct result of man’s freewill and, without which, the event wouldn’t have happened.
The subject of freewill is everywhere apparent in these verses even though some would prefer to see God’s hand of compulsion pressing upon their wills and overriding their own common sense. So, the Jewish religious leaders chose to arrest Jesus by some secret plot and to kill Him (Mtw 26:3-5), choosing to reject the purposes of God for themselves as an outcome of their rejection of the Messiah (Luke 7:30) and their unwillingness to change to obey the Gospel of the Kingdom and to follow the Messenger sent (for example, Mtw 21:23-27, 11:18-19).
Judas, also, who was numbered among the twelve (Luke 6:12-16, 9:1-2) and given his share in the apostolic ministry (Acts 1:17), rejected his God-ordained destiny (Acts 1:20) by betraying Jesus Christ into the hands of men - and that for the price of a common slave (see below).
It should be noted here also that Jesus was not a ‘puppet’ under the control or domination of the Father. He, too, had a freewill and chose to lay down His life (John 10:11,15,17-18), desiring another way in which the reconciliation of the world could be obtained (Mtw 26:39) but ultimately submitting to the will of the Father.
Even when He was arrested, He could have petitioned the Father for deliverance (Mtw 26:53) but chose rather to fulfil the words spoken about Him in Scripture (Mtw 26:54), laying down His life so that others might live.
Predestination isn’t specified anywhere in the passage but it’s at the root of the ultimate outworking of His foreknowledge of man’s freewill and prophesied in such places as Is 52:13-53:12. He had a purpose which was not to be thwarted by man and which came about through those events which were in themselves sin - that is, Judas’ betrayal and Israel’s rejection of their Messiah.
Man is fully responsible for his own actions whether God uses them to bring about His ultimate will and purpose or not. Therefore Paul noted (Eph 1:11) that God
‘...[works in or gives power to] all things according to the counsel of His will...’
bringing about what is perfect even through actions which are an affront to Him. Predestination, therefore, is not usurping the right of mankind to exercise freewill but of using his response to be sewn into the fabric of the means which arrives at the intended conclusion.
The final decision
Mtw 26:3-5, Mark 14:1-2, Luke 22:2
The scene moves from somewhere on the road from Jerusalem to Bethany (one supposes) to the residency of the high priest, Caiaphas (who ruled over the Temple from 18-36AD). The RSV’s translation of ‘palace’ is, perhaps, too strong a word for the Greek from which it comes (Strongs Greek number 833) can mean simply the uncovered enclosure which belonged to a large house or a hall within the building where people met. This latter meaning appears to be what’s intended here for the mention of the ‘chief priests and elders of the people’ (Mtw 26:3) demands a large enough area in which to come together.
This group of people is paralleled in Mtw 21:23 where we noted that the author of Matthew uses it to describe the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of Law who met within the Temple precincts to decide matters of civil and religious law and the indication here is that this meeting was an unofficial but equally important one, convened to discuss what should be done about Jesus - held within the privacy of the high priest’s courts rather than publicly in the Temple.
Such a group had already met previously to decide what should be done (John 11:47-53) and concluded that they must find a way by which to take Jesus and put Him to death. This appears to be the intention behind their approach in Mtw 22:15-22 where they attempt to justify charges of treason before the Roman Governor through Jesus’ reply to a simple question.
Even before these events took place, the Pharisees and scribes had already come to the conclusion that Jesus represented a threat to their own kingdom and were opposing the mighty works which He was doing in Galilee (Mtw 9:34, 12:24), even to the point of deciding that He had to be destroyed because of His reinterpretation of what it meant to work on the sabbath (Mtw 12:14).
But that was the Pharisees. Here, in Mtw 26:3-5, we’re primarily looking at the Sadducean party by the way that Matthew has phrased His opening statement, even though it’s not in doubt that the scribes and Pharisees would have been present.
Throughout the last three chapters in this Gospel, the Pharisees are only mentioned once in Mtw 27:62 where they petition Pilate to secure the tomb with soldiers to prevent the disciples from stealing the body away and so claim that Jesus has risen from the dead. The scribes appear in Mtw 26:57 and 27:41 but a scribe could be either a Sadducee or Pharisee and the coupling with men who were predominantly Sadducean in make up may betray their allegiance - however, it’s quite impossible to say one way or the other but we shouldn’t expect the hand of the Pharisees to be too far from the plot and it’s doubtful whether they would have been against it.
