There won’t be a whole lot to comment on in these last few chapters of Mark, which deal with the end of Jesus’ life. Most of the icons in the SAB refer to contradictions, which of course won’t become apparent until we compare Mark to the other gospels. So for now just read and maybe make a few notes. I will comment on the contradictions later as they arise. There will be lots to say then, since the details will be irreconcilable.
This chart might help – or just confuse you worse – when we start comparing gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and resurrection. It’s too large to post so click the link to view it.
In v 1-9 we have the story of the woman who anoints Jesus with expensive perfume/oil (spikenard). I remember this from Sunday school; I didn’t understand it then, and I still don’t today. Even as a kid, I agreed with those in the story who called the act wasteful and frivolous. Perhaps that’s because I’ve always been a practical person, and I never understood why you would pour oil on someone anyway. It’s clear to me now that she was preparing him for burial, albeit a mite prematurely. But don’t Jesus’ words sound callous and self-serving? “You will always have the poor among you, and you can help them whenever you want to. But you will not always have me.”
Next is a brief mention of Judas conspiring to betray Jesus – pretty scanty on details. And then a straightforward account of the Last Supper. In v 27-31 Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7, telling his disciples that he expects them all to desert and deny him. The next section is the bit about Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. He tells the disciples to stay awake and watch with him, but they keep falling asleep. I remember the line “Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour?” from long Good Friday services; also from this passage we get the familiar phrase ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’ (v 37-38).
Next, Judas betrays Jesus with a kiss. Why was this necessary? If Jesus was such a well-known trouble-maker, wouldn’t his enemies recognize him? Jesus even said himself: “Why didn’t you arrest me in the Temple? I was there among you teaching every day.” (v 49). I recently read a suggestion that Mark might be trying to tie the story of Jesus’ betrayal to David’s betrayal by his son, Absalom, back in 2 Samuel chapters 17-20, which ends with Joab stabbing Amasa after moving as though to kiss him (2 Sam 20:9). The connection’s a little thin, but possible. The gospel writers certainly were desperate to link Jesus to any and all OT stories and prophesies that they could. And while most of Jesus’ betrayal scene is familiar, I can’t say I remember the incident described in v 51-52 – likely another example of the stuff my church conveniently left out.
V 53-65 tell of Jesus being hauled up before the chief priests and elders. It’s pretty brief; they can’t seem to find grounds to officially accuse/charge him, until he prophesies that the priests will see him as the Messiah, seated at the right hand of god etc. That’s considered blasphemy, and worthy of the death penalty. The last section of the chapter has Peter famously denying Jesus. But it’s worth noting that the NLT contains a footnote to v 68, stating that not all manuscripts contain the line about the rooster crowing. Like, did later editors add that in just to make Jesus’ prediction about Peter denying him come true? Wouldn’t doubt it.