July 10 – What? What is Jesus Saying?

Mark 14: 12 –

“The Last Supper

12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go to prepare the Passover meal for you?”

13 So Jesus sent two of them into Jerusalem with these instructions: “As you go into the city, a man carrying a pitcher of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 At the house he enters, say to the owner, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room where I can eat the Passover meal with my disciples?’ 15 He will take you upstairs to a large room that is already set up. That is where you should prepare our meal.” 16 So the two disciples went into the city and found everything just as Jesus had said, and they prepared the Passover meal there.

17 In the evening Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 As they were at the table eating, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, one of you eating with me here will betray me.”

19 Greatly distressed, each one asked in turn, “Am I the one?”

20 He replied, “It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. 21 For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!”

22 As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take it, for this is my body.”

23 And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood, which confirms the covenant (some manuscripts say new covenant) between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice for many. 25 I tell you the truth, I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new in the Kingdom of God.”

26 Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27 On the way, Jesus told them, “All of you will desert me. For the Scriptures say,
‘God will strike the Shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’

28 But after I am raised from the dead, I will go ahead of you to Galilee and meet you there.” 29 Peter said to him, “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.”

30 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.”

31 “No!” Peter declared emphatically. “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” And all the others vowed the same.”

Mark doesn’t go into as much detail about the Last Supper as John does. John includes Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, and also talking to them at length (4 chapters) about life in the future without him and the coming of the Holy Spirit. Matthew, Mark and Luke all concentrate on the same details of the Last Supper together – Jesus telling them that the bread and wine refer to his body and blood, and that one of them will betray him. Those details were the most shocking things to those 12 men that night.

While eating the Passover meal, they are remembering the night Israel was freed from slavery in Egypt. All the Israelites had killed a lamb and the blood was splashed on the door posts so the angel of death would leave their home alone. It was the same night that all the first-born sons of the Egyptians were slain by God’s angels – God’s punishment for not allowing the Israelites to go free. But on this night, Jesus drops his first shocking piece of information – that one of them would betray him The next shock was Jesus saying that the bread and wine actually symbolize his death, his body and his blood. Stop for a moment and think about this. Can you imagine what you would have been thinking if you were one of the disciples? Was Jesus really saying he was going to die? Here on this freedom celebration night, was that really what he said? Was one of them – one of these 12 men who had been living together over the past three years really going to harm Jesus? That couldn’t possibly be true. Can you imagine them looking quietly around the room at each other wondering who it would be? Was it true?

And then as they are walking to the Mount of Olives to find a place to sleep – likely because it was too late at night to return to Bethany – Jesus says they are all going to desert him. Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve heard some shattering bad news? Can you remember how you heard and comprehended what had happened, but yet, at the same time, it didn’t seem real? Perhaps it felt like being in a fog? Knowing, but not knowing? I wonder if that is what the disciples were feeling that night. That kind of emotional distress can be so exhausting. Peter, our impetuous disciple, immediately states he would never desert Jesus. Jesus tells him “I tell you the truth, Peter—this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Peter swears Jesus is wrong. I think I understand where Peter is coming from. He’s just heard news he can’t believe, can’t accept. Jesus is talking about dying, betrayal, desertion – it absolutely can’t be true! Have you ever felt that way about something that shocked you?

But Jesus knows exactly what is happening. Once again, I’m going to quote Steve Wilmhurst. I think his perspective is so helpful:

The story of the Last Supper presents Jesus’ death in important ways. Firstly, Jesus’ death fulfils God’s plans. Look at how Jesus speaks of his betrayal in v.21: literally Jesus says ‘departs’. He knows that his approaching death is all in God’s plan: it is ‘as it is written’. The Lord Jesus knows the prophets: all that is written about the suffering, dying servant in Isaiah, those mysterious words in Zechariah 12:10 about ‘looking on the one they have pierced’, Psalm 22 with its depiction of horrible suffering. He knows those words have been written about him. Jesus goes to his death deliberately, freely, voluntarily, knowing that he is doing the will of God as he does so.

Jesus’ death also takes our place (vv.23-24). There can be no doubt what this means. The red wine; the mention of the blood and the covenant; the Passover setting – Jesus is identifying himself with the Passover lamb. On that final night in Egypt, every Israelite household slaughtered a lamb. Its blood was brushed around the doorposts of the house. When God’s angel came past, he passed over every home like that; and wherever there was no blood, the angel slew the family’s eldest son. The death of each lamb substituted for the death of one son. Inescapably, the Passover speaks of a substitution. Now Jesus is saying, The true Passover lamb is me. Those lambs are just a picture: the reality is before you tonight. I am the one who takes your place so that you can be set free. This is my blood! My blood, he says in v.24, is ‘poured out for many.

These verses echo Isaiah 53:12 where the prophet speaks of the Servant who will bear the sin of many. Jesus dies as our substitute.

The death of Jesus proves God’s commitment (v.24). This, says Jesus, is covenant blood. The ‘covenant’ is God’s commitment to us. In the covenant with Moses, God commits himself to forgive sins and accept his people on the basis of blood sacrifices. In the blood of Jesus, that covenant is renewed. In the blood of Jesus, in fact, those sacrifices are brought to an end. This is the only way that a holy God could ever make a covenant with sinful people like us – through the blood of the perfect sacrifice, his Son the Lord Jesus. So Jesus’ death shows us God’s total, unbreakable commitment to us – that he did not even spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all (Romans 8:32). This is the ultimate act of commitment. Do we recognise the depth of God’s commitment to us and how unreservedly he has expressed it?”

As we go through life, we often don’t understand what is happening to us. We wonder where God is leading us. We feel the nudge of the Holy Spirit, but are not sure if that is the decision that needs to be made. Jesus’ disciples were confused that night. Passover was an important religious celebration, but Jesus seemed to be saying something they didn’t want, or could comprehend, was going to happen. What we need to know is that God does know what is happening. Jesus knew that night what was going to happen, and he knew the disciples would flounder, but recover. We can trust God today even in difficult, and confusing situations.

Steve Wilmhurst, A Ransom for Many: the Gospel of Mark Simply Explained, Welwyn Commentary Series, Evangelical Press, 2011 – Chapter 21

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