The Last Supper – Mark 14:12-26
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark, where we are going to be looking at Mark 14:12-26, this morning.
Mark 14, beginning in verse 12: “And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, ‘Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?’ 13 And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, 14 and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, “The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15 And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.’ 16 And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
“17 And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. 18 And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ 19 They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, ‘Is it I?’ 20 He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. 21 For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.’
“22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’ 26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
It’s the beginning of Passover—the time when Jews from all over the place gathered at Jerusalem to commemorate the deliverance of the Jews from Egypt when the angel of death “passed over” the firstborn in Jewish homes with lambs’ blood on the door frames. Passover was a time for remembering their past deliverance from Egypt and anticipating the future redemption of the Messiah.
In preparation for Passover, it is estimated that over 250,000 lambs would be slaughtered for the meal that would be celebrated together with family and friends and neighbours.
According to Deuteronomy 16, Passover could only be celebrated within the walls of Jerusalem, which meant that the city of Jerusalem would swell way beyond its normal size during Passover. Think of Boyle when Fort McMurray was evacuated because of the forest fires in 2016. That’s the kind of increase in population that Jerusalem would experience on a yearly basis for Passover.
But there was a process to Passover. The yeast, the leaven, had to be removed from the house. There could be no trace of it. The lamb had to be slaughtered and cooked and prepared a certain way. The unleavened bread and the other delicacies associated with the Passover had to be prepared.
A few years ago, the church that I grew up in had an organization called Jews for Jesus come in and lead a Passover Seder, as a way for us to experience Passover. And Jews for Jesus is a good organization to lead it, because they walk you through the Passover meal with the emphasis on Christ, and how Christ fulfills every part of it.
It was a really neat experience, but I remember the ladies of the church spending most of the day preparing this meal. There were many components involved and many steps that needed to be taken to make sure that we were getting the full effect. The disciples ask Jesus where He would have them go to prepare for the Passover. They are right to get going on the preparations.
But what we’re going to see, for our time together, this morning, is not simply preparations for the Passover, but the preparation for the Passion of the Christ. And there are three things that emerge about Jesus in our text:
1. First, we see that Jesus is in control.
In 1906, a famous theologian by the name of Albert Schweitzer wrote a book called The Quest for the Historical Jesus. In his book, Schweitzer suggests that Jesus believed that His ministry would bring about the end of the world, but that something went wrong. He lost control and was put to death in the process.
But when we look at Jesus in the Gospels, nothing could be further from the truth. One commentator writes, “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.”
In Luke 13:33, Jesus says, “Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Jesus knows exactly where He is going and what He is going to do when He gets there. He has been informing His disciples of His imminent death throughout this entire trip to Jerusalem. This is not some mistaken prophet; this is a King who has everything under His control.
And we see this in the precise instructions that He gives to His disciples. It’s actually very similar to what took place when Jesus was about to enter into Jerusalem, back in Mark 11. Jesus had told two of His disciples to go into the city, and to look for a donkey that was tied up, and for them to untie it and bring it back to Him, and He even gave them something to say to the owners of the donkey, if they asked what was going on, which they did.
And in our text, Jesus again sends out two of His disciples, which Luke 22:8 records were “Peter and John.” And He tells them to look for a man carrying a jar of water, which would have been an unusual sight, since this task was usually performed by a woman, and to follow that man to a specific house, where they were to say to the owner of the house that the Teacher wanted to know where the guest room was, so that He might eat the Passover with His disciples.
And verse 16 tells us that “the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them.” Jesus has every single detail taken care of, down to the man with the jug of water. Does that sound like a Jesus not in control? No, it sounds like a Jesus in total control of everything that is going on.
In John 1:29, John the Baptist announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” And here, Jesus is that true and better Passover Lamb, who came to be our substitute and to lay His life down for us. He’s not a victim of circumstances outside of His control; He is the willing sacrifice on behalf of sinners. He is our Suffering Saviour and Conquering King.
But the disciples don’t fully comprehend this, yet. It says that the disciples “prepared the Passover.” They would have taken part in this meal every single year, since they were little, so they would have made sure that everything was the way it was supposed to be, as they had seen it done, growing up.
But little did they know that there was something about this Passover that was different from all the Passovers they had celebrated before, and that is, the true and better Passover Lamb was in their midst.
1 Corinthians 5:7 says, “Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed.” After this Passover meal, Jesus would go to the cross, and He would be raised from the dead, and then they would understand.
In Acts 2:23, Peter would stand up on the Day of Pentecost and say that everything took place “according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God.” The cross may have been a surprise to the disciples and to the crowd who had followed Jesus all these years. They may not have fully realized everything that was going on, until later. But this was no surprise for King Jesus.
Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus, “for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” Make no mistake, Jesus is in control.
2. Secondly, we see that Jesus is not surprised by betrayal.
In verse 17, Mark tells us that Jesus “came with the twelve.” And it seems like everything is going the way a normal Passover meal would go. They’re reclining at the table. They’re eating this meal. They’re very likely participating in the ceremony that went along with Passover, where the children present would ask these prescribed questions that the head of the meal would answer by retelling the story of the Exodus.
