What Would Mark Preach?
Good morning, church. Good morning to all of those of you online. You are loved. I know some of you are regularly at home because you’re caught there. I think of Jerry and Cheryl and others who are ill … So, we love that you are able to join us. There are mission partners around the world. I mean, just so you guys know, the past couple of weeks we’ve had people join us during this service from South Africa and Colombia during the middle of our service, which is pretty wild. I’m in another room texting, not texting, but commenting with them. So, we’ve got people from all over joining us right now.
So, what does a man carrying a water jar and a man wearing only a linen cloth have in common?
Mark 14:13, Jesus commands two of his followers to go into Jerusalem and find a man carrying water. Then later, we’re going to talk about this more next week in Mark 14:51, we find a man who followed Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane wearing only a linen cloth. And then in one of the most awkward moments in all of the gospels, when that young man is about to be seized and arrested because he’s with Jesus, he flees so fast that he leaves his linen cloth behind. No pun intended. Thank you.
So, church tradition teaches that the man carrying water and the man who flees are Mark, the one who compiled this gospel, which would mean that Jesus celebrated Passover, created communion in Mark’s house where he grew up.
Now there’s no way to prove this, but what if it were true? What if that tradition were true? What if this part of Mark, we have a firsthand account of what happened in that upper room? And if Mark were here, how would he preach to us this section, especially because we’re so far removed from this historical culture? And what was going on with the tradition of Passover? We’re so far removed and distant. How would he preach that to us today to help us bring, to help bring us into what actually happened in that upper room?
Well, my imagination was kind of spinning with this idea of this church tradition. And so, I want to ask you to use and engage your imagination this morning. I want you to imagine that I actually am Mark and that I’m going to give you a firsthand account of what I wrote to you about what happened in that room. And Mark is going to preach this text to you today.
So, those of you who are creatives, you are going, “Oh, okay, we’re going to go with this.” Those of you are less on the creative side are like Ferguson. “Why?” Because I want us to understand the story of this text.
So, everyone, whether you’re creative or not, has imagination. So, I’m going to ask you to employ it and imagine receiving from Mark teaching about Passover, Betrayal, and the Lord’s Supper. I think it might sound something like this:
“The Rabbi and his followers celebrated Passover at my house. The Rabbi worked it out with my dad to use our upper room. You know how it is at Passover. There’s an extra 100,000 people in Jerusalem. And if you have free space, you’re practically required by law to let people use it. After all, it’s Passover. It’s the biggest festival of the year.
“The Rabbi, Jesus from Nazareth, he has created quite a stir these past three years with his ministry, going around teaching with authority, doing miracles, correcting the Sanhedrin. And this past week of his life, the last week of his life, Jesus, he cleared out the temple with a whip and corrected the Sanhedrin in the middle of the temple.
“Jesus also spent a lot of time in Bethany. And this guy named Simon; Simon was a leper, but Jesus healed him of his leprosy. So, Jesus would go back and forth between Bethany and Jerusalem, back and forth. One day, Jesus sent two of his followers to find me as I was carrying water home and said, ‘We’re supposed to use your house for Passover.’ So, I took them to my house, and I watched what Jesus did.
“Technically, I wasn’t invited to participate, but I snuck upstairs and watched the whole thing. And by the end of that evening, I was shocked at what Jesus did. For you to understand what happened in that upper room, I need to give you a quick Passover tutorial.
“You have to understand Passover. Israel has been celebrating Passover for about 3,000 years or so. Granted, we took a couple of times off, even though Yahweh said we should celebrate it every year. But for the most part, Passover is part of the fabric of our lives.
“Passover remembers slavery and deliverance. Passover remembers slavery and deliverance. And to understand that you have to understand the history of Israel, of our people. So, God started our people through Abraham and then his son, Isaac, and then his son, Jacob, who had his name changed to Israel. But I can’t talk about that story right now.
