|THE LORD'S PASSOVER
Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Forty Three
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
March 17, 2019
Since January we’ve been studying through Jesus’ final week of ministry leading up to His crucifixion - death, burial, and resurrection. Which has been really helpful to take the time to study through all that.
Sometimes the events of this final week get crammed into a sermon or two - maybe on Palm Sunday or Resurrection Sunday. And sometimes we can read through these familiar passages on autopilot and not be listening to what God may be saying to us that we really need to hear.
Thank God for the opportunity - as we’ve been studying through Mark - to slow down and think through the big picture of how all these different last week ministry events are linked together. What they mean - the significance of each one as they point us to Jesus.
Jesus’ ministry and message since Day 1 of His ministry and message has been that: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14,15)
The first part of Jesus’ ministry and message led up to the mid-term exam question of “Who do you say that I am?” Who is Jesus? And Peter’s mic drop walk off answer: “You are the Christ.” (Mark 8:29)
Jesus is the Kingdom of God at hand. God Himself - Who is all of that incomprehensible divinity - Who has taken on the flesh and blood of our created humanity and is here with us - appointed by God to be the Christ - the Messiah - our Savior - our redeemer. The time to anticipate that happening is fulfilled. Jesus is here.
To “repent and believe in the gospel” has been the second part of Jesus’ ministry. Jesus teaching and demonstrating what it means to respond to the truth of Who Jesus is. What it means to repent and believe in the gospel - to trust in Him as our Savior and to become a follower - a disciple - of Jesus.
This final week puts all of that into perspective. Which is especially true as we move into the last days of that week. Today we’re looking at Thursday and the Passover.
Would you follow as I read for us Mark 14:12-31. There’s a lot of verses here so let me read them for us as we come before God’s word together. We’ll grab the picture and then come back and break these verses down.
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?”
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, 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?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”
And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
And when it was evening, He came with the twelve. 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.”
They began to be sorrowful and to say to Him one after another, “Is it I?”
He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with Me. 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.”
And as they were eating, He took break, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is My body.”
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. 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!”
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
Peter said to Him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”
And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”
But he said emphatically, “If I must die with You, I will not deny You.” And they all said the same.
[Preparation] Verses 12-16 record Jesus’ instructions and the preparation for the Passover meal.
Mark tells us that, 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?”
The Passover was… The Passover. The celebration of God’s delivering His people from bondage in Egypt. The Feast of Unleavened Bread celebrated God’s people actually leaving Egypt.
The Passover came first. It was always celebrated on the 14th day of the first month of the Hebrew religious calendar. And because that calendar was lunar - the 14th was always on... Thursday. The Feast of Unleavened Bread came next - on the 15th day of the first month… Friday.
Which presents a chronological conundrum. Straight up it seems like the disciples are asking the question on Friday about what they’re suppose to do on Thursday. If that seems confusing... it is.
The back story of the confusion is probably because - in those days - there were at least two ways of measuring time - Jewish and Roman. The Jews measured time from sundown to sundown. The Romans measured time from sunrise to sunrise. So there’s some overlap to all that which gets confusing. Which isn’t the point anyway.
Mark’s point is about the preparation, the need to get on with it, and the instructions that Jesus gives the disciples.
Preparations had to be made and lambs had to be sacrificed by sundown on the 14th of the month and eaten by sundown on the 15th of the month - what was the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread.
So midday on the 14th - work came to an end. And a representative of each family - usually the head of the household - took their lamb to the temple. At about 3:00 a Levite priest blew a ram’s horn. Worshippers filled the temple courts. The gates to the temple were closed. And the family representatives killed the lamb - skinned it - and drained its blood into a basin that was held by a priest.
Then the priest would sprinkle the blood on the altar to signify atonement for sin. The fat and kidneys were then burned on the altar as a peace offering between the family and God. The lamb killed in the temple became a consecrated substitute sacrifice for the family.
Then the household representative took the lamb home before sunset. Blood from the lamb was sprinkled on the door posts and lintel. Then the lamb was roasted and used for the Passover meal. A meal that needed to be eaten in Jerusalem. Because, after all, this is THE Passover meal.
So, on Thursday it’s time for all that preparation to happen. They need to get a lamb, bitter herbs, unleavened bread, wine - what’s needed for the meal. Sunset is coming. And Jesus and the disciples are still in Bethany. Which is where? 2 miles east of the city. So understandably the disciples are asking the where and how questions of making all that happen.
