Mark 14:50

And all the apostles deserted him and fled.


standing between mobs
loneliness personified
brings an unexpected
place of prayer
in a wilderness
of proliferating systems

there is no need
to search out a retreat
it finds us
in the most awkward
and common places
we will allow

at question
is not where or when
or why to listen
in the silence of absence
there is naught else
worth attending to


If this verse is a fulfillment of scripture that the sheep will be scattered (Zechariah 13:7), there are additional questions to be asked about fulfillment. Aichele18 looks at that question in regard to Judas but it is equally applicable to disciples and  Readers in every age.

If God wills Jesus to be betrayed, as is implied in the prayer-scene in Gethsemane, then Judas also does the will of God and deserves no condemnation. However, if Judas betrays Jesus on his own and is therefore worthy of condemnation, then in what sense are the scriptures “fulfilled?”

With the word “all”, Jesus is returned to the wilderness after his baptism (1:13). The impetus this time is from Powers and Principalities, not a Spirit of Belovedness. He is with the beasts without the offset of angels or a response to his Gethsemane prayer.

We begin again an extended wilderness stay that cannot be returned from with a learning to pass on. There are some wildernesses that are too deep. Like black holes, there is no return past its event horizon. The gravitational pull of the massive amount of material packed in an extraordinarily small space will not release what enters this black wilderness to come out the same way it came in.

Here we are lost in a dark night or a cloud that has taken the information of creation and lined a black hole with it. Ordinary activities of making meaning must now give way to unknowing.

If we were following Mark’s usual rapid recounting of events, this verse might very well follow verse 46 without the intervening episodes with a sword and an un-answerable question to a mob. In such a case Mark would immediately jump from the arrest of Jesus to the scattering of the disciples.

For such a small verse that has been anticipated for quite awhile, there are enough sparks to keep a Reader lingering.

Mark 14:49

I have been among you day after day in the Temple Courts teaching, and yet you did not arrest me; but this is in fulfillment of the scriptures.”


you’ve waited too long
a teaching has gone out
in the seat of power
an antidote is loosed

an ancient hope
held in abeyance
dimmed through time
rises once more

claiming tomorrow
recalculates today
it is worth adjusting
for fuller joy


It is difficult to know what needs commenting on and what needs no response. LaVerdiere2252 puts it this way,

Jesus had not responded to Judas’ hypocritical address and display of affection. Nor did he respond to the bystander’s effort [with a sword]. Like Judas’ gesture, it spoke for itself. Instead, Jesus responded to those who arrested him.

Those in a mob are seldom able to understand their own action. There is not a response from this crowd that would be believable. Jesus’ comment would seem to appeal to some narrative need for a comment.

Though there may be something in verses 48–49 a Reader might well attend to, this explication of the unnecessary nature of a night-time raid with implements of violence it is more likely a reminder of Chapter 13 with betrayals in every direction and arrests. It is just as likely that it fills a narrative need to prepare for the running away of the disciples that was set-up back in verse 27 with the quote from Zechariah about scattered sheep.

Aichele19 raises questions about the identification of the scripture reference and what is fulfilled here.

It is not clear what specific scriptures, if any, have been fulfilled in this story. The best intertextual candidate is perhaps the “servant song” of Isaiah 52:13–53:12. Or is the reference in Mark 14:49 to “the scriptures” simply a euphemism for God’s will? However another possibility is that the only “scriptures” which have been fulfilled are Jesus’ three intratextual betrayal prophecies in Mark 9:31 and 10:33 (see also Mark 8:31). Could Mark’s gospel be referring to itself in this passage as “scripture”? Could any single text possibly fulfill itself?

It is Aichele’s last question that is most intriguing. Is scripture, in its entirety or particulars, fate or fulfillable? If it is, what is fulfilled when a heart and behavior are changed? A circularity of good news?

Mark 14:48

But Jesus spoke up, and said to the men, “Have you come out, as if after a robber, with swords and clubs, to take me?


let’s hear it
for rhetorical questions
setting up our
fine analysis

your escalated response
only shows how right
I’ve been all along
demons recognize me

such recognition
reveals their weakness
to rely on strength
and eventual failure

at best they can keep
the top at the top
of every category
that doesn’t matter

your sword
will reveal the dullness
of power’s
position


This is a second image of thieves. The first was in the Temple when Jesus identified it as a Den of Thieves. There is yet one more time to come when thieves are mentioned.

