It’s fitting that we should be studying this passage today, because in this passage we read how the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, which we’re going to share in during today’s service of worship. The sacrament which we’ll share in today finds its origin in this meal which the Lord Jesus shared with his disciples all those years ago whenever he took the bread, and gave thanks for it, and broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,
Take it. This is by body.
And then he took the cup, and gave thanks for it, and offered it to them, and they drank it and he said:
This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many.
The bread he took and broke signifies his body which was broken for sinners. The cup he took and offered to them signifies his blood which was poured out for sinners. And so, the bread and the cup signify his sacrifice; and how he would suffer and die on the cross to blot out the guilt of our sin and to free all who believe in him from the condemnation we deserve for our sins.
But then as well as reading about the Lord’s Supper, which the Lord shared with his disciples, we also read in this passage about a betrayal and a denial. One of the Lord’s disciples is going to betray him; and one of his disciples is going to deny him. In fact, the rest of the disciples will desert him. So, not only does this passage teach us about how the Lord offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, but it’s also about sin. So, let’s turn to it now.
We read in verse 12 that on the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread — when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover Lamb — the Lord’s disciples asked him about the preparations that needed to be made for them to eat the Passover. And he sent two of them into the city to find a man who would lead them to the place where they could celebrate the Passover together.
We were thinking about the Passover on Wednesday evening at the Pre-Communion Service. The origins of the Passover meal go back to the days of Moses when the Lord’s people were slaves in Egypt. We read there that their lives were miserable and they groaned in their slavery; and their cry for help went up to the Lord who sent the ten plagues against the Egyptians. And the tenth plague was the very worst plague, because in the tenth plague the Lord went through the land of Egypt and he struck down every firstborn male in every home. Every firstborn animal was killed; every firstborn son was killed. And in this way, the Lord punished the Egyptians for their sin; and Pharaoh finally allowed the Lord’s people to go.
However, when the Lord went through the land, striking down all those firstborn males, the Lord’s people were spared. They were spared, because the Lord had commanded them to take a lamb and kill it and to put the blood of the lamb on the door-frame of their homes. And whenever the Lord went through the land of Egypt to strike down the firstborn males, if he saw the blood of the lamb, he passed over that home and spared the people inside. Though they too were sinners who deserved to be punished for their sin, the Lord spared them, because of the blood of the lamb.
And the Lord commanded his people to celebrate the Passover and the associated Feast of Unleavened Bread on the same night every year as a memorial to it. And so, every year, they were to kill and eat a lamb, to remind them that they were kept safe from God’s wrath because of the lamb who was killed in their place and whose blood was put on their door-frames.
And, of course, we know — don’t we? — that the Passover lamb which the Israelites killed when they were slaves in Egypt, and which they killed every year as a memorial to that night, pointed forward to the work of Jesus Christ, who is the true Passover Lamb. The Israelites killed a lamb so that they would be spared from the wrath of God and live. And Christ, the true Passover Lamb, was killed on the cross so that we might be spared from the wrath of God and live with God for ever in the new heavens and the new earth.
The Passover and Feast of Unleavened Bread pointed forward to the work of Christ. And so, although we read here in Mark 14 about how the Lord and his disciples celebrated the Passover together, we need to understand that he changed it. He changed it by the things he said and did. And from that night on, his people are no longer commanded to kill and eat a lamb as a memorial to the exodus from Egypt. No, from that night on, his people are commanded to break and eat bread and we’re to drink from a cup as a memorial to the night when the Saviour died for sinners.
The Lord’s Supper
And so, let’s jump now to verse 22 where Mark tells us that while they were eating the meal the Lord Jesus took bread. And he gave thanks, which means he gave thanks for it in prayer. And then he broke the bread and gave it to his disciples, saying:
Take it. This is my body.
Taking bread, giving thanks for it, breaking it, and eating it was part of the Passover meal. It was customary for the father of the house to share unleavened bread among the members of his family. But the Lord changed what they used to do in the Passover whenever he said that this bread is his body. He was saying to his disciples that this bread — which he had just broken — signifies or represents his body which very soon would be broken on the cross.
And then he took the cup and gave thanks for it and offered it to them. Again, taking a cup and giving thanks for it and offering it to everyone was part of the Passover meal. It was customary for the father of the house to take the cup and share it with the members of his family. But the Lord changed what they used to do in the Passover whenever he said that this cup is the blood of the covenant which is poured out for many. He was saying to his disciples that this cup which he had given to them signifies or represents his blood which very soon would be poured out on the cross as part of God’s covenant with his believing people. And in that covenant, God promises to forgive our wickedness and to remember our sins no more, because Christ’s blood covers over and blots out our sin and shame forever.
