Mark 14:22-25

MarkSeriesTitleSlide1Mark 14

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 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.”

The comedian Jim Gaffigan occasionally offers some interesting and usually very funny observations about faith and attending church.  I gather from his routines that it was Gaffigan’s wife who got him to start attending church.  He talks about how easily distracted he is in church.  For instance, he says that he often sits in the pew looking outwardly meditative and thoughtful when, in reality, he is thinking, “Did I eat Wendy’s twice yesterday?”  What is so funny about that is how true-to-life it really is.  If we are honest, perhaps we have all been guilty of such:  pretending to be engaged with church while our minds are elsewhere.  Gaffigan goes on to say, sarcastically, that he even grows uncomfortable when people pray beside him in church!  He said he is tempted to lean over and say, “Would you mind doing that outside?”

That line gets a good laugh from everybody, and rightfully so.  It is an absurd thing to say.  Yet there is something intriguing about it as well.  After all, there is something a bit numbing and comfortable about our religious routines that an actual, real, and vibrant relationship with Jesus Christ threatens.  I think I know what Gaffigan is talking about.  I think I have seen it before.  Maybe I have done it before!  I am talking about that awkward moment in the midst of numbing religious ritual and routine where the rote and redundant execution of our habitual religious duties is interrupted by something real and raw.

I believe something like this happened in Jesus’ final Passover meal with His disciples.  As observant Jews, all of the men at the table that night had observed many Passovers.  Perhaps they had some sense of foreboding that this observance would be different, but there is no doubt that they were not prepared for the blunt force spiritual trauma that they were about to encounter with the words Jesus would soon say to them.

The Lord’s Supper interrupts ritual with sacrifice.

Again, this was a Passover meal.  There was a sense of ritual about this.  They had observed Passover before with Jesus.  So the disciples gather with their Master to eat and to reflect on God’s deliverance of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.  In the midst of this ritualistic meal, in the midst of this yearly observance, Jesus interrupts ritual with sacrifice.

22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.”

What a staggering and violent intrusion!  We can imagine their hands frozen midway between the table and their open mouths, for Jesus, Mark tells us, says what he says “as they were eating.”  And what a shocking thing to say!  “Take; this is my body.”  What a staggering and unsettling exclamation!  This bread is His body?!  What can this mean?!

But it was not just that.  “He took bread…and broke it.”  How could they possibly grasp this?  How could they understand?

The Lord’s Supper interrupts ritual with sacrifice.  In the midst of this Passover observance, Jesus speaks of His body being broken!  I believe it is significant that the first Lord’s Supper happened “while they were eating.”  It was not ushered in with organ music and chanting.  It happened shockingly, violently, intrusively in the midst of the yearly Passover meal!  It happened, in other words, in the midst of the “normal.”

We find a similar circumstance in the early church’s observance of the Supper in 1 Corinthians 11, though this time the Supper interrupts not merely the normal but, tragically, the normal hypocrisy of man.  Immediately preceding Paul’s recounting of the words of institution of the Lord’s Supper, he describes what had become the normal meal in which the Corinthians’ observance of the Lord’s Supper took place.

17 But in the following instructions I do not commend you, because when you come together it is not for the better but for the worse. 18 For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that there are divisions among you. And I believe it in part, 19 for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized. 20 When you come together, it is not the Lord’s supper that you eat. 21 For in eating, each one goes ahead with his own meal. One goes hungry, another gets drunk. 22 What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God and humiliate those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I commend you in this? No, I will not. 23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

There in Corinth the Supper of the Lord also interrupted ritual, the ritual of selfishness and division.  Oftentimes, this is the case with our ritual.  We smuggle our own egos and self-advancement in under the fog of religious routine.  The Lord’s Supper always interrupts our ritual!  Woe to us if it the Supper becomes a ritual.  May it never be!  It is intended to be incendiary, unsettling, explosive!  The words of Jesus should hit us just as hard today as they hit the disciples when they first heard them!






For you!

The Lord’s Supper interrupts religion with relationship.

