Mark 14 – Anoninting of Jesus at Bethany & The Upper Room

There are many, many debates on things around Jesus, such as which one of the three Jerichos were they talking about?  Was there one or two Upper Rooms?  But we know that there is only one Jesus Christ and only one true God.

Another subject that has and even larger debate is…

Mark 14
Anointing of Jesus at Bethany

Mt. Zion, a view from Abu Tor
Mount Zion is a hill in Jerusalem just outside the walls of the Old City. Mount Zion has been historically associated with the Temple Mount. In the Bible, Mount Zion is synonymous with Mount Moriah, the site of the binding of Isaac and the Jewish Temple. The term is also used for the entire Land of Israel.

1 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.

“Passover” – the Jewish festival commemorating the time when the angel of the Lord passed over the homes of the Hebrews rather than killing their firstborn sons as he did in the Egyptian homes (Ex 12:13, 23, 27).

The lambs/kids used in the feast were killed on the 14th of Nisan (march-April), and the meal was eaten the same evening between sundown and midnight.  Since the Jewish day began at sundown, the Passover feast took place on the 15th Nisan.

“Unleavened bread” – this feast followed Passover and lasted seven days (Ex 12:15-20, 23:15, 34:18; Deut 16:1-8).

2 But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.

“Not on the feast day” – during Passover and the week-long fest of unleavened bread the population of Jerusalem increased from about 50,000 to several hundred thousand.  It was thought to be too risky to apprehend Jesus with so large and excitable a crowd present.

3 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.

Jerusalem, Dormitio church from the Mount of Olives.
According to the Book of Samuel, Mount Zion was the site of the Jebusite fortress called the “stronghold of Zion” that was conquered by King David, becoming his palace and the City of David.

It is mentioned in the Book of Isaiah (60:14), the Book of Psalms, and the first book of the Maccabees (c. 2nd century B.C.).

14:3-9 – in John’s Gospel this incident occurred before Passion Week began (see Jn 12:1).  Matthew and Mark may place it here to contrast the hatred of the religious leaders and the betrayal by Judas with the love and devotion of the woman who anointed Jesus.

“A woman” – we know from John’s Gospel (12:3) that she was Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus.

“Alabaster box” – a sealed flask with a long neck that was broken off when the contents were used.

“Spikenard” – a perfume made from aromatic oil extracted from the root of a plant grown chiefly in India.

“Paused it on his head” – anointing was a common custom at feasts (see Ps 23:5; Lk 7:46).  Mary’s action expressed her deep devotion to Jesus.

4 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this waste of the ointment made?

5 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.

“Three hundred pence” – practically an entire year’s wages.  This was no small sacrifice on Mary’s part.

“Given to the poor” – it was a Jewish custom to give gifts to the poor on the evening of Passover.

6 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.

Between 1948 and 1967, when the Old City was under Jordanian occupation, Israelis were forbidden access to the Jewish holy places. Mount Zion was a designated no-man’s land between Israel and Jordan.

Mount Zion was the closest accessible site to the ancient Jewish Temple. Until East Jerusalem was captured by Israel in the Six-Day War, Israelis would climb to the rooftop of David’s Tomb to pray. The winding road leading up to Mount Zion is known as Pop’s Way (Derekh Ha’apifyor). It was paved in honor of the historic visit to Jerusalem of Pope Paul VI in 1964.

7 For ye have the poor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.

“Ye have the poor with you always” – this didn’t express lack of concern for the poor, for their needs lay close to Jesus’ heart.    Don’t let this confuse you, it is better to give to the poor then to a non-needy person.  This was an entire different situation, this is Jesus Christ and it was in preparation for his crucifixion by their customs.

8 She hath done what she could: she is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.

“To the burying” – it was a normal Jewish custom to anoint a body with aromatic oils in preparing it for burial.  Jesus seems to anticipate suffering a criminal’s death, for only in the circumstance was there no anointing of the body.

9 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that she hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.

10 And Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went unto the chief priests, to betray him unto them.

11 And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. And he sought how he might conveniently betray him.

12 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?