The incident of Mtw 27:62 is highly significant simply because the Sadducees are nowhere to be seen. It was the Sadducees who refused to believe in the resurrection from the dead (see my notes here) but the Pharisees who maintained that such an event would occur (Acts 23:8). The Pharisees’ approach before the Governor therefore betrays not their stated concern that the disciples might steal him away but is more indicative of a group of people which fears that those things which they believe in might now come upon themselves - otherwise we would have expected the Sadducees to have joined with them to petition Pilate.
Both Mark and Luke fail to specifically mention the hand of the Pharisees in anything which took place from the beginning of their respective chapters while John has just the one occurrence of the party in John 18:3 where it’s noted that it was from both themselves and the chief priests that Judas gathered some soldiers and officers together to go out and arrest Jesus.
The scene in the Temple that morning and afternoon (Mtw 21:23-23:39) in which Jesus had not only defeated their cynical questions but had undermined their own authority and respect before the people seems to have been the final straw which pushed them into deciding upon the immediate need to put Jesus to death while He was still amongst them for that year’s Passover. While John 11:47-53 had sealed Jesus’ fate as far as they were concerned, Mtw 26:3-5 sealed the time at which He was to die though, as can be seen from what eventually transpired, their hand was forced when Judas came to them on the night of the Passover and gave them the opportunity that they realised they would be foolish to pass by.
Therefore, although the Jewish leaders fix the date of death as after the Passover festival (or, perhaps better, after the Passover meal - Mtw 26:5), Jesus fixes it as after two days and was ultimately right (Mtw 26:2).
Matthew’s use of the prefix which is translated ‘then’ by the RSV gives the reader the impression that the council being held amongst the religious leaders took place at virtually the same time as Jesus’ statement that His death was to be immediate. It impresses upon the reader almost the possibility that Jesus was listening to the discussions taking place in the High Priest’s residency and reacting accordingly with the prediction of His death to the disciples. At the very least it would infer that both incidents took place simultaneously.
Although many commentators point this out, it must be noted that, if this really was the case, both incidents are very different simply because the time scale of the predictions are irreconcilable. Besides, the natural setting for Mtw 26:3-5 would be sometime after the main work of the Temple had been done that day, when the leaders of the nation retired for the final meal and it may not be going too far to see it set around just such an occasion, it being more a direct time-parallel with the subsequent incident (Mtw 26:6-13) than it is with what precedes it.
The RSV’s translation ‘stealth’ (Strongs Greek number 1388) means more like our word ‘trickery’ or ‘craftiness’ and would seem to be a word which was used deliberately to conjure up in the reader’s mind Gen 3:1 where the RSV translates that
‘...the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made...’
and then proceeds to detail the craftiness of the serpent in arguing his case before the woman that both her and Adam would choose to do something which was a direct transgression of a command of God. It’s this sort of cleverness which lies at the root of the Sanhedrin’s decision to arrest Jesus for they know that a direct offensive against Him would probably prove ineffectual seeing as the presence of His disciples, followers and supporters (especially the crowds from Galilee which had swollen the population and who held Him to be a prophet) was sufficient to give them difficulties which would have been insurmountable. On a previous occasion they’d tried to arrest Him while He taught in the Temple but Mtw 21:46 notes that their attempts were thwarted because
‘...they feared the multitudes because they held him to be a prophet’
and Josephus’ indirect testimony in War 1.4.3 which initially refers to a time much earlier in Jewish history should be read here for he notes (my italics) that
‘...the nation of the Jews made an insurrection against him at a festival; for at those feasts seditions are generally begun’
In Josephus’ own mind, therefore, insurrections were the more likely to occur at national festivals, supposedly when expectations were high for God to do something in their midst and when the unity of the nation was being proclaimed through the attendance of multitudes of pilgrims from across the world.