“Jacob had twelve sons. The eleventh son, his name was Joseph, and when he was young, he was kind of full of himself. He had some dreams that his brothers were going to bow down to him. So, he told his brothers those stories. And his dad didn’t help him because Jacob gave Joseph this really cool, colorful coat that was really special. So, with all of that put together, his brothers hated him, and they decided to kill him. But one brother said, ‘Let’s not kill him. Let’s sell him into slavery instead.’ So, all the brothers agreed. To cover up that decision, they took that really colorful coat from him. They killed a lamb. Lambs are really important in this story! They killed a lamb, dipped that colorful coat into the blood, took that back to their dad, Jacob, and said, ‘Joseph was eaten by a lion.’
“What does that have to do with Passover? Well, at the beginning of Passover, we take a vegetable, and we dip it into salt water. It’s to remind us of them dipping that coat into blood because the events of Joseph being sold into slavery are what set up the whole idea of Passover. It’s kind of the first event.
“See, Joseph ended up in Egypt as a house slave where he was accused of doing a really bad thing that he didn’t do. He was thrown into prison. He interpreted some dreams, was raised up to leadership in prison, then he was forgotten. Then he was remembered, taken out of prison. He interpreted dreams for Pharaoh, who was the king of Egypt, which put him into second in charge over all of Egypt, where he saved Egypt and the entire world from a famine that lasted seven years.
“That famine brought Joseph’s brothers to Egypt, where they were reconciled and reunited, and ultimately Joseph’s dad, Jacob/Israel, moved to Egypt, where they lived together. Israel and Egypt live together in harmony. They were fine for many years until Joseph died, and new leadership started coming up in Egypt.
“The new Pharaoh hated Israel because they were multiplying too fast and they were afraid they were going to take over. So, this new Pharaoh ordered that all male babies, all male Israelites, be thrown into the river. He killed a whole generation of our sons. Egypt then enslaved Israel to do all of their construction work.
“In Passover, we eat bitter herbs to remind us that life in Egypt, life in slavery is bitter. And when you taste those bitter herbs, they’re so bitter, they make your eyes water, and that’s the point. So, part of Passover remembers slavery.
“God then sent Moses, an Egyptian-raised Israelite, to Pharaoh with the message, ‘You need to let my people go and if you don’t, consequences, dire consequences, are going to occur.’ Pharaoh stubbornly refused. So, Yahweh began to embarrass all of the false gods of Egypt with these really wild displays of power, like locusts coming out of nowhere, frogs all over the place, rivers of water turning into rivers of blood. It was an amazing sight! And God performed nine of those displays of power and then sent Moses back to Pharaoh. All of those displays of power were there to provoke Pharaoh into letting Israel go. And every time Pharaoh said, ‘No.’ So, God, in a final act of justice, told Pharaoh, ‘If you refuse me this time, there will be a tenth plague, and the firstborn of every house in Egypt will die.’
“Now, every year in Passover, when we have to talk about this part of the story, it always feels so brutal. The firstborn in every house is going to die? But then we remember Pharaoh killed an entire generation of sons. And then we remember this plague actually didn’t have to happen at all. Pharaoh was invited to let people go, and even with that, God gave an additional escape plan from this final plague, and the escape plan was called ‘Passover.’
“God told us, ‘Put on your sandals, get your belt on, hold your staff in your hand. You need to be ready to leave Egypt after this plague. I want you to kill and roast a lamb. Lambs are really important in this story! When you kill that lamb, you’re going to take the blood, and you’re going to smear it on the doorpost of your house. So, that night, when the angel of death comes through all of the houses of Egypt, it will see that blood, and it will pass over you. I want you to eat all of the food that you make in your house. Leave nothing behind. If there’s anything left over, burn it, because you’re going to be ready to hit the road.’
“Passover remembers deliverance from slavery and deliverance from death. It remembers deliverance from the final plague. So, Passover remembers slavery, and Passover remembers deliverance. And we got there from Abraham, Isaac to Jacob to Joseph to Israel to slavery to Moses to Passover. Of course, the journey continues. We call it the exodus, but that is a tutorial for another time.
