Mark 14:17-21

LOVE’S LAST APPEAL

Mk. 14:17-21

When it was evening, Jesus came with the Twelve. As they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “This is the truth I tell you–one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me,” They began to be grieved, and to say to him, one by one, “Surely it cannot be I?” He said to them, “One of the Twelve, one who dips his hand with me into the dish. The Son of Man goes as it stands written about him, but woe to that man through whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It had been good for him, if that man had not been born.”

The new day began at 6 p.m., and when the Passover evening had come, Jesus sat down with the Twelve. There was only one change in the old ritual which had been observed so many centuries ago in Egypt. At the first Passover Feast in Egypt, the meal had been eaten standing (Exo.12:11). But that had been a sign of haste, a sign that they were slaves escaping from slavery. In the time of Jesus the regulation was that the meal should be eaten reclining, for that was the sign of a free man, with a home and a country of his own.

This is a poignant passage. All the time there was a text running in Jesus’ head. “Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted, who ate of my bread, has lifted his heel against me.” (Ps.41:9.) These words were in his mind all the time. We can see certain great things here.

(i) Jesus knew what was going to happen. That is his supreme courage, especially in the last days. It would have been easy for him to escape, and yet undeterred he went on. Homer relates how the great warrior Achilles was told that if he went out to his last battle he would surely be killed. His answer was, “Nevertheless I am for going on.” With a full knowledge of what lay ahead, Jesus was for going on.

(ii) Jesus could see into the heart of Judas. The curious thing is that the other disciples seem to have had no suspicions. If they had known what Judas was engaged on, it is certain that they would have stopped him even by violence. Here is something to remember. There may be things we succeed in hiding from our fellow-men. But we cannot hide them from Jesus Christ. He is the searcher of the hearts of men. He knows what is in man.

“Our thoughts lie open to thy sight; And naked to thy glance. Our secret sins are in the light Of thy pure countenance.”

Blessed indeed are the pure in heart.

(iii) In this passage we see Jesus offering two things to Judas.

(a) He is making love’s last appeal. It is as if he is saying to Judas, “I know what you are going to do. Will you not stop even yet?”

(b) He is offering Judas a last warning. He is telling him in advance of the consequences of the thing that it is in his heart to do. But we must note this, for it is of the essence of the way in which God deals with us–there is no compulsion. Without a doubt Jesus could have stopped Judas. All he had to do was tell the other eleven what Judas was planning, and Judas would never have left that room alive.

Here is the whole human situation. God has given us wills that are free. His love appeals to us. His truth warns us. But there is no compulsion. It is the awful responsibility of man that he can spurn the appeal of God’s love and disregard the warning of his voice. In the end there is no one but ourselves responsible for our sins.

In Greek legend two famous travellers passed the rocks where the Sirens sang. The Sirens sat on these rocks and sang with such sweetness that they lured mariners irresistibly to their doom. Ulysses sailed past these rocks. His method was to stop the sailors’ ears so that they could not hear and order them to bind himself to the mast with ropes so that, however much he struggled, he would not be able to answer to that seductive sweetness. He resisted by compulsion. The other traveller was Orpheus, the sweetest musician of all. His method was to play and sing with such surpassing sweetness as his ship passed the rocks where the Sirens were, that the attraction of the song of the Sirens was never even felt because of the attraction of the song he sang. His method was to answer the appeal of seduction with a still greater appeal.

God’s is the second way. He does not stop us whether we like it or not, from sin. He seeks to make us love him so much that his voice is more sweetly insistent to us than all the voices which call us away from him.

Back to: THE GOSPEL OF MARK

Back to: Barclay’s Commentary

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