Chapter XVII


137. Plot by the chief priests
        A woman anoints him
138. The passover with the disciples
        Jesus predicts betrayal
        Jesus refuses to drink
        The rite of communion
        Jesus teaches humility
        Jesus predicts thrones
139. On the mount of Olives
        They promise to stay
        Simon's vow
        Discussion about weapons
140. The garden of Gethsemane
141. Jesus is arrested
142. The trial by Caiaphas
143. The trial before Pilate









Mark and the others report next that the chief priests and the elders laid a plot to arrest Jesus, but that they feared an uprising by the people. Then they report that Judas Iscariot, for no reason, comes to the chief priests and offers to betray Jesus to them. This offer has caused some readers to speculate that the arrest was actually planned by Jesus and Judas. It's not impossible, and it would explain Judas' later remorse.


Mark and Matthew report another incident when an unnamed woman came into the house where Jesus and the disciples were staying, and anointed Jesus on the head with oil. The disciples were indignant, and grumbled about it:
(Mark 14:3-9;Matt.26:6-12)
DISCIPLES: Why has this waste of the ointment been made? For it might have been sold for more than 300 pence, and given to the poor.

JESUS: No, no, it was a thoughtful act for her to perform, and she will be remembered for it. For you will always have the poor with you, but you will not always have me.

This last sentence is a quotation from the Torah, where Moses is reported to have said, For the poor shall never cease out of the land. (Deut.15:11)
Luke does not report this story, probably because he has already included the report from document G about the adulterous woman who bathed his feet and anointed them with ointment (Luke 7:36-50). The story here in Mark and Matthew does not identify her as a prostitute, however.


This evening was the passover meal, and the scene is depicted quite vividly. Jesus sends two of the disciples into Jerusalem with instructions to follow a man with a pitcher of water and ask him for a room where Jesus and they can have the meal together. Once they are sitting down to dinner, Jesus speaks to them:
(Mark 14:18-21;Luke 22:21-23;Matt.26:21-24)
        I tell you all, that one of you shall betray me, one that dips his sop in the same bowl with me. For the son of man goes to his death, just as other prophets; but woe to those who have condemned me to death!

I have paraphrased his statement above, since there is no place in the Old Testament where it says that the messiah would be betrayed and killed. But they were all sorrowful, and amazed, and looked at each other; but could not answer him. He goes on:
(Luke 22:15-18)
        With desire I wanted to eat this passover with you before I suffer; but I tell you, I will not eat of it, until it be fulfilled in the kingdom of God.
        Take this cup, and divide it among yourselves, for I tell you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.

Mark's version is different, and reads like it had been copied from the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians. Mark tells us that Jesus blessed the bread and broke it in pieces, and passed it around to them; and also that he took a cup, and gave it to them, and said:

(Mark 14:22-25;Luke 22:19-20;Matt.26:26-29)
        Take this bread; it is my body; and take this cup; it is the new covenant in my blood, which is shed for many. For I tell you, I will no more drink of the fruit of the vine, until the kingdom of God shall come.

(II Cor. 11:23-25)
        This is my body which is given for you; this do in remembrance of me.(passing around the cup): And this cup is the new covenant in my blood; this do, each time you do it, in remembrance of me.

It seems extremely likely that the author of Mark copied from Paul's epistle to the Corinthians, as shown above. The version in Luke seems more primitive, and is more like an expression of an anguished soul than either Mark or Paul, and does not have any reference to the symbols of the body and the blood. It remains a puzzle, if Jesus said it was one who dipped the bread with him in the bowl, why the rest of the disciples did not realize who it was. It is notable that even Paul says that it was to be a commemorative act in his memory, not a cannibalistic rite of eating the god and drinking its blood; which is a quintessentially pagan notion, not a Jewish or Hebrew one. That explanation must have crept in once the religion of worshipping Jesus had spread to Asia Minor and Greece and Rome.

