This is a Bible study on Mark 14:53-65.

6 pages.

Mark 14:53-65 - Be Assured of God’s Sovereign Control

Read Mark 14:53-65; John 18:12-14, 19-24 and Luke 22:66-23:5.


The upheaval actually began on April 15, 1989, touched off by the death of a former Chinese Communist Party leader. When he died, some Beijing students treated him as a martyr, pouring into the streets to demand democracy and reform. By May 13, about one thousand students had begun a hunger strike in the center of Beijing at a place called Tiananmen Square.

As the weeks passed, the student protesters were joined by railway workers, coal miners, factory workers, and peasants. By Wednesday, May 31, more than one million demonstrators jammed the streets of Beijing, and the number of hunger strikers at Tiananmen Square had grown to three thousand; by now, the protests had spread to some thirty-four other Chinese cities.

For seven weeks the world marveled at the restraint exhibited by both the Beijing government and the thousands of demonstrators who occupied Tiananmen Square. But then it happened. Beginning in the early morning hours of Sunday, June 4, Communist China experienced the worst day of bloodshed in its history. One Beijing student summed it up: We saw evil...and it horrified us.1

The night that is described for us in the eighteenth chapter of John can even more accurately be identified as the manifestation of pure evil. Jesus Himself described it as the hour that belonged to the power of darkness. Speaking to the mob and the Jewish leaders who came to take Him into custody, the Lord Jesus declared, “this is your hour, and [that of] the power of darkness” (Lk. 22:53). But even when confronted with such an hour as this, we may have confidence in God’s sovereign control over all things, recognizing that He even employs the evil strategies of His enemies to accomplish His own divine purpose.

As we consider the trial of our Lord Jesus Christ, this is the great truth we must come to appreciate: We may be assured of God’s sovereign control over all things, and the certainty that He will cause His divine purpose to be victoriously accomplished despite all opposition.

Be Assured of God’s Sovereign Control, Even When Evil Asserts Itself🔗

Mark 14:53 indicates that in the middle of the night Jesus was led away to the house of Caiaphas, the high priest, where there awaited Him a hastily assembled meeting of the Sanhedrin. John informs us (Jn. 18:13) that although Caiaphas was the high priest, it was Annas, his father-in-law, who actually presided over this inquisition. Annas was “the godfather” of political and religious authority and corruption in Israel.

According to John 18:19, the high priest questioned Jesus about His disciples and His teaching, hoping that perhaps Jesus might reveal something incriminating. No formal charge was brought against Jesus; on the contrary, His enemies sought to make Him incriminate Himself. This whole process was illegal. It was the responsibility of the accusers to bring charges against the defendant and to produce witnesses; it was not the defendant’s responsibility to demonstrate his own innocence.2

According to John 18:21, Jesus responded by challenging the high priest to question His hearers themselves about His teaching. Failing in their attempt to have Jesus incriminate Himself, and being sensitive to Jesus’ charge that His accusers must produce witnesses against Him, the Jewish leaders now proceed to a formal trial (Jn. 18:24).

Now the counsel sought to produce witnesses against Jesus (Mk. 14:55); even resorting to false witnesses: “Now the chief priests and the whole council sought false testimony against Jesus, so that they might put him to death” (Matt. 26:59). The counsel is not interested in truth and justice, their sole concern is their desire to eliminate Jesus; they now look for some pretext or justification to carry out their crime.

But they are unable to produce even two false witnesses to suit their purpose. Many false witnesses came forward, but no two of them were in agreement (Mk. 14:55b-56). The counsel is finally able to produce two witnesses who testify that Jesus spoke against the temple; but even then their testimony did not agree, and the chief priest failed to get Jesus to respond to their charge:

Then certain men stood up and bore false testimony against him, saying, 58We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, Hone that is] made without hands. 59But not even then did their testimonies agree with each other. 60Then the high priest, standing in the midst Hof the assembly], asked Jesus, Do you have no response? What is this testimony that these men are bringing against you? 61But he kept quiet and made no reply. Mk. 14:57-61a

As we consider the trial of the Lord Jesus Christ, we see evil asserting itself. Here is the effort of self-serving, evil men to murder the one truly innocent man; and to do so by means of the legal system that was intended by God to promote justice by condemning the guilty and acquitting the righteous. But even when evil asserts itself, be assured of God’s sovereign control.

