Mark 14:43-65

A Clash of Kingdoms


Jesus’ betrayal at the kiss of Judas is the darkest moment yet in Mark’s Gospel. What it signifies is not a personality conflict, or a lapse of judgment on Judas’ on behalf, but rather the clash of two very different kingdoms, the kingdom of God and the kingdom of man.

As Mark records it, the very first words out of Jesus’ mouth are “The time is fulfilled, the kingdom of God is at hand (Mark 1:15).” Jesus is the king and he has come to establish his kingdom. However, there is a rival kingdom in place – the kingdom of this world. If I were calling the shots, I’d have Jesus first uproot that kingdom before he planted his own, but he does not – or at least not yet. The wheat and the weeds grow together in the same field. And so there is inevitable conflict between these kingdoms, and we see this played out in a garden in Gethsemane as Judas comes marching in with an armed mob.


#1 Jesus rebukes Judas for the worldly manner in which he acts.

Jesus had just roused his disciples from their slumber for the third time, as Judas made his way through the darkness with a crowd carrying swords and clubs (v.43). These are tools designed to assert power and control and this is exactly what one expects to find in the kingdom of this world. Mark reminds us again, as if we had forgotten, that Judas was in fact one of the twelve (v.43). The crowd following Judas is some sort of militia or security detail sent from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders (v.43), or in other words, the Sanhedrin, the governing body of Jews. Upon finding Jesus in the garden, Judas acknowledged him with a familiar greeting, Rabbi! and kissed him (v.45). This is where the saying the “kiss of death” finds its origin. Judas could have arranged any number of signs including a simple finger pointing, but instead he chooses to betray Jesus with a sign of endearment.

What is at work here is a clash between two kingdoms. Judas is operating under the kingdom of man coming with the force of swords and clubs to betray Jesus with a kiss. Jesus could have at this moment commanded his legion of angels to come and wipe Judas and his minions from the face of the earth. But he does not. Jesus’ kingdom is not like the kingdom of man. He questions his pursuers, Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me (v.48-49). The NIV translates Jesus’ question as Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me?

The truth is, Jesus is leading a rebellion but it is unlike any rebellion the world has ever seen. Tim Keller explains it this way:


What happens in the kingdom of the world is that revolutions basically keep the same old things on top of the list. They’re not real revolutions; money and power and politics always stay at the top. Most revolutions have been merely a fine-tuning of the same old order. Every revolution brings a new set of people into power, and then the next one puts a different set of people in power. (Jesus the King, p.206)


Jesus is leading a different kind of rebellion, a true rebellion. He is establishing the kingdom of God which is not advanced through swords and clubs, and neither then, can it be thwarted with swords and clubs. Jesus’ kingdom is not another kingdom of this world – it is an entirely new thing altogether. But even his own disciples don’t seem to get it. Mark tells us that one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear (v.48). John’s Gospel identifies the perpetrator as Peter, which figures.

Jesus in the end allows himself to be led away. He surrenders in defeat, or so it would appear. Actually Jesus tells us why he surrendered to Judas; so that the Scriptures would be fulfilled (v.49).


#2 Jesus is abandoned by all of his friends.

In addition to Judas’ betrayal, Mark notes that they all left him and fled (v.50). Every one of his disciples, his closest friends have abandoned him in his time of greatest need.   They all drank of the cup at the Passover meal, they all pledged their allegiance to him, but in the end they all abandoned him.

Mark includes a curious detail that is unique to his account, that of a young man was present and was seized by the crowd and managed to pull away but without his clothes. He ran away naked (v.52) and in shame. Many believe this unidentified man to be Mark himself which, if it is the case, could be Mark’s way of showing that he too abandoned Jesus.


#3 Many people lie about Jesus.

Jesus is taken under the cover of darkness to the high priest who we know from Matthew’s account to be Caiaphas (Matthew 26:57). Peter follows at a distance but we should read that he was keeping his distance. The following proceedings, though on the surface appear to be civil court proceedings, are nothing more than mob rule. The chief priests and the whole council, who were supposed to be the voice of reason and justice, were seeking testimony in order that they might put him to death (v.55). In other words, they were seeking an excuse to dispose of Jesus. They set up a charade that resembled a court, but in truth it was no court. We are told that many bore false testimony against him for the specific purpose of putting Jesus to death but that their testimony did not agree (v.56). These are the ones who actually deserve death, not Jesus. According to the law in Deuteronomy 19:16-19 the penalty for their false witness in this case should be death.


#4 Jesus’ secret is finally revealed.

Through all of these proceedings Jesus remained silent and made no answer (v.61) as was written of him in Isaiah, “like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).”   Jesus is establishing a different kind of kingdom, one that (1 Corinthians 4:20).” And yet how maddening this was for Jesus’ accusers to witness his silence. Finally the high priest asks Jesus directly, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? (v.61) Jesus has been silent as to his identity not only throughout this trial but throughout his ministry.   This is sometimes referred to as the messianic secret in the Gospel of Mark but now this secret is about to be revealed. And Jesus said, “I am and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with clouds of heaven (v.62).” Here is the clearest statement we have in Mark’s Gospel concerning the identity of Jesus. The secret is revealed. Critics like to say today that Jesus never claimed to be God. Yes he did! And this is the very claim that led to his death.   The high priest exclaims, What further witness do we need? (v.63) They try unsuccessfully to hang his death sentence on the testimony of others, but now they have something even better: Jesus’ own testimony. And let’s be very clear, they understood the claim that Jesus was making. This why the high priest refers to it as blasphemy (v.64). Jesus is laying claim to deity. The result is that the council condemned him as deserving death (v.64).


Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you think Judas greeted Jesus respectfully and even gave him a kiss?
  2. What point is Jesus making in verses 48 and 49 about the manner in which he is being arrested?
  3. What do you think Jesus means by “let the Scriptures be fulfilled?”
  4. How might someone wrongly believe that Jesus had given up based on this passage? Did he really give up?
  5. Why do you think all of his disciples abandon him (v.50)?
  6. In what way(s) do we abandon Jesus?
  7. Describe the trial of Jesus. Is this really justice being carried out? Why or why not?
  8. Why do you think Jesus remains silent?
  9. What is the significance of Jesus’ statement in verse 62? What happens as a result of Jesus’ words?
  10. How can we apply this passage to our lives?