Verse 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, 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?’ And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.”
Which sounds like something from some spy movie.
In that culture men didn’t carry jars of water. Women carry jars of water. It’s an unusual sign. Probably pre-arranged.
Follow the man carrying the jar of water. Don’t talk to him. Just follow him wherever he goes. Whatever house he goes into - talk to the owner of that house about using the guest room - what would have been an upstairs room reserved for guests - furnished and ready for the disciples and Jesus. In that room prepare for the meal.
If you were to go to Jerusalem today there are at least a couple of possible locations for that upper room. One of which is located over a Jewish shrine venerated as the Tomb of King David. Where David is not buried. The other traditional location is an upper room at the Church of Saint Mark located in the Armenian Quarter of the old city of Jerusalem.
Where is the upper room? We don’t know. And it’s not important anyway. The secrecy is and why. The cloak and dagger instructions and arrangements that Mark focuses on.
Let’s be clear. Jesus didn’t make those arrangements out of fear. He knows where all these events are leading and the significance of all that. He’s moving through all that with wisdom and focus and purpose.
So why all the secrecy?
Reading ahead - and reading especially in John’s Gospel account - what Jesus teaches - what Jesus prays - what becomes really clear is that Jesus is way burdened for His disciples. There are truths they need to have cemented in their minds. Deeper knowledge and understanding of God’s purposes. These final hours are crucial - valuable - opportunities in the calm before the storm breaks.
The secrecy is about discretion - privacy. Jesus wisely and purposefully preparing and getting alone with His disciples - without interruption and outside drama - to teach and prepare for the immediate “in your face” revelation of Who He is and what it means to follow Him.
Verse 16 records that the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as He had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
Hold on to that Jesus is in control. He is sovereign over all of what’s happening and it is coming down exactly as He purposed and predicted and is preparing His disciples for.
[Passover] Going on - verse 17 brings us to the Passover meal.
And when it was evening, He came with the twelve. 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.”
When Jesus and the disciples were traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem - Jesus had predicted that He would be betrayed. Probably - given the context of then and their reaction here the disciples probably hadn’t paid much attention to that part of what Jesus had said.
But now, Jesus is specific. One of them would betray Him. The disciples are sorrowful - grieved that one of them could do such a thing. Each one of them - including Judas - the disciples ask, “Is it I?”
Jesus identifies the betrayer as someone who was eating with Him. And later Jesus narrows it down to 1 of the 12 and someone who dipped bread with Him. Which was... all of them.
Matthew and John - in their record of the supper - in their comments - Matthew and John “out” Judas as the betrayer. Mark doesn’t. And notice, that Jesus Himself doesn’t “out” Judas.
Judas knows he’s the one. Judas has already made arrangements with the Chief priests to betray Jesus. Judas who’s feigning ignorance and sorrow with the rest of them.
And Jesus knows it’s Judas. But that isn’t the most crucial thing the disciples need to press into now - in these crucial last hours.
Jesus says, “For the Son of Man goes as it is written of Him.” God said it would be like this.
In the midst of looming crisis and certain betrayal Jesus demonstrates astounding poise and control. Trust in His Father. Jesus knows that all of what is happening and what is about to happen - it all happens within the will of God. And Jesus is submitted to the will of God.
Jesus doesn’t “out” Judas because the point isn’t Judas and the betrayal but God Who is sovereign and at work and their need to trust Him. The purposes of God that have been “written” prophetically - Old Testament prophecy after prophecy - what the Son of Man is to suffer and why.
Mark records this chilling statement of Jesus: 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.”
“Woe” translates the Greek “ouai” translating the Hebrew “oi.”
The three Jewish mothers sitting together on a park bench. The first says, “Oi.” The second says, “Oi.” The third says, “I thought we weren’t going to talk about out kids.” That’s really old. But still good.
“Woe” is an expression of grief - of despair - of personal anguish that’s often motivated by pity for the suffering of someone else. Jesus knows what’s coming for Judas. Non-existence would be a better option that betraying the Messiah.
doesn't “out” Judas because not only is Jesus’ complete
submission to the will of God but also Jesus has a deep
concern and sorrow even for the man who would turn Him
over to those who would have Him crucified.
Verses 22 to 25 record what is the very familiar scene of Jesus applying symbols from the Passover meal to Himself.