“The first day of unleavened bread” – ordinarily this would mean the 15th of Nisan, the day after Passover.  However, the added phrase, “when the passover lamb was being sacrificed,” makes it clear that the 14th of Nisan is meant because Passover lambs were killed on that day (Ex 12:6).

The entire eight-day celebration was sometimes referred to as the feast of unleavened bread, and there is evidence that the14th of Nisan may have been loosely referred to as the “first day of unleavened bread.”

Derekh Ha’Apifyor (Pope’s Way) leading up to Mount Zion, so named by the Israeli government in honor of Pope Paul VI’s historic visit to Israel in 1964.

13 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.

14 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?

“Where is the guestchamber…?” – it was a Jewish custom that anyone in Jerusalem who had a room available would give it upon request to a pilgrim to celebrate the Passover.  It appears that Jesus had made previous arrangements with the owner of the house.

15 And he will shew you a large upper room furnished and prepared: there make ready for us.

16 And his disciples went forth, and came into the city, and found as he had said unto them: and they made ready the passover.

17 And in the evening he cometh with the twelve.

18 And as they sat and did eat, Jesus said, Verily I say unto you, One of you which eateth with me shall betray me.

19 And they began to be sorrowful, and to say unto him one by one, Is it I? and another said, Is it I?

20 And he answered and said unto them, It is one of the twelve, that dippeth with me in the dish.

21 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.

Room of the Last Supper on Mount Zion

22 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.

23 And he took the cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them: and they all drank of it.

24 And he said unto them, This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

25 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.

26 And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives.

27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.

28 But after that I am risen, I will go before you into Galilee.

29 But Peter said unto him, Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.

30 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.

Christian cemetery on Mount Zion

31 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.

32 And they came to a place which was named Gethsemane: and he saith to his disciples, Sit ye here, while I shall pray.

“Gethsemane” – a garden or orchard on the lower slopes of the mount of Olives, one of Jesus’ favorite places.  The name is Hebrew and means “oil press,” i.e., a place for squeezing the oil from olives.

33 And he taketh with him Peter and James and John, and began to be sore amazed, and to be very heavy;

34 And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch.

35 And he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him.

36 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.

“Abba, Father” – expressive of an especially close relationship with God.

Jerusalem on the Madaba Map.
The Madaba Map (also known as the Madaba Mosaic Map) is part of a floor mosaic in the early Byzantine church of Saint George at Madaba, Jordan.

The Madaba Map is a map of the Middle East. Part of it contains the oldest surviving original cartographic depiction of the Holy Land and especially Jerusalem. It dates to the 6th century A.D.

“This cup” – the chalice of death of God’s wrath that Jesus took from the Father’s hand in fulfillment of His mission.  What Jesus dreaded was not death as such, but the manner of His death as the One who was taking the sin of mankind upon Himself.

37 And he cometh, and findeth them sleeping, and saith unto Peter, Simon, sleepest thou? couldest not thou watch one hour?

38 Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak.

“Enter into temptation” – be attacked by temptation.  Here the temptation is to be unfaithful in face of the threatening circumstances confronting them.

“The spirit truly is ready” – when that part of man that is spirit is under God’s control, it strives against human weakness.  The expression is taken from Ps 51:12.

39 And again he went away, and prayed, and spake the same words.

40 And when he returned, he found them asleep again, (for their eyes were heavy,) neither wist they what to answer him.

41 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.

Reproduction of the Madaba Map
The Madaba Mosaic Map depicts Jerusalem with the Nea Church, which was dedicated on the 20th of November, A.D. 542.

Buildings erected in Jerusalem after 570 are absent from the depiction, thus limiting the date range of its creation to the period between 542 and 570. The mosaic was made by unknown artists, probably for the Christian community of Madaba, which was the seat of a bishop at that time.

In 614, Madaba was conquered by the Persian empire. In the 8th century A.D., the Muslim Umayyad rulers had some figural motifs removed from the mosaic. In 746, Madaba was largely destroyed by an earthquake and subsequently abandoned. The mosaic was rediscovered in 1884, during the construction of a new Greek Orthodox church on the site of its ancient predecessor.