“So, after we remember Joseph and after the herbs, Passover focuses on primarily three items. Now, many rabbis would not appreciate how quickly I’m working through what these mean, but I’ve got a limited amount of time.
“You have to have these three items for Passover: a lamb — lambs are really important in this story! You have to have a sacrificial lamb. Again, that first Passover, you put the blood on the doorpost. Now the lambs are all slaughtered at the temple. You have to have bread, unleavened bread, no yeast allowed. Remember, Israel had to be ready to leave Egypt right away. They didn’t have time to sit around and wait for bread to rise. So, we eat unleavened bread and wine. Wine is served throughout the meal with four cups. And each time it’s served, there’s a blessing that is sung over it.
“Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha-olam Boreh p’ri hagafen. Blessed, are you oh, Lord, our God ruler of the universe, creator of the fruit of the Vine.
“All during Passover, songs are sung, the Hallel. That’s my quick tutorial on Passover. You have to get Passover because there’s so much imagery in it. History, suffering, lambs, blood, death, escaping death, being ready to be freed from slavery, everything and Passover means something, which is why watching the Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, go through Passover is shocking.
“Jesus did four shocking things during Passover. First, Jesus publicly accuses a friend of being a betrayer. Everyone’s eating, reclining on cushions, and then the Rabbi speaks up and says this, ‘Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.’ Can you imagine that happening at Passover or any festival meal, any family meal? There’s no way anybody should say something like that! Can you imagine breaking bread with someone when you know you’re going to betray them? It’s unthinkable.
“All of the Twelve especially began saying to one another in a really sorrowful voice, ‘Rabbi, is it me? Am I the betrayer? Is it me? Is it me? Is it me?’ Jesus narrowed it down a little bit. And he said, ‘It’s one of the Twelve who is dipping their bread into the dish with me.’
“I was peeking from the top of the stairs, and everyone in that room was stunned. Everyone knows the Twelve. They’re the followers of the new Rabbi. They gave up jobs, like tax collectors and fishermen, to follow him. They’ve become targets of the Sanhedrin. And now one of his best friends is going to betray him? When Jesus accused someone, he didn’t even seem surprised. He said, ‘For the Son of Man — that was a nickname he had for himself — for the Son of Man goes as it is written of him.’ Jesus knew it was going to happen, and he befriended the guy anyway. There’s no way I could do that.
“And Jesus pronounced some really bad news on that betrayer: ‘Woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed. It would have been better for him to have never been born.’ Never existing is better than existing and betraying Jesus. That’s scary.
“I learned something about the Rabbi watching him shock all of those people in that room: Jesus befriends and eats with betrayers. Who does that? Who chooses people to be their friend and eat with them when you know they’re going to betray you? I typically try to make friends who are going to love me, care for me, be faithful to me. But Jesus is so different than me.
“I then started remembering a lot of the stories that I had heard about Jesus, who he actually ate with. He ate with a whole roomful of tax collectors, like the worst people in Israel. Jesus was made fun of because he ate with drunks. Jesus ate with people that had a really bad reputation, if you know what I mean. I even heard a rumor he had a secret meeting with a high-ranking Pharisee. So, if somebody were to ask me up to this point … this night is what you saw Jesus…. What do you know about Jesus? I would tell you Jesus welcomes everyone to eat with him. Jesus eats with the rebellious, and Jesus eats with the religious. Jesus shocked everyone with that betrayal talk.
“He also shocked everybody because Jesus interrupts Passover to change Passover. I don’t know how else to say it. If you say that at the temple, the scribes would lose their mind. But I saw Jesus take really old, old symbols and give them brand new meaning. Remember, in Passover, you have to have a lamb, bread, and wine. So, as they’re eating, they’re doing what they’ve always done. What you say is prescribed. How you go through Passover is known. It’s not a secret.