Be Assured of God’s Sovereign Control, Even When Evil Appears to Be in Charge🔗

Frustrated once again, the chief priest must seek yet another approach in his effort to bring a charge against Jesus, a charge that would merit the death penalty. The chief priest now demands that Jesus Himself take the witness stand and under oath answer the question, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed [One]?” (Mk. 14:61b)

Having been put under oath and being directly asked to confirm or deny His true identity, the Lord Jesus affirms the truth: “Jesus said, ‘I am; and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Mk. 14:62). Note here Jesus’ absolute commitment to the truth. If He had denied His deity, the charge against Him would have been dismissed and the awful death of the cross would have been avoided. But to do so would have been to deny the truth, and that was something the incarnate Son of God refused to do, indeed, it was something He could not do because it was totally contrary to His nature, as the One who is “the truth” (Jn. 14:6).

Upon hearing Jesus’ reply, the chief priest demonstrates his prejudice against the Lord. Without weighing the evidence for or against Jesus’ claim, he arbitrarily accuses Jesus of speaking blasphemy: “Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, He has spoken blasphemy!” (Matt. 26:65a) He determines that there is no further need of producing witnesses; he takes Jesus’ testimony as being self-incriminating: “Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy” (Matt. 26:65b). Having interpreted Jesus’ testimony as blasphemy, the chief priest declares the members of the counsel to be witnesses and calls upon them to render the appropriate sentence: “You have heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” (Mk. 14:64a) According to Mark 14:64b, the council unanimously delivers a guilty verdict, then with mocking contempt they turn Jesus over to the temple guard for imprisonment (Mk. 14:65).

As we consider the trial of the Lord Jesus, evil appears to be charge: the chief priest and the counsel have contrived to bring an accusation against the one innocent man, using His own righteous testimony to condemn Him to death. But even when evil appears to be in charge, be assured of God’s sovereign control.

Be Assured of God’s Sovereign Control, Even When Evil Appears to Triumph🔗

According to Mark 15:1, very early the next morning another assembly of the Sanhedrin was convened for the purpose of officially passing sentence against Jesus. According to Jewish law, a prisoner could not be sentenced on the same day as his trial.3

Then from Luke 22:66-71 we learn that there was a re-enactment of the trial that had taken place the previous night. This was a necessary formality, for no session of the Jewish Council was regarded as valid if held during the night.4

Having officially passed sentence against Jesus, they now bound Him and brought Him before Pilate, the Roman governor (Mk. 15:1b). The reason they did so was due to the fact that the Jews did not have the authority to carry out the death penalty, as we learn from their testimony before Pilate:

So Pilate came out to them and asked, 'What charges are you bringing against this man?' 30'If he were not a criminal,' they replied, 'we would not have handed him over to you.' 31Pilate said, 'Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.' 'But we have no right to execute anyone,' the Jews objected. Jn. 18:29-31

It is bitterly ironic that the Jewish leaders testify, “We have no right to execute anyone,” as they seek to murder, by means of the legal system, an innocent man.

Before Pilate, the chief priests accused Jesus of many things, including inciting the people to revolt, in their effort to convince Pilate that He should be sentenced to death: “They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man subverting our nation, and forbidding men to pay taxes to Caesar, and claiming that he himself is the Christ, a king’” (Lk. 23:2). Note that the charge against Jesus is altered from blasphemy, (a criminal offense under Jewish law), to revolutionary activities, (a criminal offense under Roman law).

The Jewish leaders succeeded in stirring up the multitude of the people to demand Jesus’ crucifixion and they finally succeeded in getting Pilate to acquiesce in handing Jesus over for crucifixion:

Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowds that they should ask for Barabbas, and have Jesus put to death. 21Then the governor asked them, Which of the two would you have me release for you? And they said, Barabbas. 22Pilate said to them, What then shall I do with Jesus who is called the Christ? They all said, Let him be crucified. 23But he said, Why, what evil has he done? But they cried out vehemently, Let him be crucified. 24So when Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but rather that a riot was developing, he took water, and washed his hands before the crowd, testifying, I am innocent of the blood of this righteous man; you see to it. 25And all the people responded, Let his blood be upon us and upon our children. 27Then he released Barabbas for them; but Jesus he scourged and handed over to be crucified. Matt. 27:20-26

As we consider the trial of the Lord Jesus, it appears that evil has triumphed: the Jewish leaders have gained the support of the crowds, (the very crowds who a few days earlier had greeted Jesus as the promised Son of David), and have coerced the Roman governor to condemn this one truly innocent man to death, (Pilate himself declared Jesus’ innocence).