It’s more than likely that the lone figure in Gethsemane with just a handful of His closest followers was what they were looking for - except that they were hoping that such an opportunity might be given to them after the Passover rather than in the very midst of it. Even so, His arrest at night, sentencing by the Sanhedrin (at a very hastily convened council which seems certainly not to have been a regular and official hearing) during the early hours of the morning and the delivery of their prisoner to Pilate all took place when most of the Jews in the city were sleeping. The entire sequence of events until Jesus was in the hands of the Roman Governor would have had very few Jewish witnesses who were supporters of the One captured - and it may be reasonably conjectured that Nicodemus would have dissented from the Sanhedrin’s will had he been present at the hearing (John 3:1).
The statement about the arrest not being during the festival could have a few interpretations and one has to note that, strictly speaking, the actual event took place after the Passover meal was eaten though certainly within the seven day festival of Unleavened Bread. Therefore it may have intended to have meant just this - that they were hoping to find an opportunity after the meal had taken place but before the pilgrims to Jerusalem dispersed to their homes throughout Israel. It would have been unlikely, though, that they envisaged their chance arriving at the time it did.
In the house of Simon the ex-leper
Mtw 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9
If the last statement of Jesus (Mtw 26:2) occurred on the Tuesday afternoon as they were at the Mount of Olives (Mtw 24:3) or journeying towards Bethany where it appears they were lodging each night they were near to Jerusalem for the festival that year (Mtw 21:17), this incident is more than likely to have taken place at night time and, therefore, on Wednesday (in accordance with the Jewish calendar which states that the day begins at sundown and neither midnight nor sunrise).
The following day, Jesus appears to have ‘laid low’ in the village until the festival came (Mtw 23:39) when He gave clear instructions to His disciples where the festival was to be prepared (Mtw 26:17-19) for the following night time period (which, we must remember, would have been on the following day in Jewish reckoning).
Some commentators see John 12:1-8 as being a parallel passage to both Matthew and Mark’s account but there doesn’t appear to be a conclusive argument either way and the identification hinges, in my opinion, not upon the great similarities and only minor (reconcilable) differences but upon the statement in John 12:1 where the writer notes that
‘Six days before the Passover, Jesus came to Bethany...’
Both Johncar and Johnmor assert that this time is integrally tied in with the meal which is subsequently described and, though I can’t see in the text any such need to assume this, I must bow to their better judgment at this point. I would, rather, have accepted that John’s incident is recorded out of chronological order because John 12:1 seems to date Jesus’ arrival in Bethany rather than the meal - this latter incident is mentioned, it would appear, only under the heading of ‘what happened in Bethany that year’ rather than to force upon the reader the necessary and inescapable inference that the anointing took place almost a week before the crucifixion.
However, I shall leave John’s record to one side and stick to the incident as recorded in both Matthew and Mark simply because a harmony of all three passages has a certain degree of doubt cast upon it. But John 12:4-6 certainly appears from Judas’ reaction to have typified the attitude of the betrayer which very shortly afterwards was to await an opportunity to betray Him. It may even be that such an incident as this was pivotal in finally settling it in his own mind that something needed to be done - though for what reason is difficult to imagine (I will discuss this briefly on the next web page).
Returning to the Synoptic record, we note first of all that the incident took place in the house of Simon the leper but this is hardly likely to be correct if taken literally. It seems better to read ‘ex-leper’ and that the name was still being used as a reminder of what great miracle had either already been done in His life by Jesus (which would explain why he opened his house for Jesus and the disciples) or that he had, naturally, been restored back into Israelite society following a period when he was exiled away from the community of Israel.
If anything, the latter explanation seems to be the best and it seems to have been retained to indicate which Simon was being meant.
Matthew simply tells the reader that the flask contained ‘very expensive ointment’ (Mtw 26:7) whereas Mark notes that the perfume was ‘nard’ (Mark 14:3). This substance was probably an oil extracted from an East Indian plant in the Himalayas and which bore the same name as the plant. It was very costly because of the expense of importing it from India and, to transport it to foreign lands, it was sealed in alabaster jars that were only broken and the fragrance released when it was to be used.
