What does Mark 14:1 mean?
ESV: It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him,
NIV: Now the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread were only two days away, and the chief priests and the teachers of the law were scheming to arrest Jesus secretly and kill him.
NASB: Now the Passover and Festival of Unleavened Bread were two days away; and the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest Him covertly and kill Him;
CSB: It was two days before the Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a cunning way to arrest Jesus and kill him.
NLT: It was now two days before Passover and the Festival of Unleavened Bread. The leading priests and the teachers of religious law were still looking for an opportunity to capture Jesus secretly and kill him.
KJV: 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.
NKJV: After two days it was the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take Him by trickery and put Him to death.
Verse Commentary:
Where Mark mentions the chief priests and scribes, Matthew includes the elders. Unlike a "high priest," the "chief priests" referred to here are not official offices ordained by God. Rather, they seem to be those priests with particular influence. Scribes are experts in the Mosaic law. They have a long history of arguing with Jesus because Jesus does not respect their traditional extensions of those commands. Elders are the well-respected, powerful businessmen of Jerusalem. Together, they are a fair representation of the Sanhedrin: the court that determines if a Jew has broken the Mosaic law. They have wanted Jesus destroyed for a long time (Mark 3:6), but the events of the last week (Mark 11:1—12:40) have left them desperate. If they are going to maintain their power, authority, and influence over the people, they need Jesus gone.

Members of the Sanhedrin already conspired at the home of Caiaphas, the high priest (Matthew 26:3–4). It was Caiaphas, through the inspiration of God, who decided Jesus should die: "…it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish" (John 11:50). He thinks Jesus' death would prevent an uprising and protect the Jews from the Roman army. He didn't know God means Jesus' death for salvation for all nations (John 11:45–53).

The Passover is the commemoration of the night God killed the first-born Egyptian men and animals but "passed over" the homes of the Israelites who had put the blood of a lamb on their doorposts, at God's direction. This last plague compelled Pharaoh to agree to let the Israelites free long enough for them to escape over the dried Red Sea (Exodus 12—14). The Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:6–8) is a week-long continuation of this commemoration. The two celebrations are joined together in the minds of the participants and called collectively by either name.

"Stealth" is from the Greek root word dolos. It doesn't just mean to do something in secret; the term implies use of deceit, to be crafty. The Jewish leaders may have hidden their plans from the public, but not from Jesus. Matthew 26:2 mentions that at this time, Jesus tells the disciples "the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified," and Jesus has already warned the disciples at least three times (Mark 8:31; 9:31; 10:33–34).
Verse Context:
Mark 14:1–2 shows that the Jewish leadership is desperate. They have been trying to destroy Jesus since shortly after His ministry began. Jesus is finally back in Jerusalem, where they can corner Him and convince the Romans to execute Him. But a crowd of Galileans is also in town, many of whom publicly declared their assertion that Jesus is the Jewish Messiah (Mark 11:1–10). The Jewish leaders need to arrest Jesus away from the crowd. Before long, they will gain the aid of an unlikely ally (Mark 14:10–11). The chief priests and scribes' machinations are also found in Matthew 26:1–5 and Luke 22:1–2.
Chapter Summary:
Jesus is anointed in a symbolic anticipation of His death. Judas decides to secretly cooperate with local religious leaders to arrest Jesus in secret. During the Passover meal, Jesus predicts His betrayal by Judas, and Peter's denial. He also institutes the Lord's Supper, also known as communion. After praying on the Mount of Olives, Jesus is captured when Judas identifies Him to a hostile mob sent by Jewish authorities. He endures a corrupt, prejudiced trial, ending in a conviction for blasphemy. Peter, fearing for his life, lies about knowing Jesus, before remembering Jesus' prediction and breaking down in sobs.
Chapter Context:
Jesus has finished His public teaching ministry and now prepares for the crucifixion. His sacrificial loyalty will provide the means by which the disciples' abandonment will be forgiven. Next, the Romans, as representatives of Gentiles throughout history, will join the Jews and kill Jesus. Jesus will be buried, but He will rise again with the promise that His sacrifice will redeem the world. Matthew 26 and Luke 22 follow Mark 14 more closely while John 13:1—18:27 records more of Jesus' teaching in the upper room.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Mark emphasizes both Jesus' servanthood and His role as the promised Messiah: the Son of God. This is done through a concise, action-packed style. Mark provides relatively few details, instead focusing on actions and simple statements. This relates to the Gospel's authorship, which is believed to be based on the memories of the apostle Peter. These include many of Jesus' miracles, in contrast to other Gospels which include many more of Jesus' teachings and parables. Mark also makes frequent mention of Jesus' ministry being misunderstood by others.
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