March 25, 2018

Thursday: Passover Remixed (Mark 14:12-26)

Preacher: Bryce Morgan Series: The Week that Changed Everything Topic: One Lord: So Great a Salvation Scripture: Mark 14:12–26

I. The Table's 'Origin Story' 

If some of you were like me and collected comic books when you were a kid, or you are a fan of superhero movies, then you know an ‘origin story’ is. It's a story that describes where a specific superhero came from; for example, you might learn how Peter Parker become Spiderman or how Superman came to Earth from Krypton. Listen to the following 'origin story' and see if you can recognize what it's describing. 

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” [23] And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. [24] And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. (Mark 14:22–24) 

I think most of us would recognize that as the 'origin story' of a very specific ceremony or ritual. Over the last two thousand years, this ceremony has been know by various names: the Lord’s table, communion, the Eucharist. In I Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul calls it, “the Lord’s Supper”. It is a ceremony that has been practiced by followers of Jesus all over the world since the earliest days of the church. 

It’s something we do twice a month here at Way of Grace. In fact, since we will be observing the Table today, we could think about this study this morning as simply a very long introduction to our observance of the Lord’s Supper. In fact, when we study this 'origin story', I would argue, it can make our practice even more meaningful, even richer. 

So let’s look at the whole section this morning, Mark 14:12-26, as we continue to walk with Jesus through the week that changed everything.


II. The Passage: “To Eat the Passover” (14:12-26) 

That's right. Once again, we find ourselves in 'the week that changed everything', what is traditionally called Holy Week. While it's Sunday out there it's Thursday in here. So what do we know about that evening before Good Friday? Let's return to Mark's Gospel and pick up the story in Mark 14:12. We read that... 


1. A Plan Behind the Table (14:12-16) 

And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us 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 jar of water will meet you. Follow him, [14] and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ [15] And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” [16] And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. 

So as we think about the Lord's Supper, the first thing I want to point out, in light of these verses, is that there is a plan behind the table. What’s funny about this story is that it begins with the disciples trying to work out preparations for the Passover, only to discover that Jesus has already worked things out. They’re going to prepare the Passover he’s already planned. 

And his planning here seems to have supernatural overtones, doesn’t it? When they enter Jerusalem, a city that had five times as many people in it during this festival, they would just happen to meet a man carrying a water jar; which would have been an unusual sight since normally only women transported water in jars. Men usually used a wineskin. But this man would take them to a house where Jesus had apparently already made arrangements. 

The key phrase here is in verse 16: we read the disciples “found it just as he had told them”. Brothers and sisters, this table we come to this morning was carefully prepared by the power and wisdom of God. It is part of a supernatural plan that God has for those who love him. 

The details for this table were not left in the hands of human beings. It was important enough that Jesus himself worked out the arrangements. Do you recognize that about the table before us this morning? Believer, do you believe that God himself has prepared it for you this morning? That it’s that important? 

Let’s keep reading together about the origins of this ancient ritual. Verse 17-21… 


2. A Shadow Over the Table (14:17-21) 

And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. [18] And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” [19] They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” [20] He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. [21] For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”  

What I think we see in these verses is that there is a shadow over the table. Jesus himself has made the arrangements for this supper, and yet He did this knowing full well that one of the dinner guests would betray him. 

Notice how Jesus emphasizes the terrible nature of this betrayal. It is, verse 20, one of his twelve closest followers; it is someone who is sharing an intimate, sacred meal with him, dipping bread with him. And who is being betrayed? Not just any man, but the Son of Man, God’s chosen one. This betrayal is so horrible that it would be better if the betrayer “had not been born.” (v. 21) 

What I think we see here is that this shadow over the table is the shadow of human sin. These men have not been invited because all of them have proven themselves to be the most righteous men in Israel. We already know from verses 10 and 11 of this chapter that Judas is the betrayer. But if we looked ahead, we would also know that all of these men will abandon Jesus in the coming hours. “There is none righteous, not even one” said Paul in Romans 3. 