Jesus began the teaching part of his ministry with a parable about robbing a house and the need to bind a strong man before robbing his house (3:23–30). If you have not already read it, Ched Myers, Binding the Strong Man: A Political Reading of Mark’s Story of Jesus is a must read to assist in moving beyond a personalistic reading.

The thief here is Jesus breaking into the strong collusion of country, clan, and cult that makes an idol out of present power structures. The symbol of this becomes the entry into Jerusalem to “beard a lion in their own den”.

Subsequent uses of “thief” identify such as Satan. In Jesus’ next parable (4:2–20) the thief is Satan, stealing a word of creation from the lives of people.

In this concluding part of Mark we come to three references: Den of Thieves (11:15–18); accusation of Jesus being a thief (here); and crucifixion between two thieves, placing Jesus as the King of Thieves (15:26–27).

The imagery of who is a thief and what of value is being stolen ranges widely in differing episodes. The Reader needs to take care to not push them all together in one meaning. Stealing power from the powerful is not the same as the powerful stealing more and more from those subject to them.

Here we have to ask the same question Jesus did. Of all the arrest scenarios, does this reflect well or badly on those doing the arresting? What does this say about the strength of their position?

Mark 14:47

One of those who were standing by drew his sword, and struck at the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear.


Sweet Honey prays
must I do to others
before they do to me

in this reversal
any following news
loses its goodness

retaliation leaves
no choice but to remain
one step behind

even threatening hell
cannot get ahead
of a reptile brain

cutting off ears
doesn’t assist in hearing
a different drum


The Greek suggests the sword-drawer is known—literally, “a certain one”. In Mark’s time of writing it may be too early to reveal who this is. When John’s story is finally written we learn it was Simon Peter (in all the glory of both his names and parallel with his denial that a Messiah would suffer and die), again coming to an impetuous, authoritative, and incorrect conclusion that a violent resistance to repression was the only way to go.

Jesus has on multiple occasions used imagery from Isaiah regarding those who cannot or will not hear a wider option for human relationships. To cut off the ear of “one who cannot hear” (one enslaved to sustaining the current power imbalance) is a less-than-useless action.

Mark records no response from Jesus to either Judas’ betraying kiss or to this side action of swordplay. In contrast, Matthew has Jesus teaching, “Those who live by the sword will die by the sword” and Luke has Jesus saying, “No more violence,” and healing the identified “right” ear. John not only has Simon Peter being the sword-wielder but hurries Jesus to announce what Mark won’t get to for another two verses—the “fulfillment of scripture”.

Readers with an acquaintance of all four gospel stories can note how this scene plays differently in each author’s retelling and reveals a portion of the context in which they write. This is also encouragement for Readers to reflect on what this response might mean for their time and place.

Imagine the confusion here in dark. Wright200 concludes:

The church is called to live in the middle of this great scene: surrounded by confusion, false loyalty, direct attack and traitor’s kisses, those who name the name of Christ must stay in the garden with him….

Mark 14:46

Then the men seized Jesus, and arrested him.


a mob descends
as quietly as they can
poking one another
in the ribs as they go
holding in chortles
as best they can

had any watcher
paid attention
an escape
was available
through a convenient dark
into a welcoming wilderness

the plotters
were too clever
by half
what was needed
was an assassination
not a show trial


Jesus has been saying that he would be handed over. Here the hands arrive and grab.

With the handling of Jesus, the Judas part of Mark’s story comes to an end. Other players will bring the actual suffering and death Jesus has anticipated.

This scene is another spot of irony as Jesus has used his hands for healings and feedings. The hymnwriter Margaret Cropper has us sing, “Jesus’ hands are kind hands”. Jesus’ hands give, not take. This is in accord with his coming to deacon.

This coming to “serve” can be seen in Gene Sharp’s presentation of rhythmic sequence in his trilogy, Politics of Nonviolent Action. Download Sharp’s synopsis of his trilogy at: aeinstein.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/How-Nonviolent-Struggle-Works.pdf

In an unjust/non-merciful situation, the first movement is a confrontation or challenge to reveal the situation. Jesus begins with breaches of tradition, a vineyard parable, and entering Jerusalem.

The second is a reactive response from those in power—repression. This acknowledges that the challenge has come too close—there has been a reduction in power’s ability to control the situation. Fear of a growing crowd has led to this School-of-the-America’s tactic of a night raid employing physical violence, disappearance, and death. This is where we currently are in Mark’s story.

Finally, a situation-changing, non-retaliatory choice. We are not fully there yet; it will be realized only after the trio of suffering, death, and rising. It begins with no resistance by Jesus here in Gethsemane.