Today we don’t have anything that tells us exactly what the ritual was for the Passover meal back then. What we do have today - the Seder - which we did here back in 2012 with Jews For Jesus - the Seder meal and ritual developed from those “in Jesus’ day” rituals. And we also have the instructions in the Torah and what the Rabbis have said about what Moses wrote.
So we have a reasonable understanding of what that may have been like back then and more importantly we have the gospel record of what Jesus was teaching about Himself. What Jesus wanted the disciples to press into.
The Passover was and is an amazing ritual of remembrance that focuses on God’s faithfulness and grace and His delivering His people. During the Passover, the head of the home - which here would have been Jesus taking on that role - the head of the home led them through that ritual and remembering that took them from bondage in Egypt to living in the freedom of being God’s chosen people.
During the “course” of the evening Jesus took the unleavened bread - unleavened symbolizing without sin - and He broke it and distributed it to the disciples - and declared “Take; this is My body.” Jesus’ body which the disciples would soon see - as the without sin in their place sacrifice - broken for them.
During the meal they drank wine. Potentially 4 cups of wine. Each having its own symbolism. Probably it was just before they drank the third cup - which came after the meal - that Jesus - after giving thanks - passed the cup around and they all drank from it.
Then Jesus applied the cup to Himself. “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
Throughout Israel’s history God had sealed covenants - relational agreements between Himself and His people - God had sealed those with the blood of sacrifices. God also spoke through the prophet Jeremiah about a coming covenant made by God which would be unlike any other covenant. (Exodus 24:8; Leviticus 17:11-14)
“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But 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. 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.” (Jeremiah 31:31-34)
Jesus is declaring that His blood is the seal of that new covenant between God and His people. Within hours the disciples would see the blood of Jesus being poured out to establish that covenant.
Then - verse 25 - Jesus declares: 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!”
Before the last cup is drunk and the Passover meal is brought to an end Jesus declares that He will not drink the last cup. Not now. Not until His ministry is complete. His body has not yet been broken. The blood of THE Passover Lamb - Jesus - has not yet been poured out. But Jesus will drink the final cup.
Jesus is pointing forward to when He drinks that cup in the Kingdom of God. A cup of new wine - which is used in celebrations. Which is symbolic of our endless coming celebration and fellowship and being together in God’s kingdom - the reunion with our fellow believers that’s coming and forever being together with Jesus.
Pulling together what is helpful for us to hang on to in what Jesus is teaching about Himself - in what Jesus is focusing on - is our need to focus on Jesus. More than who will betray Jesus - is what God is doing through all that. More than the symbolism is the Savior.
Jesus, Who is confident that His impending betrayal and trial and crucifixion and death will not jeopardize His ministry. The new covenant will be established. He will reign on the throne of David over the kingdom of God. He will drink the last cup.
And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
The hymn was probably one of the Hallel Psalms. Psalms 113 to 118 that were traditionally sung at Passover. Psalms that focus on the real and ongoing presence of God in the lives of His people. Psalms that focus on praising God for His faithfulness - His love - His blessings.
With Jesus’ teaching and with the words of those Psalms ringing in their ears the disciples made their way out of Jerusalem - down through the Kidron Valley - and to the Mount of Olives. To the Garden of Gethsemane which is on the lower western slope of the Mount of Olives.
Verse 27: And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away,
“To fall away” translates the Greek verb “skandalizo” related to the word “skandalon” which is the word from which we get our English word… “scandal.”
A “skandalon” was something that was said about someone that was defaming and disgraceful - slanderous - that caused injury to someone - that was most probably not true. Sound kinda familiar?
To skandalizo someone - the verb Jesus uses - was to lay at trap for them - to bait them with something for them to stumble over or into - to trip over and fall - that would give the opportunity then to create a scandal.
Jesus is predicting is that in what’s coming - all of the disciples - not just some - but all of them are going to take the bait and stumble - disgracefully falling away from Jesus.
Jesus quotes God speaking through the prophet Zechariah to describe the when and what of that: “I will strike the shepherd - the bait of Jesus being struck - and the sheep will be scattered” - running from the shepherd - falling away. (Zechariah 13:7)
Verse 28: But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”
After you all stumble and fall away in weakness and fear, God will remain faithful. God will accomplish what He wills. I will rise. I will be with you again in the Galilee.
In the days ahead that will be huge for the disciples to cycle back to. God’s purposes - our relationship - that all goes on even when you stumble and fall away. “I will go before you to Galilee.”
