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PLOT & PROVIDENCE – Mark 14:1-2, 10-11

Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on March 19, 2017 under 2016 |

Preached Sunday, March 12, 2017 from Mark 14:1-9

Theme: What men plotted for our Lord’s destruction, God providentially ordered for our salvation.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

Recently, we have been studying together from the fourteenth chapter of Mark’s Gospel—and from what it tells us about the few days that preceded the crucifixion of our Savior on the cross for us. We return to that chapter again this morning.

But before we look at it together, I ask that you turn with me to the last chapter of the first book of the Bible—the Book of Genesis—and to a verse that is found in Genesis 50. I believe that that’s were we will find an important principle concerning our sovereign God that stands behind what we read in our passage this morning.

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In the later chapters of the Book of Genesis, we find the story of Joseph and his brothers—the patriarchs of the Jewish people. Joseph was a young man who was particularly loved by his father Jacob; and for that reason, he was particularly hated by his brothers. Early in his life, they plotted together to kill him. And instead of killing him, they ended up holding him as a prisoner, then selling him off into slavery to a foreigner, and then pretending to his father that he had been killed. They thought they had gotten rid of this annoying brother once and for all.

But it turned out that he was passed in servitude from one master to another until—in the providence of God—he was placed into the position of being the prime-minister of the mighty Egyptian empire; second in power only to Pharaoh himself. And when a great famine had struck the land, it was from that position of power and authority that he was used by God to save the the lives of his father and his brothers—and thus preserve the twelve tribes of Israel.

After their father Jacob had died in peace in the land of Egypt, Joseph’s brothers came and bowed before him in great fear. They thought that now—after their father was gone—Joseph’s mind would be turned against them in revenge for having so cruelly sold him into slavery those many years before. But Joseph comforted and assured them; and said, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God?” And in one of the most amazing verses in all the Book of Genesis—Genesis 50:20—Joseph told them;

But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

I ask you to look at those words carefully. They do not say that his brothers meant evil against him; and that God then simply ‘changed it into’ something good. That, of course, would be amazing enough. But instead, the word “meant” in reference to the intention of the brothers is the same word that is used in reference to the intention of God; and the very same thing that the brothers ‘meant’ (that is, ‘evil toward Joseph’) was thus ‘meant’ by God for Joseph’s good and for the salvation of many people—including the very brothers who ‘meant’ the evil in the first place! The same thing that they meant for evil, God—in His sovereignty—meant for good. In other words, He ‘meant’ their ‘meant’; but He ‘meant’ it for a different end than the end for which they ‘meant’ it! And His ‘meant’ always wins out!

This, I believe, gives us one of the most important principles we can learn about the sovereign power of our great God. I know that it sometimes causes great difficulty for people; but the difficulty has very little to do with the statement of the principle itself, and much to do instead with our limitations as frail human beings in being able to grasp it. But the principle is simply this: God is so sovereign that what human beings intend for evil, God intends—ultimately—for good. Those human agents of evil remain 100% morally responsible for the evil that they intend and do. But He is truly so complete in His providential care of His people, and so utterly rules over every aspect of His created universe, that no evil human being can even do any evil act without it being done under the providential permission God; and in such a way that it fulfills His ultimate purpose for the good of all those people upon whom He has placed His eternal love.

I don’t believe that I can expresses that in a way that would satisfy all the questions or solve all the problems that everyone might have with it. I’m not sure that any human being can do so. But dear brothers and sisters in Christ; that doesn’t stop me from completely believing it! As it says in Romans 8:28, “all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose …” Others can hassle and fuss with it if they wish; but as for me, I rest my entire life upon it—and will confidently expect that I will see the truth of it fully vindicated in the day of glory.

It is, to my mind, one of the greatest truths anyone can ever grasp. And the reason I point it out to you this morning is because I believe it is this great truth that explains our passage this morning in the Gospel of Mark.

In no other case than in that of the cross of Jesus Christ can we find it demonstrated to us more clearly and more dramatically that what men meant for evil, God meant for good.

* * * * * * * * * * *

So then; turn now with me to Mark 14.

This passage describes the events of the end of the day on Wednesday (according to Roman reckoning), or the beginning of the day on Thursday (according to Jewish reckoning) before Jesus went to the cross. The animosity that the religious leaders felt toward Jesus was growing; and in verses 1-2, we find them plotting evil. Mark tells us;

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. But they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people” (Mark 14:1-2).

Last week, we considered the story of what was occurring in the town of Bethany—just a couple of miles away from where the Jewish leaders were meeting and plotting. Verses 3-9 tell us;

And being in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came having an alabaster flask of very costly oil of spikenard. Then she broke the flask and poured it on His head. But there were some who were indignant among themselves, and said, “Why was this fragrant oil wasted? For it might have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they criticized her sharply. But Jesus said, “Let her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, and whenever you wish you may do them good; but Me you do not have always. She has done what she could. She has come beforehand to anoint My body for burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (vv. 3-9).

