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Mark 14 v 43 - 52

This is a very dramatic and well-written episode: Mark emphasises the action through short, pithy sentences as he makes clear that at the first sign of trouble all the disciples desert Jesus. These characters stand out:

1. Judas, the traitor. The light was dim and so he had chosen the sign of the kiss-the sign of fidelity-to demonstrate to the soldiers who Jesus was. It was customary to greet a Rabbi with a kiss, a sign of respect and affection. However, the Greek word Mark uses here implies a prolonged kiss and demonstrated the kiss of an intimate friend rather than the more formal signal of the Rabbi.

2. The arresting mob. These were soldiers assigned to the Temple and under the control of the priests, scribes and Pharisees. Collectively, this group was known as 'The Sanhedrin', and even under Roman control, would have had certain policing rights, and so had its own force. The men sent were clearly excited and prepared for bloodshed.

3. The man who took out his sword and struck the high priest's servant. We are informed in John's Gospel that this was Peter. Possibly at the time of Mark's writing it may not have been safe to identify this person, whereas John was writing forty years later. Yes, the action may have been wrong, but it is encouraging to observe that one man was prepared to strike a blow for Jesus.

4. The disciples. They fled because at the moment of crisis they cracked and proved unwilling to share the same fate as Jesus.

5. Jesus Himself. Jesus is an oasis of serenity in this chaotic scene portrayed by Mark. It reads as if Jesus is in control rather than the Sanhedrin guard. The struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane in His prayers to His Father is over and He is now at peace. He is confident that He is following the will of God and that is all He had ever lived for.

Verses fifty one and fifty two are two strange verses. There must be a reason for them being included, but it is hard to grasp their relevance. Matthew and Luke take almost everything in the Gospel of Mark to use in their Gospels, but not these verses. It is quite clear that the young man referred to here is Mark. In the book of Acts we can discover that the headquarters of the Jerusalem church was in the house of Mary, the mother of Mark- Acts 12 v 12-and it is probable that this was the site of the Upper room used for the Last Supper. It is entirely likely that Mark as a young boy was asleep in that house, woke and followed Jesus and was drawn to the consternation around His arrest. Mark, it appears, was as much a witness to the death of Jesus as the rest of the Twelve!

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