Luke includes at this point the teachings on being a servant which the others report that he said on the occasion of the request by James and John to sit on his right hand and his left hand in Chapter XIV. Luke also includes at this point the verse promising them all thrones in his kingdom; but this verse is doubtful: firstly, because he has never given any indication that he will be a ruler, and secondly, because the verse is not found in Mark, which Luke appears to be copying, and thirdly, although it is also found in Matthew at the point where Jesus is discussing riches and wealth, it is an illogical statement because it includes the TWELVE disciples judging the twelve tribes of Israel, which no longer existed. (Matt.19:28;Luke 22:28-30)


Following this, Mark tells us that they went onto the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem, where he predicts that they will all desert him, and they all promise that they will not:

(Mark 14:26-27;Matt.25:30-31)
JESUS: All of you shall forsake me this night, and run away from here;
(Matt.25:32;Mark 14:28)
but I will see you in Galilee.
(Mark 14:29;Matt.25:33)
PETER: No, Master, though everyone else runs away, I will not; I will never desert you.

The verse where Jesus tells them that he would see them again in Galilee looks like an interpolation, and is not found in Luke. Luke's version only speaks of Peter, but it is wholly mythical, because it tells how Satan, the mythical devil, asks God to let him have Peter:

(Luke 22:31-32)
JESUS: Simon, Simon, Satan asked to have you, that he might sift you as one sifts flour; but I made supplication for thee, that thy faith fail not; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, stablish thy brethren.

and what can one say about that but that it is mythological? Then Jesus goes on to predict that not only will they all desert him, but Peter will actually deny knowing Jesus three times:
(Mark 14:30-31;Luke 22:33-34;Matt.25:35)
JESUS: I tell you truly, Peter, that before the cock crows twice this night, you shall deny me three times.

PETER: No, no; if I must die with you, I will never deny you.

DISCIPLES: Me, too; I will never flee from you.

Luke also reports a brief enigmatic discussion at this point on the need for weapons:
(Luke 22:35-38)
JESUS: When I sent you forth on your mission, did you lack anything?

DISCIPLES: No, master.

JESUS: But now let him that has a purse, let him take it, and let him that doesn't have one, sell his cloak, and all of you buy a sword.

DISCIPLES: Master, we have two swords.

JESUS: It is enough.

Is this an authentic dialogue? It is doubtful; he has never taught violence. He must have spoken in the subjunctive, and it was remembered as an order, something like this:
(Alternative translation)
JESUS: Look, even if you took your purse or wallet, or sold your cloak, and bought a sword, it would not save me from my destiny, that I am to be arrested and killed.

DISCIPLES: (still not understanding): We have two swords here.

JESUS: (giving up on them): Okay, okay, that's enough, you don't understand, we won't talk about it any more.


The next incident is one which shows, if it shows nothing else, that Jesus was a human being, feeling fear of death in the highest degree, and needing to calm and compose himself by prayer before he gets arrested. All of the gospels report that he took Peter, James, and John off to one side, and said to them:

(Mark 14:32-36;Luke 22:39-42;Matt.25:36-39)
JESUS: My soul is sorely troubled unto death; abide here, and wait for me. (He goes further off by himself.)

JESUS (pleading): Abba, Father, all things are possible unto you; remove this cup from me, I pray; however, not what I want, but what You want; that I must do.

Luke inserts two verses, saying that two angels appeared to him and strengthened him, and that he sweated blood. But that is just as likely to have actually happened as is the earlier report that he was seen on Mount Hermon with Moses and Elijah. Anyway, he returns to where he left the three disciples and found them sleeping, and rouses Peter:
(Mark 14:37-40;Luke 22:45-46;Matt.25:40-43)
JESUS: Why are you sleeping? could you not watch with me for one hour? Well, watch now, and pray that you do not fall into temptation; the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I wonder if the last sentence was about himself, rather than about Peter and the other two. He went off again, and when he returned, he found them asleep again. He went off to pray one more time, and when he returned the third time, he was composed, and said:
(Mark 14:41-42;Matt.25:44-46)
JESUS: Sleep on now, and get your rest; it is enough; the hour is come, and the son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. (They wake) Arise, let us be going, because the one that is to betray me is coming near.

