[Mark 14:12-13] “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him.”
Scene of Activity
“First day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb.” - This places us chronologically at the conclusion of Thursday and the start of Friday.
It’s dusk (6 PM) and Jesus is headed to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover Seder.
The Seder was the meal marking the beginning of this seven day festival.
Historically, this dinner celebrated the miraculous saving of the first born sons of Israel from the “Angel of Death” sent as the final plague of Egypt.
Any home with the blood spread upon the doorposts the Angel passed over.
This is why the priest would sacrifice the lambs on this evening in the temple.
In order to insure everything is ready, Jesus “sent out two of His disciples” saying, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him.”
We know from another account the two disciples were Peter and John.
Peter and John are told to look for “a man carrying a pitcher of water.”
Because carrying water was typically a women’s job this would have been unusual and easily identifiable for the disciples.
Q: Why would this man be carrying a pitch of water?
A: The man is helping his wife around the home; and what’s more interesting is that Jesus takes note and props him up as an example. (B-Sides)
[Mark 14:14-16] “Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us. So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover.”
Jesus instructs them to follow this man for he had a room prepared for Him.
The “upper room” was in the home of Mary (mother of John-Mark) a disciple of Jesus.
Same room used on the Day of Pentecost and the home that housed the first church.
There are 2 things I find interesting about this scene:
1. The man already has the room set aside for Jesus.
Most scholars see a miraculous element to how this all unfolds; however, I think there might be a better explanation for the days events.
Since Mary (owner of the home) is already a disciple of Jesus, I believe she’d already made arrangements with Jesus to celebrate Passover at her home.
Q: Why keep the location a secret from the disciples?
A: Don’t forget Judas has made arrangements with the religious leaders to provide them a time and place they could arrest Jesus without causing a stir.
Knowing this was the case, Jesus keeps the disciples in the dark so that He could celebrate Passover with the disciples without intrusion.
2. As we’ve noted.... Christ is both yielding Himself to all things, but He’s also controlling all things through His sovereign power.
[Mark 14:17-21] “In the evening He came with the twelve. Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”
Scene of Activity
Jesus is enjoying the Seder meal with the disciples. It’s a time of joy and celebration.
At some point in the meal Jesus drops a conversational bomb when He tells them that “One of you who eats with Me will betray Me.”
Imagine how these words would have reverberated throughout the room.
These guys had lived together for 3 years. Their brains would have exploded.
Their reaction is interesting: “And they began to be sorrowful, and to say, “Is it I?”
1. Jesus’ words offended them.
“Began to be sorrowful” - literally, “to make one uneasy, offend.”
They reacted with offense. Their initial reaction was one of awkwardness and uneasiness. Jesus has clearly upset their sensibilities.
2. None of them felt as though Jesus’ words applied to them.
“Is it I?” can be better translated “It isn’t I?”
Their offense immediately transitioned to defense.
As they went around the room each man felt the inclination to go on the record that Jesus’ word didn’t apply to them.... “I won’t betray you!”
Ironically, we know that just a few hours later everyone of them would betray Jesus making their estimation of self horribly flawed.
3. Judas wasn’t the obvious choice.
Even when Jesus in dramatic fashion “answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish” as He then shares a piece of bread with Judas, the disciples still couldn’t believe Judas was the betrayer.
This reality clearly illustrates the false facade Judas had created.
Note: Mark’s audience wouldn’t have reacted very well to this scene.
In that culture to eat with another person if you were planning their destruction was despicable; and yet, in eating with Judas, Jesus was directly identifying with the chief of sinners.
Jesus continues by making a radical and controversial statement “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born.”
.1 Jesus affirms two important realities:
A. Jesus was going to die on the cross that day “as it is written of Him.”
B. But He also provides Judas an opportunity to repent.
I can imagine the look in Jesus’ eye as He utters this warning.
He and Judas are the only two people that know what is afoot; and yet, even in the 23rd hour Jesus is still giving him a chance to turn away.
2. Before you shrill back at this statement “It would have been good for that man if he had never been born” I want you to consider this reality.... What was true of Judas is true of everyone who is born - rejects Jesus - and dies!
[Mark 14:22-24] “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.”
Scene of Activity
As mentioned, Jesus and the disciples are in the middle of the Passover Seder.
“Seder” is the Hebrew word for “order or program.”
It was a dinner contained 15 separate parts (Everything was symbolic: B-Sides).
