12 On the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13 So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14 Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15 He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”
16 The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.
17 When evening came, Jesus arrived with the Twelve. 18 While they were reclining at the table eating, he said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me—one who is eating with me.”
19 They were saddened, and one by one they said to him, “Surely you don’t mean me?”
20 “It is one of the Twelve,” he replied, “one who dips bread into the bowl with me. 21 The Son of Man will go just as it is written about him. But woe to that man who betrays the Son of Man! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”
22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
23 Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it.
24 “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. 25 “Truly I tell you, I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
26 When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
(Mark 14:12-26 NIV)
As we opened chapter 14, we saw Jesus having dinner at Simon’s house in the Jerusalem suburb of Bethany. With Mark’s time reference, that was likely Tuesday evening.
As we begin today’s passage, Mark gives us another time reference – Thursday, the day that Galilean Jews celebrate the Passover (as a point of reference, the Judean Jews celebrate the Passover on Friday).
Jesus’ disciples came to Him and asked Him where they were to prepare the Passover meal. Jesus had obviously made prior arrangements for this event, as He picked out two disciples (Peter and John, Luke 22:8) and gave them His instructions. Notice that Jesus did not give these two disciples a house address, or even directions. Instead, Jesus gives them a sign of a man carrying a jar of water.
It’s easy to miss the cloak-and-dagger level of intrigue in Jesus’ instructions. From yesterday’s passage, we know that the religious leaders were plotting to kill Jesus (14:1). Also, unbeknownst to the other disciples (but known to Jesus) was Judas Iscariot’s change of loyalty and offer to betray Jesus to the religious leaders for money.
Jesus, knowing all this, set up a sign of the man carrying a water jar so no words would be spoken and their location would not be given away by Judas or evident to any spies that the religious leaders may have placed around the city to notify them of seeing Jesus or His disciples. Normally women carried water from the city wells to their homes, so to see a man carrying the water jar would be uncommon but not alarming, especially with the throngs of people in Jerusalem for the Passover.
During the Passover meal, Jesus announces that someone will betray Him. When His disciples question Jesus about them being the one, Jesus narrows the field and says that it will be one of the Twelve disciples. Jesus knew that it was Judas Iscariot; He also knew that if He revealed the identity of the betrayer, that Judas would not make it out of the room alive.
In a last attempt to dissuade Judas from carrying out his betrayal plan, Jesus predicts the punishment that awaits the one who will betray Him. Jesus’ warning to Judas is the antithesis, the opposite outcome of the unnamed woman who had anointed His head on Tuesday night in Simon’s home (14:9).
Mark does not go into the normal Passover meal and its rituals – the explanation of the elements, the readings, the reciting of Scriptures, the order of the celebration. Mark assumes his readers will be familiar with the Passover celebration and rituals.
Mark does, however, capture Jesus’ personalization of the Passover in verses 22 – 24. Jesus ties the symbols of the bread and the wine to Himself, telling His disciples that these elements will now be a remembrance of what He was about to endure on their behalf and ours – being the sacrificial Lamb of God whose body would be broken and whose blood would be poured out for everyone’s sins once and for all.
In verse 25, Jesus personalizes the traditional Jewish toast given with the last cup of wine used in the Passover celebration: “This year in Jerusalem; next year in the Kingdom.” With that proclamation, Jesus and His disciples finished the last of the Passover celebration by singing the remainder of the Hallel psalms (Psalms 116-118) and departed for the Mount Of Olives, presumably in groups of two or three so as to not arouse suspicion of the religious leaders’ lookouts.
Imagine being with Jesus and His disciples for their last Passover with Jesus. There would be so many conflicting emotions – great joy of being together mixed with deep sorrow that this would not take place again; love for Jesus and each other and indescribable grief of Jesus’ predicted death; the familiarity of the Passover and the unknowing of the future; the security of the group and the doubt of one who would betray Jesus (and possibly the others).
May Jesus’ and the disciples’ closing words of the Passover be etched deeply in our souls as we go about our day:
Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good;
His love endures forever.
(Psalm 118:29 NIV)