And before many seconds had passed, Judas arrived, with guards carrying swords and staves, sent by the chief priests and elders. Judas had told them that he would identify Jesus by a kiss.
(Mark 14:43-52;Luke 22:47-53;Matt.26:47-56)
JUDAS: (to the guards) The person that I shall kiss, that is the one you are to take, and take him away safely. (Kisses Jesus.)

JESUS: Judas, do you betray me with a kiss?

DISCIPLES: Master, shall we strike with our swords? (Striking one of the guards, cutting off his ear.)

JESUS: No, no; don't do that; this must be. (He touches the guard's ear, and it is healed.) Put up your sword, for all those who take the sword will perish by the sword. If this be my cup of suffering, shall I not drink it?

JESUS (speaking to the guards): Are you come out with swords and staves at night, to seize me, as if I were a robber? I sat daily in the temple teaching, and you seized me not. But this must be; take me away.

Mark and Matthew tell us that the arrest was in fulfillment of the scriptures; but there is no place in the Old Testament where it says that the messiah must be betrayed and killed. Then Mark tells us, and Matthew also, that all the disciples "forsook him, and fled." (Mark 14:50;Matt.26:56) Mark appends two verses about a young man who had followed him, wearing only a loincloth; and the guards grabbed him too, but he wriggled out of the cloth, and fled away naked (Mark 14:51). Tradition says that this was Mark himself; it is touching and moving to think so, but we don't know.

(Mark 14:53-59;Matt.26:57-61;Luke 22:63-68)
        Jesus was taken away to the home of the chief priest, whose name, we are told, was Caiaphas. Despite being at night, and the night of the Passover meal, when it was forbidden to hold a trial, all of the Sanhedrin was at the chief priest's house. Peter, we are told, followed them, and sat in the chief priest's courtyard, warming himself by the fire. Witnesses were brought; and testified, but none of their testimony agreed with each other. Some of them reported that he said, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will build another made without hands. But Mark says that it was false testimony, and did not agree with the testimony of any other witness. And we must agree that it was false testimony, for we have never heard him say this, even though we have thrice heard him say that the temple would be knocked down, and not one stone left upon another. John's gospel does report him as saying this on the occasion of driving the moneychangers from the temple. So whom should we believe? Mark, who says it was false testimony, or John, who says that he actually said it? Then Caiaphas turned to Jesus to interrogate him:
(Mark 14:60-62;Matt.26:62-64)
CAIAPHAS: What do you say? How do you answer these charges?

JESUS: (remains silent)

CAIAPHAS: Are you the messiah, that we have been told will come one day?

JESUS: That is the charge.

All four of the gospels concur that Jesus answered the high priest with this evasive answer, You have said that, not me; or, as above, That is what YOU are saying. All three gospels show the influence of Jesus' later followers when they report that he adds, And soon you will see the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; but that is a quotation from the book of Daniel (Dan.7:13), and matches nothing which Jesus has said during his career. Mark even changes the evasive answer and quotes Jesus as saying, Yes, I am; but that one instance cannot outweigh the fact that all of them, Matthew, Luke, John, and Mark himself at the second trial before Pilate, report that Jesus answered evasively. And then Caiaphas exclaimed:
(Mark 14:63-65;Matt.26:65-68)
CAIAPHAS (tearing his clothes): Blasphemy! What further need have we of witnesses? You have all heard the blasphemy; what shall we do with him?

SANHEDRIN: Oh! oh! He is indeed worthy of death.

And then those high-ranking and noble members of the Sanhedrin began to spit on him, and to put a cloth over his face, and to strike him. And the officers too slapped and beat him.

