Thursday, August 27, 2009

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, “The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.’ So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.

When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’ He said to them, ‘It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.’

While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Truly I tell you, I will never again drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.’

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

- Mark 14:12-26

This is the first day of the Unleavened Bread. The Passover lambs are slaughtered at noon on this day. The Passover and the feast will begin on this same day, at sunset (the time from which the new day was considered to begin in the Jewish calendar). As on the day he rode into Jerusalem on a colt, Jesus gives precise instructions predicting in detail what will happen for the disciples when he plans their Passover dinner, expressing his omniscience. My study bible has a note that I quite like, saying that it is a gift to man to have a Son of God use something of his; this room is forever set apart as holy. The note goes on to read, "Whatever gifts God asks of us today are similarly sanctified."

One gets a sense of the tremendous tension that is building up in these moments. Sure all the disciples are aware of the conflict between the authorities and their master Jesus, even if they have not grasped how soon and how drastically this conflict will end. While Jesus declares that his time is soon to arrive for the Son of Man "as it is written of him," he also notes the condemnation awaiting the person from whom that betrayal comes. My study bible again has a very helpful note here: "Jesus says this not in deprecation of this man, His own creation, but in deprecation of that man's choice and rashness. For it was the rashness of Judas' own will that made the Creator's gift of goodness useless to him. Divine foreknowledge of the betrayal takes away neither Judas' moral freedom nor his accountability. For God all things are a present reality. He foresees all human actions, but does not cause them."

Finally, we come to the first Eucharist. We recall as noted in yesterday's commentary, that this unleavened bread is symbolic not only of the haste with which the Hebrews left Egypt to be saved, but also of something holy and unmixed with evil. To this unleavened bread, Jesus adds wine, which he calls his blood. We must understand that his sacrifice is to be for everyone; his blood is shed for all. The Eucharist, being called the body, is representative of his entire Person. He gives his ALL to us. It is a gift that is always and forever made to us and for us, for all of us, always available through this sacrifice he will make. His sacrifice is his covenant for each of us.

To sing a hymn is to sing a psalm from a group of psalms (Ps. 115-118) which are traditionally sung after the Passover meal. Psalm 22 tells the story of the crucifixion, and we will hear it from Jesus' lips. Ps. 22:22 reads, as translated from the Septuagint in Hebrews 2:12, "I will declare Your name to My brethren; in the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You." On the night of his arrest, Jesus will do so at the assembly.

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