As the events of the Passion Week unfold (Mark 11-15), some scholars hold to the belief that the matters simply escaped Jesus’ control and that he became an innocent victim. Albert Schweitzer, in his famous The Quest for the Historical Jesus, gave voice to this opinion. He postulated that Jesus simply overplayed his hand and as a result was mangled like a doll in the merciless gears of history.
While it may sound plausible, it is utterly false. As Mark 14:12-21 demonstrates, Jesus wielded profound command from the very beginning of the final journey to the cross. Rather than an innocent victim swept away in the affairs of the crowd, Jesus was in control with every step towards the cross.
Jesus is in control in the preparations for the Passover (12-16).
Jesus and his disciples are staying in Bethany (11:1, 11). Since the Passover is to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:5-6), Jesus sends two disciples, Peter and John (Luke 22:8), into Jerusalem to make preparations for the meal.
Peter and John were to look for a man carrying a water jar. Since this was a task typically performed by women, it would be a unique sign. The man would lead them to the place Jesus had previously reserved. It is evident that Jesus had already made arrangements for the room. It was now up to Peter and John to take care of the meal.
Some ask, “Why did Jesus go to such elaborate lengths?” One answer is that he kept the location a secret to prevent Judas and his enemies from knowing. A second reason is he wanted to control the environment of the Passover meal since he was going to attach a new meaning to the elements. A third reason is that the Passover meal was a night when devout Jews were filled with hope of God’s intervention once more.
Far from being crushed in the wheels of history, Jesus was turning the wheels just as he wished. A God who is in control when the foundations of his earthly existence are crumbling is a God who can be trusted to sustain us when it appears our life is tumbling in.
Jesus is in control as he announces his betrayal (17-21).
Between verses 17 and 18 occur the events of Jesus washing the feet of the disciples (John 13:1-20).
While the original Passover meal was eaten in haste so the people were ready to travel, by the first century it had become an elaborate feast. It was customary to recline on couches, reclining on one’s left elbow and scooping food with the right hand.
While they were eating, dipping bread into the bowl before the meal began, Jesus announced with solemn words that one of the disciples would betray him. To eat with a person and then turn against him was the height of treachery. Jesus’ words called to mind David’s lament in Psalm 41:9 about Ahithophel who shared table fellowship with David and then turned against him.
The disciples are deeply grieved and sought to clear themselves. The question, “Is it I?” expects a reassuring, negative answer from Jesus. But he declined to name the offender. Repeating his statement, Jesus emphasized the treachery and also gave the betrayer a chance to repent.
Jesus’ statement in verse 21 blends divine sovereignty and human responsibility. While it was God’s plan for the Son of Man to die, the betrayer would be held accountable for his actions.
These events reflect God’s sovereignty over all. God created the world and had absolute control over it. If Jesus was in control of the details of his death, can you trust him with the details of your life?
This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Baptist Church on February 28, 2016. It is part of a series in the Gospel of Mark. Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.