This oil was certainly not for ‘anyone’ but was normally reserved for special guests when some wealthy landowner or some other dignitary wished to bestow a great honour on them. The expression of gratitude or pleasure must be seen in the application of such a substance and that it wouldn’t have been performed regularly must be noted.
The action which the woman here performs is special to the point of being extremely rare and the cost of such a substance (Mark 14:5 - a year’s wages for a labourer if it’s accepted that no work would have been done on the sabbaths) declares the respect in which Jesus was held by the woman.
We shouldn’t think too cynically about the disciples’ reaction to the event for, to them, such extravagance would have prompted their own conscience to think about the need for a restriction of personal self-indulgence that Jesus had even taught by insisting that they deny themselves and put others ahead of themselves (Mtw 16:24, 20:26-27). It surely wasn’t because they wanted to deny Jesus honour that they now opposed what had just transpired and they may well have expected Jesus to uphold their comments - that the selling of such a product would truly be ‘good news for the poor’ (Mtw 11:5) and a fulfilment of instructions given to the rich young ruler to sell his possessions and give it all to the poor (Mtw 19:21)
But what they haven’t perceived is that what the woman has just performed is a prophetic act about an event which they’ve been told about repeatedly but have turned their eyes away from - namely, that He’s about to die within two days (Mtw 26:1-2). Mattask comments (his expansion of the scene after these words are worth reading but they do depend upon the following statement for their foundation) that the woman
‘...had an intuitive appreciation of the significance of Jesus’ death which the disciples had as yet failed to grasp. As she gazes across the supper table into the eyes of Jesus [it is not absolutely certain that women would have been sat ‘at table’ with the men and may have been more the servants of the feast rather than partakers of it], she sees the shadow of the cross lying heavily upon Him and she penetrates its meaning’
but this seems to be going too far in attributing revelation to the woman who anointed Him. It’s equally possible that Jesus took it as a prophetic declaration which the disciples should pay special attention to so as to reinforce His previous words to them but that the woman saw it simply as a mark of honour to the guest. It may also be the case that the woman saw in her act, an outworking of her belief in Jesus as God’s Anointed One - literally ‘Messiah’ or ‘Christ’ - and that she was giving full vent to her belief through the action. Her demonstration of honour would, in this case, be less of a prophetic proclamation of Jesus’ death but of her recognised assessment of the special relationship in which He stood before YHWH.
We can’t be certain either way, of course, but a definitive statement such as Mattask’s is not necessarily inferable from the passage.
Not only does the anointing proclaim His death but it also, according to most commentators, declares that such an honour in death would be unable to be fully given Him because of the need to seal the stone of the tomb before the sabbath dawned (Mark 16:1). But Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus certainly appear to have performed what was necessary to fulfil the Jewish burial customs (John 19:38-40 - Matfran wrongly states that Jesus’ body ‘...would not be buried with proper ceremony’) though the women who’d ministered to Him also seemed to have wanted to give Jesus the honour which had been lacking in their approach of the tomb on the Sunday morning.
It’s incorrect, therefore, to say that nothing would be done for the body of Jesus at the time of His burial (or, better, at the time of His entombment) and it may be that the anointing specified in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 16:1) was to be done as a mark of great honour which was superfluous to the Jewish requirements.
Ointments and fragrances may have been repeatedly brought into the tomb (perhaps to restrict the stench of the rotting corpse - Johncar ascribes the action as one ‘...to stifle the smell of putrefaction’) but it doesn’t appear to have been the norm to anoint the body once it had been dead almost two full days (or, three parts of days) or, at least, there doesn’t appear to be any directions concerning such a practice. Matcar cites Daube in defence of his assertion that the anointing prepared Him for burial
‘...after dying the death of a criminal, for only in that circumstance would the customary anointing of the body be omitted...’
But it seems strange that the two men who saw to His entombment and who seem to have had a high regard for Him, shouldn’t stick with Jewish custom when they were of the opinion that He was no ordinary person. I would venture to suggest that, if the Scriptures indicate their assessment of Jesus correctly, the only reason for failing to anoint the body (which would probably be the saturation of the skin before wrapping it in the linen strips for burial - John 19:38-40) would be the time involved - and this doesn’t appear to have been a problem.