“But as they’re eating, Jesus picks up the bread, breaks it, sings the blessing over it, hands it out to everybody, and then says this, ‘Take. This is my body.’ That is not part of Passover. Jesus said that the bread was his body.
“Now bread is a big deal to everyone. Bread is a really big deal to Israel. Bread is life. Everyone knows that you have to have bread in order to survive. And our people, Israel, love to talk about our bread stories. Let me share a couple of our bread stories with you.
“There was this guy named Melchizedek. He’s kind of like a super human, supernatural priest. We don’t know where he came from, when he was born. We don’t even know if he ever died. He just existed, and he met our father, Abraham. Abraham was so impressed by this guy that he gave him a tenth of everything he owned. And do you know what Melchizedek gave to Abraham? Bread and wine.
“Elijah, a hero prophet of our people, was kept alive because a raven would fly in bread. Elijah met this widow woman, and it was during famine. And Elijah said, ‘Hey, will you make me a loaf of bread?’ And she said, ‘I only have enough left for one. And then my son and I are going to eat it, and then we’re going to die.’ It was a little morbid, but Elijah said, ‘No, give me that loaf of bread.’ And in faith she did. And in response to her faith, a miracle occurred where her oil and flour never ran out. She was basically given eternal bread. She was given eternal life.
“After we escaped Egypt, as we traveled, God gave us supernatural bread every day. It was called ‘manna,’ and we would go out and gather enough to keep us alive that day.
“In the Tabernacle, once we set up a place where God could reside, there were twelve loaves of bread that were placed on this special table to remind us of the twelve tribes of Israel. But every week that bread became the life source for the priests and their families.
“Did you know that the Rabbi, Jesus of Nazareth, twice did a miracle with bread, where he multiplied it for thousands of people because he thought they were going to faint and die? And he wanted to give them life.
“There was one time in one of the Rabbi’s teachings where he said out loud for everybody to hear, “I am the bread of life.’ And now in Passover, Jesus says, ‘Take this bread. Take me. Take deliverance. Take life.’ Who says that? Who has the authority to change Passover? God’s the one who started Passover, who has the authority to change Passover. God does. Jesus changed Passover. Jesus is God. I’m telling you, Passover will never be the same. Bread will never be the same.
“Jesus went further. He then took the wine and said the blessing, gave it to everyone; they drank, and Jesus says, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.’ Now, God made a covenant with Abraham, and that went to Isaac, and that went to Jacob, and we relearned the covenant through Moses. And in that covenant, you have to have a sacrificial lamb to be right with God. Lambs are really important in this story! So, when Jesus is saying ‘my blood of the covenant,’ he’s now telling everybody, ‘My blood takes care of the covenant with God. I’m the one who makes you right with God.’ When he said that, the room got quiet.
“The third shocking thing that Jesus did during Passover was he ignored the lamb. Remember, lambs are really important in this story! And Jesus ignored it. The lamb that was killed, blood on the doorposts for Passover, the temple packed with people who are slaughtering lambs, Jerusalem during Passover … The smell of roasting lamb is everywhere. It’s a big deal. It’s the centerpiece of the meal. And Jesus ignores it and talks about his body and his blood, not the lamb’s body and the lamb’s blood.
“Have you guys ever heard of a guy named John the Baptist? Some people called him a nut. And he was a little odd, I mean, the whole eating locusts and honey, wearing camel hair, a leather belt, not a great look. Do you know what John the Baptist said when he saw Jesus? ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.’
“Now that I think about it: Jesus didn’t ignore the lamb. Jesus looked at everybody in that room and said, ‘I am the Lamb. Take bread, my body. Take life. Drink wine. Think blood. Be passed over. I’m the Lamb who takes away the sin of the entire world.’
