Understanding the Lord’s Supper – Mark 14:12-25

Good morning church! I hope you all had a blessed week in the Lord and I’m excited to share from the Word this morning. As a church we have been studying the gospel of Mark and we have arrived at the last few chapters of this gospel.

Wouldn’t you agree it’s been wonderful studying this together? We will be continuing with chapter 14 today and as you are turning to it let me set the background: the events of the last few chapters are taking place during Passion Week – which means that the crucifixion is very very close. You can imagine what might have been going through the mind of Jesus & his disciples. And our passage today revolves around the supper/meal that Jesus has with his disciples
[Read Mark 14:12-25]

I grew up in a traditional church where they used to administer the Lord’s Supper each week but I don’t think I realized the significance at the time. It seemed like a ritual similar to the rites of other religions is how I presumed it while growing up. With the wide variety of interpretations available everywhere, it’s great that today we get to study this together to get a biblical understanding of this important commandment from the Lord. I’ve got 3 points to share:

We need Jesus’ Provision and not our performance (v12-16)

Context is key to understanding any passage, wouldn’t you agree? The Lord’s Supper after all was a part of the Passover meal originally. Therefore, it’s vitally important to understand the context of this passage to understand the Lord’s Supper. v12 says this happens on the first day of Unleavened Bread and when they sacrificed the Passover Lamb.

Now what is this unleavened bread? It’s a 7-day festival observed by Israelites where they would eat bread without yeast to remember that on this day God brought out the Israelites from the land of Egypt. God rescued the Israelites from their bondage to slavery! 

And on the first day of the unleavened bread they celebrated the Passover. Now as most of you would remember, this was the event in Egypt when the Israelites killed a lamb and painted their doorposts with the blood of the lamb and no one ventured out till morning next day. At night, the Lord passed through the land to strike the Egyptians and he passed over every home that had the blood of the lamb on their door post & so the Israelites were spared but the first born among the Egyptians were killed.

On one hand it marked the event of God rescuing the Israelites from slavery and on the other hand, the Passover meant God protected them from being killed through the blood of the lamb.

Do you see the familiarity with these events and what Christ was going to ultimately do?

  • He was going to save people from their slavery to sin (Matt 1:21).
  • He Himself was the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. (John 1:29) He was going to protect people from the wrath of God.

Now think about it, the disciples ask Jesus about where would he want them to prepare the Passover. And Jesus gives them specific instructions and they found it to be exactly how it was described to them by Jesus. At the time I don’t think the disciples understood the truth about Jesus’ being the Passover lamb. I wonder if in a way Jesus was communicating this idea through this supernatural provision that “the Lord Himself will provide for the Passover”. Not through their performance & efforts but through His provision.

How does this speak to our hearts this morning?

All of us have been born with a default setting: self-performance. We love to do things by ourselves. We love the idea of a self-made man or woman. We don’t want to be helped by anyone and sometimes that also reflects in our attitude towards God.

We want to be self-sufficient in our relationship. That’s precisely the thing that keeps us from depending on Christ. Any person who understands his real need will run towards anyone who can offer help. How much more should that be for us who are broken, wretched, helpless and sinful without Christ? We need Jesus’ provision.

We know that we can’t create that need for Jesus automatically. That happens when we identify our crutches – those idols of self-performance, those idols of self-sufficiency – turn from those crutches – throw it away and then call out to Jesus in our helplessness.

I remember sometime back when God convicted me of spiritual pride because “I thought” I knew a lot of the Bible. I gained some knowledge because of the resources that I was exposed to. And all those things were really good stuff that I learnt. Over a period of time however, I realized how that was making me arrogant, argumentative, and most importantly it made me forget how much I needed Jesus.

My prayers sounded more like the Pharisee rather than the tax collector from that parable that Jesus shared. I had to throw away/repent of that crutch of biblical knowledge and then my heart was able to respond to Christ and understand His provision. What are those crutches brothers and sisters in your lives that God is calling you to throw away? Let’s humble ourselves in repentance as we look to participate in the Lord’s Supper. 

Proximity to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean intimacy with Him (v17-21)

This is a sobering passage to say the least. Think about it…who was Judas? He was one of 12 close disciples of Jesus. He interacted very closely with Jesus every single day. He saw Jesus perform great miracles – heal the blind, sick and even raise the dead.