And that story—book-ended, as it were, by the story about the religious leaders—shows us that the things that were about to happen to Jesus were no mystery to Him. He knew in advance what would occur But it also helps to explain the actions of Judas—who, after hearing the Lord’s rebuke, and also the Lord’s approval of the action of the woman, then arose and went to the chief priests and scribes. In doing so, he brought about an important alteration to their plans. Verses 10-11 tell us;

Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them. And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money. So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him (vv. 10-11).

This act has gone down as one of the the most notorious acts of evil in all of human history. But it also ends up displaying that great truth—that what human beings may mean for evil, God nevertheless means for good. It was this very plan that was crafted by the chief priests and scribes, and with the aid of Judas—this very plan to bring about great evil—that God providentially ordained all along to bring about the eternal good of salvation to fallen humanity.

* * * * * * * * * *

I believe we see this clearly when we compare the plot of men with the providence of God. So first, let’s go through this story and consider …


Let’s begin by considering carefully the original timing of their plan. Verse 1 tells us that it was only two days away from the Passover.

As we discussed last week, the Passover was one of the most important days on the Jewish calendar. It was the celebration that God commanded the Jewish people to observe in order to commemorate the night—long ago during their bondage in Egypt—when He came and delivered them from the final plague He had brought upon the Egyptian people.

Exodus 12 tells us that on that night long ago, the people were to slay a lamb that they had kept in their home for a few days; and they were to smear the blood of that lamb upon the doorposts of their house. When the angel of death came to take the lives of the first-born of the Egyptians, he would see the blood on the doorpost and ‘pass-over’ that house. It’s an Old Testament picture of the salvation that God would bring about for us through the blood of His Son on the cross—the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When the chief priests and scribes were crafting their plan to kill the Lord Jesus, it was only two days away from the commemoration of that event—the Passover.

And what’s more, it was only two days before the beginning of the Feast of Unleavened Bread. That was another feast that God commanded the Jewish people to observe. In observing this feast, every Jewish family was to search through their home and make sure that there was no leaven in it. For seven days after Passover, they were to eat only unleavened bread in their home. It was to commemorate the haste with which they left the land of Egypt and made their way to the promised land; and it was to illustrate the holiness and purity of heart with which they were to present themselves to God their Deliverer. The beginning of the observance of that week-long feast was only two days away when the chief priests and scribes made their plan to destroy the Lord Jesus.

So; that’s when they crafted their plan. And then notice why they were crafting it. They had been meeting together to seek how they might take Jesus by ‘trickery’ or ‘deceit’, and put Him to death.

Why were they doing this? Clearly it was out of jealousy and out of a sense of political protection. The people of Israel were increasingly turning away from them and to the Lord Jesus instead. And perhaps the greatest commentary we could find about their intention is what the apostle John tells us about it in John 11. Jesus had just raised His friend Lazarus alive from out of the tomb; and now everyone was becoming convinced that Jesus was the promised Messiah. The news of what Jesus did was reported to the religious leaders; and John tells us;

Then the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered a council and said, “What shall we do? For this Man works many signs. If we let Him alone like this, everyone will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and nation.” And one of them, Caiaphas, being high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all, nor do you consider that it is expedient for us that one man should die for the people, and not that the whole nation should perish.” Now this he did not say on his own authority; but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for that nation only, but also that He would gather together in one the children of God who were scattered abroad. Then, from that day on, they plotted to put Him to death (John 11:47-53).

John goes on to tell us, in John 11:57, that “both the chief priests and the Pharisees had given a command, that if anyone knew where He was, he should report it, that they might seize Him.”

So; that’s the ‘when’ and the ‘why’ of their evil plan. And finally, notice the ‘how’. They were still seeking how specifically to go about it all; but Mark 14:2 tells us, “But they said, ‘Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar of the people.’”

The Scriptures commanded that the Passover must be celebrated in Jerusalem. And Jewish families were coming from all over the known world to the holy city. Some ancient estimates suggest that there may have been almost 2 million people making pilgrimage into the city at this time. And many of them had grown to have strong opinions about Jesus because of the things they heard that He had done. John 7:31 suggests what their opinion of Him might have been: “When the Christ comes, will He do more signs than these which this Man has done?”

And so, these religious leaders where convinced that, if they killed Jesus during the Passover, they would cause a riot. They planned instead, therefore, to capture Him by trickery and kill Him after the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread had been completed—and after the vast crowds had all gone home.

But that’s when Judas came to them—and completely changed the specifics of their plan.

I believe that the tipping point for Judas came when Jesus was anointed by the woman in Bethany. He had been that disciple among the twelve who had been given the responsible for the money box; but he kept dipping his hand in and thieving what was put into it. He was the one who complained the most about how much the fragrant oil that the woman had poured on Jesus had cost. And it wasn’t because he cared for the poor either. It was because now he wouldn’t be able to lay his hands on more money. And when Jesus kept talking increasingly about ‘dying’ and being ‘buried’; he became increasingly disillusioned and disappointed in his own aspirations of Jesus. He had been among those who had hoped that Jesus would reign on earth as a military conqueror—and he expected to have an honored position in Jesus’ earthly kingdom as one of His close followers. The incident with the woman was the last straw for him. We’re told in verse 10, “Then Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve, went to the chief priests to betray Him to them.” He was going to get what he could—while there was still a chance to get it.

