Mark 14:22-26 Jesus imparts new significance into an old custom
Last time, Jesus called the 12 together to celebrate the Passover. But other than the mention that “as they were… eating” (Mark 14:18), there are no details of either the actual Passover Meal nor of institution of the Lord’s Supper. Instead Mark focused our attention on the presence of a betrayer in Jesus inner circle (v. 18-21).
In this episode we see the focus shift to Jesus institution of a new covenant. It is interesting to note that as head of Household (Mark 14:14) Jesus does not highlight all of the traditional elements of the Passover Meal, but rather chooses to focus on just two elements, the bread and the wine. The focus here is infusing new meaning into the covenant memorial meal and tying that to His soon coming suffering and death (Geddert, BCBC).
First “as they were eating, he took bread” (v. 22). He gave thanks (NIV), broke it into pieces and distributed it to each of them, passing from hand to hand (Lane). “This is my body” – Jesus identifies the bread with Himself.
“the disciples can never again recline at a meal, take bread, bless it, and break it without thinking of the last night that they were together with their Lord.” – David Garland (NIVAC)
Surely our attention should be drawn here back to the miraculous feedings and the disciples’ repeated failures to understand the bread here (Mark 6:31) and here (Mark 8:6) and finally here (Mark 8:17).
The “breaking” of Jesus results in benefits to the community of His followers (Geddert), not just the twelve disciples present here, but all those who in the future will reenact the parable of this covenant memorial meal. From this we can be assured that Jesus will be personally present with us whenever we gather for table-fellowship (Lane, NICNT).
At the end of the meal (Cole, TNTC and cf. Paul in 1 Cor. 11:25) “he took a cup” (emphasis mine). According to Lane it was the third cup of the Passover, the common cup, and the text would seem to agree that “they all drank of it” (v. 23) from the same cup. Whichever cup it was, Jesus “pours” (sorry) a new interpretation into the wine of this new covenant:
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 14:24, ESV)
Yes, the word “new” here in some Greek manuscripts is likely a scribal insertion, but the parallel account in Luke 22:20 and also in Paul (1 Cor. 11:25) make it clear that the covenant that Jesus speaks of here in Mark is indeed a new covenant in line with the one envisioned by the prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-34). And covenants in the minds of these Jews present at Jesus’ table, involved the shedding of blood and the sacrifice of an animal (remember this is Passover). Jesus is here renewing the covenant between God and His people. When the disciples celebrate that new covenant in their shared fellowship meals, it is both sealed by, and a reminder of His sacrificial death on behalf of “many” which enables their participation in the salvation provided for in this new covenant (I’m deeply indebted to Geddert and Lane here).
Jesus will not drink it again (the cup of wine) until the day when he drinks it new (kainos – same Greek word that was inserted in v. 24) in the kingdom of God! OK, are you ready for some kingdom theology here folks? If Lane is right here, Jesus refused the 4th cup of the Passover, which is the cup of consummation! Thus, every time disciples enjoy table fellowship of bread and wine in the time between Jesus life & and death (i.e the first advent) and the parousia (what we call “the kingdom age”) we can be assured of His saving presence as we both look back at His sacrifice and look forward in hope-filled anticipation to the messianic banquet (the Marriage Supper of the Lamb), where Jesus finally drinks (and eats) that final cup with redeemed sinners at… the consummation of the kingdom of God! Whew!
Jesus ends the Passover traditionally, with the singing of the second half of the Hallel Psalms (115-118) and heads off with the disciples to the Mount of Olives. I’ll leave you with this devotional “homework” assignment as we look forward to the next couple episodes in our journey. Give Psalm 118 a slow, thoughtful reading, and then spend some time meditating on the image of Jesus’ agony in the Garden of Gethsemane with the words of Psalm 118 fresh upon His heart and mind, if not on His very lips as He prayed there.
It’s an upside kingdom folks! Jesus is crowned with a crown of thorns and enthroned on a Roman cross of shame and unspeakable suffering (Geddert). In Baptism we identify ourselves with Jesus death (Rom. 6:3-8), similarly in the Lord’s Supper we, in a very real sense, participate in His death – proclaiming it “until he comes” (Garland, NIVAC). So yes, as followers of Jesus, we are called to follow the example of Jesus, and (as much as I really don’t want this to include me) that includes suffering and persecution.
If nothing else, we have found that the ordinance of communion is brimming with significance in Mark’s gospel – deep and profound symbolism as well as the “real presence” of Christ. As you ponder what we’ve looked at here I hope that you will consider bringing some bread and wine to your next small group, christian gathering, or simply a dinner with friends.
“Perhaps this can be communicated best if we return to the practice of the New Testament in observing the Lord’s Supper at a shared meal. We can celebrate our fellowship with the Lord and with one another.” – David E. Garland
I exhort you, disciples, follow Jesus!