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.
In Mark’s typical brevity, this story is short and punchy. The scene is a little tense—with an announcement like “one of you will betray me”—and emotional.
Some of the impact of the scene is lost for us as modern readers as we do not realise that this story deviates from the script. Passover was—and still is—an extremely important and highly ritualised event in the Jewish calendar. Maybe this is why Mark didn’t feel the need to fill in all the details—even details the other gospel writers provided. Unleavened bread and wine are part of any Passover remembrance. However, here, Jesus imbues them with a new meaning, building on the traditions that had gone before. Basically it was intended as a celebration of deliverance and redemption for Israel from slavery in Egypt. Building on the imagery and tradition of Passover, Jesus points us to His life, His sacrifice, His blood that was soon to be shed.
It is no accident that the word communion shares its root with the word community. At my local church, we have a meal once a month when we share communion together. We call the service "Recharge". It is a time of eating together and sharing the bread and grape juice. We often give thanks for what God has done for us during the service but it is also, I find, a time to reflect on what I need to do to be reconciled back to God. We all stuff up. That is a given but this ritual shows us God’s answer to the things we do wrong, the things that separate us from Him. This “blood of the covenant” that Jesus refers to is an unbreakable contract, a symbol of the ultimate act of reconciliation possible.
After humanity has spent so long apart from God, God has walked among them and is ready to give everything to get them back. After a betrayer has decided to walk away and betray his Saviour, Jesus is still willing to go through with it.
God’s deliverance of Israel was less important than God’s deliverance of all mankind.
Is that a sacrifice you’re willing to remember and celebrate? Is that a sacrifice you’re willing to accept to be reconciled back to God and His kingdom? It’s something I need today, right now and every day.
Dear Father in heaven, thank you for sending Jesus to forgive me and reconcile me back to you. Please help me to live like a member of your kingdom, freed from slavery of my wrongs and ready to make a difference for you in this world. Amen.
Jarrod Stackelroth is associate editor of Adventist Record.