The Only Lamb to Celebrate the Passover
Please read Mark 14:12-26 in your Bible.
Image by James Best, (C) 2020, https://www.behance.net/gallery/90621713/Sermon-Illustrations-2020
“Aatami Kuortti, a Lutheran pastor in Russia, was sentenced to ten years of hard labor in a concentration camp because of his refusal to become a spy for the government. A fellow prisoner received a package from home, a little bread and a few apples. He thought that it would be possible to celebrate the Lord's Supper. He proposed this to Pastor Kuortti.
“‘I have already crushed the apple juice in a mug and the crusts will serve as communion bread. We can have the holy ordinance in the corner where my brother and I have our place, and the Russians, if they see us, will think we are drinking tea.’
Pastor Kuortti wrote, “‘I gladly
fell in with the proposal of the brethren. After repetition of Scripture, I blessed the bread and the mug of apple juice, and we ate the Lord's Holy Communion. The altar was but a dirty plank, and the pastor, as well as his flock, was in rags, yet we realized the presence of Christ.’" (Sunday School Times, as found at moreillustrations.com.)
The Lord’s Supper is one of the times of worship that is a special remembrance of Jesus. We honor Jesus’ sacrifice and demonstrate our gratitude. This morning we’ll look at the event at which Jesus instituted this practice.
Communion also addresses a problem we all share: sin. Jesus’ last Passover was the occasion that led into the days of Jesus’ passion and the solution to that problem.
The question is what to do about sin. The answer is Jesus.
1. Passover preparations. (12-16)
The situation in Jesus time was unlike any we’ve known. The Passover and the week-long Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed it were considered to be one thing. So the FIRST DAY refers to the Passover. The population of Jerusalem swelled to something like 3 million people at Passover. Based on verse twelve, it appears Jesus and His disciples have procrastinated! Who would wait until the last minute to try to find accommodations in an over-crowded city?
The preparations: were they miraculous or pre-meditated? Let me be plain: the reason they had a Passover meal was Jesus made arrangements in advance.
There are 3 good reasons for Jesus making arrangements in secret and in advance. One, He was in control of the events leading up to His crucifixion. Jesus’ life was not taken from Him, He surrendered it (John 10:17-18).
Two, he acted in secrecy to avoid His arrest happening in front of a large group of His followers. Jesus did not want to cause a mob scene that would result in violence.
Three, Jesus made these secret arrangements to keep Judas from knowing them. Jesus wanted to control the time and place of Judas’ betrayal.
2. Asking the right question. (17-21)
WHEN EVENING CAME: the meal was to be eaten between sunset and midnight (Exodus 12:8-14). In this account, there is a keeping of tradition and a redeeming of traditions to give them new values.
Jesus broke tradition with a stunning announcement: “ONE OF YOU WILL BETRAY ME.” It is hard to imagine how such a statement would have felt. The phrase ONE WHO IS EATING WITH ME increased the emotional impact of Jesus’ words because to betray a friend after having shared a meal with him was the worst kind of treachery. As this meal was the Passover, the betrayal would be
the worst of all!
The stunned disciples, in their response, asked the right question: “SURELY NOT I?” Eleven of these men had no plans to betray Jesus; they had never even considered such a thing; but ONE BY ONE, they asked Jesus the same question. What’s clear in the Greek is that the question is asked with an expectation that the answer will be “No.”
Judas also said “SURELY NOT I?” He was guilty of gross hypocrisy, history’s worst traitor.
Jesus didn’t answer directly, but offered a clue and a warning. The clue came in this statement: “ONE OF THE TWELVE…WHO DIPS BREAD INTO THE BOWL WITH ME.” This is in two parts; His betrayer was one of the Twelve and one who was very near to him. Their customary way of eating was to use a piece of bread to scoop food from shared bowls.
The warning was expressed as, “WOE TO THAT MAN [Jesus’ betrayer]! IT WOULD BE BETTER FOR HIM IF HE HAD NOT BEEN BORN.” These words were for Judas’ benefit. Jesus gave him a warning and a last chance to repent.
3. Receiving the right answer. (22-26)
A measure of the love of Jesus is that He included His betrayer in the Last Supper. He could’ve easily called Judas out in public or in private and told him to shove off. Instead, he kept him part of the group for the moment.
Jesus took parts of the Passover meal and gave them new meaning. Jesus altered the Passover to become a new ritual centered on his death & resurrection.
For example, the Bread had been used to symbolize Israel’s hasty transition to freedom, but Jesus used it to symbolize His body, given as a sacrifice for our sins.
Also, the four Passover cups had been used to symbolize the four promises of God in Exodus 6:6-7, but Jesus used it to symbolize His blood, the basis for the new covenant between God and people.
The supper concluded on a solemn but hopeful note. It was solemn because Jesus declared He would not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the day God’s kingdom came. It was hopeful because there was a kingdom coming.
Singing is the traditional ending of a Passover meal. After that, they left the upper room and made their way to Gethsemane (32), the scene of Jesus’ arrest.
The question is what to do about sin. The answer is Jesus.
“Three times a month, Jermaine Washington and Michelle Stevens get together for what they call a ‘gratitude lunch.’ They met at work where they used to have lunch together. One day Michelle wept as she spoke about waiting on a kidney donor list for 11 months. She was being sustained by kidney dialysis, but suffered chronic fatigue and blackouts and was plagued by joint pain. Because Jermaine couldn’t stand the thought of watching his friend die, he gave her one of his kidneys. He said, ‘When you’ve got something great to be thankful for, having a ‘gratitude lunch’ is a great way to celebrate.’”
(Today in the Word, November 14, 1993, found at bible.org.)
It’s good for us to think of the Lord’s Supper as a “gratitude lunch.” In those moments we remember the great sacrifice of our Passover Lamb and celebrate the hopeful news that He is coming again.
The Bible Knowledge Key Word Study, The Gospels, Mark, Joel F. Williams
One Perfect Life: The Complete Story of the Lord Jesus, John MacArthur