The King’s Supper – Mark 14:12-17, 22-26
In a 2008 Newsweek article entitled “Communion online,” Lisa Miller recounts the story of a couple in Minnesota who gave each other pieces of a bagel and Crystal Lite while participating in an online celebration of Holy Communion based in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The wife says, “ “I had my eyes closed…we were praying … I got really choked up.”The article also makes reference to two Methodist ministers who have developed Web sites for do-it-yourself Communion.Should we see this as “cool” and “innovative” and “what’s the big deal” orshould we more concerned that we are losing the heart of what it means to take Communion?
But others in church history have extremely serious views about it. Martin Luther, the Protestant reformer was once celebrating a Lutheran Mass when he accidentally spilled some of the communion wine on the floor. He began to weep and the congregation with him. He then got down on his knees to begin licking it up. He then ordered the floorboards to be ripped up and burned. Was he going overboard? Or are we treating Communion too lightly?
Or what about some of the crazy Communion stories we have heard? Journalist Jason Boyettnotes, “St. Francis Xavier was known to levitate occasionally while distributing Communion, and St. Stephen of Mar Saba once saw a bright light emanate from his body upon taking the elements. St. Clare is said to have repelled a military attack on the gates of her convent by brandishing a Communion wafer at the soldiers…And St. Anthony of Padua once displayed the consecrated host to a mule. It (allegedly) caused the animal to bow in reverence and reject the hay it had been munching on so contentedly only moments before.” If those stories are true, those of us who take Communion to be just symbolicare truly mishandling the elements and missing out on true means of power.
Today we are in Mark 14:12-26 and the title of the message is “The King’s Supper.” Communion or the “Lord’s Supper” or the “Lord’s Table” or “The Eucharist” or “Breaking of Bread” to name a few titles, (all mean the same thing) is one of those things that can do in church for the sake of tradition and sometimes have no real understanding of why we do it. Why do we do it? What does it mean? Is it just a symbol? Is it just juice and crackers? Is it really transformed literally into the body and blood of Christ? Is it really supposed to be that mystical? Is the Lord present in it in a special spiritual way then? Should we take it every Sunday? First:
I. Four Major Views on the Lord’s Supper
There are four major views throughout church history. I know some of you come from some of these traditions, which is why I wanted to look at this briefly.
a) Roman Catholic view— (aka “transubstantiation”). According to the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church (and Orthodox) the bread and wine actually become the body and blood of Christ. All who participate in the Lord’s Supper, or the Holy Eucharist as it is termed, literally take the physical body and blood of Christ into themselves.
I don’t think Jesus meant it to take it literally. Jesus spoke in symbolic ways many times when speaking of Himself. He said, for example, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved” (John 10:9). As Jesus is holding the bread in His hands and saying, “This is my body,” “the bread was in his hand but it was distinct from his body, and that was, of course, evident to the disciples. None of the disciples present would have thought that the loaf of bread that Jesus held in his hand was actually his physical body, for they could see his body before their eyes.”
But a far serious problem is the implications of believing it is the literal body and blood. In this view, Christ’s sacrifice continues in the Mass, offering power to you to atone for sin again, when the book of Hebrews says over and over again that “he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself … Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many” (Heb. 9:25–28).”This is what the Protestant Reformers realized and as Piper rightly concludes,“this is what they believed undermined the gospel of Christ crucified once for all for our sins.”
I think you can readily take Communion in pretty much any Protestant church, but as a result of the implication of transubstantiation, I do not think you should participate in that kind of Communion in any church (and they probably won’t let you anyway) that teaches this view, to even show support of it in any way.
b) The Lutheran view— (aka “consubstantiation”)Grudem says that, “Martin Luther insisted that the phrase ‘This is my body’ had to be taken in some sense as a literal statement. His conclusion was not that the bread actually becomes the physical body of Christ, but that the physical body of Christ is present ‘in, with, and under’ the bread of the Lord’s Supper. The example sometimes given is to say that Christ’s body is present in the bread as water is present in a sponge—the water is not the sponge, but is present ‘in, with, and under’ a sponge, and is present wherever the sponge is present.” Same problems in the Catholic view exist here.
c) The Calvinistic or Reformed view— (aka “spiritual presence”).There is some disagreement on the next two views as to who had what view. For the sake of argument, we will say that Calvin taught a “spiritual presence” view. The Reformed view holds that Christ is present in the Lord’s Supper but not physically or bodily. Rather, his presence in the sacrament is spiritual or dynamic. Using the sun as an illustration, Calvin asserted that Christ is present influentially. The sun remains in the heavens, yet its warmth and light are present on earth. So the radiance of the Spirit conveys to us the communion of Christ’s flesh and blood. As you take communion, Christ meets you in a special way to nourish you spiritually.
d) Memorial or Commemoration View—This is attributed to the Swiss reformer Ulrich Zwingli. Zwingli said that Jesus’ presence is everywhere and “His presence in the elements is no more intense than his presence elsewhere.”Therefore the role of Communion is to bring to mind the death of Christ and its effects on behalf of the believer.
