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Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on April 2, 2017 under 2016 |

Preached Sunday, April 2, 2017 from Mark 14:22-26

Theme: The Lord has taught us important truths about the communion meal in the way that He instituted it to His disciples.

(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)

In terms of the pure biblical form of the practice of the Christian faith, it’s truly amazing how simple and liberating it is.

It wouldn’t be true, of course, to say that nothing is asked of us. In fact, it demands everything we are and have to be a faithful follower of Jesus. But in terms of rituals or ceremonies—in comparison to other faith traditions and religious systems—there is so little required of us as followers of Jesus that we enjoy a remarkable freedom. We aren’t required to make a pilgrimage anywhere. We’re not told what we may eat or not eat. We’re not told that we must wear certain things, and not wear others. We’re not required to observe any fasts, or feasts, or special holy days on the calendar. We don’t have to make any special offerings or sacrifices or pilgrimages. We don’t have to follow any rituals, or practice any ceremonies. All that we are mainly required to do is to believe on the finished work of Jesus, and to let His life be lived out in and through us in the whole of ordinary, day-to-day living in fellowship with one another.

In this wonderful freedom and simplicity of the biblical Christian faith, there are really only two ordinances that we are commanded to observe: baptism and the communion meal. These two practices are called ‘ordinances’ because we are instructed directly by the Lord Jesus to observe them. And they really constitute the only two regular ordinances that He has commanded His followers to keep in their times of gathering together—making the Christian faith a wonderfully simple one in terms of our freedom to apply the faith to all of life.

And His wisdom in providing us with these two particular ordinances—both of which work together to build up the community of faith—is truly wonderful and marvelous.

This morning, as we continue our study of the 14th chapter of the Gospel of Mark, we come to our Lord’s initiation of one of those two ordinances—that is, the communion meal; or as we often call it, “the Lord’s supper”. Let’s carefully read together the story of Jesus’ initiation of this meal to His disciples.

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Now; to fully understand the context of this story, let’s begin with verse 12. That’s where we begin to read of Jesus’ last Passover meal with His disciples before going to the cross. Mark tells us;

Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?” And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?”’ Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us.” So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover. In the evening He came with the twelve. Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, “Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me.” And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, “Is it I?” And another said, “Is it I?” He answered and said to them, “It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born” (Mark 14:12-21).

We studied that passage together in detail last week. And it provides for us the all-important context of what we now find in verses 22-26. I believe that Judas, the betrayer of our Lord, had departed from the group by this point of the story. Mark then goes on to tell us;

And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink 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 (Mark 14:12-26).

What holy words these are, dear brothers and sisters in Christ! Here is the beginning of one of the most important things we can ever do together as a church family—one of the two ordinances of our Lord. It’s something that Christians have observed regularly all around the world—in one manner or another—for the past two thousand years. The Bible doesn’t specify how many times it is to be observed. The only instruction that the Bible gives about it is “as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup” (1 Corinthians 11:26)—and that leaves us a lot of freedom. We in our church—as is true in many other churches—observe it once a month.

But how often do we really think about the significance of it? How often do we take the time to really examine what our Lord said about it, and learn to appreciate its meaning from what He Himself said?

The value of this morning’s passage—in verses 22-26—is that, our Lord teaches us important truths about the communion meal in the way that He initiated it to His apostles. And since we will be observing that meal at the end of our service this morning, it would be very fitting for us to allow the Holy Spirit to teach us from this passage in a fresh way, and to help us to appreciate and love this ordinance from our Lord as we hear about it from His own words.

* * * * * * * * * * *

The first thing I ask you to consider about the Lord’s supper from this passage is …


You can’t necessarily see this in the English translation; but in describing our Lord’s actions in the original language of this passage (and forgive me in advance for the little grammar lesson), the Gospel writer Mark uses a series of what are called ‘aorist tense participles’. A ‘participle’—as you might remember from school days—is an “-ing” word; and Mark describes the actions of our Lord in this passage with a series of these ‘aorist tense participles’ that seem to break the action up into little, separate units in a very vivid way.

Mark—as ancient Christian tradition has it—was writing his Gospel account from the eye-witness testimony of the apostle Peter. And so, what Mark describes has the feel of coming from someone who was personally present to watch the Lord in action. In the original language, it reads something like this: “And in the sitting of them down to eat—taking up bread—offering a blessing—He broke, and He gave to to them …” His presentation of the cup is described in a similar way: “And taking a cup—giving thanks—He gave to them …” And this single cup was then taken by them, and they all drink from it.

