Throughout the Gospels, some of the great encounters with Jesus happen at mealtime. We are coming to the close of Mark’s Gospel and the last meal in his account is no ordinary supper. Jesus and his disciples are in Jerusalem for the Passover.
The Passover meal commemorated the night when the people of Israel prepared to flee Egypt. God sent judgement on the Egyptians by killing the firstborn son in each household. However, the Israelites were preserved if they took the blood of a spotless lamb and spread it over the doorposts to their houses. It’s that meal which he now eats with his disciples.
Read Mark 14:12-26
Included at the meal were those that were about to deny and desert Jesus but also the one who would betray him. Here we see Jesus’ love for his disciples. Notice that this is a meal with Jesus. He takes the role of host. He blesses the food and he serves it. Christian faith is about being welcomed into Jesus’ family. It is like coming to have a meal with him.
However, the meal is not only with Jesus but it is Jesus. As he breaks bread and shares a cup of wine, he announces that “This is my body” and “This is my blood.” What does Jesus mean by this. Commentators and theologians have tied themselves up in knots over the years with Catholics and Lutherans trying to work out in what sense the elements become his body and blood. At the other extreme, Zwingli emphasised that the language here was symbolic. For him, the bread and wine represented Christ’s body and blood. Calvin wanted to avoid both extremes and so Calvinists will insist that in some spiritual sense, we do feed on Christ. Though that can sound a bit woolly if left at that.
I think it is best to hear Jesus and understand his meaning at its simplest. The Passover meal was the saviour of the Israel. It took the place of their firstborn sons, it meant that they were saved from death and had the hope of freedom and new life in God’s promised land. Every year, the Jews gathered to once again eat their salvation. Jesus now says “I am your salvation.” Just as the Passover meal rescued the ancient Israelites from death and made it possible for the subsequent generations to be a nation, to be God’s people. So now, through his death and shed blood, Jesus would be their salvation and ours.
Why not take a moment now to pause and to give thanks for this wonderful gift of salvation that we have in Jesus. Thank Jesus that he gave his body and shed his blood for us. Praise him because he has defeated the enemy: Satan, Sin, death and has bought our freedom. Express trust in the promise again that we have sure and certain hope of a future home with Christ.