The flow of these three moments changes hearts and minds and leads to a repentance in community relationships and behaviors (remember Jesus’ mission from 1:15). These stages can be seen in three scenes: Temple upset, Garden arrest, and Galilee community.

Mark 14:45

As soon as Judas came, he went up to Jesus at once, and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him.


it is difficult
to keep a gleam
out of your eye
when finally completing
a premeditated
act of betrayal

to pull off
what another knew
was coming
and couldn’t counter
adds to the glee quotient
extending a peck on the cheek
to a long rapacious kiss

there is no need to hurry
the trap is well laid
the quarry worn down
the defense shield asleep
just steadily walk
with a widening grin
and insulting honorific


In English, the word “kiss” is found in this and the previous verse. In Greek, there is a distinction being made between the phileō of verse 44 and kataphileō here. The something more in this verse is an extra degree of fervency.

Mann596 describes an intent behind the shift:

The change in the verb, with its emphatic prefixed kata, may indicate a more than usually affectionate greeting designed to ensure that the arrest take place as quickly as possible, with no room for error.

In some translations, the title, “Rabbi”, becomes “Master”. This is to emphasize the degree of betrayal by Judas of someone different than a “teacher” or filling a recognized position. They focus on the relationship between Judas and Jesus.

Waetjen149 sees the use of “Rabbi” as a way of distinguishing the prime betrayers in Mark’s story from the rest of the disciples:

In Mark’s story world only the two disciples who renounce Jesus, Peter and Judas, address Jesus as “rabbi.” See 11:21; 14:45. Other disciples and the ruling elite of Jerusalem use “teacher.”

We are now a long way from the beginning of this Judas thread and his introduction back in 3:19 as the disciple “who betrayed Jesus”. Eleven event-filled chapters later we follow an unnamed woman’s anointing of Jesus with expensive perfume and the subsequent decision of Judas to hand Jesus over in 14:10. When (euthys) suddenly there is no evading a cascade of events leading back to Galilee, where Mark began.

If nothing else, it must be noted that Mark is a master storyteller.

Mark 14:44

Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them. “The man whom I kiss,” he had said, “will be the one; arrest him and take him away safely.”


betrayal beyond
a spur of the moment
requires exquisite finesse
to exact the greatest irony

where some have come
to touch a distant hem
this one intends a kiss
to mark a light year’s distance

where one released from chains
another orchestrates captivity
all merciful acts are reduced
to their most hurtful reversal

this ancient formula
turns fertile ground
to a salted desert
today and tomorrow

to rid us of tomorrow
every bit of the past
must be constrained
to its least meaning


Earlier, both the Pharisees (8:11) and the disciples (13:4)  asked about a sign to prove Jesus’ bona fides and identify the fall of the Temple walls which would be the end of life. The response was that there was to be no sign and so there was no one to give one.

Just like bills called delightful things like “Blue Skies” which turns out to permit more pollution we have a surprising sign of a kiss to indicate a treasonous act. Such a Judas kiss is made much of in mob or mafia movies, though there it is to identify a betrayer rather than be given by one.

Mann596 notes this kiss “of mutual respect” as a “calculated insult”. He writes, “According to contemporary usage, no disciple was permitted to greet his teacher first, since this would have implied equality.”

Perversely, Judas is the active watcher that Jesus was looking for in the Twelve. While others slept, he organized.

Myers189 reminds us:

The arrest scene reeks of the overkill characteristic of covert state operations against civilian dissidents. The coded signal, the surprise ambush in the dead of night, the heavily armed escort, and the instructions for utmost security measures imply that the authorities expected armed resistance.

“Dreams of a new social order are once again shattered by the brute force of … power.” [Myers190] Readers will need to wrestle with their own unanswerable prayers—will they stand with mercy or run?

Mark 14:43

And just then, while he was still speaking, Judas, who was one of the Twelve, came up; and with him a crowd of people, with swords and clubs, sent by the chief priests, the teachers of the Law, and the elders.


warned a moment late
there is no defense
against a mob

sticks and stones
have escalated
swords and clubs

argued difference
moves from weak tongue
to enhanced interrogation

surfaces bind and break
no longer able to slide by
even temples quake

that intended to resolve
falls flat on its face
prayer and power equally inept


This is a good time to remember a comment by Bratcher455,

This verse, consisting of a single sentence in Greek, must often be translated by at least three in other languages because of the radical shifts in participants and the fact that the Greek prepositions imply a complex relationship which cannot be duplicated by corresponding phrases in other languages.

