The Betrayal, Arrest, False Charges, and Denial of Jesus
As noted elsewhere, most of the comments below are drawn from Borg and Crossan's book, The Last Week. Higly recommended.
And I also use, and highly recommend, the Social Science Commentary series by Bruce Malina, et. al.
Betrayal and Arrest
While Jesus has been praying, Judas has been betraying.
Judas arrives with a crowd. This crowd is not the same folks who were "the crowd" five short days ago on Palm Sunday. That crowd had cheers for Jesus. This crowd has clubs and swords. This crowd is in the service of the religious authorities. (They would not be allowed by the Roman patrols to be armed and out at night unless they were "official.")
This crowd doesn't even know who Jesus is - couldn't recognize him on their own. And so Judas not only must lead them to the place where Jesus is, but must also single him out from among his followers. The pre-arranged sign is the customary greeting of a kiss on the cheek.
Jesus' comment highlights the point Mark is making. Jesus has honourably done everything out in the open, in the light of day. The religious authorities are acting dishonourably, by stealth, under the cover of darkness.
The curious incident of the young man who runs off naked is just that - curious. The most interesting speculation I have ever heard about this young man is that he is Mark, the author of this Gospel.
Jesus Before the Religious Authorities
Verse 54 is the first slice of a Mark Sandwich that asks us to chew on the falseness of the witnesses within the Council and the falseness of the witness of Peter in the courtyard.
Mark emphasizes that the testimony of the witnesses brought against Jesus was both false and did not agree. Two witnesses who agree are needed to convict.
Having failed to convict Jesus based on the testimony of others, the chief priest then seeks to elicit a confession from Jesus: Verse 60, "Have you no answer? What is it that they testify against you?" Verse 61, "Are you the Messiah?"
Jesus' response in Verse 62 is more ambiguous than the NRSV translation suggests. It could equally well be translated as, "I am, am I?" However, the chief priest follows the lead of the NRSV translators and ignores the ambiguity.
Jesus is convicted, and the real intention of the religious authorities is enacted immediately.
That is, it is not enough merely to kill Jesus. The authorities must also kill his honour; kill the esteem in which "the crowd" hold him. They must kill his mission.
The public actions of spitting on Jesus, blindfolding him, striking him, mocking him, and beating him are all intended to shame / discredit / dishonour Jesus. They demonstrate / restore the authority and power of the elites over Jesus.
However, way back in Chapter 10, Mark 10:32-34, Jesus had already foretold that this is precisely what the authorities were going to do to him:
they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him.
Mark 10:33-34 NRSV
And so, once again, Jesus wins the honour competition with the authorities.
His followers will later look back on the actions of the authorities and see NOT the discrediting of Jesus. They will see confirmation of his honoured status as God's Son because he was able to foretell exactly what the authorities did.
Peter's Denial of Knowing Jesus
Peter's denial of Jesus is about as low on the pole you can go in terms of demonstrating one's loyalty as a follower of Jesus. Even Judas' betrayal is more forthright and honest than Peter's lying.
And three times indicates the lying disloyalty is total and complete.
Fortunately for Peter, Jesus also foretold of his false testimony, and gave him a sign, an auditory signal that would trigger his memory of Jesus saying this.
And so the story does not end with Peter's total disloyalty. It ends with his remembering Jesus, and with that, the story ends with Peter's total remorse.
Whereas Jesus' foretelling of the actions of the elites confirmed his status as God's Son; the foretelling of Peter's actions confirms for his followers the wisdom, mercy and compassion of Jesus. Amazing grace indeed.
With the crowing of the cock, dawn arrives, and we move from the events of Thursday to Jesus' last day - Friday.
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* Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Bruce J. Malina and Richard Rohrbaugh, Social Science Commentary on ... The Synoptic Gospels; The Gospel of John; The Book of Acts; The Letters of Paul; The Book of Revelation; and others.
+ Link to Amazon.com Bibliography for Amy-Jill Levine and Marc Zvi Brettler, Jewish Annotated New Testament, The Bible With and Without Jesus, Short Stories by Jesus, Entering the Passion of Jesus, and others.