Earlier this year I participated in a Passover Seder meal. I have a neighbor who grew up Jewish and became a Messianic Believer as an adult. He and his wife celebrate the Passover Feast each year. He has invited me the last few years to participate in the celebration, but each year, we had our own Good Friday service here at the church. This year, he offered to move the celebration to Saturday night instead of Friday, so we accepted. The evening included the host couple, four McLeods, some friends of the host family, as well as another couple that are our neighbors.
We will see that although Jesus participated in the Passover Feast with his disciples, he also fulfilled it and instituted a new meal for his followers.
All of this takes place in the last few days leading up to Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion. We are in the final days of Jesus’ earthly ministry now, likely the evening before Jesus is crucified. Time will seem to slow down in Mark’s gospel in these last few hours.
Before we look more closely at the Passover meal, however, we need to give our attention to the great contrast that Mark presents to us leading up to the Passover Meal.
We will witness this morning:
Mark give us the context of these activities—2 days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. This is one of the highest and holiest of times for the nation of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.
Depending on which source you consult, you may come up with different numbers for the population in Jerusalem for this feast. One modern commentary states that for this week of the year the population in Jerusalem would go from around 50,000 people to 250,000. Josephus, an ancient historian, reports that in the year A.D. 66, there were 255,600 lambs slaughtered for Passover, and estimates there were 2.5 million Jews present in Jerusalem. Whichever number is more accurate (I lean toward the smaller), it is a huge amount influx of people into the city from the surrounding countryside.
Tensions have been growing between Jesus and the religious leaders. Earlier in the week Jesus had overturned the tables in the Temple and spoken parables against the leaders.
It would be somewhat normal for there to be riots or protests in the city with all of the disparate groups from around the countryside in the city. And now, there are large groups of people from Galilee and elsewhere who follow this new religious leader Jesus.
Now things have escalated even more. By this point, the leaders not only want to arrest Jesus, but verse one tells us that they want to kill him as well. But they are afraid of the people.
Mark is setting up this context so that we would see the contrast between the religious leaders who have worked themselves into such a frenzy that they are prepared to arrest and kill an innocent man. Not only has Jesus not sinned against them in any way, he had never sinned against anyone in his whole life. From birth (or you could say from all eternity) he had acted perfectly righteously—always doing the Father’s will, always choosing the good, always exercising self-control.
We can imagine a political scene where parties demonize one another and act radically to stop the other from gaining power. But, this was different. Jesus always loved his enemies. He never cheated to get power. He always spoke the truth in love. He even refused the political path altogether for the sake of helping the weak, healing the sick, and ultimately giving his life for the redemption of mankind.
Mark wants us to see the contrast clearly. The religious leaders want to arrest and kill Jesus at the height of the religious festival.
In walks a woman with an alabaster flask of perfume. Jesus is reclining for a meal with his disciples in the house of Simon the Leper. Don’t you appreciate that little detail? Jesus was at the house of a leper with his disciples. We don’t know if Simon was currently leprous, or, more likely, had previously had leprosy, but either way, the simple fact that Jesus would dine there shows his compassion and sets him apart from the religious leaders.
Picture the extravagance of this devotion. Breaking with the conventions of the day, a woman approaches Jesus during a meal. Not only does she approach, but she breaks a sealed alabaster flask of ointment worth nearly one year’s wages to pour it on his head. She pours it all out. Used up. Spent. Something that expensive would likely have been a family heirloom. The perfume could very well have come from India.
Mark doesn’t even tell us who this woman was. John writes in his gospel that it was Mary, the sister of Lazarus.
The extent of this devotion was too much even for the disciples.
The disciples simply cannot fathom this kind of extravagance in devotion. It didn’t make sense. It wasn’t practical.
I would imagine that Jesus’ response didn’t encourage them—“she has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” Jesus has been attempting to prepare the disciples over and over again for his impending trial and death.
Mark uses the occasion of this extravagance to highlight the wickedness of Judas’ betrayal. Let’s turn there now.
In contrast to the act of devotion that we see from this woman, Mark shows us the opposite in Judas.
Mark 14:10–11 (ESV)
If you look up lists for the most significant betrayals in history or in Hollywood, you would likely find Judas Iscariot near the top of the list. Here are some others.
Betrayals make interesting history and typically make good movies. But, something different is going on here—something more significant. This is a foreordained moment in salvation history. Here we see the intersection of human responsibility and God’s sovereignty working together for God’s purposes. Man’s wicked deeds and God’s perfect plan of redemption colliding.
We are tempted to look into the text here for why Judas would do this. Why would he betray the perfect Son of God? Was it for the money? Was it an attempt to trick Jesus into rising up against the religious leaders and Rome? We don’t really know what was going through Judas’ head.
It is possible that Judas was responding to a news bulletin sent out by the chief priests earlier in the week. John mentions it in his Gospel.
John 11:57 (ESV) — Now the chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should let them know, so that they might arrest him.