How much foresight does Jesus have? In seeing his betrayer in the previous verse, are we talking predictive, intuitional, seeing torches come out of Jerusalem or hearing someone step on a fallen olive branch?

This question impacts the transition to this verse. Judas, arriving as Jesus speaks, raises additional questions about Jesus’ intent to leave or his warning or if there was more teaching Jesus missed having reported because of an ensuing disturbance.

Leaving the transition to fend for itself, this verse continues Judas’ participation among the twelve. Presumably, after receiving a taste of bread and wine, Judas faded into the night and has now reappeared as both one of the Twelve and as a lead betrayer, part of a mob.

It would seem that, except for excluding comments about betraying  a “Holy” spirit (3:28–29), betraying children (10:14), and betraying Jesus (14:21), it is not just those who are not authorized Jesus followers (9:41) who will be rewarded but even such actual betrayers as Peter (16:7).

In Mark, Judas remains one of the Twelve. To find anything else about Judas after his betrayal we would have to go to other sources.

Mark 14:42

Up, and let us be going. Look! My betrayer is close at hand.”


rise
rally

up now
head out

look
destiny

up and out
step lively now

betrayer
betrayed

meet in the open
recognized in the other


Sabin2142 writes of this verse:

The phrase translated as “Get up!” is literally, “You are raised up!” It is again ironic. By means of it, Mark indicates the distance between what the disciples ought to be and what in fact they are.

This is actually an irony on top of irony as verse 41 ends with being betrayed by sinners, which is the same category that Jesus has reached out to all through Mark.

The first irony is about those outside the group (betrayers) and the second irony is focused on those within the group (sleepers).

Between the language of “handed over” (betrayed) and “Raised” (after betrayal) is the story of our life. With birth, we have been handed over to culture writ as large as language and as small as family. This is the water in which we live and move and have our being. It shapes our response to the occasions of life.

To be Raised is to have agency as a responsible partner with those now around us as well as those who have gone before and will arrive in days to come. We can shift beyond the limits that have been handed down to us and those limits that are yet ahead. In the space between this breath and a next, we are at liberty, raised.

In Thankdeka’s just-released book, Love Beyond Belief: Finding the Access Point to Spiritual Awareness, the neuroscience behind emotion and conscience is proposed as a source for a renewal of religion. It is here, in the emotions of the brain, that we find our mind transformed by our heart, as encouraged by Baptizer John, and alert, as asked for by Jesus. A starting point is an appreciation of the irony of how our best intentions go awry. This humor crack raises an option to practice watching; to practice awareness of what is actually before us, not our fantasies of how we desire things to be. Here, though the hour is late, we can face betrayal, ours and others, without denial.

Mark 14:41

A third time he came, and said to them, “Sleep on now, and rest yourselves. Enough! My time has come. Look, the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of wicked people.


if at first
you don’t succeed
rinse and repeat
as necessary
to become clean enough
to say it clear
enough
time’s up

of course
time’s been up
for quite some time
enough has been done
to finally move on
to doom’s midnight hour
a creaking door
to maybe a new garden


Bratcher451 notes, “How this [verse] is to be taken is subject to wide differences of opinion.” This page doesn’t scratch the surface of difficulties.

Returning to the same situation a third time, whether a statement is made to or a question asked about the sleeping disciples, significant irony is present.

It is out of this recognition of the state of affairs that we come to a form of a word only used here in the Christian Testament—ἀπέχει (apechei, sufficient, settled) that is translated as “enough”. Mann593 is accurate when he says, “The commentators provide us with a rich field of speculation with respect to this word….”

The tradition ties “enough” with sleep. However, the word itself has ties to a completed economic transaction and has been seen in relation to Judas having received his payment, solidifying a betrayal. E.K. Simpson’s paraphrase goes so far as to say, “It is settled! The deed of infamy is done! He pockets his reward.”

Apechei has also been recorded in some manuscripts with the word telos, which brings us back to Chapter 13 and the apocalyptic sense that things are now in place and can’t be changed—disaster all around.

The question of looking backward to sleep or forward to betrayal is one each Reader is going to have to wrestle with. Working against this is whatever traditional translation one is reading. In English, it doesn’t appear, on the surface, to be much of a question.

There is still the third-person use of “son of adam” that needs looking at and a deeper investigation into whatever moral and theological significance needs to be brought to bear on the determination of “sinners” (including sleeping disciples?).