42 Rise up, let us go; lo, he that betrayeth me is at hand.

43 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.

44 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.

45 And as soon as he was come, he goeth straightway to him, and saith, Master, master; and kissed him.

46 And they laid their hands on him, and took him.

47 And one of them that stood by drew a sword, and smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear.

48 And Jesus answered and said unto them, Are ye come out, as against a thief, with swords and with staves to take me?

49 I was daily with you in the temple teaching, and ye took me not: but the scriptures must be fulfilled.

50 And they all forsook him, and fled.

51 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:

52 And he left the linen cloth, and fled from them naked.

When Jesus was at Bethany, in the house of Simon the leper, Mary came up to him with an alabaster jar of very costly oil, and she poured it on his head… Jesus said to them… “she has done a beautiful thing to me… In pouring this oil on my body, she has done it to prepare me for burial… wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her’” (Mt. 26:6-13).

But the beauty of what she did was not only in the symbolic gesture of preparation but in the love and the sacrifice that inspired this act of devotion.

This is important for us, since we cannot literally anoint the body of Jesus for burial, but there is much we can do to sacrificially express our love and devotion.

Mary spent a lot of money, probably more than she could afford, to purchase this expensive oil. It would have been a great sacrifice on her part, but she evidently felt that nothing was too good for her Lord and Master.

Not only was the cost of the oil an extravagance, the application of it was as well. For she didn’t merely anoint Jesus with it, she poured it out lavishly over his head.

There must have been more than one such anointing, for we hear from the Gospel of John that in the same town but in a different house, Mary anointed Jesus’ feet with fragrant and costly oil.

53 And they led Jesus away to the high priest: and with him were assembled all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes.

14:53-15:15 – Jesus’ trial took place in two states: a Jewish trial and a Roman trial, each of which had three episodes.  For the Jewish trial these were:

1. The preliminary hearing before Annas, the former high priest (reported only in Jn 18:12-12, 19-23).

2. The trial before Caiaphas, the ruling high priest, and the Sanhedrin.

3. The final action of the council which terminated its all-night session.

The three episodes of the Roman trial were:

1. The trial before Pilate.

2. The trial before Herod Antipas.

3. The trial before Pilate continued and concluded.

Since Mark gives no account of Jesus before Herod Antipas, the trial before Pilate forms a continuous and uninterrupted narrative in this Gospel.

54 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.

55 And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none.

“Council” – the Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jews.  In the New Testament it was made up of three kinds of members: chief priests, elders, and scribes. 

It’s total membership numbered 71, including the high priest, who was presiding officer, Under Roman jurisdiction this council was given a great deal of authority, but they could not impose capital punishment.

56 For many bare false witness against him, but their witness agreed not together.

“Many bare false witness against him” – in Jewish judicial procedure, witnesses functioned as the prosecution.

“Their witness agreed not together” – according to Deut 19:15, a person couldn’t be convicted unless two or more witnesses gave testimony, which assumes that their testimonies had to agree.

57 And there arose certain, and bare false witness against him, saying,

Ancient Alabastrons of Jesus Day
Origin: Israel /Circa: 300 BC to 100 B.C.

Biblical Hellenistic Period In the ancient Near East, there was a long tradition for carving vessels from radiant alabaster. Graceful cups, bowls and jars were made from this lovely stone, and its use has continued on until the present day. The best alabaster was found in or from Egypt, dated at the time of the ancient trade routes. The alabaster was of a better grade then and composed of calcite rather than gypsum.

Ancient alabastrons found today can actually be purchased through galleries who deal in ancient treasures. Believe it or not some of them sell for as little as $300 but can go for as much as $3000.

58 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.

59 But neither so did their witness agree together.

60 And the high priest stood up in the midst, and asked Jesus, saying, Answerest thou nothing? what is it which these witness against thee?

61 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?

62 And Jesus said, I am: and ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.

63 Then the high priest rent his clothes, and saith, What need we any further witnesses?

64 Ye have heard the blasphemy: what think ye? And they all condemned him to be guilty of death.

“Blasphemy” – the sin of blasphemy not only involved reviling the name of God (see Lev 24:10-16) but also included any affront to His majesty or authority (see Mk 2:7, 3:28-29; Jn 5:18, 10:33).