Even today, this morning, there is a shadow over this table, isn’t there? Each of us still casts that shadow. We don’t come as perfect people. But this table doesn’t require us to come as perfect people. It is prepared in advance with a clear understanding that those coming have failed and will continue to fail. It is given to those in need. Do you come this morning, recognizing your need? 

But look at how Jesus meets that need. Verses 22-26… 


3. A Sacrifice at the Table (14:22-26) 

And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” [23] And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. [24] And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. [25] Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” [26] And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. 

What Jesus is telling them here is that the plan behind the table, in spite of the shadow over the table, the plan is leading to a sacrifice at the table. And that sacrifice is, of course, Jesus himself. His body. His blood poured out for many. 

But this is precisely the point at which, if this were a movie, you would have heard the record needle scratch off the edge of the album. Everything would have stopped. The disciples would have been looking at one another, scratching their heads. You see, apart from talk of betrayal, up to that point, it had been a normal Passover celebration. 

When we talked at the outset about the ceremony in Mark 14, I failed to mention that the first ceremony we read about is not the Lord’s Supper. It is a Passover observance. 

You might know that Passover was and still is celebrated by the Jewish people once a year. Passover is part of a seven day festival called the feast of Unleavened Bread. It is that time during the Jewish year when the people remember God’s deliverance of Israel from the shackles of Egyptian slavery. 

It looks back to that time when an unblemished lamb was killed and its blood was placed on the top of the door frame so that the angel of death, as he killed the firstborn throughout Egypt, would pass over Israelite homes. Passover reminded them how quickly they left Egypt, so quickly they could not even put leaven or yeast in the dough they were kneading. That's why it is called the feast of Unleavened Bread. 

Exodus 12 and 13 provided instructions for this observance. But Jesus was introducing something new here.

He took the unleavened bread that pointed them to their hasty departure from Egypt and told them that it was his “body”. In the same way he took the cup and talked about “blood”, not the blood of the Passover lamb, but his own blood, blood that would ratify a covenant (what Luke calls the “new covenant”); it was blood poured out “for many”. 

Maybe if we were Jewish, maybe if we understood the place of Passover in the life of the Jewish people, maybe we could get a taste of how radical all this was. Remember, this observance of Passover was something that had been done in a very particular way, even up to present day. But Jesus was altering it. 

Jesus was doing something remarkable here. We know from Luke’s Gospel and I Corinthians 11 that Jesus also told the disciples, “Do this in remembrance of me.” He was taking this extremely important holy day, this meal that pointed back to the deliverance of God, to God’s work of forming a people, and he was using it to institute something new. 

We might say this was Passover remixed. 

But why...why would Jesus do this? Either he didn’t think very much of Passover, OR, he thought very highly of Passover, higher than anyone else. How? Because he knew what the meal was ultimately intended to symbolize. He knew the sacrifice at the table was more important than the sacrifice on the table. He knew His offering was in fact the fullness of all that Passover represented. 

Through His broken body and shed blood, through that cross on which he would be nailed in less than fifteen hours, Jesus would accomplish a deliverance far greater than the emancipation of slaves from bondage in Egypt. Through His death, he would deliver slaves from the bondage of sin and death, from the power and penalty of life lived apart from God. His blood would not simply turn death from the firstborn, but as the firstborn over all creation, He would turn death away from all who trusted him. 

It was forbidden for uncircumcised Gentiles, non Jews, to eat the Passover. But the meal Jesus was establishing would be open to all people, all who had been rescued by God’s grace through faith in Christ. 

What does this ceremony mean to you?” is a question from Exodus 12:26, a question asked by a child, asked in order to hear the Passover story. But in the fullness of God’s plan, each of us needs to ask that same question about the ceremony Jesus has just instituted. 


