Let the Scriptures Be Fulfilled | Mark 14:43-52

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “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. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

Mark 14:43-52 ESV

The story of Joseph resounds with primordial echoes of Jesus’ own life. As Jacob’s most beloved son, Joseph’s brothers came to hate him. One day, when they were pasturing the flocks near Shechem, Jacob sent Joseph to check on them. Yet as they saw Joseph coming from a distance, the brothers plotted to kill him, and when he drew near, they stripped of his robe and threw him in a pit to die, since Reuben had convinced them not to shed his blood directly. Yet seeing a caravan of traders going to Egypt, Judah led the brothers into selling Joseph for twenty shekels of silver into slavery.

Of course, we already read in chapter 3 that Jesus was rejected by His own brothers, but in our present text, we find Jesus being betrayed by one of His closest companions and abandoned by the other eleven. As Matthew 26:15 notes, Judas traded the life of his Master away for thirty pieces of silver. Indeed, if our previous passage was Jesus resolving through prayer to submit to the Father, today’s passage finds the greater Joseph being cast into pit and sold for silver.


Just as verse 42 concluded our previous passage with Jesus telling His disciples, “Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand,” so do we now presently read:

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders.

I find it tragic that because Judas came up to Jesus while He was still speaking, there is the possibility that he could have heard clearly Jesus’ final statement: See, my betrayer is at hand. But, of course, that is exactly what brought Judas to that hallowed garden. Jesus entered Gethsemane as the Seed of the woman, the long-awaited second Adam. Judas, however, entered Gethsemane as the Seed of the serpent, at continual enmity against the Maker and His images. Indeed, the craftiness of the serpent is evident in the manner of Judas’ betrayal:

Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him.

Is Judas not imaging the nature of his father here? Did the serpent openly call for Eve to rebel against God? No, he began with a seemingly innocent question: “Did God really say…?” We find the same approach whenever Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, where each temptation wore the masquerade of compassion. Could not the Son of God make stones into bread to satisfy His hunger? Would not everyone believe in Him if He threw Himself from the temple and was saved by angels? Would it not be better to worship the devil and receive the kingdoms of the world without having to endure the cross? Being entirely void of love himself, there is apparently nothing that Satan enjoys more than making a mockery of this glorious attribute of God Himself. Indeed, R. C. Sproul notes the twisted hideousness of Judas’ kiss:

It was a gesture of profound honor and affection, customarily given by disciples to their rabbi, that Judas used for his evil mission. The language here describes Judas’s kiss not as a brief peck on the cheek, but a kiss lavishly bestowed, signifying an especially deep sense of affection and honor. This kiss was an act of hypocrisy with a vengeance.[1]

In the Pilgrim’s Progress, Christiana looked upon the cross and begins to wish that others could look upon it as well. “Surely, surely,” she said, “their hearts would be affected.”[2] In moments when we freshly behold goodness and majesty of God, we easily think the same thing. “If only others could see this.” Sadly, reality teaches us another lesson. When faced with God’s holiness, some are drawn into worship, yet others are repelled away. So it was that the whole generation that heard God audibly speak from Sinai went on to perish in the wilderness. So it is that here at the most sacred moment in all of history we find Judas at his most satanic. Indeed, the light of the world can do no less. In His presence, shadows and shades pass away and all is exposed as being either of the light or of the darkness.

O brothers and sisters, let us be certain of this: all of creation is increasingly coming to a point. The day is ever nearer when all creatures will bow their knee to Christ as Lord, willingly or unwillingly. The great question that we must all answer is into which camp will we belong. Make no mistake, there are no neutral days. Each day we either step further into the light of His presence or step away into darkness.


After Judas’ kiss, we read:

And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear.

So begins what Jesus had already told His disciples must happen: “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days, he will rise” (9:31). Yet the disciples still did not understand what was happening, and one disciples displayed this even more than the others by cutting off a servant of the high priest’s ear. John’s Gospel tells that this disciple was Peter and even that the servant’s name was Malchus. Luke’s Gospel also tells us that Jesus did one final earthly miracle by healing Malchus’ ear.

I have heard it said by some that Peter meant to cut Malchus’ ear off because since he was a servant of the high priest, he could no longer enter the temple to do his duty. Yet I think that runs against the plain reading of the text. It seems clear that Peter intended to split Malchus’ head in two, but whether from having little skill with a sword or from nerves (probably both!), Peter ended up taking off his ear.