He saw Jesus show mercy, forgiveness and compassion to those whom the world didn’t even pay attention to. He heard the gospel clearly through the mouth of Jesus. He himself was sent out into the village to preach the gospel while he was appointed to perform miracles and cast out demons in Jesus’ name. Within the disciple’s group he also was a Treasurer – he used to handle to money bag.

And yet we see him betray Jesus because he loved money and himself more than Jesus. In reality he didn’t love Jesus at all. And that’s shocking because it means that Proximity to Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean intimacy with Him…Proximity doesn’t necessarily translate to close fellowship with Jesus. What does that mean for us?

We shouldn’t assume that we are believers because we:

  • Had a spiritual experience in the past: because we prayed a prayer or received healing
  • Religious activity: because we are very active in our weekend gatherings, GC
  • Biblical knowledge: because we know everything in the Bible. Even Satan knows more Scripture than all of us.

What does the Bible instead tell us repeatedly? 5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. (2 Cor 13:5)

Don’t assume…test yourself using Scripture to see if you are a believer or not. As a recommendation – 1 John is a wonderful book in the Bible that you can use to test your faith. Are you seeing the evidence of true faith in your life? This calls us to examine our hearts and test to see if we are truly in the faith before participating the Lord’s Supper.

The Lord’s Supper is about a Promise and not a transaction (v22-25)

Different churches in India and around the world have debated over the meaning of the Lord Supper over the years. Some churches say that during the worship service or “mass”, the bread and the wine actually turn into the literal body and blood of Jesus. Biblically we know that it doesn’t turn into Jesus’ flesh and blood because of the manner in which Jesus used it in this statement.

Did Jesus offer his literal flesh and blood to his disciples? No, he meant it symbolically and so we also need to take it as that. Some other churches say that when we participate in the Lord’s Supper, God actually gives us grace and blessings by our participation. Some other churches say we receive healing by taking it. If you think about it all these other interpretations to the Lord Supper makes it seem like a transaction and that cheapens the true meaning of this.

But what does the Bible actually say? It actually says the Lord’s Supper is more about a promise toward believers and not a transaction. The Lord Supper is a:

  • Promise of Christ’s commitment toward us (v22-24)

Christ literally died. He was physically dead for those 3 days. He paid the punishment for our sins. What we deserved – He bore in our place.  He was willing to go to any extent – even die for you and me. That is symbolized by the bread. The cup on the other hand symbolized the blood of the covenant. What does that mean? In the OT, blood that was on the altar was sprinkled on the Israelites to show God’s commitment toward them. But they rebelled and didn’t remain faithful to that covenant…so God replaced that covenant with a new one through Jesus:

33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer 31:33,34) Nothing will break our relationship. It will be secure forever because of what Christ has done. So that’s the commitment is reminded to us over and over again as we participate in the Lord’s Supper.

  • Promise of our union with Christ (v22-23):

Not only does Christ die and pour out his blood for us but also, we are united to Him which is symbolized in Him sharing the elements with His disciples. We are members of Christ’s body. We share in His death. We share in His resurrection. And the life we now live we live by faith in the Son of God. Christ is living in and through us.

That’s why we take the Lord’s Supper together because we acknowledge that it’s the same grace that unites us to our Lord. Believers declare their union with Christ first through baptism and then the recurring reminder after that is through the Lord’s Supper. That’s why we say that if you aren’t a believer in Christ you shouldn’t partake of it because it has to do with our union with Him.  

  • Promise of a future hope with Christ (v25):

Jesus promises to have to have the fruit of the vine once again in the kingdom of God. Probably referring to the Marriage Supper of the lamb where He will have it once more with His bride – the church. Isn’t that exciting? Isn’t that something to look forward to?

Angie and I go back sometimes to watch our wedding video to remind ourselves of the vows we made to each other. There were a lot of really good things that happened that day but the most special thing that happened that day was our vow to each other because in that lies our commitment to each other which we make in the presence of God & His church.

What if Jesus Christ used the symbol of the bread and cup to remind our hearts every week of His commitment, our union with Him and a future hope with Him forever. How can we respond to that? By thanking Him, loving Him and surrendering our lives to Him.

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