But then, suddenly, Jesus flips the script. A feast that was filled with victory and joy, immediately turns to “sorrow,” as Jesus announces that one of His disciples is about to betray Him.
Now, we live in this privileged position on this side of the cross where we know who the betrayer is. Mark has been dropping hints along the way throughout his Gospel. In Mark 3:19, Mark tells us that Judas Iscariot, when he was chosen to follow Jesus, was the one “who betrayed him.” And then, last week, we saw that Judas was headed to the chief priests “to betray him.”
But notice that Jesus doesn’t name the disciple who is about to betray Him. He doesn’t stand up and say, “Listen up, everyone. Judas is about to betray Me.” No, Jesus simply says, “One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” Well, that’s interesting, since all of them were eating with Jesus at this time, which would make all of them potential suspects. Why would Jesus announce His betrayal in this way?
1. First, I believe Jesus does this as a way of promoting self-reflection.
In Luke 22:23, it says that “they began to question one another, which of them it could be who was going to do this.” And I just picture Peter leaning over to his brother, Andrew, saying, “Hey, I bet it’s Matthew. He used to be a tax collector. He has no problem betraying his people.” And I picture John leaning over to his brother, James, saying, “Hey, I bet it’s Andrew. He’s Peter’s brother, but he isn’t part of Jesus’ inner circle like you, me and Peter, which means that he probably has it out for Jesus.”
But then, something interesting happens. After all the speculation is over, each one of the disciples begin to ask Jesus, “Is it I?” There is something about Jesus’ statement that causes each one of His disciples, even the most vocally loyal like Peter, to wonder, “Am I the one who is going to do this thing to you?”
Robert Murray McCheyne, minister in the Church of Scotland in the 1800’s, said, “The seed of every sin known to man is in my heart.” We know that the betrayer is Judas, but the capability of betraying Jesus was most certainly in the hearts of each one of the disciples. Any one of them had the potential to do this thing.
In fact, by the end of the night, each one of the disciples is going to betray Jesus in some sense, whether from weakness or fear or cowardice. For example, in Matthew 26:33, Peter says to Jesus, “Though they all fall away because of you, I will never fall away.” That’s cute. But Jesus says to Peter that, not only will he too fall away, but he will also deny Jesus three times that night.
What Jesus is doing in this moment is getting them to reflect on their own sin. The disciples could just as easily have continued to point fingers at everyone else, but there came a point when they needed to look inward and ask the question, “Do I have within me the capability to betray Jesus?”
And what this should do is cause each one of us to reflect on our own sin, because when we understand our own propensity to sin, when we understand that you and I have within ourselves the capability for any and all kinds of evil, then it does away with all the finger-pointing and speculation of other people.
We had another doctor’s appointment, this week, and on our way to the city, Gideon opened the window on his side of the van. Now, usually, we keep the windows closed, since we have air conditioning, so I tell Gideon to close his window. But Benji immediately pipes up, “Yeah, Gideon, don’t touch the window.”
And Benji’s response is funny, because he’s just upset that he didn’t think to open his own window, first. And I made sure to reiterate to him that he worry about his own obedience and not the obedience of his brother. If we are more concerned with the sin of others than we are with our own sin, then we have missed the point of the gospel. And I believe what Jesus is doing here is pointing out that we need to daily reflect on our need for a Saviour.
2. Secondly, I believe Jesus does this as a way of promoting repentance.
In Matthew 26:25, it says that Judas asked Jesus, “Is it I, Rabbi?” To which Jesus replies, “You have said so.” Now, regardless of whether Judas is genuinely asking the question or is just trying to keep up appearances, it would seem as though Judas is so steeped in his sin, that he is no longer sensitive to the things of God and has therefore no desire to repent of his sin.
Jesus is exposing the betrayer, intending to point him to repentance. Jesus even clarifies, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me.” That’s getting really specific. Jesus has just narrowed the possible options down to one person.
But notice that the disciples don’t suspect Judas. In John 13:27, Jesus says to Judas, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” And the disciples think that Judas is supposed to leave and give some money to the poor. None of them are whispering to themselves, “It’s Judas. I knew it. There was something about that guy. He always made me feel uncomfortable.” No, there’s none of that, because Judas didn’t seem like the likely candidate to do something like this.
And church, this is the danger of secret sin. It’s possible to make a profession of faith and to live out that profession, but at the same time, to be so steeped in sin that those around us cannot see it, because we’ve hid it so well, and there is no desire to repent of our sin, because we either love it too much or because our conscience has become so seared that we don’t even think something is wrong.