Meanwhile, in the courtyard, a little dialogue ensued between Peter and one of the maids of the high priest:
(Mark 14:66-72;Matt.26:69-75;Luke 22:56-62)
MAID: Weren't you one of the ones with this Nazarene?

PETER (fearful): I neither know, nor do I understand what you are saying. (The cock crows.)

MAID (to others): This man was indeed one of them.

PETER: I know not this man of whom you speak.

OTHERS: Of a truth you were with this man; for you are a Galilean.

PETER (swearing): I tell you, I do not know the man. (The cock crows again.)

PETER (breaking down): Oh! oh! what have I done? The cock has crowed twice, and I have denied my master three times, just as he said I would. Oh! oh! (Begins to weep.)

Is this story, perhaps the best-known of all the tales about the disciples, true or not? John tells the same story about Peter, but says that he, the "beloved disciple", was also there in the high priest's courtyard; but Mark says nothing about any other disciple being present. No matter; the story is believable, whether it is invented or not.


Luke now reports the details of the trial, but in a form slightly different from Mark's, and following the denials by Peter instead of preceding them. This is usually interpreted by scholars as a second trial, before the entire Sanhedrin, and in the proper courtyard of the temple. There is no report of the witnesses and their lack of agreement, nor of Jesus being silent, but only the following dialogue:
(Luke 22:63-71)
SCRIBES AND PRIESTS: If you are the messiah, tell us.

JESUS: If I tell you, you will not believe; and if I ask you, you will not answer.

Luke reports that it was here that Jesus quoted from the book of Daniel about the son of man coming on the clouds of heaven.
ALL: Are you the son of God?

JESUS: You say that I am (or, You say that I say that).

ALL: We do not need any more witnesses, for we have all heard it from his own mouth.

Again, this dialogue is improbable, because the Jews did not have any theory about a "son" of God; God was unique and did not sire any human children. Nonetheless, even this fabricated dialogue reports Jesus as being evasive in his answer.


Now the chief priests and scribes hustle Jesus off to appear before Pilate. Why? The reason is often given that they had no authority under Roman rule to inflict death, however much they may have had the authority to hear cases and inflict other punishments according to the Torah. Matthew inserts a report from somewhere about how Judas tried to return the money and get Jesus released, and when they would not accept it nor release Jesus, he went and hanged himself. Matthew further reports that the chief priests would not use the returned money for temple operations, but bought a field which became known as the field of blood, and cites from the Old Testament to explain all this (Deut.23:18;Zech.11:12-13; Jer.32:6-15)

Once they had Jesus before the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, Luke reports that they accused Jesus of perverting their nation:
(Luke 23:2)
CHIEF PRIESTS: We found this man perverting our nation, and saying that we should not give tribute to Caesar, and that he is the king of the Jews, and that he has come to lead the Jews against the Romans.

This is false accusation, since Jesus actually said, Give to Caesar what is Caesar's; and he has never said ANYTHING about being a king, or that he plans to lead the Jews against the Romans. But Mark and Matthew do not report this false accusation. Then Pilate asked Jesus if he is a king, and again Jesus gave his evasive answer:
(Mark 15:2;Matt.27:11;Luke 23:3)
PILATE: Are you the king of the Jews?

JESUS: It is you who say that.

Here all four gospels agree that this is how Jesus answered. The gospel of John reports that Jesus added enigmatically, My kingdom is not of this world.
(Mark 15:3-5;Matt.27:12-14)
PILATE (to Jesus): What is your answer to these accusations?

JESUS: (remains silent)

Mark and Matthew tell us that Pilate marvelled at Jesus' silence.
(Luke 23:4-7)
PILATE (to the chief priests): I find no fault in this man.

PRIESTS: He is stirring the people to rebellion ever since he came here from Galilee.

PILATE: Is he therefore a Galilean? Send him to Herod.

