Mark: Institution of the Lord’s Supper

Read: Mark 14:22-25

We come to the point where Jesus institutes a new tradition: The Lord’s Supper. This is a significant event among many during this period we refer to as Passion Week. It’s interesting that we only have a few verses to record this huge shift during the Passover feast.

For hundreds of years, the Passover meal has been shaped and molded, a most honored tradition, that all Jews kept in strict compliance and with great joy. This was a great time for all!

Then Jesus enters the scene and changes everything–literally.

The Sacrament

While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. Mark 14:22-24

Our understanding of the details of the Passover meal is unimportant to the Gospel writers. I guess they figured out we could get that information elsewhere! The focus here is on this entirely new idea: Jesus gives us His body and blood.

Jesus gets their attention, prays over the bread, breaks it, then tells His disciples this is His body: take it. He willingly offers Himself for us all.

Then he offers the wine as His blood, a new covenant, poured out for the world. Drinking blood was forbidden for Jews anytime, especially during Passover, so this must have been a difficult notion to consider. Yet the lack of dialogue at this point gives me the impression that they got it, this was a simple way of remembering Jesus’ death and resurrection.

No longer will we need to sacrifice animals, the old system is done, enter a completely new season. Jesus is the ultimate sacrifice. Done.

The Assurance

“Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Mark 14:25

I can imagine that Jesus looks around the room and notices His friends are rather gloomy at this point. Just a few verses ago, Jesus announced His betrayer is in their midst, now He’s just explained His body will be broken and His blood shed. It seems He wants to assure them (and us) that His is coming again, that the new tradition is here just as a reminder of better days yet to come. Finally, a bit of good news on a rather difficult night.

Next Steps

When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. Mark 14:26

Recently, I attended a Catholic memorial service to honor the life of Friar Aubrey McNeil. It was a beautiful gathering of saints paying tribute to their fallen leader. It’s been many years since I’ve been to a Catholic service, so this is probably routine, but I was amazed at the number of hymns and singing that was included, especially in response to reading scripture or something the leader prompted. As protestants, non-denominational on top of that, we tend to shy away from all these traditions for fear of getting lost in the routine dogma that someone else invented. I’m not advocating hymnals in place of praise and worship time, but I was impressed by their reverence and cooperative spirit. There’s something about being dignified that’s refreshing.

Jesus and His disciples probably sung several psalms during the evening. This was their tradition and it was a beautiful thing. We tend to pride ourselves on individualism to the point that each family carves out its own traditions. This sounds great, but misses the point of unity that Paul talks about in reference to the church.

Traditions

My hope and prayer is that we will hold fast to the breaking of bread and passing the cup of wine in remembrance of the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. When we pray before every meal, may we pause for a moment and remember. May we, the big WE, join in this prayer together each and every time we stop to eat. Everyone eats. Wouldn’t it be cool if everyone remembered?

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