The First Supper
Text: Mark 14:22-26
Proposition: In understanding the Passover Meal we amplify the meaning of the Lord’s Supper and the Lord’s purposes for instituting it.
Introduction: I thought that I’d share with you this morning not only a few quotes worth remembering but also a few quotes about remembering. Consider these: “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” - Henry Ford
“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” - Martin Luther King Jr.
The importance of remembering is not just so that you can find your car keys, it’s what keeps us connected to one another as we live in a way that honors God. Throughout the pages of Scripture God has had His people set up memorial stones, He had them write down words to pass on to their children, He instituted rituals and even festivals and certain solemn mealtimes all so that the people would remember. Last week we talked about the way that Jesus sent two disciples into Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover meal. We talked about the meaning of Passover as being a device by which the people of Israel would forever remember their freedom, first a freedom from physical slavery but ultimately a freedom from the slavery of sin. Passover was meant to be a device that would bind the people of Israel together and at the same time would direct them to live in a way that honored the great God who had delivered them and continues to deliver them as His chosen people. So Jesus on the evening of His death, in Gods perfect timing, celebrates the Passover and in so doing creates a new device of remembrance, the Lord’s Supper. Let’s look at what He said that night in Mark 14:22-26.
I. The Blessed, Broken, Bread… His Body. The Passover meal had the certain symbols in it that were to be repeated and remembered. Once a year as they ate it they would eat the bitter herbs to remind them of the bitterness of the slavery of their people. They would dip their fingers into the bowl of salted water to remember the tears of those in captivity. They would dip the bread in the thick paste of dates and nuts that was to remind them of the mud that their forefathers had to make each day in order to create the bricks that built another’s kingdom. The unleavened bread was there to remind that that they left in haste with no time to let the bread rise. The lamb, eaten or consumed by the fire so that nothing was left, the lamb whose blood had been used to mark the doorway to their homes, the lamb was the center piece of the meal. It was because of the lambs blood that they were passed over by death and the death of all the first born of Egypt not under the blood became their final means of deliverance. Is it possible that Jesus being the host of this meal retold the story of Passover that night? I think that they had all listened to Jesus as they ate the ritual portion of the Passover meal and then, as the last moments of the Passover meal were being completed, Jesus reaches over and takes a piece of unleavened bread and begins to pray a blessing. The brakes came on, immediately the men in the room would seek to cover their heads, silence listens as the voice of One blesses a piece of unleavened bread. The blessing or giving of thanks marked a beginning, the call to be thankful for something that was about to occur. As the tone of thanksgiving characterized Passover, much more so would thanksgiving be part of this new remembrance. In fact the term ‘eucharist’, from the Greek word eucharisteō in Matthew 26:27, means thanksgiving. The breaking of the bread by the host marked the words that He was about to say as being of particular significance. The crisp, unleavened bread Jesus hands out to the disciples, a piece to each and as they receive it they look at Him as He says, “Take, eat, this is My body.” There are two things that Jesus meant by this:
1. This unleavened bread that you hold, a symbol of not only a haste to deliver but also of being sinless, this is the new bloodless remembrance you are to be under and to observe. No more blood sacrifices, my body is the final act of God in bringing forgiveness of sin and deliverance of salvation. This bread is now the symbol of My body which is there for you to take and eat. My body shall be what brings life.
2. “This is My body”, was also a statement from Jesus eyes as He looked at the disciples holding the bread in their hands, awaiting His next instruction. This gathering of those who believe and obey Him, who He has called and whom He now manifests Himself with in the world, “This is My body.”
The wonder of the Lord’s Supper, the First Supper, is that it unites us with unbreakable chains to God and with unyielding bonds to each other. Jesus points out to the disciples that the meal of remembrance that we have come to call Communion is both an act of vertical and horizontal remembrance.
II. The Covenantal, Communal, Cup… His Blood. The cup that Jesus took to proclaim this new covenant is likely one of the cups used during the Passover meal. Bruce Scott in his book, ‘The Feasts of Israel’, says that there were four times of ceremonial drink, four cups that recalled the method by which God would redeem Israel that are from Exodus 6:6,7.
1. I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
2. I will rescue you from their bondage
3. I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.
4. I will take you as My people and I will be your God.
Scott notes that in the Passover meal the 3rd cup was what at the end of the supper and it corresponded with the 3rd promise of Exodus 6. It was this cup that Jesus uses in Mark 14. If this is the case then the new covenant that Jesus used the cup to proclaim was the new method of redemption. The outstretched arm of Jesus was indeed the cross, an arm that reached all peoples and was by grace the great judgment of God for their sin. It is covenantal in that it describes the new agreement for salvation, it is communal in that it is for many, it is the cup which the Father intended that Jesus represent, perhaps even the same cup that Jesus makes reference to in Gethsemane. The New Covenant has two main aspects to it, the new method by which sin is to be forgiven and the new method by which obedience is attained. The first is the blood of Jesus on the cross, the second is the giving of the Holy Spirit to the church. It is the leading, gifting, comforting, correcting work of the Spirit that is also part of this new covenant. It’s why Galatians 516 says that if we walk in the Spirit we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh. That’s a new covenant provision and it’s the effect of the blood of Jesus given freely for us on the cross.
In 1 Corinthians 11 Paul gives the familiar instructions for the taking of the Lord’s Supper and he puts this phrase in both the taking of the bread and the cup, “…do this in remembrance of Me.” Passover was to have had that same kind of remembrance. Remembrance is a recall of the past event that this moment celebrates, but we are to recall it with a clarity that seeks to look into it’s very details. To recall it with wonder and with the awareness of what that moment in time looked like and what it meant in the mind of God. Remembrance also has a present tense to it, to remember the Lord’s death on the cross so that it affects the way that I live today. We have been set free in Christ, live therefore as free people, no longer slaves to sin. As a free person you can now choose to yield your life as a bond servant to Jesus, the life you now live no longer being your own but now it is for Jesus. That’s the present tense aspect of remembrance. There is also a future tense aspect isn’t there? It’s why Jesus said, “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.” Remembrance is a call to remember what is about to come and live in expectation of that. One day Jesus will drink the fruit of the vine again, He will be able to do that because He is physically present here on earth! The implication is that this is an act that is shared with those who have by faith received forgiveness of sin, who by faith have received the gift of the Holy Spirit and have sought to live in obedience to Him. Communion, the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist… it’s really the First Supper for all of eternity! The celebration of this meal, that so holds to the death and resurrection of Jesus, is meant to unite us with unbreakable chains to God and with unyielding bonds to each other.