Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Last time we were together, we read about Mary anointing Jesus with the expensive perfume. Jesus said, “She has anointed my body beforehand for burial.” There are some commentators who say that from here on events begin to spiral out of control for Jesus. Up till now He has largely been in control but now that changes. However, this is not so at all! In fact, Mark wants us to see that the opposite it true – Jesus is very much in control. And this will be another reminder that this is the Gospel about Jesus Christ the Son of God.
And a tangible benefit of seeing this comes out in a verse of the Bible like James 1:2. There we read, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” For many people think that joy is impossible when things are difficult and hard. But the believer, who knows that His God is in control of all things and that His God uses all things for the good of His salvation, including trials, because He has seen this in the life of the Lord Jesus, can be joyful even in trials.
What we see in this passage then is that THE LAST SUPPER REVEALS THE MASTERLY CONTROL OF JESUS.
Lord’s Supper Commencement.
So firstly then, We see His Masterly Control in the PASSOVER ARRANGEMENTS (vv12-16).
1. Verse 12 – This is the second time in the chapter that we read about PASSOVER AND UNLEAVENED BREAD (v1).
A. Both of these feasts were established when Israel was delivered from Egypt. We read about them in Exodus 12. You boys and girls will surely remember the story of the Passover? Slaves in Egypt/Last plague – kill all the firstborn/kill a lamb and put its blood on doorposts/Angel of the Lord ‘passes over’ those houses. Unleavened Bread – Eat it for Seven days. Leaven was a symbol of sin. It had to be removed from the house. Do this every year and remember!
B. Well, earlier we read from Hebrews 8:5 – Sacrifices and feasts like these “serve as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things.” The blood of a lamb could not really protect you from the wrath of the Lord. But in John 1:29, John the Baptist sees Jesus coming and says, “Behold, “The Lamb of God…” The Passover lamb was a symbol pointing forward to Jesus. And unleavened bread could not really remove sin. But As John the Baptist was describing the Lord Jesus, He continued, “Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” U/B was a symbol of what Jesus would do.
C. And so, it is NO ACCIDENT that Jesus’ death happens at the time of Passover and U/B. There is very powerful symbolism here. And this demonstrates the masterly control of Jesus. He will determine when He dies, in part, to demonstrate that He is the promised Messiah – The Lamb of God who has come to take away the sin of the world.
2. Well, there is all sorts of discussion and debate about THE DATE AND DAYS of Passover and Unleavened bread. And we won’t go into that discussion here. But let me just say this, if you are reading a commentator who is suggesting that Jesus did something different than what the Law required for this or that reason, you know you are dealing with the opinion of someone who has it wrong. The Bible is very clear, and Jesus is explicit about this Himself, that He kept God’s Law perfectly. OK? So Jesus follows the law, which spelt out very carefully on which day all these things were to happen. So this is Thursday evening of this week and Jesus will be crucified tomorrow, on Friday.
3. Well, Jesus gives very specific details to the two disciples, who we know from Luke are Peter and John, about where they will celebrate the Passover. And there are two ways of understanding this detail and possibly it is even a combination of them both:
A. It is possible that we have here is divine foresight; because Jesus is God, He knows these events before they happen.
i. Some of you may remember the story of Saul from 1 Samuel 9. The family donkeys were lost and Saul went to find them. But he couldn’t. Eventually though, he met Samuel the Lord’s prophet. And Samuel told Saul that the donkeys were safely back at home, even though Samuel had not seen this himself. He knew this as a prophet.
ii. So some say that here too we see Jesus who is the greater prophet just knowing that all these things will happen as He said.
B. What is more likely, however, is that what we read here is a result of Jesus preplanning the celebration of the Passover. He has been in Jerusalem for a week or so now. Space in Jerusalem is at a premium because all the Jews tried to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem if they could. In addition, by God’s command, the Passover lamb had to be chosen several days before the Passover celebration. And also, notice what Jesus says here:
i. A man carrying water – very unusual – slave/Essene
ii. “Will meet you.” Not the disciples will meet him but he will meet you. It is as though Jesus had told this man to keep an eye out for Peter and John because He will send them to such and such a place on Thursday evening.
iii. In addition, Jesus speaks about “my guest room… furnished and ready.”
iv. And all this adds up to Jesus having pre-planned all this several days earlier.
C. And either of these explanations or both of them together reinforce the masterly control of Jesus. He is in charge here. His planning means that the location is kept secret from Judas and the important things He is going to say and do at the Supper can happen in this quiet and private environment.
4. And Mark reinforces the MASTERLY CONTROL of Jesus by telling us that the disciples went away and “found it just as He had told them…” Later on, after the cross, they could look back at this time and reflect on the masterly control of Jesus. – His Words are reliable/trustworthy/true!! He is the sovereign God – Yahweh.
