This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many… (Mark 14:24)
Jesus, what does it mean that you poured out your blood for many? Who does that include and what does that mean for me?
Three Course Meal
Reading: Mark 14:12-26
12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?’
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, “The Teacher asks: where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me – one who is eating with me.’
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, ‘Surely you don’t mean me?’
20 ‘It is one of the Twelve,’ he replied, ‘one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.’
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take it; this is my body.’
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,’ he said to them. 25 ‘Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Like with so many of the episodes in the New Testament, to really grasp what is going on you need to keep one eye on the Old Testament as you read it – it really is one long story and we separate the two parts at our peril. The events of Easter take place at Passover time, one of the main Jewish festivals celebrated for hundreds of years. It goes back to the Exodus story, the dramatic escape from Egypt where God’s People were being held as slaves by Pharaoh. God heard their cry for freedom and raised up Moses to be their leader and sent him to Pharaoh to demand that he let God’s people go. He refused. After each refusal came a promised plague, each increasing in severity, each met by stubbornness from Pharaoh and the further refusals. The final plague was horrific. God sent an angel of death to traverse the land killing all the firstborn. In order to protect the children of Jews, they were to sacrifice a lamb and mark their doorposts with its blood. The angel would see this blood and pass them by, they would be rescued from his punishment. And so it happened, and Pharaoh finally relented and let the people go (there was more drama with changes of mind and crossing the Red Sea – flick through Exodus, the second book of the Bible to see the drama unfold). The heart of the story though is that through the marking of the blood of the sacrifice, God’s People were rescued from death and brought into freedom!
In the time of Jesus, God’s People were again ‘slaves’, this time to the Romans. Passover was always a time of heightened tension as the Jews dreamt again of freedom from captivity and looked for one who like Moses would lead them into freedom. It is in celebrating the Passover and in the context of longing for freedom that Jesus holds up the cup and says this is my blood of the new covenant poured out for many. What is he saying? Could he be suggesting that in some way he is the new Moses come to bring them out of slavery? That he is the sacrifice like the Exodus lamb, whose blood will protect them from death? Is he the one who will finally achieve freedom for them?
Yes! Only he isn’t talking about freedom from the Romans. The liberation that Jesus offers is of a far bigger scale than that! It is a total liberation of hearts and minds and bodies from all that enslaves and destroys for all people. Much more fundamental and far reaching than they could ever have dreamed of.
The Jews marked their doorposts with the blood of the lamb. We’re to mark the ‘doorposts’ of our lives with the blood of Jesus. Prayerfully reflect on what that might mean for you in the day ahead.
Jesus, thank you for your life poured out so that we can be free, help us to use that freedom for you and our neighbour.