Mark 15: “For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy”

Mark 15: “For he knew that the chief priests had handed Him over because of envy”

This statement is made of Pilate after spending time with Jesus and his accusers. One important point of note here, namely the power of envy.

We often tend to think of sins categorically by their perceived level of vileness or danger. Murder is always atop our mental lists, and sexual sins like adultery and homosexuality usually find their way near the top. Envy probably doesn’t come immediately to mind for most of us, but it should. Envy killed our Lord.

Yes, I know that Jesus had to die to take away my sins, and not mine only, but the sins of the whole world. But it was envy that caused the Jews to deliver Him up to Pilate for execution.

In Jesus’ list of sins of the heart that defile a man, Mark’s account includes “evil eye.” Commenting on this verse and this specific phrase, the UBS NT Handbook Series writes, “in Jewish thinking, envy.” Vincent’s Word Studies says, “A malicious, mischief-working eye, with the meaning on positive, injurious activity.”

I find this latter definition particularly intriguing as in my mind I had already thought of the severed relationship between King Saul and David. Upon hearing the women sing that “Saul has slain his thousands and David his ten thousands” (2 Sam 18:7), Saul became envious of David, and 2 Samuel 18:8 says “So Saul eyed David from that day forward.”

What had David done? Only accepted the challenge to dispense with Israel’s greatest threat and enemy, namely Goliath. What had Saul promised to the man who could kill Goliath? Great riches, his daughter in marriage, and the victor’s family being exempt from paying taxes.

Yet, upon hearing the simple extemporaneous song of women caused envy to rear its ugly head in Saul and caused him to attempt to murder his son in law who was a national hero (2 Sam 18:11; 19:10), and one whom he eventually admitted was more honorable than himself (2 Sam 24:17). In fact, Saul’s envy was so great that he attempted to kill his own son for defending David’s honor (2 Sam 20:33), and eventually murdered God’s priest for the same (2 Sam 22:6ff). Envy is indeed a green-eyed monster!

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