Sunday School Lessons


Commentary by Walter Albritton


April 13


Jesus Gives the Passover Rich, New Meaning


Mark 14:1-25

Key Verse: This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.

        Mark 14:24


            This spring we have watched our Coalition Forces destroy Iraqi Regime-oriented sites in and around Baghdad with “precision bombs.” Videos of these strikes illustrate our military capacity to devise a plan and execute that plan with pinpoint accuracy. As the war to free Iraq has proceeded, we have been impressed with the careful planning of General Tommy Franks and his team.

            The scriptures teach us that God also plans well and can work his plan to perfection. During the last days before his crucifixion, Jesus executed a careful plan to celebrate the feast of the Passover in secrecy with his disciples. Security was necessary because the religious leaders were determined to kill him.

            Jesus’ plan unfolds like a John Grisham novel. Peter and John are sent to prepare the room for the supper. The location is unknown even to them.

            They will learn the location by finding and following a man carrying a jar of water on his head. Such a man would be easy to spot since only women, not men, would carry a pitcher of water on their heads. The man would lead the two disciples to the home with the large upper room.

            Our Lord’s instructions were followed by Peter and John, who found everything just as Jesus had said it would be. They probably wished that Andrew and James had come with them for preparing the meal required a lot of hard work.

            The Passover lamb had to be roasted. Unleavened bread (without yeast) had to be baked. In addition there must be secured a bowl of salt water (to remind them of the Red Sea), bitter herbs (to remind them of the bitterness of slavery), a sauce made of fruit and nuts, and wine to drink.

            When evening came, the meal was ready when Jesus and the other disciples arrived on schedule. As they sat down and began to eat, what Jesus shared saddened their hearts. Bluntly, Jesus announced that one of them would betray him. One by one, the twelve asked the sobering question, “Is it I?”

            Since none of the disciples tried to stop Judas from betraying Jesus, we may assume that they did not understand Judas was the traitor. Apparently, they were not listening or paying attention when Jesus intimated that the betrayer was Judas.

            What follows is what the church calls the “institution of the Lord’s Supper.” Jesus takes the bread, and after giving thanks, he gives it to them, saying “Take, eat; this is my body.”

            Later he takes the cup, and again giving thanks, he passes the cup among them, saying, “This is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many.”

            With these words, Jesus gave rich, new meaning to the traditional Passover meal. On that historic night, a new covenant superseded the old covenant. The new covenant signaled the arrival of the Kingdom, which offered a new relationship between God and his people.

            That night, the people of God began shifting from the old Passover meal to the new Lord’s Supper. Jesus was the new Lamb of God; henceforth no other lambs would need to be slain. Since then, for 2000 years, the followers of Christ have celebrated this meal in obedience to his command, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

            As Christians, we have our differences about what Holy Communion means, and the rudiments of serving it. However, it remains, without question, the central worship experience of Christendom.

            We agree that in the celebration of the Last Supper the living Christ becomes present. He is the Host of the meal, and all of us lay and clergy alike, are blessed by this sweet communion with our Lord. We delight in singing, “He is here, hallelujah!”

            Dramatic, and wonderful, experiences often occur in this holy sacrament. It stirs the soul to hear, as you take the bread and the cup, the solemn words, “Jesus died for you.”

            As a pastor, many times I have had someone kneeling at the altar to look into my eyes, their own eyes filled with tears, and say words like those that Catherine spoke one day, “Please ask the Lord to heal my broken heart.”

            I am confident that the living Christ has indeed healed many broken, grieving hearts during Holy Communion. He is ready to graciously meet all our needs when, accepting his invitation, we meet him at his table. + + + +