Mark 14:1-11 — Preparation for Passion

On Sunday, Jesus had entered Jerusalem triumphantly only to walk into the temple, see everything, and then go back to Bethany apparently frustrated. On Monday Jesus returned to the temple and  angrily cleansed it. On Tuesday, as Jesus taught in the temple courts, the authorities confronted him about his actions, his relation to Rome and his theology. That day Jesus exited the temple in disgust as he saw how the temple system gave status to the rich but oppressed the poor. On his way to Bethany, Jesus sat opposite the temple on the Mt. of Olives and announced a coming judgment against it.

Apparently, on Wednesday Jesus stayed in Bethany, but on Thursday evening he would again go to Jerusalem in order to eat the Passover with his disciples. But Wednesday was a significant day—a day of preparation just as Thursday was a preparation day for the Passover as Thursday evening Jesus would eat a last Passover with his disciples. Within twenty-four hours Jesus would be buried in a tomb.

Wednesday—the day Jesus does not go to Jerusalem—is ominous. The narrative heightens the tension as it begins the passion (suffering) story of Jesus. On a day when Jesus is inactive, his opponents are not. On a day when Jesus is relaxing with his disciples in Bethany, a woman recognizes the foreboding mood and anoints Jesus for his burial. On a day when the “gospel” is proclaimed by this woman, Judas makes a deal to hand Jesus over to the temple authorities. On a day when a female disciple loves Jesus, another (male) disciple betrays him. Wednesday is preparation day for the passion of Jesus.

The narrative emphasizes the action of the woman by situating it between the intent of the authorities to kill Jesus (14:1-2) and the betrayal by Judas (14:10-11). The two book-ends contextualize the woman’s gift and shape our understanding of it.

The temple authorities want to kill Jesus but they fear a riot if they move against him publicly during the festival season Jerusalem is filled with thousands of pilgrims. Presumably they were going to wait till after the Passover or perhaps they were simply looking for a more covert way of arresting him. They seized the opportunity that Judas offered them.

It is very difficult to read the motives of Judas in this “betrayal” in Mark. Judas is one of the twelve (emphasized 3x in Mark 14:10, 20, 43). It is possible that Judas was motivated by money, but it is also possible that Judas was attempting to create a climatic confrontation between Jesus and the authorities. Perhaps he was certain that Jesus would triumph and he never thought that Jesus would actually die as a result of his actions. This would explain his eventual suicide as he bore the guilt of his misconceived plan. Or, perhaps, he was a disappointed disciple who thought Jesus’ judgment against the temple and his rejection of potential revolt against Roman oppression did not fit his idea of a Davidic Messiah. Or, perhaps he was simply greedy and was disturbed by the use of the expensive oil when the woman anointed Jesus. Whatever may be the case (and at this point the text gives us very little with which to work), Judas gave them access to the private movements of Jesus. Consequently, the authorities will be able to arrest Jesus privately in the dead of night rather than publicly at the height of the festival.

Myers (Binding the Strong Man, 359) notes, quite stunningly, that this occasion is a moment when the “politically ‘least’ (women) assumes the position of the ‘greatest’” by anointing Jesus as if she were a prophet anointing a king of Israel (e.g., Samuel anointing Saul and David). She does not anoint his feet, but his head. This is, perhaps, a Messianic anointing. It is actually quite a stunning moment if we read this way.

At the same time, this acts prepares Jesus’ body for burial. It is difficult for us to imagine the fear, excitement and tension that filled Jerusalem during those days. The anger of the temple authorities was probably well-known and their intent may have been surmised by many. This woman recognizes the danger Jesus faces and perhaps anticipates a criminal death for him as criminals generally did not receive a proper burial but were thrown into common graves. She may have even heard Jesus talking with his disciples about his coming death (though there is no record that Jesus spoke of such things after his arrival in Bethany and Jerusalem). Whatever may be the case, Jesus interprets her actions as burial preparation.

Unlike the disciples, who are seemingly oblivious to the dangers Jesus faces in Jerusalem and out of tune with their master’s earlier predictions, this woman anticipates the coming days and recognizes their danger. She alone demonstrates a loving care for Jesus in the midst of his trials about which the disciples are relatively indifferent. She affirms community with Jesus and demonstrates her solidarity with the suffering servant of Israel. The disciples, on the other hand, will shortly desert their master. While the disciples miss the “gospel” in this moment, this woman does not.

Indeed, they—“some of those present”—totally miss the point as their concern is focused on the poor and the extravagance of the gift. No doubt their concern for the poor and extravagance are shaped by their time with Jesus in his ministry, his evaluation of the widow as a victim in contrast to the wealth of other temple contributors, and the tradition that during the Passover the devout share with the poor. These are legitimate concerns, but they are overshadowed by the impending death and burial of Jesus. The woman’s demonstration of loyalty and solidarity, the messianic anointing, and the preparation for burial outweigh, in this moment, gifts for the poor.