A. And here is what all this means for you: A God who is in control when the foundations of His own earthly existence are crumbling is a God you can trust when the walls of your life are crumbling.
B. Hebrews 10:19 “Since we have CONFIDENCE to enter the Holy place by the blood of Jesus … let us draw near in FULL ASSURANCE…” God is a God who you can pray to with confidence because He is in full control of all things.
But having seen His Masterly Control in the PASSOVER ARRANGEMENTS, we see His Masterly Control also in the BETRAYAL ANNOUNCEMENT of vv17-21.
1. Jesus and the twelve are now reclining at the table. And Jesus speaks what can only have been startling words – “One of you will betray me.” Now, Mark has already told us in vv10-11 that Judas is the betrayer. But Matthew and John are explicit about this as they record this episode. Jesus made it very clear that Judas was the one in view here.
2. And Jesus is no innocent pawn in Judas’ game here. For look what Jesus says, ““The Son of Man goes as it is written of Him.” Jesus is pointing His disciples and all those who read these words back to the OT which spoke of betrayal in connection with Messiah.
A. Isaiah 53:3 He was despised and rejected by men
B. Psalm 41:9 Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me (Ahithophel betrayed David).
C. Psalm 23:5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies
D. What Judas will do is not something that catches Jesus by surprise. He even provokes Judas to act. John tells us that at this moment Jesus told Judas to “go and do what he was about to do, quickly.”
3. And so, in v 21, we read, “It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.”
A. And perhaps you are thinking to yourself, How could Judas do this? But there is a very real sense in which you and I are also betrayers of Jesus. We do this when refuse to speak out against blasphemy. We do this when we refuse to acknowledge Him before others. We do this when we give into sin because of peer pressure. The hymn Ah, Dearest Jesus has this line in it: “Who was the guilty? Who bought this upon Thee? Alas, my treason, Jesus, hath undone Thee.”
B. Nevertheless, Judas must bear the responsibility of this most heinous sin. But you may be thinking to yourself, in a sermon emphasizing the Masterly control of Jesus over all things, how can Judas be held responsible his actions?
i. In relation to Messiah, Isaiah 53:10 says, “Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush Him.” So how can Judas be held responsible for something that was necessary to accomplish the will of the Lord? Shouldn’t he instead receive a reward from God for performing a pretty vital and needed part of God’s plan of salvation?
a. Duet 29:29 – “The secret things belong to God.” In Judas we have an insight into how God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility intersects in history. What Judas did according to his own independent choice was, at the same time, by God’s sovereign decree.
b. Parallel – Genesis 50:20 – Joseph and his brothers who sold him into slavery. Joseph said to them, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive.”
c. Judas was not trying to serve God in betraying Jesus. Judas had only evil motivations in his heart. Nevertheless, God used Judas’ act to accomplish something that brought about the salvation of many.
d. Judas is 100% responsible for His sin. But God is 100% sovereign over everything in His creation. This is what the Bible teaches and we simply respond to it by saying, All glory be to God!”
4. All this reinforces though the masterly control of Jesus – Jesus is in control of Judas, not the other way around.
5. And this is also a good illustration of Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” That bully at school/that teacher that seems to have it in for you/that workmate/boss who makes your work day miserable? Each of these is responsible for their own sin, but ultimately God is in control, even of them, and using all these circumstances for your good.
So we have seen His Masterly Control in the PASSOVER ARRANGEMENTS and the BETRAYAL ANNOUNCEMENT.
But lastly we see His Masterly Control also in the LORD’S SUPPER COMMENCEMENT of vv22-26.
1. Mark says, “As they were eating…” So let’s review the way a Passover meal unfolded in Jesus’ day.
Table setting: in front of each seat—four glasses for wine.
unleavened bread and other foods, which were also all symbolic.
First cup: A prayer is uttered over each cup, and the four verbs of Exodus 6:6-7 are recited, one over each cup as it is drunk.
First – I will BRING YOU OUT from under the burdens of the Egyptians.
The Karpas (bitter herbs and the first dipping): The head of the house dips bitter
herbs (traditionally lettuce or celery) into salt water or vinegar. He dips herb together with the chief guest of honour (the person on his right), and then the bitter herbs are passed on down the table. After all partake of the karpas, all food is removed from the table. This heightens the interest of the evening, prompting the questions from the youngest son.
Second Cup: poured, but not yet drunk. Questions from the youngest son/least
significant person: Why do we eat this and in this way? Meaning…
All food and wine is returned to the table, including the lamb.
Father now explains the significance of the lamb, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread.