Luke then reports that he sent Jesus as a prisoner to be examined by Herod, the ruler over Galilee, who happened to be in Jerusalem. Herod was glad to see Jesus, because he wanted to see a miracle; but Jesus remained silent again. So Herod's soldiers mocked Jesus and sent him back to Pilate dressed in royal garments. Pilate again spoke to the chief priests:
(Luke 23:13-16)
PILATE: I have examined this man, and find no fault in him. Nor did Herod, who sent him back to me. I will have him whipped, and let him go.

At this point Mark and Matthew tell us that there was a Roman custom of releasing a prisoner during passover, and that Pilate asked them:
(Mark 15:6-10;Matt.15-18;Luke 22:16-19)
PILATE: Shall I release unto you this man the king of the Jews?

CROWD: No, no; there is a man named Bar-Abbas in prison, who killed people during the last insurrection. We pray you, that you release this man Bar-Abbas, according to your custom of releasing to us one prisoner during our holiday.

PILATE: What then should I do with this man that you say is the king of the Jews? (To himself) I can see that these men have delivered this man to me out of envy and persecution.

PRIESTS AND CROWD: Crucify him, let him be crucified.

PILATE: Why? what crime has he committed?

CROWD (shouting): Crucify him, crucify him!

Matthew reports that Pilate's wife had sent him a note requesting him to free Jesus, because of a dream she had had; and that Pilate gave in to the crowd, and washed his hands in water in front of them, and said:
PILATE: I am innocent of the blood of this man.

and then that he sent Jesus with the soldiers to be crucified, and released Bar-Abbas to them. But this whole scene is doubtful; it is unlikely that the Roman governor would have let himself be pushed around by the Jews, and the washing of hands was a Jewish custom, not a Roman one. Nor does history show that the Romans had such a custom of releasing a felon at Passover.

We may have noticed that Luke has a great deal of material during the visit in Jerusalem which is not in any other gospel. This has led some scholars to posit yet another document which only Luke possessed, which is called Document J or the Jerusalem document. I have shown another table at the end of this chapter listing the passages which may have constituted this document.


Mark and Matthew then tell us that as they led Jesus to be crucified, they dressed him in royal garments (again!), and put a crown of thorns upon his head, and made fun of him, saying, Hail, thou king of the Jews! and then spit on him. Then they took off the royal garments, and put his own clothes upon him. But this is unlikely; the Roman soldiers would have been matter-of-fact about it, and would not have sneered at Jesus nor called him something they would not have believed that he could have been, even in scorn.

But many scholars believe that this entire scene was made up by the later Christians, with the intent of exonerating the Romans from the charge of deicide and of putting all the blame on the Jews. The Zealotists believe that the Romans arrested Jesus because he had a large popular following and they thought he was planning an insurrection against Roman rule, and therefore they executed him. But that too is improbable; it is unlikely that Jesus could have been organizing a rebellion and executed for it and that all the teachings in the gospels against violence were invented by the later Christians.

And finally, Jesus has said nothing in the gospels up to this point against the Romans or about throwing them out of Palestine. Nor has he even mentioned Rome or the Romans.

TABLE 17-2. Probable contents of Document J
Event or teaching
  2nd lamentation (If thou hadst known the things of peace)
  Jesus refuses to eat or drink during the Last Supper
  He that is chief must be servant of all
  Satan tries to win Peter from God
  The discussion about weapons
  In the garden of Gethsemane
  The arrest of Jesus
  The second trial before the Sanhedrin
  The chief priests make false accusations to Pilate
  He is sent to Herod and back
  3rd lamentation (Daughters of Jerusalem, weep not for me)
  Jesus is crucified
  One of the malefactors speaks
  Jesus gives up the ghost
Document J
  Luke 19:39-44
  Luke 22:15-18
  Luke 22:24-27
  Luke 22:31-34
  Luke 22:35-38
  Luke 22:39-46
  Luke 22:47-51,53b
  Luke 22:66-68
  Luke 23:2
  Luke 23:4-15
  Luke 23:27-31
  Luke 23:32-38
  Luke 23:39-43
  Luke 23:45-48