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.”


up now
head out


up and out
step lively now


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
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?).

Mark 14:40

and coming back again he found them asleep, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to say to him.

dull stupor
beyond open eyes
not yet focusable

any attempted response
stutters and babbles
with words unavailable
twisted every which way

even a simple standing
weaves and wobbles
before pausing
to widen eyes

we excel
at awakening
more tired
than before dozing

And, again, we are called to remember additional times when responses to Jesus were muddled.

After an initial enthusiasm to follow Jesus, there are times when the disciples and crowds appear reluctant to engage a larger picture and stop with confusion. This begins with the first healing when everyone in the synagogue (including the disciples) wondered, “What’s this?”

Confusion in a surprising moment is one thing; it is another in moments of teaching. The disciples were famous for sleeping through the telling of parables and needing private tutoring regarding what they had apparently slept through.

After rescue from a storm at sea, the disciples looked at one another and couldn’t figure out, “Who is this?”

In the healing of a daughter, after how many healings, Peter, John, and James were “shocked” and told to be quiet about what they experienced, lest they confuse others based on their own dismay.

Confusion turned to resistance when the disciples were asked to feed a crowd of people and later were unable to “understand” about the loaves. Their opposition deepened when asked to wrestle with the idea that a Messiah would suffer and die.

Most telling is the Transfiguration scene when Mark records Peter’s blabbering “because he didn’t know how to respond”.

The hero’s task becomes both more difficult at each block and more likely to succeed when they continue to hold steady.

There is a dawning clarity that we do not escape a needed exploration of our wilderness (in this case betrayal) by recruiting way-goers. Hope for their future transfiguration/rising can be held but their present weakness and vulnerability must be accepted as real. The only thing left is a next attempt to renegotiate with a beloved’s partner.

Mark 14:39

Again he went away, and prayed in the same words;

whether vain or not
puts blinders on
the clearest vision

hope and stupidity
are never far apart
both expect a result
beyond repetition’s ability

At what point does repetition of a request indicate an assumed weakness of the one being asked for a change of heart. Think here of any child trying to get something they want. They only need to be insistent and they will wear down their caregiver. Short-term persistence wins out over a longer-term vision. Such repetition is an admission that the partnership is on shaky ground.

Such repetition is not working with the disciples (“keep awake”) and it is not working with G*D. Aichele15puts it this way, “the silence of Abba in Gethsemane is matched by the confusion or indifference of the disciples….”

A more positive reference for repetition is Gideon’s “Fleece” (Judges 6:36–40). When Gideon is trying to determine the validity of a word from G*D that he didn’t like and wanted changed, he tested G*D with requests for a physical sign to confirm the direction he saw things going.

Jesus receives neither a sign nor a word that his inner conflict of “spirit and flesh” changes anything. An affirmative sign would be welcome; no sign at all is troubling. We are basically reduced to, “A Beloved is a Beloved, and there are consequences that must be borne if there is any integrity in all that has come before.”

Myers189sets this prayer in a slightly different context:

Though profoundly shaken, Jesus demonstrates true prayer, which takes us to the heart of Mark’s theological argument. All things are possible for God, but the first concern of prayer is not to remedy personal distress but rather to seek the One whose will is the healing of our broken history (14:26).

I remain skeptical of the modifiers of “true” and “first” that are used here. Both seem a bit too easy in the messy business of tikkun olam. Trying to partner a G*D and an Image of G*D speaks to brokenness in both as well as mutual assistance in rising. Leonard Bernstein’s third symphony prayer, Kaddish, speaks to this mutuality (be sure to listen to the recording that features Jennie Tourel).

Mark 14:38

Watch and pray,” he said to them all, “so that you may not fall into temptation. True, the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

never was
going to be sufficient

equally insufficient
is any other virtue
including prayer

eventually prayer
will justify anything
in Stockholm captivity

temptational resistance
requires presence
not technique

Mark often has quick cuts as he jumps from one scene to another. The little word “you” is a clue that we have just had one of those jumps without it being announced.

It is easy to have this verse be a continuation of what is being said to Peter. The difficulty comes in the “you” here being plural, rather than singular.

One of the choices is to have this second word be addressed to all present—Peter, James, and John.

Of more interest is the possibility that it also includes, or is even primarily directed, at the Reader. It is as if Jesus turned to face the Reader and says, “You’ve just seen what the inner core of disciples has done. I see in you the struggle between your interest in possibly partnering with me and the difficulties that will pose for you. I also see you are as up for this—as am I. See my own difficulty here and let’s keep alert and pray for each other.”

Of even more interest is seeing three parts to this verse. First, the difficulty Peter, James, and John have of keeping alert in the presence of their monkey minds jumping all about, wearing them out. Second, a word of encouragement to the Reader as well as the three disciples that adds a purpose for resoluteness in an instruction to keep awake. Third, the distinction between “spirit” and “flesh” (a false distinction and never a satisfactory binary) belongs with a beginning confession when Jesus returns to prayer.

The first part is narratively needed, as is a blockage in any fairy tale (and, no, that is not a disparagement). The second part is a direct address to Mark’s congregation and the current Reader. The third part is an incorrect marking of verses and has placed this spirit/flesh comment in conjunction with Peter, rather than with Jesus as prelude to his praying again.