This entire discussion has centred around the assertion that the anointing with the spikenard which took place at this meal was solely for the preparation of the body because of the circumstances surrounding Jesus’ death. This certainly appears to be the meaning which is inherent in the verb used in the Greek (Strongs Greek number 1779) but it may equally be possible that Jesus was speaking of His own personal preparation for death and that the action of the woman focused His mind on the final outcome of His own life.
This is no more than supposition, I admit, but that Jesus was given a burial in accordance with Jewish custom is apparent from John’s Gospel previously cited and the haste with which He was buried doesn’t appear to be what’s being spoken about here at the meal.
That the woman anointed Jesus to ‘prepare Him for burial’ shouldn’t be construed as inferring that she believed that He was soon to die. What the point seems to be is that the honour that was being given to Him at this meal was taken by Him to bring the cross and His death into sharp focus. As such, it became a prophetic announcement of His imminent death and something which should have also woken the disciples up to the statement He’d very recently made concerning the event (Mtw 26:2).
As to the exact date upon which this meal took place, the Gospel gives us no clear indication. Are we, perhaps, supposed to think of the event as having taken place on our Wednesday evening (the Jews’ Thursday evening) rather than, as I’ve mentioned above, on Tuesday/Wednesday? After all, how could we expect another day to pass if Jesus was announcing the anointing with which He would be buried?
Certainly, Jesus would still have cleansed Himself with water even if we put the date of the incident as the night before the Passover meal - and even the Passover meal had instructions which clearly commanded the washing of the hands amongst other parts of the body (John 13:1-11 illustrates that, to those who walked along streets and along paths from village to city that had excrement from all sorts of animals, washing one’s feet was an absolute necessity for others present. We shouldn’t think that such a washing was refused by Jesus simply because He wanted to retain the scent of the spikenard on His body).
It seems an all round better understanding of Jesus’ words, then, to accept the ‘preparation’ to have been a personal rather than a physical one. Although I doubt whether the woman fully realised the significance of her action, the disciples were assured that the incident would be fully remembered wherever the Gospel was preached throughout the world. Jesus’ statement in Mtw 26:13 that
‘...wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’
is almost a point about which readers could draw negative inferences from where others see only positive. To the believer, one would say that Jesus’ saying demonstrates how the story was included in the Gospels and so proves Jesus’ prophetic proclamation concerning the incident. To others, though, it could be argued that Jesus may have said similar things on other occasions but they’ve gone unrecorded!
The truth, however, is to be found in John’s Gospel if John 12:1-8 is considered to be the parallel passage to those in Matthew and Mark. For, in John 11:1 where the story begins by stating that Lazarus was ill, the author goes on immediately to inform the reader that
‘It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill’
a totally irrelevant piece of information unless the reader already knew the story. It isn’t sufficient to say that it refers to the incident which will be recorded later on for it presupposes that the incident is already well-known. Therefore, it seems to be correct to say that Jesus’ statement in Mtw 26:13 came literally true and that the anointing for death became an integral part of the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That Jesus sees the Gospel as being preached (Mtw 26:13)
‘...in the whole world...’
is also significant and shouldn’t be thought of as an interpolation by the author to show the importance of the passage to all who were already going into the world with the message of salvation. Rather, we should see in it a predictive element that could only be successfully fulfilled if Jesus had intended the message to be proclaimed throughout the world and, therefore, to Gentile as well as Jew (see also Mtw 24:14 where the same inference is necessary).
Although it might be understood in the light of the dispersed Jews in the Diaspora, that the message should be taken to them wherever they might be found, it has to have more application to a universal proclamation of the Gospel.
See also my notes here where I’ve used Mark’s passage to illustrate the principle of the fragrance of Christ being released in the lives of believers who have areas of their lives broken before God. Although I’ve spiritualised the passage there, it follows on from a consideration of the life of Peter and what he went through to remove his self-dependence and to replace it with an increased dependency upon the provision of Jesus Christ in his weakness.
Mtw 26:14-16, Mark 14:10-11, Luke 22:3-6
If the previous incident took place in the early hours of Wednesday (that is, late on during our Tuesday evening), it would mean that Judas - if the incidents are chronologically recorded - travelled on his own to the city in order to meet with the religious leadership the following daytime.