From the way Mark wrote this, you get a feel of separate, individual acts that convey the idea of careful and deliberate actions. The bread is taken up by our Lord. A blessing is offered by Him. The bread is broken in His hands. The bread is then given to the disciples. The disciples then take the bread. And then, after the bread, a cup is taken up by our Lord. An offering of thanks is made by Him. He gives it to the disciples. They all drink from it—one at a time. There is something careful, and deliberate, and orderly about it all.

And may I suggest that there is a lesson for us in this? The communion meal—the meal by which we remember the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus—is not something to be done in a half-hearted and careless manner. I don’t believe that we are required to follow precisely the movements of our Lord in observing it. But it’s clear from the way He Himself treated it that it’s not something to throw together thoughtlessly. It should be done in a careful, orderly, respectful, reverential manner; because it is the remembrance of our Lord’s sacrifice for us—of His body and of His blood.

In this connection, may I share a passage with you that quite often scares me? It’s found in 1 Corinthians 11. The apostle Paul had written to the Corinthian believers because they were not treating the communion meal respectfully. Certain individuals were hurrying-up to get to the meal before everyone else; and they were grabbing up the food and drinking up the wine ahead of others in a thoughtless and selfish manner. Some folks were ending up hungry, while others were actually getting drunk.

Paul sought to solve this problem by reminding these believers of what we find in this morning’s passage—that is, of the careful, deliberate, orderly and reverential manner in which the Lord instituted this supper to His apostles—declaring, as He did so, the bread and the cup to be symbolic of His own body and blood. And then Paul told them this;

Therefore whoever eats this bread or drinks this cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep [which was Paul's gentle way of saying that some have died]. For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world (1 Corinthians 11:27-32).

Some people use this passage to warn unbelieving people not to take the communion meal. And I certainly agree that someone who intentionally resists placing their faith in Jesus should not partake of that meal. But that’s not who Paul was writing to. He was writing to professing Christians who were partaking of the meal in an unworthy and irreverent manner.

The communion meal is a very important thing. And let’s learn from our Lord’s careful manner of administering it that we ourselves must come to His table in a truly careful, truly thoughtful, truly orderly, truly reverent, truly worthy manner.

* * * * * * * * * * *

So; verse 22 tells us of how our Lord carefully and deliberately took up the bread, and offered a blessing, and broke it, and gave it to His disciples. And after telling them to take the piece of bread, He said something remarkable: “This is My body …”

In our church family, we do not understand those words to mean that the bread literally became the body of Jesus (as some traditions of the faith do)—or that the juice literally became His blood. Rather, we understand the bread and the cup to only represent His body and His blood in a symbolic way. But they are, nevertheless, symbols of a very great and very serious reality that we are to embrace and take to ourselves by faith.

And Jesus’ words about the bread being a symbol of His body reminds us of a second thing that we learn from our Lord’s manner of instituting the communion meal …


Now; I ask that you consider carefully, once again, that this was all happening during the Passover Meal—a very sacred meal which the Jewish people celebrated every year. And in this important meal, one of the most important things at the table was the Passover lamb. That lamb, you’ll remember, was to be slain at twilight on that day, and was to be eaten by everyone in the household. The lamb was a central focus at every Passover meal.

But it’s interesting to me that in every one of the Bible passages that tell us of our Lord’s actions at this important meal, not one of them mentions the Passover lamb. That doesn’t, of course, mean that there wasn’t a lamb that had been prepared and brought to the table that night; but clearly—even if it was present—it was not made focus of attention in any of the passages we read. Why? Where is the lamb in all this?

That was a question asked, by the way, in a very famous sermon preached many years ago—one of the most famous sermons ever preached in America. It was preached by Dr. Archibald Alexander, who was a Presbyterian minister and a founding professor of old Princeton Seminary in the early 1800s. It was a communion message; and as Dr. Alexander described the setting of the table at the Jewish Passover, it was said that he suddenly stopped, and bent forward, and looked intensely at the communion table, and took note of the presence of the bread and the wine; and then asked, “But were is our lamb?” He kept looking and searching for the lamb; and he did so with such intensity and so movingly that the people who were in the congregation were almost standing up and looking with him. Where is the lamb?—the all-important lamb?

And then, Dr. Alexander began to describe, in passionate detail, the suffering of our Savior on the cross—and everyone who listened began to weep because they understood. Where was the lamb? Why, the lamb wasn’t missing from the table at all. The Passover Lamb is Jesus—and His sacrifice of suffering in our place for our sins was presented in plain view upon the table in the bread and in the cup.1 When Jesus commanded us to take and eat that piece of bread, we’re being told that it is a symbol of His body—broken for us on the cross.

We’re to partake of this piece of bread in remembrance of Him; remembering, as we do so, the body of Jesus, broken on the cross as the atoning sacrifice for our sins—our true Passover Lamb.

