In the section we are considering here, we have an account of two meals. One is in Bethany and the other in Jerusalem. One is a picture of preparation for burial, and the other is a picture of His death itself. At each, one disciple is singled out -- Mary for glory and Judas for infamy.
"After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death" (Mark 14:1-25).
First, the feast in Bethany. Shortly before the Passover, the authorities were actively plotting the death of Jesus. But they did not want to do it openly, because of the crowds (vv. 1-2). Jesus partakes of a meal which is probably not the same situation as found in Luke 7, but probably is to be identified with the meal in John 12. And if this is the case, then the woman in question is Mary, the sister of Lazarus.
Mary comes and breaks an alabaster flask of nard and pours it on the Lord’s head (v. 3). The ointment was very costly -- the equivalent of a year’s salary (v. 5). Some of the disciples, blind philanthropists, glowered at her for this, Judas among them (v. 4). Why did she not do something for the poor with this? The disciples do not get the principle. They had not understood the widow’s mites, and they did not understand Mary's extravagance. Judas was motivated, John tells us by his own lust for money. Then, as now, the poor are a gold mine. But Jesus told them to lay off -- she has done a good work (v. 6). The poor will always be around, and Christians should help them. But Mary was the only one who understood Jesus’ poverty (v. 7), that Jesus was among the poor. She did what she could to prepare the Lord for burial (v. 8). The Lord then says that her wisdom will be declared until the end of the world (v. 9).
Immediately after this, Judas makes his decision to betray the Lord (v. 10). The two events are undoubtedly related in some way. The Lord showed (again) that He and Judas had irreconcilable views on money. And Judas turned away to his own damnation. Scripture does not give us any motive for Judas beyond simple greed, although there were probably other factors involved. A comparison of the various accounts shows that Satan entered into Judas at this time (Luke 22:3), and was present at the next meal, the Passover that the Lord observed with His disciples right before His betrayal.
The time came to observe the Passover, and the disciples wanted to know what preparations He wanted them to make (v. 12). The sequence of events here is probably not a miracle, but a system of prearranged signals. Jesus knew that He was a wanted man in Jerusalem, and so the preparations for the Passover were discrete (vv. 13-16). The tradition of the early church was that this house was the house of John Mark himself.
Jesus came that evening to partake of the Passover with His disciples (v. 17). In this meal, He institutes a new covenant observance. He does so with a traitor close by -- Jesus knows the treachery of Judas, and the presence of Satan (v. 18), and proceeds anyway. He announces the betrayal to the disciples. They all ask if they are the one (v. 19). One of the disciples, who was sharing the same bowl with Jesus, would be the one. And Jesus says that it would be better for that man never to have been born (v. 21). At the same time, predestination is no excuse—the Son of man goes just as it is written, but woe to that man through whom it happens.
The Passover meal had four cups of wine. After the second cup, Jesus took the bread which represented His own broken body, blessed and broke it. The command was take and eat, not take and speculate, or take and preach, or take and twist (v. 22). After the bread, the Passover lamb was eaten. After this was the third cup, the cup of blessing (v. 23). He gave thanks at this point in the meal, and Mark uses the word we get Eucharist from -- this was a solemn thanksgiving. This third cup becomes the one cup of the Christian sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. Blessing and thanksgiving grow to fill the whole. This cup is the blood of the new covenant.
But the fourth cup of the Passover was refused -- this fourth cup was the consummation of the meal. Jesus refuses this cup, leaving the Passover meal incomplete. Jesus promised to drink that fourth cup new in the kingdom of God. But before that glad day, it was still necessary for the Lamb to be killed.