And for their part, those religious leaders were thrilled! This was better than anything they could have imagined up to that point! They never would have thought that they could have gotten one of Jesus’ own disciples to turn against Him and to become their ally in their plot! Mark tells us in verse 11, “And when they heard it, they were glad, and promised to give him money.” As it turns out, they gave him thirty-pieces of silver—which we could safely estimate to be somewhere between two to four hundred dollars in modern terms. It was a lot less than the 300 denarii Judas had complained about earlier; but as far as he was concerned, it was enough to motivate him to betray his Lord.

The last words of verse 11 make us cringe: “So he sought how he might conveniently betray Him.” And as we know, that convenient time came immediately after our Lord’s last supper with His disciples—while He even ate with Judas, and then released Judas to ‘do what he would do quickly’, and then went with His disciples into the Garden of Gethsemane to wait for the betrayer to come—and all on the very evening when the Passover lamb was to be slain.

* * * * * * * * * *

Now; that was the plan of wicked men concerning our Lord. But the details of their plan was not the same as the details of God’s plan. Let’s stop now and consider …


First, you’ll notice that the religious leaders had planned to put Jesus to death after the Passover, and after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. They wanted to kill Him after these things—and after the vast crowds had gone home—so as not to cause an uproar among the people.

And in that they sought to put the Son of God to death, to that degree they were serving God’s sovereign will. Jesus had been making this clear to His disciples all along. In Mark 8:31 tells us what He told His disciples in the course of His journeys with them:

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again (Mark 8:31).

He “must” suffer these things. We also find this in Mark 9:31—with a new bit of information;

For He taught His disciples and said to them, “The Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of men, and they will kill Him. And after He is killed, He will rise the third day” (Mark 9:31).

He lets them know that He wouldn’t just ‘suffer’ these things; but that He would be ‘betrayed’ into them. And in Mark 10:32-24; we read this:

Now they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was going before them; and they were amazed. And as they followed they were afraid. Then He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them the things that would happen to Him: “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death and deliver Him to the Gentiles; and they will mock Him, and scourge Him, and spit on Him, and kill Him. And the third day He will rise again” (Mark 10:32-34).

In terms of putting our Lord to death, what the chief priests and scribes did was—unbeknownst to them—in perfect accord with the sovereign plan of God. But they wanted it to be done after the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And this would not do! Our God determined that His Son—our Passover Lamb—would be slain on Passover Day, and on no other day!

And so, they were searching around for the best means to slay our Lord. They had been trying to catch Jesus with ‘this trick’ and ‘that trap’. But God had already sovereignly established how it would happen. In Psalm 41:9, King David wrote these prophetic words:

Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted,Who ate my bread,

Has lifted up his heel against me (Psalm 41:9).

Do you remember what Jesus once said about the disciples back in John 6? He turned to them, because of their devotion to Him, and He said; “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” (John 6:70). In the next verse, John wrote, “He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.” At His last supper with His disciples, He announced to them all that He would be betrayed—and His betrayer would be the one to whom He dipped and gave a piece of bread. He dipped … and then handed the piece of bread to Judas.

So no matter what the chief priests and the scribes had planned, or how they had planned it to go, or even when they planned it to happen, God so superintended their plan that what they meant for evil, He meant for the great good of our salvation.

* * * * * * * * * * *

Now; what do we do with this? How do we respond? Let me make a couple of suggestions.

First, I believe we should respond with a sense of wonder at the sovereignty of God. It is true that evil things happen in this world; but our God is sovereign over even the evil designs of wicked men; and causes them to accomplishes His good purposes. The greatest of these good purposes was the salvation of our souls through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross.

Just consider the great sermon that the apostle Peter preached in Acts 2—a sermon preached in the power of the Holy Spirit to the very ones who had crucified our Lord. He told them;

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—Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom 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).

There was no mere coincidence to this. It was by “the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God” that evil men crucified our Lord—and all so that, in verses 38-39, Peter could tell them;

Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call” (vv. 38-39).

That’s how we should respond to this—with a sense of wonder and the greatness of our God’s sovereign love for us. And we cannot truly respond in wonder to it unless we respond with all our heart—repenting of our sins and believing on His sacrifice for us. I sincerely hope you have done so.

And for those of us who have done so, there’s another response suggested in 1 Corinthians 5. The apostle Paul wrote to a group of people who had professed to believe on Jesus, but who were allowing sin to take root in their lives—and who were even proud of how open they were to sinful things. Paul wrote and told them;

Your glorying is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Therefore purge out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump, since you truly are unleavened … (1 Corinthians 5:6-7a).

And why? He goes on …

For indeed Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth (vv. 7b-8).

What wicked men meant for evil, our sovereign God meant for our good—our salvation through faith in the blood of Jesus shed on the cross; and our ongoing purity of life through His sacrifice for us as our Passover Lamb.

Let’s make sure that God’s sovereign plan through Jesus’ sacrifice finds fulfillment in us!

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