III. Remembering Our Liberation 

Thursday evening of 'the week that changed everything' was not a quiet night. We know from John's Gospel that many things happened at the Passover meal these men shared that evening. John's Gospel describes how Jesus washed their feet, how he gave them a new commandment, how he described the coming of the Holy Spirit, and how he prayed for and over them. But above all those things, it is the bread and the wine that stand out.

I don't want you to miss how powerful this connection between the Lord's Table and the Passover is. Think about that idea for a minute.

We know from I Corinthians 11 and early church practice that this meal was not just a Passover observance with some Jesus’ stuff thrown in on top. No, the Passover was only celebrated once a year. This meal, this “Lord’s Supper” as Paul calls it, was practiced very regularly by the first Christians, possibly every time the church gathered on Sunday. 

But why? Well, we could begin with the question, why did God call the Israelites to celebrate Passover every single year. 

Think about a life-changing experience that you’ve had. Maybe it was the death of a loved one. Maybe it was an unexpected gift or opportunity. Maybe it was suffering the consequences of a foolish decision. Maybe it was young love or summiting a stunning alpine peak. Whatever it was, you may remember how God used that situation in your life. 

In that moment of joy or suffering, we often see things we such clarity; we’re often able to see what really matters; we’re often humble; our hearts are often directed to God with trust, gratefulness, and praise. 

But what happens after time? What happens after a year goes by…two years…three years…ten years, twenty, thirty? The memories fade don’t they? We begin to lose parts of the story and overemphasize or modify other parts. OR, we begin to question certain things, or rationalize or downplay certain things. OR we may remember the facts, but they don’t affect us the way they once did. 

Think about the Israelites coming out of Egypt. They had seen the power of God displayed in an incomparable way. They were surrounded by judgment and death, but they had been spared. God was mighty to save, and they were humbled by this deliverance. 

But God knew they would forget; that things would fade. So He called them to remember, to formally remember, to codify, to officially remember, as a people, so that they could keep these truths alive. He even gave them the exact words to say: And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service (or ceremony)?’ 27 you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for he passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when he struck the Egyptians but spared our houses.’ (Exodus 12:26, 27) 

You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the Lord did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ (Exodus 13:8) 

And when in time to come your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ you shall say to him, ‘By a strong hand the Lord brought us out of Egypt, from the house of slavery. (Ex. 13:14) For I received from the Lord what 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 also he 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.” (I Corinthians 11:23-25) 

For even Paul told the Corinthians several chapters earlier: For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. (I Corinthians 5:7) 

Do you see? Do you see what we should never forget? Jesus took the Passover meal and through it gave to these twelve Jewish men, a new observance, that in that moment, at this table in the upper room, they did not understand. 

But after…after their Master was arrested, after they had abandoned him, after his conviction and execution on the cross, after their grief, after His resurrection, after his grace and encouragement, after his commissioning, after his return to the Father, after the giving of the Holy Spirit, after all of this, just imagine how it would feel when they picked up that bread and that cup; as their minds were brought back to that night in the upper room. 

This is my body…this is my blood.” 

The bread and the wine were not and are not magical elements. They were and are pictures, just like with Passover, pictures pointing back to God’s redemption, God’s deliverance. Liberation, emancipation from slavery; from the cruel bondage of sin and death. That's why this table is only for those who have experienced God’s deliverance. It is intended to be a reminder of that very thing and that very experience. 

But it also does something else. In verse 25 we read this statement from Jesus, “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Do you see what Jesus is doing here? He is not only giving them something to help them look back. He is giving them a promise that points ahead. 

As Paul would later express it, For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (I Corinthians 11:26) 

The cup not only points us to God’s provision through the blood of Christ, it should also point us to God’s promise of provision in the new heavens and the new earth; to the fullness of life that will come when God makes all things new through Jesus. 

Thursday of the week that changed everything changes us because, on that day, Jesus gave us this Table, a way to remember what He did for us, until that Day when we see what He will do for us by His grace.


other sermons in this series