We don’t know what he was thinking, but two of the other Gospel writers give us some additional insight into what was happening.
Luke 22:3–6 (ESV) — Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve. He went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he consented and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of a crowd.
Not only is there an intersection of the human responsibility of Judas and the Chief Priests and God’s sovereignty, we also need to add in the direct work of Satan himself.
All of this is taking place as Jesus prepares to share in the Passover meal with his disciples. Though Mark has revealed to us (his readers) that Judas will betray Jesus, the rest of the twelve learn about it in the midst of the Passover meal. Let’s turn there now.
Mark 14:12-16 (ESV)
Mark is again setting the context for this Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples. A lot of speculation has gone into whose house this might have been and how this was arranged.
Imagine that you were one of the twelve in this moment.
Mark 14:17-25 (ESV)
Shocking! Unexpected! Tragic! Confusing. Sad.
This must have significantly changed the atmosphere in the room.
We don’t know exactly at what point in the Seder meal Jesus says this. It could have been as they dipped their matzah into the bitter herbs.
We as the readers are likely less surprised than the disciples, since Mark told us all the way back in Chapter three that Judas would betray him. But, we should not be overly familiar with this reality.
When Stacey was reading through the Gospel in 9th grade, studying “A Walk with Christ to the Cross”, she remembers reading that one of the disciples would betray Jesus and hoped it wouldn’t be Peter.
Evidently, the disciples weren’t sure who it would be either. They were so uncertain, in fact, that they all asked if it would be them. “Is it I?”
What an awful, gut-wrenching moment for the disciples. This seemed so incomprehensible to them that they wondered if somehow they were going to do the betraying.
Mark doesn’t reveal it to us in his account, but in John’s Gospel, he indicates that Peter asked John to ask Jesus who it would be, and Jesus handed the morsel of bread to Judas.
Jesus is not a tragic hero caught in events beyond his control. There is no hint of desperation, fear, anger, or futility on his part. Jesus does not cower or retreat as plots are hatched against him. He displays, as he has throughout the Gospel, a sovereign freedom and authority to follow a course he has freely chosen in accordance with God’s plan. Judas and others may act against him, but they do not act upon him.
- James R. Edwards, Pillar, p. 419.
Though sobering, it is good for us to read the Lord’s Supper in the context of this betrayal. Though Judas is the one who officially betrayed Jesus to the religious leaders, all of the remaining disciples fled and denied Jesus before the night was over. Jesus knows this.
As the disciples heard these next words from Jesus, the reality of their frailty must have been in their minds.
This is a table of Grace!
Mark 14:22-25 (ESV)
The original Passover meal in Exodus 12 was held on the eve of God delivering the Jews out of slavery in Egypt. It came at a great cost. A cost of the death of all the firstborn in Egypt, as well as the death of one unblemished lamb per family in Israel.
Jesus diverges from the typical Seder liturgy and inserts himself right in the middle of it.
But, just as the Israelites had to exercise faith to put the blood on their door post, we must exercise faith and put our trust in Jesus Christ, the Passover Lamb who has been sacrificed.
Overview of God’s redemptive plans
We’re going to put our hearing into action today:
Christopher, you and the musicians can come on up.
As a part of our sermon conclusion this morning, we’re going to put into action what we’ve been talking about. We’re going to share in the Lord’s supper together. This was not merely a meal for Jesus and the 12 disciples in the Gospels. Jesus indicated that the church should continue it in remembrance of him.
During this next song, the ushers will pass the trays with the bread and the cup. We invite you to take them if you put faith in Christ alone for salvation. Just hold on to them until all are served and I’ll share additional instructions.
Song: “Come O Sinner”
(Perhaps, circle up as if we had a bunch of dining room tables to gather around.)
Jesus knew who was at the table with him in Jerusalem. He knows all who are at the table today.
This is a table of grace!
First, we consider that Jesus’ body was broken for us.
Isaiah 53:4–7 (ESV) — Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.
Isaiah 53:10–11 (ESV) — Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.
Prayer of thanksgiving for the Bread of Life broken for us.
Eat the bread
Now let us consider Jesus’ blood shed for us
Hebrews 9:11–14 (ESV) — But when Christ appeared as a high priest … he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
Prayer of thanksgiving for the blood of the new covenant shed for us.
Drink the cup.
Psalm 116:12–14 (ESV) — What shall I render to the LORD for all his benefits to me? I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the LORD, I will pay my vows to the LORD in the presence of all his people.
Psalm 117 (ESV) — Praise the LORD, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD!
Psalm 118:19–29 (ESV) — Open to me the gates of righteousness, that I may enter through them and give thanks to the LORD. This is the gate of the LORD; the righteous shall enter through it. I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes. This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Save us, we pray, O LORD! O LORD, we pray, give us success! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD! We bless you from the house of the LORD. The LORD is God, and he has made his light to shine upon us. Bind the festal sacrifice with cords, up to the horns of the altar! You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you. Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!
Let’s sing together!
Song: “In Christ Alone”
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