Mark 14

Good morning! Today we read only one chapter, Mark 14, but it represents the full first half of the passion narrative in this gospel. It seems like we were just reading the Matthew version! As has become my custom, I’ll just comment on those things I notice that differ from Matthew’s gospel and/or stand out here.

The anointing of Jesus at Bethany takes on greater symbolism since its telling is sandwiched between a plot to kill Jesus, and the plotters finding a ready accomplice in Judas. The woman who does the anointing is unnamed here, but she takes on the same role as other prophets who demonstrate in their actions a complete confidence in what would come to pass. Placing oil on the head has been a symbol of royal status since the times of the ancient prophet Samuel, who anointed both Saul and David as kings of Israel. Here, the woman uses the costliest ancient ointment she can, to emphasize the all-surpassing value of this (eternal) king.

Those who know the Passover ritual well (that which is enveloped in the larger “Festival of Unleavened Bread”) point out that the days when various things happen don’t exactly match when things would take place in the Jewish ritual. (John also, and each of the gospels in its own way, takes liberties with the default structure in order to make theological connections with the bread/cup and the sacrificial lamb. The other thing of note here is that the progression of actions with the bread (Took, blessed, broke, gave) calls to mind again what Jesus did in miraculous feedings of thousands. He took what was in front of him, blessed it, broke it and gave it for others to share.

Tomorrow we’ll finish with the rest of the crucifixion and resurrection narratives in Mark, but for now I’ll leave you with one final question: Who do you suppose was the young man mentioned in 14:51-52? He’s described running away in Gethsemane after Jesus’ arrest, wearing just a linen cloth that’s stripped off as he fights to get away, leaving him naked. I’ve heard several explanations—that this is a coy reference to the author’s own place among the Jesus followers, or that he’s been created as a literary counterpoint to Jesus’ calm demeanor at the time of the arrest. What do you think? Any other theories? Happy reading!

Read Mark 14.

Please join discussion of this passage at the Daily Bible Facebook group, or comment below. The passage for tomorrow is Mark 15-16. Thanks for reading!

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