At the end of our last study, we left Jesus in Bethany, at the home of Simon the leper, where Mary anointed Him with some very costly perfume (14:3). Some of the disciples were upset with what she did, Judas Iscariot especially, since he was a thief and in charge of the money bag. We read how Jesus had a different view of her sacrifice and how she would be remembered for what she had done to Him “wherever the gospel is preached” (v. 9).
We also took notice of the sharp contrast between Mary and Judas. Mary was selfless, devoted, and giving. Judas, on the other hand, was selfish, deceitful, and greedy.
We ended that study as Judas Iscariot “went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him” (Jesus). As we continue our study of Mark, We will be meditating on the last Passover meal and how Jesus “transformed” the Passover into the Lord’s Supper, a memorial meal to remember what He had accomplished for us in our deliverance from sin!
12 “On the first day of [a]Unleavened Bread, when [b]the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples *said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 13 And He *sent two of His disciples and *said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”‘ 15 And he himself will show you a large upstairs room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16 The disciples left and came to the city, and found everything just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover.
17 When it was evening He *came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will [c]betray Me—[d]one who is eating with Me.” 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” 20 But He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, the one who dips bread with Me in the bowl.”
FOCUS ONE: The last Passover
The feast of unleavened bread and the Passover are very closely related. The seven days observance of “unleavened bread” directly follows the Passover observance! The feast of unleavened bread lasted seven days, during which all yeast had to be removed from their dwellings. No one could eat anything that had yeast in it or “that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15). On the first day of the feast as well as the seventh day, they were to hold “holy assemblies” or “holy days.”
The celebration of Passover then began. The Passover lamb was slaughtered at twilight, and some of its blood was sprinkled on the altar. The lamb was taken home to be roasted and eaten in the evening with unleavened bread, bitter herbs, charoseth (a paste made of crushed pineapples, dates, pomegranates, and nuts, into which the bread was dipped), and wine (Exodus 12).
I share all that background with you because it is helpful to us in understanding the work that lay before Peter and John (the two disciples sent cr. Luke 22:8) as they go to “prepare” the Passover.
I want to point out something exciting in Mark’s account. Places like this in scripture help us apply some of the big theological themes we hold in our Christianity. In this case, The Lord’s omniscience is on display! Take notice of their question: “Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover” (v. 12)?
Now, observe His answer (read 13-16). I will condense it here. He tells them that they will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water in the city. Follow him wherever he goes and then tell him, “the Teacher says, ‘where is MY guest room in which I may eat the passover with my disciples?” After they telPassoverese things, the Lord says that the man, without any argument, will show them a “large upper room furnished and ready.” So what happened? Everything Jesus said was going to take place, did, and they “found it just as he said” (v. 16).
In the evening, Jesus came with the disciples to celebrate the Passover. What is highlighted here by Mark is the Lord pointing out Judas Iscariot as His betrayer (v.v 17-21). He says, in front of all present, the one who is eating with Him, more clearly the one “who dips with Me in the bowl” (v. 20), is the one who will betray Him!
According to John’s gospel, it is at this point when Judas Iscariot leaves to betray the Lord (John 13:23-30), just as was prophesied in the Old Testament (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53).
As bad as this is, we need to remember and be encouraged by the fact that Jesus was not a victim! Everything that happened was according to God’s “predetermined plan and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23)!
22 While they were eating, He took some bread, and [a]after a blessing He broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” 23 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine again, until that day when I drink it, new, in the kingdom of God.”
26 And after singing a [b]hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
27 And Jesus *said to them, “You will all [c]fall away, because it is written: ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ 28 But after I am raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee.” 29 But Peter said to Him, “Even if they all [d]fall away, yet I will not!” 30 And Jesus *said to him, “Truly I say to you, that [e]this very night, before a rooster crows twice, you yourself will deny Me three times.” 31 But [f]Peter repeatedly said insistently, “Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” And they all were saying the same thing as well.”
FOCUS TWO: The Lord’s supper instituted
We do not know at what part of the meal this took place. Some commentators say it’s most likely just before they eat the roasted lamb. 6
There are a few things here that we don’t want to miss. First, it is important to recognize that Jesus “*establishes the truth of the New Covenant while in the midst of eating the Passover.” When He said, “this is my body,” He gave a new meaning to eating the bread. When He said, “This is the blood of the covenant (new), which is poured out for many,” He gave a new meaning to the cup they drank from.