The incident certainly appears to have been done after the teaching in the Temple (Mtw 23:39) but before the return to Jerusalem on the Thursday afternoon (Mtw 26:17ff). It seems right, then, to think of Judas as journeying on his own into the city while Jesus and the rest of the disciples stayed in Bethany during Wednesday.
The precise reasons for Judas’ betrayal we shall never know. The Scriptures give no clear indication of his motives and there appears to be nothing directly inferable from the circumstances which surrounded him. Mattask comments that
‘The motive of Judas remained, it would seem, a mystery to the early christians; they could only say with Luke that “satan entered into him”’
a verse which we’ll look at a little later on. That Judas is spoken of as going to the chief priests after the incident of the spikenard previously (Mtw 26:6-13) may indicate that it represented the ‘final straw’ in Judas’ own mind but this is no more than supposition, while the actual reasons for such an action are hazy and often attributed to various attitudes which are presumed to have been within him.
For instance, in the rock opera ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’, the belief was put forward that Judas was willing to go along with Jesus while He remained a teacher and healer but baulked at the importance that Jesus was rising to, where the Person rather than the teaching was beginning to take centre stage. It certainly would have been nice if the lyricist, Tim Rice, had taken the time to read the Scriptures carefully for Jesus regularly withdrew from regions because of His popularity, shunning the crowds’ attentions which would elevate Him to a position of sovereignty over them (for instance, John 6:15). I remember also, incidentally, that Judas Iscariot appears in Heaven towards the end of the show after the hanging.
But, equally, we might think of Judas attempting to force Jesus’ hand in demonstrating that He was the promised Messiah by contriving a situation where He would be forced to use divine power to put down those who were arrayed against Him.
Equally, Judas may have baulked at the declarations Jesus was making about having to suffer and die (the latest to the disciples before the incident of the spikenard being Mtw 26:1-2) and wanted to get some material provision out of it before His only source of revenue was taken from him (John 11:5-6). And, again, he may have looked at the opposition which was being demonstrated towards Jesus by the religious leaders, felt drawn to the belief that the Jewish leaders were correct and sought to support their own will.
Matfran notes that Judas may have been the only Judean in the twelve disciples and that
‘...he may have resented the leadership of the Galilean fishermen...’
but, as he also goes on to note, even such a thing as this would hardly be a detraction for one who was fully committed in his belief that Jesus was the One promised. The commentator supposes that it’s more logical to assess the reason as being one of disillusionment with the ‘movement’ of which Jesus was the head - especially as death was being talked about and that
‘...it was time to get out before it was too late. He may even have concluded sincerely...that Jesus was after all a false prophet’
But it may simply have been an illogical series of reasonings which arrived at the conclusion of betrayal and for which there’s no rational explanation - many a man goes forward with a series of actions which are based upon wrong observations, incorrect inferences and, sometimes, just the stubbornness of their own mind - and there’s certainly no indication that there was a rational and logical ideological reason for what Judas was about to do. It’s perhaps best to follow Matmor at this point in his comments (my italics) that
‘There is no indication in any of our sources of any motive other than that of money’
But Judas’ mind certainly seems to have been set to oppose Jesus even before we arrive at the beginning of Mtw 26:14. When we read of Luke’s observation (Luke 22:3) that
‘...satan entered into Judas called Iscariot...’
we’re seeing no more than a sealing of the man’s will, an empowering of the intent which sought to betray him. Demonology is not a major subject in the Bible even though there’s much teaching in certain sections within the Church - all that seems to be important in the NT is that authority over the power of satan is realised and exercised when needed, rather than for counselling to be employed to coax the demonic from men and women.
Having said that, satan’s entering into Judas isn’t something that we should think of as being an overpowering of the will and that Judas was somehow compelled to do that which he didn’t want to. Rather, his presence within the disciple seems to have been to impart the boldness required to do what he was already thinking was the best course of action.
