On Wednesday of the final week of Jesus’ humiliation we find the opposition to Jesus rising to a feverish pitch and Judas spies out an opportunity to betray Him. In the middle of these acts of aggression we have Mary’s act of devotion and love to Jesus. Bible passages that recount these happenings are Matthew 26:1-16 and Luke 22:1-6. For now I would like to consider Mark 14:1-11.
The Sanhedrin was the ruling council of 71 men comprised of Pharisees and Sadduccees with the High Priest being the Head. They would deal with matters of religion, civil life, and justice. We need to remember that their opposition to Jesus was not a recent development during this last week, but had been established early in Jesus ministry, even from Mark 3:6, “And the Pharisees went forth, and straightway took counsel with the Herodians against him, how they might destroy him.”
In Mark 14:1-2 we have an obstacle and a sense of urgency. The obstacle was the Feast of the Passover which would be an inopportune time to be considering such a wicked scheme against Jesus Christ. At the same time, the urgency was to be rid of this renegade Teacher soon, before it was too late and His influence spread.
In the opposition of the Sanhedrin we see the opportunistic desire to defeat Jesus being driven by a deep hatred for and rejection of Him. This shows us the depth of human sin – we all need to face the fact that we are no better than the members of the Sanhedrin. Above all is the ruling counsel of God, the Soveriegn over the whole earth using even this wickedness to accomplish His purpose of salvation.
Judas’ seeking opportunity to betray Jesus is not dissimlar from the hatred of the Sanhedrin – but it is clothed in the garment of friendship and following. Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is a fulfillment of prophecy from Psalm 41:9, speaking of a “familiar friend…a man my equal who would lift up the heal against Messiah.” This tells us of Satan’s influence and attack behind Judas’ betrayal. We must not miss Judas’ responsibility for he loved money and the liberal (wasteful?) approach to giving endorsed by Christ was a contradiction of Judas’ covetousness.
Ultimately at the heart of the Sanhedrin as a group and of Judas as an individual was unbelief. Unbelief is the refusal to acknowledge Who Christ is and to rely upon Him fully as Savior. This heart of unbelief can be cloaked in a business way of life – carrying out daily responsibilities. It can also be covered in a religious garment where the outward appearance is promising but the heart is hard.
We need to learn that familiarity with Jesus is not necessarily faith in Jesus. This is captured adequately by the distinction between historical faith, miraculous faith, and true saving faith. Only true saving faith has the heart trust in Christ for Who He is.
Then too, we see Christ’s work will either continue to harden us or will be blessed by the Spirit to soften and change our hearts. Sadly for the Sanhedrin and for Judas, they were increasingly hardened through the minsitry of Christ. We will be too as Christ continues to minister through His Word. He touches our sins. He confronts our unbelief. He calls for profound change – and we resist adamantly!
Our need is for God’s sovereign electing love to break through our hardness and overcome us by the Holy Spirit giving us new hearts. This is the counsel of the Lord by which, rather than judgment and condemnation, we are led to worship and service!