What the unleavened bread symbolized for generations has now been “transformed” by these words! “The unleavened bread symbolized the severing of the Israelites from their old life in Egypt” (slaves). From now on, the bread will represent Christ’s body that was given as a sacrifice for sin! The shedding of blood was always a requirement in establishing any covenant (Genesis 8:20; Exodus 24:5-8). This cup now represents the blood of Jesus Christ that was shed for “the remission of sins,” thereby establishing the New Covenant promised through the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
Another important point to make here regarding the institution of the Lord’s supper is that the elements represent something; they do not become something other than they are. This is contrary to Catholic teachings. The catechism quotes St. Thomas Aquinas in saying that “in this sacrament are the true body of Christ and His true blood [and]is something that cannot be apprehended by the senses, but only by faith, which relies on divine authority” (CCC1381).
These elements represent something else, something grander, and they do not become it! There are two ways Mark and the other gospel writers could have stated what is going on with the elements. One way would be with the words “Touto estin” representing or standing for. Or, by using the words “Touto gignetai” which means something has become something else. IN ALL CASES, the gospel writers used the first meaning.
Lastly, we notice the promise of Jesus that “I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” What does He mean by this? One commentator explains it this way: “He vowed that He would not drink it in this festive way again until He can drink it anew. He will enjoy renewed table fellowship with His followers in a qualitatively new existence in the kingdom of God.”
We are witnessing the transformation of the Passover meal into the Lord’s supper, yet everything was not “transformed” regarding the meal. The hymns, or most likely “Hallel,” were always sung in connection with the Passover. “The first two (Psalm 113-114) before the meal and the last four (Psalm 114-115) after it to conclude the evening observance. It’s probably the very one that is being referenced here.
19 “And when He had taken some bread and given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body, which is being given for you; do this in remembrance of Me” (LUKE 22:19).
23 “For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.
27 Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy way, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. 28 But a person must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For the one who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not properly recognize the [a]body. 30 For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number [b]are asleep. 31 But if we judged ourselves rightly, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are disciplined by the Lord so that we will not be condemned along with the world.”
FOCUS THREE: This do in remembrance of me
Since the last Passover meal that Jesus had with the disciples and its transformation into “the Lord’s supper,” the church has understood its meaning and significance in daily life. Because New Testament believers understand that the new covenant promised in the book of Jeremiah has been ratified once and for all by the death of Christ (Hebrews 9:28), they celebrate this “memorial Meal” regularly in their corporate worship.
In the Corinthian passage, Paul uses the same terminology as our Lord did when He instituted the meal: “do this in remembrance of me.” There are important reasons why we observe the Lord’s Supper. The first reason would be focused on the congregation as a whole. “To show the Lord’s death till He comes (v. 26). Christ wants us to remember His sacrifice for us. To remember His being “wounded for our transgressions” (Isaiah 53:5). “There is a vivid portrayal of the redeeming sacrifice of the Christ of Calvary. His matchless life, His victorious sufferings, and His faithfulness even unto death are brought to mind,” and should lead us to bow humbly before Him in praise and thanksgiving.
But this, too, is a powerful presentation of the gospel for those in our sanctuaries who do not know Jesus as their savior. As each of the elements is explained during the meal, they point unbelievers to His physical incarnation, sacrificial death, resurrection, and His coming again for those who are His!
Another reason the church observes this communion meal on a regular basis is directed at the individual. Communion reminds the individual that Christ’s death was for them. More than simply being a “corporate” remembrance, it is an individual assessment. Christ died for us, yes. But Christ died for ME because of my guilt, unworthiness, and for my pardon!
So, we celebrate, meditate, and reflect on our lives in light of this glorious truth. As much as we glory in the cross work of our redeemer, we are also made aware of the wrongness of our sins, base desires, ungodly motives, vain ambitions, and hurtful attitudes, and then we are able to acknowledge our unworthiness and walk the “painful but necessary path of repentance again.”
Paul speaks of self-examination as we enter this meal (vv. 27,28). He cautions believers not to partake in “an unworthy way,” and exhorts his readers to examine themselves honestly in light of the cross. We ought to examine our hearts as we remember Christ. Are we about to “partake” in an unworthy manner? Am I doing this with the mindset of “just going through the motions? MacArthur gives some examples of self-reflection: “Ritualistically, indifferently, with an unrepentant heart, a spirit of bitterness, or any other ungodly attitude.” To do so not only dishonors the ceremony, but it also dishonors His body and blood, treating lightly the gracious sacrifice of Christ for us.”
So, we partake of this memorial meal, not because we are worthy, not because of any righteousness of our own, or because any magical thing takes place as a result. We come, we partake because Christ bids us to come! It is His table, and He has extended an invitation to us, to those He redeemed!
The Bible Knowledge Commentary, pg, 178
Clyne W. Buxton