Perhaps it would be easier to try and determine why satan wanted Jesus delivered into the hands of the religious leaders, for there must have been some purpose in it. The general belief that the enemy wanted Jesus dead is incorrect, however, for, if satan perceived that Jesus was without sin, the man Jesus stood in a unique position before him and in a similar position to only two other people throughout world history - Adam and Eve.
Rather than seeing his intention as being one of murder, it’s best to understand that his intention was one of temptation to provoke Jesus into committing an act that would oppose the will of God. This appears to be the entire basis of satan’s first tempting in the wilderness (Mtw 4:1-11) and his approach through one of Jesus’ closest followers is no different. His aim is to overthrow the authority which Jesus has over him through one act of rebellion to the Father’s will and, in so doing, cause all of mankind to be under his own dominion (I’ve covered this entire situation in my notes on Creation Part 2 Section 3).
We should also note at this point that John 13:27 records satan as entering in to Judas at the Passover meal and it’s probably best to see both incidents as being distinct and separate, satan empowering Judas at the right time so that he would be confident to continue with the course of action he’d begun.
Both Matthew and Mark note that Judas’ approach was to the chief priests where Luke adds ‘and officers’ but the thought is still that it’s the Sadducean party to whom he now makes his way. Although the Pharisees had persistently opposed Jesus, they lacked the political power to implement their desires, having to rely upon the Sadducees. Judas, however, goes straight to the people who he knows want to see Jesus dead and who have the authority to bring about their own will in the matter.
His request for a monetary payment betrays the way his mind is going when he asks (Mtw 26:15)
‘What will you give me if I deliver him to you?’
and echoes John’s statement (John 12:6) which infers that money seems to be the one thing which he valued above everything else. Certainly, when Jesus taught the disciples (Mtw 6:24) that
‘...you cannot serve God and mammon’
he may have heard the words but his heart was far from applying them to his own life. Instead of following hard after the Kingdom of God and of doing what was right in God’s eyes, he’d set himself to run hard after the earthly matters which were of no importance (Mtw 6:33).
The money paid to him is of significance (even though the actual amount is fairly small and worth much less than the three hundred denarii which the previous night’s incident has brought to mind - Mark 14:5) though the author of Matthew leaves such comments upon it until Mtw 27:3-10 when the money is returned to the chief priests. I’ve dealt with this on my web page concerning Zech 11:4-17 seeing as the author refers to the quote being from Jeremiah when it appears to have been more directly taken from Zechariah’s prophetic writings.
For now, though, we should also witness similarities with the OT passage of Ex 21:32 which commands the Israelites that
‘If the ox [of the previous regulations] gores a slave, male or female, the owner shall give to their master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned’
for it allegorically demonstrates that Judas here represents the master and Jesus the slave who is gored to death. The ox would be indicative of the Roman authorities and the owner, the Jewish leadership, who knew full well that such an ox had done such a thing before.
Using the ox to absolve themselves of any guilt, they showed by their actions to be the more guilty party (Ex 21:29). The thirty pieces of silver was ‘blood money’ (Mtw 27:6) that ransomed (atoned for) the guilt of the owner and is the only place in the Mosaic Law where ‘blood money’ was allowed. In all other circumstances, it was life for life. The OT regulations, therefore, can be seen to indicate a shadow of man’s dealings with Jesus Christ and, while a ransom was allowable under the Mosaic Law, the guilt of the chief priests remained.
Finally, Luke 22:6 (my italics) summarises the conclusion of the meeting better than either Matthew or Mark for we read that
‘...[Judas] agreed [to betray Jesus to them] and sought an opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude’
In this way, we can see why Judas saw his first golden opportunity to betray Jesus at the Passover meal only a day or so after his initial meeting with the chief priests. In my notes on the order of the paschal meal, I noted that it would appear that Judas left the meal early on and then returned to take part in a later ceremony, the inference being that he journeyed to the high priest’s residence to give him warning to prepare a band of soldiers for later on in the evening and then waited the time when the small band of disciples travelled out of the city walls to the garden of Gethsemane.
There would also be an inference that where the Passover was being celebrated by Jesus was not too distant from the high priest’s house.
But, for now, Judas awaits an opportunity to earn the money which he appears to have already been paid.
GO TO MATTHEW PAGE