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The Last Supper: Mark 14:12-31

The Lord’s Supper

12On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

I’m skipping ahead in the week to the Last Supper in order to cover the “events” of Holy Week. Most of my life I’ve thought of that week in terms of its events; the Triumphal Entry, the cleansing of the temple, the Last Supper, the arrest and trial, etc. But if you read through the chapters of any of the gospels, what you find is that Jesus did a lot of teaching that week. He taught in the temple courts for three days after he cleared out the money changers, and a lot of that teaching is recorded. John has four chapters of teaching at the Last Supper! But for my Holy Week posts this year, I’ll focus on the events. That’s why I’m skipping from the temple cleansing to the Last Supper. This event didn’t take place until Thursday, as we all know, but too many things happened on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to try to cover all of those events on those two days.

See my post on Luke’s version of the Last Supper here, and Matthew’s here. As with all the synopotic gospel accounts of this event, Mark’s begins with Jesus telling two of his disciples, whom Luke identifies as Peter and John, to “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” This involved finding the room where the meal would be held, and making the sacrifice of the Passover Lamb and preparing it for the meal. This was an all day job. Jesus had obviously prepared for a place to eat the Passover meal with his disciples ahead of time. Jerusalem was packed with pilgrims, and there must have been a booming business in renting out furnished rooms where pilgrims could partake of this feast. It seems that Jesus had booked this room in secret, even keeping it from his disciples, since men did not carry water jars in that culture. They carried water in skins. So a man carrying a jar of water would be unusual, and easy to spot. It seems likely that all of this was done in order to hide the location of the meal from Judas, who could then report Jesus’ whereabouts to the chief priests and have him arrested there. It’s entirely possible that Judas tried that when Jesus sent him out, but they were already gone when Judas and the Temple guards arrived.  Since he knew Judas would betray him, maybe this was to keep Judas from arranging his arrest too soon. Some scholars believe that the Last Supper was held in an upper room at a house owned by John Mark’s family. I’ll talk about that more tomorrow in my post on Gethsemane. If that’s true, I can’t help but wonder if John Mark was the man carrying the water jar, since he mentions that detail.

17When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”

19They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely not I?”

20“It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Now Jesus reveals his knowledge of Judas’ plot. I can imagine the sinking feeling Judas must have had when he knew he was “busted.” In John’s version, Jesus reveals to John who the traitor is, but apparently he didn’t reveal it to the whole group. In Luke’s account of this event, we learn that the disciples had two swords with them at the time (Luke 22:38). What do you think they would have done with those swords if Jesus had revealed to the whole group that Judas was about to betray him? But Jesus kept Judas’ secret, and sent him out ahead of the group so he could do what he intended to do. It strikes me that Jesus was giving Judas one last chance to change his mind, but Judas was committed.

In Middle Eastern culture, it was and is still considered the worst form of treachery to betray someone after having broken bread with them. Each of the disciples asked if he was the traitor, including Judas. Matthew tells us that Jesus did answer in the affirmative when Judas asked (Matthew 26:25). So there was no doubt in Judas’ mind that Jesus knew all about what he was planning, but Jesus did nothing to stop him. In fact, he sent him on his way, knowing what was to come.

22While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

23Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.

24“This is my blood of the[b] covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25“I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

26When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

This was no typical Passover meal. There are strict traditions about what is eaten and what is said, by whom and in what order when eating the Passover. If you’ve ever attended a Seder meal, you know what I mean. Perhaps they had already gone through the established ritual by this point. But now Jesus shared with them a new supper, the Lord’s Supper. The Passover was central to the old covenant, and the Lord’s Supper is central to the new covenant. Jesus is starting the new covenant right here, in that moment.

The Amplified Bible puts verse 24 this way:

25Solemnly and surely I tell you, I shall not again drink of the fruit of the vine till that day when I drink it [c]of a new and a higher quality in God’s kingdom.