So, the Lord changed the Passover, by telling his disciples that the broken bread signifies his broken body; and the cup signifies his blood, poured out on the cross for our forgiveness. And so, whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we too say about the bread that it’s Christ’s body. And we too say about the cup that it’s the blood of the Lord Jesus. And the reason we can say this about the bread and the cup is because the Lord has established this link, this connection, between the Communion bread and his body; and between the Communion cup and his blood. He has decreed for all time that the bread of the Lord’s Supper signifies his body; and the cup of the Lord’s Supper signifies his blood. They represent him and all that he has done for sinners.
But notice, of course, that not only did the Lord say certain things that night about the bread and the cup, but he also did certain things with the bread and the cup. So, he took the bread and the cup, which means he set them apart. And whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we too — in obedience to him — set apart the bread and the cup from all ordinary use. It’s ordinary bread; it’s an ordinary drink; but in obedience to the Lord we set them apart for this special use.
And the Lord gave thanks to God for the bread and the cup. And whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper, we too — in obedience to him — give thanks to God for these things which he has given to us for our benefit.
And the Lord gave the bread to his disciples and commanded them to take it. And he offered the cup to them and they all drank from it. And this giving and receiving is so important, because it signifies how Christ offers himself to us. He offers himself to us as the only Saviour of the world, the only One who is able to take away the guilt of our sins and to give us forgiveness and the free gift of eternal life and all the other spiritual benefits which he won for us on the cross. He offers himself and his benefits to us. And just as the disciples had to take and eat the bread, and they had to take and drink from the cup, so we too must take Christ. And the way we take him and receive him and receive all of his benefits is by believing in him. Food on a plate will do us no good, unless we take it and eat it. A drink in a cup will do us no good, unless we take it and drink it. And a crucified Saviour will do us no good unless we believe in him.
And so, if you have never believed in the Lord Jesus, then I say to you today that you need to believe in him. Just as the disciples took the bread and ate it, and just as they took the cup and drank from it, so you need to believe in the Saviour Jesus Christ, because until you believe in him he can do you no good whatsoever. But whoever believes in him, receives him and all of the good things he won for us on the cross, including justification so that your sins are pardoned and you’re accepted by God for ever; and adoption so that you’re adopted into God’s family forever and can call on him as your Father; and sanctification so that the Holy Spirit will renew you in God’s image and help you to obey him more and more; and assurance of God’s love so that you know he’s for you and not against you; and peace of conscience so that your guilty conscience is silenced; and joy in the Holy Spirit so that you will rejoice in God your Saviour; and growth in grace so that you will grow and mature as a believer; and perseverance so that God will help you to keep believing in Christ throughout the days of your life. Whoever believes in the Saviour receives from him all of these good things. And so, you need to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, because until you believe in him, he is of no use to you.
And in order to encourage you to believe in him, the Lord makes clear in verse 24 that his blood was poured out ‘for many’. His blood was not poured out for a privileged few, but it was poured out on the cross for many. For how many? Well, for as many who believe in him. So, if you believe in him, if you put your faith in him as the only Saviour of the world, then you too will be cleansed by his blood; and by means of his blood your wickedness will be forgiven and God will remember your sins no more. The Devil may accuse you; other people may accuse you; your own guilty conscience may accuse you; but if you believe in the Saviour, God himself was say about your sins:
I don’t remember them.
So, if you have never believed in the Saviour, then I say to you: Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Believe in him, because his body was broken and his blood was shed for sinners. And if you do believe, then rejoice in the good news of salvation; and give thanks to your Heavenly Father for the Lord Jesus whose body was broken for you and whose blood was shed for you and for the forgiveness of all your sins.
But look now at verse 25, because the Lord not only speaks about his death, but he also speaks about his resurrection and about eternal life. The Lord said in verse 25:
I tell you the truth….
And that expression — I’m sure you know — is the signal to us that what he’s about to say is especially important. Everything he said was important, but some things he said are especially important. He said:
I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.
So, he had just drunk from the cup and shared the drink with his disciples. And then he said that he’s not going to drink any more wine until he drinks new wine in the kingdom of God.
He’s referring to God’s heavenly kingdom, isn’t he? He’s referring to the world to come. The day is coming, when he will come to earth as the Great King with glory and in power to raise his people from the dead and to give them to his Father who will live with his people in the new heavens and the new earth for ever and for ever. And on that day — the book of Revelation tells us — there will be what’s known as the wedding supper of the Lamb. It’ll be a great festive occasion when the Bride of Christ — which is the church, all who believe — will be glorified and will be presented before Christ the Saviour in the world to come as a radiant bride, perfect in every way. And what a celebration there will be on that day, when all of Christ’s pardoned and glorified people will at last come into his presence to be with him forever. What a celebration it will be! And when that day comes, the Lord will drink again from the fruit of the vine.