But even when evil appears to triumph, be assured of God’s sovereign control. Listen to the prayer and the divinely-inspired testimony of the early church:

For truly, against your Holy Servant, Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28to do whatever your hand [i.e. your power] and your purpose foreordained to come to pass. Acts 4:27-28

The crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ was the very means appointed by God to gain victory over the devil and provide for our salvation:

Christ...forgave us all our sins, 14having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross. 15And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by [the cross].Col. 2:13-15

Then, we must always remember that on the third day after the crucifixion, came the resurrection of this One whom the LORD God has appointed to be the Judge of all the earth:

...[God] has appointed a day on which he will judge the world with righteousness by the man whom he has ordained, he has given assurance of this to all by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:31


As Christians, we must remember that God sovereignly used the greatest act of evil, (the mock trial and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus), as an instrument in His hand for the accomplishment of our salvation.

And He may sovereignly choose to employ similar acts of evil for the promotion of the gospel, as the Apostle Paul testifies concerning his own imprisonment for Christ and the gospel:

Now I want you to know, brothers, that the things that have happened to me have [actually] resulted in the advancement of the gospel. 13It has become evident to the whole Praetorian guard and to everyone else that I am a prisoner for Christ. 14Furthermore, [due to my imprisonment], many of the brothers have become much more confident in the Lord, taking it upon themselves to speak the word without fear.Phil. 1:12-14

A very dramatic example in recent times is the unexpected result of the evil perpetrated at Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989, as reported in WORLD Magazine, 2/3/90:

During the last half of 1989, thousands of Chinese students and intellectuals turned to Christianity. Their interest in the Christian faith can be traced directly to the violence and evil perpetrated the previous June by the Communist government at Tiananmen Square.

When the Chinese government put down the pro-democracy movement with unconscionable ferocity and cruelty, China’s students saw two truths clearly for the first time, and these revelations set them on the road to Christianity. They saw that the Chinese Communist Party could not be trusted; the system’s violent core had been exposed and, consequently, its credibility was gone. Second, and even more importantly, the students saw the manifestation of evil operating in and through people; this experience was the radical opposite of all they had been taught: all Chinese religion for the past 5000 years, as well as Communism, had taught that man was basically good and only circumstances made him bad.

But the brutality witnessed at Tiananmen Square had little to do with circumstances: the pro-democracy movement had just about come to an end. Should the government resort to violent atrocities, the loss of trade and prestige with the West could have been catastrophic. Nevertheless, the Chinese government chose to resort to violence, and that against peaceful, unarmed fellow countrymen, indeed, against the youth who were the very future of the nation. As one student stated, “We saw pure evil in June, and it horrified us.”

Sobered by the carnage, and disillusioned by the system that permitted it, the students looked to religion; but which religion? They could not turn to the Chinese religions, because, as one student phrased it, “they were based on a premise we [now] knew to be untrue, that people are morally good.” Another student testified, “I turned to Christianity because it seemed the only realistic religion; it told us we have evil tendencies, but this evil could be conquered.”

“If those bullets had been rubber, we students would never have gone through the nightmare and trauma that has brought a Christian revival among us.” So it was that the very day in which evil asserted itself and even appeared to triumph, God sovereignly used it to turn many to Christ.

As we witness the world around us, or when we ourselves are personally victimized by the evil perpetrated by men and by the devil himself, let us be assured that God, by His sovereign power and control, shall cause His will and His good purpose to be victoriously accomplished: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, those who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

Discussion Questions🔗

  1. Describe the scene in the garden of Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’s arrest. See Mk. 14:43/14:53. What evidence is there that the Lord is in sovereign control of the situation? See Jn. 18:4-6 (cp. vs. 6 with Ex. 3:14) What does this tell us about Jesus’ true identity?

Immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. He was accompanied by a large crowd from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders, [armed] with swords and clubs. Mk. 14:43

They took Jesus to the high priest; and all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes assembled together with him. Mk. 14:53

Jesus, knowing all that was about to happen to him, went forward and asked them, For whom are you looking? 5They replied, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am he. Now Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When he said to them, I am he, they went backward and fell to the ground. Jn. 18:4-6

And God said to Moses, 'I AM WHO I AM.' And he said, 'Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.' Ex. 3:14

  1. What does Peter initially do in an effort to prevent our Lord’s arrest? See Jn. 18:10a. What could Jesus have been to prevent His arrest? See Matt. 26:53. What would have happened had Christ not gone through the ordeal of the cross that was divinely-appointed for Him? Note Lk. 24:26, 46-47; Gal. 3:13,

Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. Now the servant’s name was Malchus. Jn. 18:10

Jesus restrained His disciples from “defending” Him by declaring:

Or do you think that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he will provide me with more than twelve legions of angels? Matt. 26:53

26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory? ... 46and [Jesus] said to them, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47and that repentance and remission of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. Lk. 24:26, 46-47

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written, 'Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree' ... Gal. 3:13

  1. What was the Jewish council’s purpose in seeking evidence (cf. Mk. 14:55a); what does this tell you about the type of trial that was being conducted? Were they able to find any evidence that would suit their purpose? See Mk. 14:55b. What does this lack of evidence tell us about our Lord and His worthiness to be our Savior? Note 2 Cor. 5:21; 1 Pet. 3:18,

Now the chief priests and the whole council sought evidence against Jesus so that they might put him to death; but they could not find any. Mk. 14:55

...[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin for us, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him. 2 Cor. 5:21

Christ indeed died for sins once for all, the Righteous One for the unrighteous ones, so that he might bring us to God. He was put to death in the flesh but made alive [again] by the Spirit.1 Pet. 3:18

  1. How does the high priest’s question (cf. Mk. 14:61b) compare to Peter’s confession? See Matt. 16:16. How did Jesus respond to Peter’s confession? See Matt. 16:16-17. How will He now respond to the high priest, knowing what will be the result of giving an affirmative answer to his question? See Mk. 14:62. What does this tell us about our Lord’s commitment to truth, to His divine integrity (cf. 2 Tim. 2:13b), and to His promises made to us who are His disciples (cf. Jn. 6:37)?

Again the high priest asked him, Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One? Mk. 14:61b

Simon Peter answered and said, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.' 17Jesus answered and said to him, 'Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.' Matt. 16:16-17

And Jesus said, I am; and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. Mk. 14:62

If we are faithless, he remains faithful; he cannot deny himself.2 Tim. 2:13

All whom the Father gives me will come to me; and he who comes to me I will by no means reject... Jn. 6:37

  1. The next day, when the Jewish leaders bring Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor, what charges do they bring against Him? See Lk. 23:2. How do these charges compare to the charges they brought against Jesus before the Sanhedrin? See Mk. 14:62-64. What is the penalty for each of these two crimes; the one before Jewish law, the other before Roman law? What charge does Peter bring against “the men of Israel”? See Acts 2:22-24. What sovereign role did God have in this whole matter? What should all this elicit from all who have been redeemed by our Lord’s sin-atoning death and subsequent resurrection? Note Rom. 11:33, 36; Rev. 19:6-7a,

They began to accuse him, saying, We found this man subverting our nation, and forbidding men to pay taxes to Caesar, and claiming that he himself is the Christ, a king. Lk. 23:2

And Jesus said, I am; and you shall see the Son of man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven. 63Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, What further need have we of witnesses? 64You have heard the blasphemy; what do you think? And they all condemned him as being worthy of death. Mk. 14:62-64

Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— 23him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that he should be held by it. Acts 2:22-24

33Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and his ways past finding out! ...36for of him and through him and to him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen. Rom. 11:33, 36

And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, 'Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! 7Let us be glad and rejoice and give him glory... Rev. 19:6-7a


  1. ^ WORLD Magazine, 2/3/90, 6.
  2. ^ Leon Morris, “The Gospel According to John,” The New International Commentary on The New Testament, (Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971), 755.
  3. ^ Leon Morris, “The Gospel According to John,” The New International Commentary on The New Testament, 747.
  4. ^ Norval Geldenhuys, “Commentary on the Gospel of Luke,” The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Reprint., (Grand Rapids MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1968), 587 and footnote on p. 589.

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