Verses 29 to 31 record Peter and the other disciples emphatically arguing with Jesus that He’s wrong. Even if it means death they’ll still be “all in” with Jesus.
Which is painful to read because we know that God is never wrong and that Jesus just nails it with how Peter is going to stumble. And it’s painful to read because it’s way too close to home for us and where we stumble - thinking we know more about ourselves and what’s up than what God knows. Just saying.
They have no clue. Maybe they’re still thinking swords and clubs and some kind of physical revolution. They have no clue what they’re about to go through. The front row seat to the onslaught of evil leveled by Satan against Jesus and what Satan is going to lay out as a snare for them.
Processing all that…
We need to stay focused on Jesus.
Meals at special events - holidays - we can have good memories of those shared times. Passover was one of those times.
For the disciples there were memories of family and Jesus and each other. And with that was the ritual and remembering of God and God’s faithfulness to their nation.
The Passover celebration was instituted by God to remind His people of His faithfulness to them. A celebration that involved a sacrificed lamb, poured out blood as a covering, and broken bread. Elements of ritual that God laid out ahead of time to point to Jesus.
Wouldn’t that have been amazing? To be there in the upper room as Jesus leads the disciples through the Passover Meal. And to be there as Jesus is recasting the symbolism of the meaning of the elements to Himself and His sacrifice for us?
Our focus when we share communion is not on the bread and the juice but on the Lord Jesus - Who recasts the symbolism of the elements to focus us on Him. Jesus Who gives us these symbols to remember Him and to proclaim His death until He returns. Until we share new wine together in the forever celebration in God’s Kingdom.
Let’s be clear. Jesus isn’t an unwilling victim of what’s coming. Jesus is in complete control and mastery of the circumstances. He is teaching and explaining in advance - using the elements of that meal to put into perspective His message and ministry - what God is doing in and through Him for us and for His glory.
In our circumstances we need to stay focused on Jesus.
Jesus, twice says, “It is written.” Jesus quoting God.
All of what’s about to happen - all of what He is about to go through - all of what the disciples are about to have a front row seat to - God said it would be like this.
All of this is according to God’s purposes and plan. God is doing exactly what God promised to do. They are living in the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. They are witnesses to the fulfillment of what God - through Jeremiah - what God said He would do.
Which is all about Jesus. Jesus Who is in complete mastery of whatever we’re up against and is victorious over all of it.
Which is hugely significant for us to hold on to. When we focus on Jesus we can have a true unshakable confidence in Jesus Who is THE victorious Savior and Lord - even today as we live in the places we do life looking forward to His return and drinking that cup with Him.
In our failures we need to stay focused on Jesus.
In the hours ahead the disciples will see only terrible and terrifying circumstances. The striking of the shepherd. Then in three days - at the resurrection - they will see the victorious plan of the sovereign God.
But in the hours to come they will take the bait and fail miserably. Stumbling - falling away from Jesus.
Satan is constantly putting in front of us snares and traps - potential scandals - to get us to stumble away from Jesus.
What comes at us through different people in different circumstances and in different ways - that as we go through all that we somehow think that we know more about all of that and ourselves and how we’re going to respond to all of that, than God does. What Satan lays before us to bring us to a knee jerk reaction of fear and the failure of falling away from Jesus.
Three times before Mark records that Jesus had predicted His death and resurrection. Talk that made everybody nervous. Now again, after the Passover meal - and talk about betrayal - talk about Jesus death and resurrection - there in the Garden waiting for that betrayal - on the verge of those events - here again Jesus cycles back to what that will be like for His disciples and their coming failure.
Jesus’ focus in that is on the sovereignty and faithfulness of God and what will come later as they’re together in Galilee. Even after you all stumble and fall away in weakness and fear, God will remain faithful. I will rise. I will be with you again in the Galilee.
If God had intended to reject Peter, God would have left him alone up there in Galilee as a fisherman. God would have left the other disciples off doing whatever they were doing. But, God is not finished with them - even in failure. We will meet again in Galilee.
In the circumstances of our lives let’s not take the bait. But when we do - God is not finished with us. We will meet together and share the cup in the kingdom with Jesus.
When we focus on Jesus - and all that God has done through Him for us on the cross - we know that in failure there is forgiveness - and with repentance comes restoration and righteousness and relationship - all of which God offers to us in Jesus.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.