So, whenever the Lord instituted the Lord’s Supper, he spoke about a greater feast to come, which he will enjoy with all his people in the world to come. And so, whenever we celebrate the Lord’s Supper in church, not only do we look back with faith and gratitude to what Christ did for us in the past, when his body was broken for us and his blood was shed for us and for our salvation; but we’re also to look forward with hope to the even greater feast, the even greater banquet, which the Lord and all his believing people will enjoy in the world to come. The Lord’s Supper which we’ll receive today is only for the time being. It’s only to make do until the day when we come in body and in soul into the new heavens and earth. On that day, we won’t have to make do with little pieces of bread and little cups which signify the Lord Jesus who is now in heaven. On that day we’ll see him with our own eyes; and we’ll come into the joy of his presence; and we’ll never have to leave his presence. What we’ll do today when we celebrate the Lord’s Supper is for the time being only, while we wait for our Saviour to come again to bring us to our eternal home and to that fullness of joy and those pleasures forevermore which he has prepared for us and for all who believe. And so, as we receive the Lord’s Supper today, we’re to look forward with hope to the day when we will see our Saviour face to face and be with him in glory.
But I said at the beginning that not only is this passage about the Saviour who offered himself as a sacrifice for sin, but it’s also about sin. In verses 18 to 21 the Lord announced to his disciples that one of them will betray him. He was referring, of course, to Judas. Now, when the Lord said these words to them, all the disciples were saddened and each one said:
Surely not I?
And the Lord answered that it would be one who dips bread into the bowl with him. Well, probably they all dipped their bread into his bowl, because that was part of the Passover meal. However, when the Lord said those words, he was probably referring to a Psalm. He was probably referring to Psalm 41 verse 9 where it says:
Even my close friend, whom I trusted,
he who shared my bread,
has lifted up his heel against me.
Judas was one of his disciples, one of his close friends. And even so, Judas betrayed him.
And then, in verse 27, the Lord announced that all of them would fall away from him. And he quoted from the book of Zechariah which says that when the shepherd is struck, the sheep will be scattered. And so, he was saying that whenever he’s arrested and killed, his disciples will abandon him. He then went on to speak again of his resurrection. But Peter declared:
Even if all fall away, I will not.
And the Lord turned to Peter and said to him that in fact Peter himself will deny knowing the Lord three times.
So, at the beginning of today’s passage, we have the announcement of a betrayal by one of the Lord’s companions. And at the end of today’s passage, we have the announcement of a denial by one of the Lord’s companions. The Lord, in a sense, was surrounded by sin and by sinners. He shared this meal with sinners.
And it’s the same today, isn’t it? All of us are sinners and every day we sin against the Lord in thought and word and deed. There’s not one of us who has not sinned; there’s not one of us who can truthfully claim to be without sin. We’re all sinners who fall short of doing God’s will continually.
And what we deserve is to be sent away from his presence for ever, because sinners cannot come into the presence of a holy God and hope to live. That’s one of the lessons we’ve been learning on Wednesday evenings as we’ve studied the books of Leviticus and Numbers: sinners cannot come into the presence of a holy God and hope to live, because his wrath breaks out against all who are ungodly and sinful.
And yet, here we are today; and the Lord Jesus invites us to come to his table. He invites us to come and to share in this meal. And as we share in this meal, we’re to look forward to the day when we will come in body and soul into the presence of the Lord in the world to come to be with him for ever and for ever.
We’re sinners who deserve to be sent out of his presence forever; and yet he invites us to come today and to share with him. We’re sinners who deserve to be condemned for ever; and yet he promises that we will be with him for ever. How can this be? How can sinners come into the presence of a holy God and hope to live? Well, it’s because the Lord Jesus is the friend of sinners; and he gave up his life for sinners so that all who believe in him are washed and cleansed and pardoned by God. He’s the friend of sinners who laid down his life on the cross so that all who believe in him are forgiven and accepted by God. He’s the friend of sinners; and so, no matter who you are, and no matter what you have done wrong, his blood covers the stain of your sins if only you will come to him, confessing your sins and seeking his forgiveness.
There was a difference between Judas and Peter. Judas turned away from the Lord and never went back. But Peter eventually returned to the Lord and found forgiveness. And no matter what you have done wrong, no matter how you have disobeyed the Lord and let him down by the things you have said and done, if you come to him, you’ll discover he’s the friend of sinners; and there’s a place for you at his table today; and there will be a place for you at that great feast in the world to come. Christ is the friend of sinners and he invites sinners everywhere to come to him for forgiveness and for everlasting life.