During the Seder four cups of wine are drunk to remember each of the four promises God gave to Moses in Exodus 6:6-7.
1. Cup of Sanctification - “I will bring you out from under the burdens....”
2. Cup of Deliverance - “I will rescue you for their bondage....”
.3 Cup of Redemption - “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm....”
4. Cup of Restoration - “I will take you as my own people....”
Because of the exchange with Judas we know two parts of the meal have already occurred providing us a good indication where Jesus is at in the Seder....
5th Step: “Yachatz” (ya-ha-tz) - Breaking the Matzah.
Three pieces of matzah bread (unleavened, flat bread) are brought out.
The middle piece (called the a-fi-ko-man) is removed and broken.
It is then carefully wrapped in linen and hidden for later in the meal.
8th Step: “Motzi Matzah” (moht-zi) - Eating the Matzah.
At this point in the Seder and before the main course the two remaining pieces of matzah bread are passed around, dipped into the same dish, and consumed.
In this instance Jesus identifies Judas as His betrayer at this point of the meal.
Note: When “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them” they have finished the main course and are now at the end of the Seder.
12th Step: “Tzafun” (za-fu-nun) - Eating of the Afikoman.
At this point the hidden afikoman (broken middle piece of matzah) would be retrieved and the host would explain its significance before distributing.
According to the Jews the three pieces of matzah represented Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob with the afikoman (middle piece) representing Isaac.
This final piece is then broken and passed out to remind the guests how Isaac willing surrendered himself to be sacrifice in obedience to the will of his father.
Each guest receives a small portion at least the size of an olive.
The host would declare concerning the afikoman, “This is the bread of affliction which our father’s ate in the land of Egypt. Let everyone who hungers come and eat; let everyone who is needy come and eat the Passover meal.”
Understand: This has been a Jewish tradition for over 2000 years.
Every year the afikoman would be distributed with this meaning reiterated.
Imagine the reaction when Jesus takes the piece of broken afikoman that has represented Isaac for centuries “and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.”
The scene is powerful in two ways:
1. Afikoman symbolizing Isaac prophetically foreshadowed Jesus.
- Both were born under miraculous circumstances.
- Both were “only begotten sons” of their fathers.
- Both willingly submitted to the will of their fathers.
- Both were sacrificed on Mount Moriah.
- Both were predicted to be resurrected on the third day.
- Both willingly took up the means of his execution.
- Both demonstrated the principle of substitutionary sacrifice.
Both awaited the Holy Spirit to bring them their bride.
2. Handling of the afikoman pictured Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection.
The afikoman was the middle piece: In Hebrew, the middle of something always represented its heart, and in Jesus (the 2nd person of the Trinity) we find the ultimate manifestation of the heart of God.
The afikoman was removed from the others: Jesus came as a man.
The afikoman was unleavened: Jesus was pure and sinless.
The afikoman was broken: Jesus “was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5)
“Matzah” literally means “the bread of affliction.”
How matzah was made: “Immediately after the flour is first mixed with water, the relatively dry batter is placed on a flat surface and a hinged bar is used to pummel the dough. The dough is then flattened by using rollers made only of solid pieces of wood or metal without crevices. Perforation of the dough then occurs before baking by rolling a small wheel with sharp teeth attached to a handle enabling air bubbles to escape preventing the dough from rising and swelling during baking.
As with Jesus the afikoman was striped and pierced.
The afikoman was buried and hidden: John 19:40, “Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.”
The afikoman was found and seen by all: 1 Corinthians 15:3-5, “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures.... was buried.... then rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen....”
The afikoman was consumed: John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world.” (We’ll address this in a few moments).
Following the “Eating of the Afikoman” would come the “Barekh” (ba-raa-kh) - the 3rd cup of wine symbolizing the “Cup of Redemption.”
According to the Mishnah (additional Jewish writings) the wine of this cup was symbolic of the shed blood of the lamb applied to the doorposts in Egypt which caused the plague of death to pass over.
Imagine the reaction when “He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.”
For 2,000 years the Jews had operated under a covenant (agreement) God had established that first Passover and solidified on Mount Sinai.
According to the Law, as long as the people offered the blood of a spotless lamb as atonement and covering for sin, God would accept their offering and passover their sin spearing them from death and judgment.