Jesus’ promise not to drink wine again until he does so in Heaven has always struck me a little odd. After all, he hardly had the chance after that. But according to the Amplified translation, he’s not just saying he’ll wait until then, he’s saying it will be of a new and higher quality. I don’t think he’s just talking about better wine, though I’m sure the wine will be really good in Heaven. I believe he’s talking about the whole meal. The Passover meal, the central feast of the old covenant,  was a foreshadow of the Lord’s Supper, which ratified the new covenant (Mark 14:24, Amplified). The Lord’s Supper is a foreshadow of the Marriage Supper Of The Lamb. This is what Jesus is referring to in verse 25. Neither the Passover meal nor the Lord’s Supper could be considered real feasts, at least by any definition I know of. But the Marriage Supper of the Lamb, now that will be a feast! If you think Thanksgiving dinner is good, that will pale in comparison to the spread at that feast. Everything will be of a new and a higher quality in God’s kingdom.

It’s interesting to me that Mark and Matthew both mention that they “sang a hymn.” According to the definition of hymns that I learned in my church music courses in college, hymns did not exist then, so I wonder about the translation from Greek. There are other places in the Bible where hymns are mentioned (Psalm 40:3, Acts 16:25, 1 Corinthians 14:26, Ephesians 5:19), and I’m curious what was meant by that term. But the definition of what type of song they sang is not as important as the fact that they sang. How could Jesus sing, knowing what would soon happen? Because his attitude of praise was not based on his circumstances, but on his adoration of the Father, as ours should be.

The traditional psalms that were sung at the end of the Passover meal were Psalms 116, 117, and 118. Read those Psalms and imagine how they would have ministered to Jesus on the night before his death.

Jesus Predicts Peter’s Denial

27“You will all fall away,” Jesus told them, “for it is written:
” ‘I will strike the shepherd,
and the sheep will be scattered.’[c] 28But after I have risen, I will go ahead of you into Galilee.”

Matthew’s version of this passage is in Matthew 26:31-35 (blog). Luke’s, which is quite different, is found in Luke 22:31-38 (blog). After the mountaintop experience of the first Lord’s Supper, and all the wonderful teaching and prayer that John recounts in his gospel (John 13-17), now Jesus and his disciples descend into the valley experience. After all they had just experienced, it must have been jarring for them to hear Jesus tell them that they would all soon fall away. After a mountaintop experience with God, we are often tempted to think we are invincible, when in reality, we are very vulnerable. As 1 Corinthians 10:12 says, “So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” But even as Jesus warns them, he quotes yet another Messianic prophecy, as if to reassure them that though their falling away is not excused, it is expected and has been prophesied. Then he encourages them by reminding them again that he will rise again and meet them. He’s not condemning them, and he does not condemn us, even when we fail him. He goes ahead of us and meets us.

29Peter declared, “Even if all fall away, I will not.”

30“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “today—yes, tonight—before the rooster crows twice[d] you yourself will disown me three times.”

31But Peter insisted emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never disown you.” And all the others said the same.

Jesus did not just predict Peter’s denial here, he predicted that they all would desert him. Peter gets a bad rap for this episode, but none of the disciples stood by Jesus when the chips were down. And after Peter insisted that he would never deny Jesus, verse 31 says that they all said the same. Since Mark’s gospel is considered to really be Peter’s account of his time with Jesus, Peter gets a lot of credit from me for including this story when he could have left it out. He left out his walking on the water and sinking (Mark 6:45-56) and he left out Jesus praising him after his confession of Christ (Mark 8:27-30), but he left in his most humiliating experience, denying Christ. I’ll have more to say about this later in this chapter, but I think this speaks volumes about Peter’s character. He’s not afraid to show us his worst failing as a disciple.

He and the other disciples were so sure of themselves. We may think we are brave, but we never really know what we will do until the pressure is on. All the disciples vowed never to desert Jesus, even if they had to die with him. But they all deserted him shortly thereafter, to their shame. But Jesus restored all of them, and in the end, all of them faced their own deaths bravely for Christ. Be careful what you promise God. He will hold you to that promise.

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