“The fourth shocking thing that Jesus did in Passover was he didn’t finish Passover. He left it hanging. There was one more cup of wine to be shared, and Jesus says, ‘I’m not drinking that one. I will not again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the Kingdom of God. Until that day in the Kingdom of God? When is that? What day is he talking about? Everybody wants the Kingdom of God to come. Israel are the promised people of God, and they’re being ruled by Rome. We all want deliverance. We all want the Kingdom of God to come. And when Jesus said that about drinking on that day, new in the Kingdom of God, he seemed so sure that it was going to happen. It was almost like he was kindly teasing everyone.
“The next time I drink this wine, it’s going to be in such a different place. It’s going to be in a brand new kingdom. Maybe it will be a kingdom where Rome doesn’t rule. Or maybe it’ll be a kingdom that I can’t even imagine.
“Jesus and his friends ended the night, as we always do at Passover by singing psalms. Now Bartholomew, one of Jesus’s followers, he couldn’t carry a tune to save his life. But Jesus … I could listen to him sing for hours. The last psalm that we sing during Passover begins like this: ‘O give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.’ I love that line. And let me tell you, if you could hear Jesus sing it, you would have had tears streaming down your cheeks just like I did. Jesus sang that line as if he understood the steadfast love of God better than anybody in the entire world. I’d give anything to hear him sing again. Maybe one day.
“Passover is beautiful. Passover is rich in meaning, but Passover passed away in that room. I mean, Jesus is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. He changed Passover. He eats and befriends betrayers. He says he’s the new Lamb. He says his body is life and deliverance, that his blood fulfills the covenant. Whenever I see bread and wine now, I can’t help but think about Jesus. Maybe his new meal should have its own name. And people celebrate it for a very long time.
“Passover remembers past slavery and temporary deliverance. Jesus’s new meal remembers past sacrifice and eternal deliverance. Before I met the Rabbi, I was a slave to myself, to sin and to the law. But after that, that night, I realized Jesus could deliver me from myself, the law, and sin.
What about you? Do you feel, in you, in this world, just the slavery of it? Have you ever wanted to be free from yourself and everything going on around us? Jesus is looking at you just like he did his followers in that room and saying, ‘Take me. Take life. Quit being a slave. Be delivered.’
Jesus offered himself for you. Jesus sacrificed himself, so that all could be delivered. Think about that. And remember him forever.”
That’s how I think Mark would preach that passage. And what we’re about to do right here is that meal. This is a radical re-creation of an ancient, ancient meal that’s all about slavery, deliverance, and life.
We believe life and deliverance comes through placing our faith in Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus Christ … that he was a real man, but he was more than that. He was the God-man, and he gave himself to be the Passover Lamb for the entire world. And by putting our trust in that reality of Jesus, dying, being buried, and rising again, we are reconciled with God. It’s as if we are covered over with that blood. And that’s what we believe in. That’s what we celebrate here.
So, we invite everyone here … If you’ve done that, if you’ve put your trust, your faith in Jesus, you are welcome to participate in this brand new, ancient meal. We caution you as you take it, though, that it’s really important when followers of Jesus take this meal, that we remember what we’re doing with it, that it’s no longer just bread and wine. “Take my body, my blood of the covenant poured out for many.”
It’s much bigger than that now. If you haven’t put your faith, your strong belief in Jesus as a person, we would caution you to just let it pass. We don’t practice this morbidly. We practice this with proclamation: we’re proclaiming the death of Jesus until he comes back to get us.
So, here in a moment, we’re going to pass these out. There’ll be two cups stacked. Be real careful as you twist those apart. Bread will be in the bottom; juice on the top. I’ll come back up. We’ll take this all together.
As it’s being passed out, we’re going to have that entire section that would be included in Passover from the Psalms. It’s called the Hallel, Psalm 113-118. We’re going to have that entire section read to us. And I want you to keep your imagination going for just a little bit longer. Will you listen to all of these psalms and imagine Jesus singing them? That’s piece one. Piece two: hear some of the things Jesus sang right before he went out to the garden, right before he went to the cross. Maybe you’ll hear Psalms 113-118 in a brand new way. So, we’ll pass this out and take it all together here in a moment.