Problem: Though this covenant provided a temporary-atoning for sin through the substitutionary-sacrifice of an innocent animal, it failed to offer anything of permanence because an animal-sacrifice failed to remedy man’s sinful-nature demonstrated by his inability to live up to the righteous requirement of the Law.
Solution: Man needed a substitutionary-sacrifice of permanence that would free him from his sin nature thereby making him righteous and justified before God.
True forgiveness of sin could only follow a righteous payment for sin.
Remedy: A sinless man would need to willingly die for the sins of mankind.
In this moment with His disciples Jesus is telling them this “Cup of Redemption” will no longer signify an Old Covenant sealed by the blood of a temporary sacrifice, but will represent a “new covenant” He would institute by the shedding of His own blood thereby providing a permanent, sinless, human sacrifice for the sins of the world.
“New Covenant” - literally means Jesus was establishing a “new contract, new agreement, new way” mankind would be able to approach God.
Jesus is directly referencing a phrase used in Jeremiah 31:31-34, “Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke.... This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.... For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Jesus is saying that every time we take these elements (bread and cup) we are to recognize and remember the “New Covenant” whereby Jesus afforded us forgiveness from sin through the righteous atonement of sin brought about by His permanent, substitutionary sacrifice on the cross!
At a minimum all Christianity believes in instituting communion Jesus gave significance and deep meaning to the bread and the cup, but complication and divisions have arisen over the muddled nature of the phrase Jesus uses when He says the bread “is His body” and the cup “is His blood.”
Roman Catholic Church - Transubstantiation (trans meaning change): During the consecration in the Lord's Supper (Communion), the elements of the Eucharist, bread and wine, are transformed into the actual body and blood of Jesus and that they are no longer bread and wine, but only retain their appearance of bread and wine.
Reformer Martin Luther - Consubstantiation (con meaning with): The bread and wine do not become the body and blood of Jesus, but co-exists with the body of Christ so that the bread and wine are both the bread and wine, and the body of Jesus.
John Calvin - The presence of Jesus in the bread and wine was real, but only in a spiritual sense enabled by a person’s faith.
Swiss Reformer Zwingli argued that the bread and wine are mere symbols that represented the body and blood of Jesus.
When he debated the issue with Martin Luther at Marburg, Zwingli made the case that Jesus also said “I am the vine” and “I am the door” but in these instances we understand Jesus was speaking symbolically.
David Guzik, “According to Scripture, we can understand that the bread and the cup are not mere symbols, but are powerful pictures to partake of and enter into as we see the Lord’s Table as the new Passover.”
Few things to keep in mind concerning the elements:
1. In context, Jesus was redefining accept symbols, not speaking literally.
2. After Jesus instituting communion He still refers to the elements as being literal bread and wine. [Mark 14:25] “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
3. There is no indication the disciples viewed the bread and wine as literally being transformed elements. Note: The disciples never worshipped the elements.
4. Jesus instituted communion before His crucifixion.
5. Consuming flesh and blood was outlawed in the Levitical Law (Leviticus 17:14).
6. Jesus was sacrificed once for sin (Hebrews 10:10-14).
7. Christ’s one time sacrifice is sufficient to save us. We do not need to maintain our salvation by our efforts or by our participation in the Lord’s supper.
In line with the doctrinal reasoning of Zwingli and the healthy reminder of Guzik that the elements are more than “mere symbols,” we should see the act of taking the elements as being more than an intellectual exercise whereby we remember the atoning work of Jesus on the cross, the act of coming to the table should be a moment of communing and becoming one with the resurrected Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon, “Never mind that bread and wine, unless you can use them as folks often use their spectacles. What do they use them for? To look at? No, to look through them. So, use the bread and wine as a pair of spectacles. Look through them, and do not be satisfied until you can say, “Yes, yes, I can see the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. I think the moments we are nearest to heaven are those we spend at the Lord’s table.”
J.C. Ryle, “By receiving the elements we publicly declare our sense of guilt, and need of a Savior – our trust in Jesus, and our love to Him – our desire to live upon Him, and our hope to live with Him. Using it in this spirit, we shall find our repentance deepened, our faith increased, our hope brightened, our love enlarged, our besetting sins weakened and our graces strengthened. It will draw us nearer to Christ.”
[Mark 14:26] “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
The closing of the Seder ended with the singing of the Hallel Psalms (116-118).
Note: Only place in the Bible where it says that Jesus sang.