Jesus’ statement, often misunderstood as a kind of ambivalence toward the poor, simply recognizes what the Torah does (Deuteronomy 15:11)—there will always be poor. And, indeed, there are always poor because there are always oppressors of one sort or another (though there are other reasons as well why there are poor). The poor are a legitimate concern and disciples should help them whenever they can, but this woman, according to Jesus, seized the moment, saw its import, and acted to love Jesus. She perceived that Jesus’ death was imminent.

This expensive gift is both a tender moment of love and a proclamation. The woman loved Jesus in this anointing and anointed Jesus as proclamation. The significance of the gift is noted by Jesus—the woman will be remembered wherever the “gospel” is preached.

The preaching of the “gospel”—which to this point in the narrative of Mark has been about the good news of the kingdom of God—now involves the meaning of this woman’s loving act. It is the announcement of the suffering Messiah. The one who is anointed as Messiah is also prepared—in the same act—for burial. The gospel, as Mark’s narrative climaxes, also includes the heralding of the death of Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God. The gospel bears witness to the suffering servant of Israel. The gospel includes both the announcement of the kingdom of God and the suffering of the Son of God.

3 Responses to “Mark 14:1-11 — Preparation for Passion”

  1.   rich constant Says:

    i have a little question john mark.
    and wonder if it has ever been put this way.
    if the law makes sin utterly sinful how does the cross show that Jesus was with out sin even thou he went to Hades. the cross proves Jesus was on a par with the father… 🙂
    Paul seems to say it is impossible in ROM 7 .
    and i believe that it was a conspiracy to get pilot to put him there


    •   rich constant Says:

      Heb 10:7 “Then I said, Lo, I come, in the heading of the Book it was written concerning Me, to do Your will, O God.” LXX-Psa. 39:7 -9; MT-Psa. 40:6 -8
      Heb 10:8 Above, saying, “You did not desire nor were pleased with sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and sacrifices concerning sins,” (which are offered according to the Law),
      Heb 10:9 then He said, “Lo, I come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first in order that He may set up the second;
      Heb 10:10 by which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Rom 11:8 even as it has been written, “God gave to them a spirit of slumber, eyes not seeing and ears not hearing” until this day. Isa. 29:10; Deut. 29:4

      Rom 11:9 And David said, “Let their table become for a snare and a trap, and for a stumbling block,” and a repayment to them;
      Rom 11:10 “let their eyes be darkened, not to see, and their back always bowing.” LXX-68:23, 24; MT-Psa. 69:22, 23

      Jas 2:10 For whoever shall keep all the Law, but stumbles in one, he has become guilty of all.

      Gal 3:11 And that no one is justified by Law before God is clear because, “The just shall live by faith.” Hab. 2:4
      Gal 3:12 But the Law is not of faith, but, “The man doing these things shall live in them.” Lev. 18:5
      Gal 3:13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us; for it has been written,

      “Cursed is everyone having been hung on a tree;”

      Gal 4:4 But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, having come into being out of a woman, having come under Law,
      Gal 4:5 that
      He might redeem the ones under Law,
      that we might receive the adoption of sons

      1Ti 1:8 And we know that the Law is good, if anyone uses it lawfully,
      1Ti 1:9 knowing this, that Law is not laid down for a righteous one,
      but for lawless and undisciplined ones, for ungodly and sinful ones, for unholy and profane ones, for slayers of fathers and slayers of mothers, for murderers,
      1Ti 1:10 for fornicators, for homosexuals, for slave-traders, for liars, for perjurers, and if any other thing opposes sound doctrine,

      Rom 5:8 but God commends His love to us in this, that we being yet sinners, Christ died for us.

      Rom 5:18 So then, as through one deviation it was toward all men to condemnation, so also
      one righteous act
      toward all men to justification of life.

      3:20 For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. 3:21
      ” i just love this BUT NOW”

      But now apart from the law the righteousness of God (which is attested by the law and the prophets) has been disclosed – 3:22 namely, the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction,

      3:27 Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded! By what principle? Of works? No, but by the principle of faith! 3:28 For we consider that a person43 is declared righteous by faith apart from the works of the law. 3:29 Or is God the God of the Jews only? Is he not the God of the Gentiles too? Yes, of the Gentiles too! 3:30 Since God is one, he will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith. 3:31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the law.




      sorry bout the caps.

      •   rich constant Says:

        and so we see why Paul speaks thus…
        3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his descendant.33 Scripture34 does not say, “and to the descendants,”35 referring to many, but “and to your descendant,”36 referring to one, who is Christ.

        3:21 Is the law therefore opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not!
        For if a law had been given that was able to give life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
        3:22 But the scripture imprisoned everything and everyone under sin
        so that the promise could be given – because of the
        faithfulness of Jesus Christ – to those who believe.

        salvation by grace through faith.

        pretty simple?????
        cor. 2


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