It is as we said last week. Peter was not quite the outright coward that we might too readily paint him as being. Here he at least worked up in himself enough courage to begin fighting for Christ. He even seemed ready to die for Christ. But, of course, it is one thing to die swinging a sword; it is another thing entirely to go like a lamb to be slaughtered. Peter was still not prepared for the upside-down nature of God’s kingdom. John Calvin notes:

It is as I said, his mind is seething, and he is carried away by the mad desire to protect our Lord Jesus Christ as he chooses and in his own way. May his example teach us to walk according as God calls us, and may we not find it hard to do as God commands. Let us not, however, attempt to do anything, not even to lift a little finger, unless God approves and we have evidence that it is he who is guiding us.[3]

Indeed, the sinfulness of Peter ought to be like a mirror into our own souls, for we are just as capable of such zeal for Christ. How many acts of wickedness have been committed with the intention of defending Jesus and His church? Many martyrs did not die at the hands of those who worshiped idols but rather by those who claimed to follow Christ! And we are no better. It is all too easy to see ourselves as being wise in our own eyes and to do for Christ what no one else is bold enough to do. What then follows is an attempt to expand God’s kingdom through worldly methods, and ears are inevitably cut off.

Until we learn that God’s ways truly are not our ways, we will inevitably be sword-wielders for Christ. But as Henry rightly says, “It is easier to fight for Christ, than to die for him; but Christ’s good soldiers overcome, not by taking away other people’s lives, but by laying down their own, Rev. xxii. 11.”[4] So, let us ask ourselves honestly:

Chopped off any ears lately? Is there some blood on the ground due to a blow you have self-righteously (and wrongly!) inflicted? If so, then submit to Christ and do what he says… The Lord specializes in restoring lopped-off ears as we see our error and repent. Healing can come to the hurt we have caused.[5]


In verses 48-49, we find Jesus’ response to all of this:

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. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.

This statement was no doubt intended to shame the religious leaders who were more than glad to work their devilish devices under the cover of night. Indeed, the Pharisees had been plotting with the Herodians since early in Jesus’ ministry for a way to destroy Him (3:6), yet after Jesus had cleansed the temple on Monday, “the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching” (11:18). As Jesus noted, each day that week He taught openly in the temple and could have been arrested at any point. But the religious leaders did not do so because they also feared the stirring up the anger of the people against them. Thus, for all the swords and clubs that their arrest party carried, Jesus was pointing out how weak and frightened they really were.

This is the heavenly vision of things that comes with belonging to the kingdom of God, for it is very often the case that those who have the most power or success in this world are also the most fearful and miserable. So many people obsessively pursue the fame of a celebrity or the power of a politician, while ignoring the overwhelming evidence that celebrities and politicians are some of the anxious and depressed people in the world. Indeed, social media has now essentially made it possible for anyone to become a minor celebrity or to at least chase that status by tossing nearly every aspect of our lives out before the public. And even though scientific studies affirm what we already knew to be true, that depression and anxiety have a direct correlation with social media use, we still chase likes and scroll endlessly.

Of course, we could give countless other examples of the figurative swords and clubs that we arm ourselves with. For some, it is securing a higher position at the office. For others, it is owning certain possessions or reaching a certain level of income. Spouses, children, and best friends can also be used to fill this role.

Yet here stands Jesus, the light of the world exposing all of our dark designs. The Lamb going to the slaughter is here more peaceful and more authoritative than those who hold all the “power.” Indeed, He was truly more powerful. In Matthew’s account, Jesus tells Peter that He could at any point summon “more than twelve legions of angels” to rescue Him (Matthew 26:53), which when we consider what two angels did in judgment to Sodom and Gomorrah, we can be certainly that more than 60,000 angels could have kept Jesus safe. Likewise, in John’s Gospel, Jesus asked the guards who they were seeking, and after they answered, “Jesus of Nazareth,” Jesus said, “I am he,” and they fell to the ground. The sheer force of His divine identity was enough to knock them off their feet.

Yes, the meekness of Jesus stands in sharp contrast to the desperate display of power by the mob before Him. May the Spirit ever make us more like Christ. Jesus Himself said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). Meekness, we might say, is strength governed by gentleness, power restrained by kindness, and Jesus throughout His passion is our supreme example. Christ does not summon His people to be weak but to be strengthened by the Spirit with true strength. After all, which requires more fortitude, retaliating against an enemy or loving them and praying for their welfare? To follow Christ, carrying our crosses, to fight the good fight, to finish our races faithfully requires far more strength than we can ever muster on our own. We must be furnished with the otherworldly meekness that Jesus Himself displayed on our behalf.

Notice also how His final words further reveal who truly held the reins over these events: But let the Scriptures be fulfilled. Here Jesus essentially says the same thing as when He prayed to the Father, “Yet not what I will, but what you will” (14:36). The Scriptures, after all, are the revealed will of God to humanity. We do not need to get up each day guessing what mood God might happen to be in today, as if He were like the fickle pagan deities. No, He is immutable, the same yesterday, today, and forever, and what He has said so will He do. Indeed, since His Word will endure beyond the removal of heaven and earth, we ought to come the Scriptures as being more reliable than the very ground beneath our feet.