The Supper not only interrupts ritual with sacrifice, it interrupts religion with relationship.

23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.

This talk of covenant is talk of relationship.  It is talk of God’s binding relationship with sinful humanity, to be specific.  This is very different from what man normally means by “religion.”  The Passover observance was something of a religious ritual for the Jews.  I do not mean to suggest it had no meaning.  I simply mean to say that Jesus brings something new to the table, a new dynamic, a personal relational dynamic.

Richard John Neuhaus once wrote about a rabbi friend of his who took a shot at defining the word “religion.”  It is a notoriously difficult word to define.  Neuhaus’ friend, Marc Gellman, offers an intriguing definition…intriguing, that is, until the end.

There is endless dispute over what makes an idea, practice, or institution “religious.” More simply, how should we define “religion” as distinct from other spheres of human life. Marc Gellman, a friend who bills himself as the only pro-life Reform rabbi in the country, is a gifted writer of children’s books and is currently working on a book that introduces kids to the world religions. He thought and thought about what it is that all religions have in common. He finally came up with four components. Everything that we call a religion has (1) a story about how the world came to be and what it is for; (2) a code for living the moral life; (3) an answer to the problem of death. And the fourth? Every religion uses candles. We’re thinking about it.[1]

Every time I read that I chuckle.  You have these three big ideas—an origin story, an ethical code, an answer to the problem of death—then…candles?!  Yet, I think Gellman is onto something, for religion truly does tend to lapse in the end into banal externals, does it not?  In the midst of the sublime and the deep stands the external and the cosmetic.  Ritual always finds a way into religion.

However, Jesus did not introduce banalities into the disciples’ religion.  Rather, He introduced relationship.  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”  It is as if He is saying, “Because of my shed blood on the cross, we will know one another and you will enter into an actual relationship with me!”

Have your religious observances become merely external?  Ritualistic?  Rote?  Habitual?  See here the table of the Lord and remember:  this happened not so that you could have more religion but so that you could have a relationship with the living God!

The Lord’s Supper interrupts time with eternity.

And the Lord’s Supper also brings an eternal dynamic.  It interrupts time with eternity.  Jesus says:

25 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.”

Jesus speaks of an eternal kingdom, a kingdom without end, the kingdom of God!  And this is a kingdom Jesus will enter after His breaking on the cross, after His death and burial.  In other words, the Lord’s Supper reminds us that death truly does not get the last word, that death is not truly the end.  There is a home for the people of God, and it is eternal!

Come to the table!  Here lies the death of your ritual and the beginning of your relationship, for here we find the signs of remembrance and the symbols of anticipation:  remembrance of the cross that was borne and anticipation of the kingdom that has come and is coming.

I love how Michael Card puts these truths when he sings:

Come to the table and savor the sight
The wine and the bread that was broken
And all have been welcomed to come if they might
Accept as their own these two tokens
The bread is His body, the wine is the blood
And the One who provides them is true
He freely offers, we freely receive
To accept and believe Him is all we must do
Come to the table and taste of the Glory
And savor the sorrow, He’s dying tomorrow
The hand that is breaking the bread
Soon will be broken
And here at the table sit those who have loved you
One is a traitor and one will deny
And He’s lived His life for them all
And for all be crucified
Come to the table He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release
Come to the table and sit down beside Him
The Savior wants you to join in the feast
Come to the table and see in His eyes
The love that the Father has spoken
And know you are welcome, whatever your crime
For every commandment you’ve broken
For He’s come to love you and not to condemn
And He offers a pardon of peace
If you’ll come to the table, you’ll feel in your heart
The greatest forgiveness, the greatest release
Come to the table He’s prepared for you
The bread of forgiveness, the wine of release
Come to the table and sit down beside Him
The Savior wants you to join in the feast[2]

Yes!  Yes He does!  The Savior wants you to join in the feast!

Come to the table!


[1] Richard John Neuhaus.  “While We’re At It.”  First Things.  November 1994.


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  1. Pingback: Mark | Walking Together Ministries

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