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Not only did Jesus take up bread and give it to His disciples; but He also took up the fruit of the vine. In verses 23-24, Mark tells us that, after the bread, He then took up the cup, gave thanks (and by the way; the word for ‘thanks’—in the original language—is the word from which we get the name ‘Eucharist’), and gave it to His disciples. They all drank from it. And He told them, “this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed or many.” (In some of your Bibles, you’ll find that the word “new” is not present. But when the Gospel writer Luke told this story, the word “new” is present in the original language; so we can take it confidently that Jesus was indeed speaking of the new covenant.)

And this leads us to a third thing we learn about the communion meal from the way the Lord instituted it; and that is …


The Old Testament scriptures promised the Jewish people that God would—one day—establish a new covenant with them. What then is this ‘new covenant’? Well; I believe it helps to think, first, of the old one.

The Jewish people—and even Jesus’ disciples up to the time of that meal—had been living under the rule of an old covenant; an old ‘agreement’ with God, if you will, that enabled people to have a relationship with Him; a ‘covenant’ or ‘agreement’ that had been established through Moses at Mount Sinai by means of rules and regulations and religious rituals and offerings and feasts and ceremonies. If they kept God’s commandments about these things, He would be their God, and they would be His people.

But they couldn’t keep their end of the agreement. They kept sinning and breaking God’s law. We can’t fault them, of course; because we do the same. So, in Jeremiah 31:31-34, we read this promise:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

The differences between the old covenant and the new covenant are tremendous. The old one was burdensome and impossible to keep because of strict the letter of the law. The new one is an experience of liberty because Jesus has kept the requirements of the law for us. The old covenant resulted in condemnation and death. The new covenant results in righteousness and life. And Jesus was presenting Himself as the divinely-appointed Mediator of a completely new arrangement with God; and He was presenting the cup as a symbol of His blood—shed for many for the establishment of this New Covenant.

The Book of Hebrews has much to say about this. But let me just read one passage from it. The writer of Hebrews speaks much of how all that Moses administered—the tabernacle, and the altar, and the priests, and all the things that represented the old covenant—was initiated by sprinkled for purification with the blood of animals. And then, in Hebrews 9:11-15, he writes;

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance (Hebrews 9:11-15).

Dear brothers and sisters; as we partake of the cup of juice—a symbol of the shed blood of Jesus—let’s remember that it is the blood that purifies us, and sanctifies us, and ratifies to us into this glorious new covenant with God. And what a liberating covenant it is!

* * * * * * * * * *

Before we end, let’s notice briefly two more things that we can learn about this meal in the way that Jesus administered it. We learn of …


In verse 25, after administering the bread and the cup, Jesus then told His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” I believe that Jesus here speaks of the time that would come after His death, His burial, and His resurrection—the when He will have provided complete atonement for our sins through the sacrifice of His body in death upon the cross for us, and when He will have provided the sprinkling for the establishment of the new covenant through the shedding of His blood for us. At that time, He will have brought about a completely new situation for us. He will have brought about our entry into the kingdom of His father.

And do you notice the future focus Jesus brings to all this? He promises that He will drink that cup ‘new’ on that day—He who had to first die before that day could come! And He will drink it new with us; because we will have been united to Him in His death and resurrection, and will have been brought from condemnation into new life along with Him! In Matthew’s telling of the story, He reports that Jesus said to His disciples;

But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).

This may have happened shortly after Jesus was raised from the dead. You’ll remember that, after His resurrection, He met two disciples on the road to Emmaus; and when He went with them to their house, He ate with them. Or it may be that Jesus is speaking further into the future—to the time when He will enjoy the “marriage supper of the Lamb!” that is described in Revelation 19. But in either case, it is clear that Jesus brings a glorious ‘future’ outlook to this meal in the way that He initiated it.

This helps us appreciate what the apostle Paul said about it in 1 Corinthians 11:26; “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” May it be that we always look ahead to an eternal fellowship with Jesus in glory whenever we enjoy this meal together!

* * * * * * * * * *

And finally, we learn—from the way our Lord initiated this meal—about …


In verse 26—after Jesus’ words about this meal to His disciples were over—we’re told,

“And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

I wonder what it was that they sang? Wouldn’t you have loved to hear it? But just imagine! Our Lord’s teaching about this meal was concluded with a hymn of worship. In fact, all His teaching about it was in the context of worship; because He gave the bread with a blessing, and gave the cup with an offering of thanks.

May it be that our celebration of this meal—teaching us, as it does, of our Lord’s loving sacrifice for us—is always done by us in an attitude of worship.

James W. Alexander, The Life of Archibald Alexander, D.D. (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1991), pp. 409-11.

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