Singing of the first half of the Hallel Psalms: Psalms 113-114.
Father recites Exodus 6:6b: “I will DELIVER you from slavery to them.”
The Passover Lamb and two of the unleavened bread wafers are served.
Breaking of the bread: The host breaks the guest of honour’s bread and they dip it
together in the bitter herbs. The guest in turn breaks his neighbour’s bread and they dip it together, and so on down the line. (Announce Judas???)
The meal may now be eaten.
The Third Cup: Then the father recites the third verb from Exodus 6:6: “I will
REDEEM you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgments.” Then the wine is drunk.
The last of the unleavened bread wafers is blessed, broken, and eaten:
And it is most likely at this point in the meal that Jesus said and did what is described in these verses: He took a wafer of unleavened bread and broke it and gave it to His disciples, saying, “Take; this is my body.”
As the Jews had looked back to Passover night and the blood of the substitute lamb as a symbol of their redemption and rescue from slavery in Egypt, NT believers are to look back to the cross and the broken body of the LJ as a reminder that by His one sacrifice all their sins have been completely forgiven.
Hebrews 9:26 But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. He is the Lamb of God who came to take away…
The Fourth Cup – The father recites the fourth verb from Exodus 6:6-7: “I will
take you as my people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has BROUGHT you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”
And this would have been when Jesus said to them “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Shocking words – forbidden from drinking blood.
Exodus 24:8 And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
Zechariah 9:11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Jeremiah 31:31 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
Hebrews 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant…
Psalms 115-118 are now sung as a closing hymn. Mark 14:26 “And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”
2. The MEANING & PURPOSE of the Supper. In the history of the church that has been a lot of debate about what Jesus meant when He said, “This is my body.” The Roman church and the Lutherans teach that the bread becomes or is attached to the physical body of Christ. They take the word of Jesus literally. In fact, when Luther and the Calvinists were discussing this matter, Luther banged his knuckles on the table, repeating the words “Hoc Est Corpus Meum!!” This is my body! In Latin. The Calvinists responded, “But Jesus also said, ‘I am the gate.’ And we know He is no literal gate!” Well, because we have spent some time considering this topic in recent sermons, let me simply read some of the words in our Belgic Confession of faith:
What is eaten and drunk by us is the proper and natural body and the proper blood of Christ.
But the manner of our partaking of the same is not by the mouth, but by the spirit through faith. Thus, then, though Christ always sits at the right hand of His Father in the heavens, yet does He not therefore cease to make us partakers of Himself by faith.
This feast is a spiritual table, at which Christ communicates Himself with all His benefits to us, and gives us there to enjoy both Himself and the merits of His sufferings and death: nourishing, strengthening, and comforting our poor comfortless souls by the eating of His flesh, quickening and refreshing them by the drinking of His blood.
When we come to the Lord’s Supper table truly trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ, we do not
physically chomp on His body. Instead, we are joined to Him and He is joined to us by the Holy
Spirit, as we remember and believe that by His broken body and poured out blood, all our sins
have been forgiven.
We plan to celebrate the Supper in two weeks time. Are you eager to come? In v25, Jesus said, “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.” One day, in the new heavens and the new earth, we will sit down to some sort of heavenly banquet the Lord Jesus. And it is quite clear that the Lord Jesus looks forward to this banquet with eager expectation. Well, one of the ways you can prepare for that banquet is by coming to this one expecting to be nourished by Him. You young people who have not yet professed your faith, don’t put it off as though it were unimportant. You should be eager to be at this table!
1 Cor 11 helps us to understand what Jesus was doing at this Supper. As the Lord of salvation and as the Lord of history, He was instituting a new sacrament. SO in this too, we see His masterly control.
And we add this to His Masterly Control of the PASSOVER ARRANGEMENTS – “just as He said it would be” and His Masterly Control of the BETRAYAL ANNOUNCEMENT – “ As it was written about Him.”
You will have heard it said before that History is His-story. Galatians 4:4 uses this phrase in relation to His birth “In the fullness of time.” What appears to be a series of events spiralling out of Jesus’ control is actually a demonstration of His divine and masterly control.
After the terror attacks in Paris – soccer game between the Netherlands v Germany was cancelled because of a credible terrorist threat. If John Key had a credible threat, he wouldn’t go.
But Jesus knew of a credible threat to His own life. In fact, He told the disciples, at least three times, that it was going to happen. Mark 10:33 for example, “The Son of Man will be delivered over to the Jewish Leaders.”
But this too demonstrates His Masterly control. And praise God that the Lord Jesus did not turn His back on what lay before Him. And remember His Masterly Control when storm clouds are gathering about you. Amen.