Just as this was Jesus’ comfort, let it be ours as well. J. C. Ryle writes:

Let us rest our souls on the thought that all around us is ordered and overruled by God’s almighty wisdom. The course of this world may often be contrary to our wishes. The position of the church may often be very unlike what we desire. The wickedness of worldly men, and the inconsistencies of believers, may often afflict our souls. But there is a hand above us, moving the vast machine of this universe, and making all things work together for his glory. The Scriptures are being yearly fulfilled. Not one jot or tittle in them shall ever fail to be accomplished. The kings of the earth may take counsel together, and the rulers of the nations may set themselves against Christ (Psa. 2:2). But the resurrection morning shall prove that, even at the darkest time, all things were being done according to the will of God.[6]


In further contrast to Jesus’ meek resolution, we now read in verse 50: And they all left him and fled. Just as Christ predicted, though they all protested against it, the eleven disciples each ran for their lives, fearing to be arrested alongside their Master. Ryle again gives us a fitting exhortation:

Let us learn from the flight of these eleven disciples, not to be over-confident in our own strength. The fear of man does indeed bring a snare. We never know what we may do, if we are tempted, or to what extent our faith may give way. Let us be clothed with humility.

Let us learn to be charitable in our judgment of other Christians. Let us not expect too much from them, or set them down as having no grace at all, if we see them overtaken in a fault. Let us not forget that even our Lord’s chosen apostles forsook him in his time of need. Yet they rose again by repentance, and became pillars of the church of Christ.[7]

From church history, I think of the English Reformer Thomas Cranmer as a powerful example of Ryle’s point. During the reign of the queen now often called Bloody Mary, she forcibly attempted to plunge England back into Catholicism and put to death many, many Protestants in the attempt. After being arrested, Cranmer eventually caved under the assault and renounced his faith. Yet when Mary decided to have him executed anyway as an example, he was given a second chance by the Lord.

At the place of execution in Oxford, however, Cranmer unexpectedly refused to read out his recantation, and stunned everyone by vigorously reaffirming his Protestant faith, blaming himself for his cowardice in ever having renounced it, and denouncing the pope as Antichrist. As the flames rose around him at the stake, the old archbishop held out the hand which had signed the document of recantation, so that it was the first part of his body to be burnt away. By this final act in death, Cranmer may have done more to sanctify the Protestant cause in English eyes than anything he had accomplished in his life.[8]

Finally, in verses 51-52 we find an interesting moment that is only recorded in Mark’s Gospel:

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.

Theologians have long speculated about the identify of this young man, but the only definitive answer is that we do not know because we are not told. The most common thought is that this young man is John Mark himself. Since Acts 12:12 tells us that the house of Mark’s mother, Mary, was a gathering place for the church in Jerusalem, many have wondered whether or not the Last Supper was eaten in Mark’s own home. If so, it would have been quite plausible for him to have snuck out, grabbing only a linen cloth, to follow Jesus and the disciples to Gethsemane. But again, the only certain answer is that we have no answer.

Rather than the identity of this young man, the more important question for us to ask is why this is included for us in the Scriptures. We certainly believe that all Scripture is inspired and profitable. So, what about these two verses?

I agree with Tim Keller, who notes:

By recounting this young man’s naked flight from the garden, Mark may be reminding us of another garden. In the Garden of Eden, too, there were people who were given a test, and they failed. They were exposed as naked and fled in shame. Centuries later, another garden and another test, and everybody fails in one way or another. They’re either waving swords around or fleeing naked in shame.[9]

Jesus alone passes the test. Jesus alone refused to flee, fight, or summon the very angels that He long ago brought into existence. This is why we confess that salvation is of Christ alone. Peter and the other apostles who together with the prophets of old became the foundation of the Christ’s church are just as much recipients of God’s grace as we are. We are all poor and wretched sinners who would be damned eternally if Christ were not the all-sufficient and ever-triumphant Savior.

Therefore, as we come to the King’s Table, let us come again to Christ in repentance from our multitude of sins, confessing that, apart from Him, even our most righteous works are like filthy rags. Yet let us also here taste and see the goodness of our God in the good news that He welcomes all who come to Him and cast their faith and hope entirely upon the work of Jesus, so that as we eat and drink, we do so with joyful hearts to the glory of God alone.

[1] R. C. Sproul, Mark: An Expositional Commentary, 344.

[2] John Bunyan, The Pilgrim’s Progress, 252.

[3] John Calvin, Crucified and Risen: Sermons on the Death, Resurrection, and Ascension of Christ, 39.

[4] Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentaries Vol V: Matthew-John, 555.

[5] R. Kent Hughes, Mark: Jesus, Servant and Savior, 362.

[6] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Mark, 254-255.

[7] Ibid, 255.

[8] Nick Needham, 2000 Years of Christ’s Power Vol 3, 394.

[9] Tim Keller, King’s Cross, 190.


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