And the danger for Judas and for those who do not repent, who do not turn from their sin and turn to Jesus, is that it “would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” The bad news for each one of us is that we are all like Judas. Each one of us has betrayed Jesus by rebelling against Him. We ask, “Is it I?” but the answer Jesus gives is “yes.” Thankfully, 2 Peter 3:9 says that God “is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”
I believe that Jesus is giving Judas the opportunity to repent in this moment, but He is also giving us the opportunity to repent, as well. The good news of Jesus Christ is that He came to lay down His life for the unworthy and the cowardly and the unfaithful. Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
Even those who betray this King can experience immediate and complete forgiveness through simple repentance. And I would love to believe that Judas experienced this, but there is no indication he ever did. And I pray we don’t make the same mistake. I pray that we never wait till tomorrow to get right with God, because we don’t know if we will ever get tomorrow. God is patient and forgiving, but there is coming a day when He will remove His grace from our lives, and give us over to our sinful desires, and there will be no more opportunities to repent.
3. And so, we see that Jesus is in control, and He’s not surprised by betrayal. Finally, we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Passover.
The scene that follows should remind us of the words of David in Psalm 23:5, where he writes, “You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.” Jesus is not only the head of the feast; He is the feast. In the presence of those who would eventually betray Him, Jesus is the true Passover sacrifice.
It says that “as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’” Last week, we read about a woman who anointed Jesus’ body for burial. Here we see that Jesus is the true and better Feast of Unleavened Bread, who gave His body for sinners.
Verse 23 says, “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’” Hebrews 9:22 says that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Here we see that Jesus is the true and better Passover Lamb, who shed His blood for the forgiveness of sin.
What we are reading here is our basis for the Lord’s Supper. This is what we partake of, every Sunday morning at 10:00 am, in the Remembrance Service. We eat a piece of bread and drink a cup of juice to symbolize the broken body and shed blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. But there is something significant that is happening here as it pertains to Passover that we must not overlook.
The Passover meal included four cups of wine that were to be consumed at certain points throughout the meal and that represented the four promises of God in Exodus 6:6-7, which says, “Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.’”
The four promises of God in these verses are: rescue from Egypt, freedom from slavery, redemption by God’s power, and a restored relationship with God. Each cup of wine pointed to one of these promises of God.
So, when Jesus takes the cup, in verse 23, it is at the point of the meal where He would have been picking up the third cup—the cup of redemption. This cup traditionally signified the slaying of the Passover lamb that spared the Israelites from the plague of the death of the firstborn. But Jesus doesn’t speak about the redemption of the Jewish people. Again, Jesus goes off the script, speaking of a greater redemption from our bondage to sin.
Jesus is saying to His disciples, “I am making a new covenant with you that is signed and sealed in My blood. And even though you will not even make the night before betraying Me, I will give My life as a ransom for you.”
In our place, Jesus would drink another cup—the cup of judgment, the cup of God’s wrath against sin. In Mark 14:36, Jesus prays, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”
Jesus would drink this cup of judgment to its bitter end, fully satisfying the wrath of God on our behalf, so that we can drink the cup of redemption. The cup of judgment became the cup of our redemption.
It reminds me of another story of a cup in the Bible. After his brothers betrayed him and sold him into slavery in Egypt, God exalted Joseph to a place of great prominence and power. During a famine, his brothers came to Egypt to buy grain. They didn't recognize Joseph, but Joseph certainly recognized them. He kept his identity a secret and demanded that they return with their youngest brother to prove that they weren't spies.
When they returned, Joseph hid his own silver cup in his youngest brother's sack of grain. As the brothers were returning home for the second time, Joseph's soldiers intercepted them. They found Joseph's cup in Benjamin’s sack and accused him of theft. That cup became an indictment against Benjamin and a symbol of judgment.
They returned with Benjamin to Egypt, only to discover the true identity of the prince of Egypt and were reunited with the brother who had every right to execute all but the youngest—not for his silver cup—but for selling him into slavery. The cup that brought them back to Egypt was a symbol of judgment and death. Yet, it became the occasion for redemption and forgiveness.
This is what the cup of redemption does for us and why this cup matters so much for us, today. It’s a cup we don’t deserve, but it’s a cup that is freely offered to each one of us by grace through faith in Christ alone.
Jesus brings the Passover meal to a close by refusing to drink the fourth and final cup. In verse 25, Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” Why? Because it’s the cup of consummation. Jesus is waiting to drink this cup until the kingdom of God is fully realized.
There is a sense in which the kingdom of God is a present reality. Jesus announced on the cross, “It is finished.” The battle has been won. The powers of Satan and sin and death have been dealt a decisive blow. And Christ has set His Church to advance against the kingdom of darkness.
But you and I live in this space between the ascension and the second coming of Christ. And things don’t look very finished, now. There is still sickness and injustice and death. The presence of sin in the world is still evident.
The reality is that we are not home, yet. We are reminded of this whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, together. 1 Corinthians 11:26 says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes.”
We are not home, yet, but we have been redeemed. And we can be assured that Christ will drink that fourth and final cup—the cup of consummation. And on that day, everything will be how it was always intended to be, for then we will finally be home in the presence of our Saviour and King.
In verse 26, it says that, “when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.” We are going to close with a hymn. And whether we sing or hum or just listen to the words, may we leave here today with an attitude of thankfulness for all that God has done in Christ Jesus. Let’s pray…