Peace be with you!
Saying goodbye to close friends is always so hard. My last year in semester at Luther Seminary was a time when friends and I were constantly doing the things that had brought us together, like baseball games, girls’ nights out, and Friday lunches in the café. Some Fridays, we prolonged our lunches, laughing together long into the afternoon. We knew as soon as we graduated that we would all be moving in a dozen different directions.
Jesus knows this Passover dinner with his disciples will be his last meal with them until his resurrection. He has a lot to do before his crucifixion, death, and resurrection, including giving them ways to honor God. Jesus also understands the coming days will be confusing for his disciples as they watch him suffer. In addition, the days will come when his disciples will face similar fates due to their belief in and loyalty to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Somehow Jesus needs to give his disciples the strength, courage, and hope to make it through difficult times so they can dare to spread the good news.
During supper, Jesus takes bread, blesses it, breaks it, and gives it to his disciples saying, “Take; this is body.” (Mark 14:22 NRSV). Then he takes the cup, gives thanks, and gives it to his disciples to drink saying, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God” (Mark 14:23-25 NRSV).
Taking and eating bread and wine seem like such simple acts. But it is what Jesus does with the bread and the wine which makes them special. Jesus blesses the bread and the wine before giving it to his disciples. The bread and the wine become symbols of Jesus’ body and blood and become holy to us as Christians. When Jesus says that his blood will be poured out for many, he is saying his blood will seal a new covenant between God and his people. Jesus will become the sacrifice which will repair our relationship with God the Father. Through Jesus’ body and blood, we are given forgiveness and freedom
When Jesus says he will not drink again until he is once again in the kingdom of God, he alluding to his resurrection. Jesus will be alive again when he goes to heaven where there will be a grand banquet, and there will be a new covenant between God and his people. We are made new through Jesus’ crucifixion, death, and resurrection. Our relationship with God the Father is made new with the new covenant. The Last Supper is important, because it gave us as Christians a reason to keep going. In the face of the darkness, we have something tangible to remind us of God’s love and forgiveness.
But Jesus does not stop with the bread and the wine. He makes three predictions about his disciples. The first prediction is that one of his disciples will betray him (Mark 14:18b). We already know from yesterday’s reading that Judas is planning on betraying Jesus by leading the chief priests to arrest him. It is hard news for the eleven disciples to hear. How could one of them betray Jesus?
Then Jesus says they will desert him because it is written, “I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.” (Mark 14:27; Zechariah 13:7). Jesus is our shepherd, and we are his sheep. Jesus endures crucifixion and death on our behalf. We and the disciples run away, because we are scared of the unknown, of what people will think, and of the uncertainty life gives us. Running is easier than standing around waiting for the next punch.
Finally, when Peter says he would never desert him, Jesus tells him he will deny him three times before midnight (Mark 14:30). Peter argues he would never deny Jesus, even if he had die with him (Mark 14:31). In a perfect world as perfect individuals, we would never deny Jesus, even in the face of death. But let’s face it: dying is a little scarier than we would like to admit. When faced with the decision between life and death, we prefer life.
These predictions are hard to accept, let alone accept that they have to happen. Judas has to betray Jesus so that Scripture is fulfilled and Jesus is led to the cross and to resurrection for us. The disciples have to desert Jesus in accordance with the scriptures. Even as we hate this part of the story, it has to take place to carry out God’s plan to save us from the darkness. God’s path is not the easiest to accept, but even in the darkest hour we can see the light.
Continue to follow the light. The story is just unfolding. Thanks be to God!
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for coming into the world to experience our personal suffering. Help us to accept the parts of your plan that we do not like, knowing that your plan continues to unfold according to your will. Thank you for unfolding your plan through us as your children. Thank you for the forgiveness and hope you offer us in the Lord’s Supper. Amen.
Thanks to the Triune God – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.
Please answer the following reflective questions in the comments below. Please agree to disagree and be respectful to each other. (If you have not already done so, please also take a moment, to sign the comment covenant.) You can answer as many questions as you would like.
1. How has God used you to unfold his plan?
2. Which of the troubling events in the last week of Jesus’ earthly life do you find the hardest to grapple with?