PREPARE TO LISTEN. Begin with the usual silence and then pray: O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever. (Psalm 107:1)
READ: Mark 14:22-25 Station 1: The upper room. ‘Poured out for many’
22While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ 23Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. 24He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly 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.’
Jesus moves effortlessly from the distressing warning of betrayal to a continuation of the Passover meal and a change of subject. For the second time Mark notes this was done ‘while they were eating’ (see v17). It was customary during Passover for the people to remember and relive the reason for the yearly Passover meal by retelling the story of the exodus from Egyptian slavery. Jesus ignored that ancient and important tradition and redefined Passover, reinterpreting its symbols in terms of what he was about to do. Passover is now about his body and his blood “poured out for many.”
In one sense, what Jesus did was not all entirely new. It was customary for the head of the family to break bread, bless the cup and give thanks then share it with the family. Those who partook of the offered bread and wine knew it meant becoming participants, fully involved with the giver in the blessing and whatever else was said. This is what Jesus offered, participation, not just in a nice blessing, but in his suffering and death. What made his act unique was the identification of the bread with his body and the cup with his own blood. Eating and drinking what he blessed and offered, as the disciples did, was their way of saying, ‘Yes, we’re with you to the end.’
But they weren’t. There was still a lingering hope that Jesus would become the conquering hero of Israel and the Jews. They stubbornly refused to accept Jesus’ teachings and warnings about his suffering and death. Once again Jesus tried to get through to them, concluding the meal with disturbing words (v25), a warning that he was soon to leave them. I wonder whether any of them noticed that Jesus had failed to mention the exodus story, had in fact reinterpreted it to become a bigger story, a story of redemption for all people, not merely one small nation.
Imagine being at that Passover meal, taking the bread and wine as Jesus gave entirely new teaching about its meaning. What might your first thoughts be? Communion remains participation with Jesus in his suffering and death and when we eat and drink we indicate our readiness to participate fully in Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection.
RESPOND TO JESUS IN PRAYER
Lord, I hear these words of yours often, each time I partake in Holy Communion. I’m willing to participate fully with you, but sometimes it’s so hard. Grant me grace and mercy to persevere to the end. Amen.
GO AND LIVE IN OBEDIENCE TO CHRIST who willingly shared his body and blood.