Jesus’ claim to be the Messiah and, in fact, to have majesty and authority belonging only to God was therefore regarded by Caiaphas as blasphemy for which the Mosaic law prescribed death by stoning (Lev 24:16).

65 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.

66 And as Peter was beneath in the palace, there cometh one of the maids of the high priest:

67 And when she saw Peter warming himself, she looked upon him, and said, And thou also wast with Jesus of Nazareth.

68 But he denied, saying, I know not, neither understand I what thou sayest. And he went out into the porch; and the cock crew.

During ancient times, Spikenard was the most expensive perfume in the world. A pound was said to cost an entire years salary for the average worker.

Spikenard was considered a herb of love, thus when Mary of Bethany poured out her perfume without reservation, it became a powerful symbol of abandoned worship. Her extravagant love caused a chain reaction.

Those around became indignant but that didnt stop her from boldly proceeding to anoint the One she loved. Yeshua vindicated her and her name will always be remembered and her fragrant worship spoken of.

69 And a maid saw him again, and began to say to them that stood by, This is one of them.

70 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.

“Galilean” – Galileans were easily identified by their dialect.

71 But he began to curse and to swear, saying, I know not this man of whom ye speak.

72 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.

The Upper Room

Christian tradition, supported by Cyril of Jerusalem (c.310-386), identifies thee site of Holy Zion Church in Jerusalem as the place where the upper room was located.  This may well be correct, but the story is complicated and details are disputed by scholars.

The Cenacle room on Mt Zion in Jerusalem is where two major events in the early Christian Church are commemorated: The Last Supper and the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles.

• The Last Supper was the meal Jesus shared with his apostles the night before he died. During this meal he instituted the Eucharist.

• The coming of the Holy Spirit, at Pentecost, is recognised as marking the birth of the Christian Church.

First, it is unclear whether there were one or two “upper rooms.”  Mk 14:15 and Lk2 2:12 each speaks of an upper room where the Last Supper was held, but Acts 1:13 uses a different Greek word to refer to the upper room where the disciples met after the resurrection of Jesus.

Even so, the two rooms may well have been one and the same.

The traditional location of the upper room at Holy Zion Church is called the Cenacle or, in Latin, the Coenaculum.

It is located outside the Old City near the Zion Gate and may be seen on the 6th century Madaba Map, an ancient mosaic map on the Holy Land. The Cenacle is also (erroneously) referred to David’s Tomb.

Holy Zion Church was damaged in the 948 war, and this allowed Israeli archaeologist Jacob Pinkerfeld to investigate the site.  He concluded that a Roman-period synagogue had stood on the spot, arguing that the building had a niche that could have been a repository for Torah scrolls and that it was oriented toward the temple mount. 

The Cenacle is on the upper floor of a two-story building near the Church of the Dormition, south of the Zion Gate in the walls of Jerusalem’s Old City.
W
here Peter was left knocking.

According to early Christian tradition, the upper room was in the home of Mary the mother of John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark .

This house was a meeting place for the followers of Jesus inside the city walls of Jerusalem.
It was also the house to which Peter went after an angel of the Lord released him from prison.

Christian scholars responded that this was probably a Jewish-Christian church built after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. to commemorate the site of the Last Supper (the present-day Holy Zion Church being a later structure built at the same site).

They note that the building appears to have been constructed from reused stone from the fallen temple of Herod and that it is actually oriented toward the Holy Sepulcher (obviously implying that the builders were Christian).

Since then numerous scholars have weighted in on to both sides of the issue, some favoring the interpretation of the structure as a synagogue and others as a church.  The debate is also complicated by questions involving comments by ancient writers.

No one is suggesting that the actual building where the Last Supper took place has been located, but only that remains of a church that commemorated its location have been unearthed.

We should note debate here centers not upon the of the historicity of the Last Supper account but simply upon whether or not the traditional identification of its location is accurate.  The traditional Cenacle still remains the strongest candidate for being that location.

…the Shroud of Turin Controversy.