To illustrate this view, suppose a man has a picture or a photograph of his wife. One day he shows it to a friend and says, “Look, this is my wife.” What does he mean? Obviously he does not mean that this small piece of photographic paper is actually his wife. What he really means is: “This represents my wife. This is a picture of my wife. When you look at this picture you will think of my wife.” So when Jesus said, “This is My Body” he means, “This bread represents My body. This bread is a picture (symbol) of My body. When you look at this bread you will think of My body and what I did for you when I died on the cross.”
Right now I swing between the Reformed and the Memorial view. My mind is not fixed on either one, though I probably lean towards the Memorial view (this week anyway). I also do think there is validity to doing Communion every week (I don’t think Scripture prescribes a time) and I respect churches that have chosen to do that, though we have chosen, as our preference, to do it once a month here at Living Hope.To be honest, sometimes I wonder if I, in overreaction to the Catholic/Orthodox view I had growing up, have swung too far to the other side to take the Memorial view? As a result, perhaps the nice balance is the Reformed view?Or maybe our questions about Communion are wrong altogether? Pastor Gordon Mikoski makes an interestingobservation:
In the digital age, it may be the case that the classical debates about the presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist have been inverted. The question with which we may now have to wrestle is not “In what way is the Lord present in the Supper?” Instead, the question is “In what ways are we present in the Supper?” In this time of rapid transition into the digital age, it seems that bringing the body to the Lord’s Table has as much to do with our bodies as it does with the Lord’s.Let’s move on to the text this morning.
II. Three Lessons from the First Lord’s Supper
We usually call this the “Last Supper” and many of you probably have a copy or some version of DaVinci’s famous painting at your parent’s house over the dining room table. Technically it is the last meal that Christ has, but in another sense, it is the first Lord’s Supper that the Lord wanted us to observe. What does the Lord’s Supper mean for us?
a) His Substitutionary Love
Notice in Mark 14:12, this Supper is actually a Passover meal (“Unleavened Bread”). This is actually going to be the last Passover meal. Remember Passover? Back in Exodus, we read about the children of Israel who were slaves in Egypt. They were in misery and bondage to Pharaoh. God had told them that on the last night, the firstborn in every family would be slayed unless blood was smeared on the doorposts. The angel of death would “pass over” those doors and they would be saved. So through Moses, God led them to freedom and Passover was an annual meal to remember that great deliverance from God. In a sense, the most important moment in the history of Israel as a nation, as a people, was that deliverance. The lamb was a substitute.
The Passover meal had a form. Before the meal, the Lamb would be chosen on Monday and sacrificed and prepared to eat on Thursday. It was a long meal from sunset to way past midnight. It had four parts and four cups of wine, doubly diluted for those of you worried about that. There is a presider, who is usually the head of the family. The four cups of wine represented the four promises made by God in Exodus 6: 6–7. These promises were for rescue from Egypt, for freedom from slavery, for redemption by God’s divine power, and for a renewed relationship with God.
The presider would explain the reason for the night and the symbolism of the food and they would sing some psalms together throughout (note, Mark 14:26).The third cup came at a point when the meal was almost completely eaten. Here the presider would take the bread and quote Deut. 26 and say something like, ““This is the bread of our affliction, which our fathers ate in the wilderness.” Now Jesus changes things up.
He lifts up the bread and says, “This is my body.” What does that mean? Keller explains it the best: “This is the bread of my affliction, this is the bread of my suffering, because I’m going to lead the ultimate exodus and bring you the ultimate deliverance from bondage.” Do you know what he’s saying, when he says, “This is my body. This is my blood”? Here’s what he’s saying. He says, “Just as once this meal was observed the night before God redeemed Israel from slavery to Pharaoh, through Moses, tonight we eat it before the night in which God is going to redeem from sin, death, and evil itself the world through me. This is not just a salvation from social and economic bondage, as bad as that was, through Moses. This is salvation from death and sin and evil itself through me.”
“I’m the ultimate Moses,” he’s saying. “I’m leading the ultimate exodus. This is the ultimate salvation, and this is the ultimate suffering that will lead you out.” In other words, Jesus is saying, “All the other deliverances, all the other sacrifices, everything else, was pointing to me. My death is the climactic event toward which all the history of the world is moving.”
Paul explains in Corinthians that this body is “broken for you” (1 Cor. 11:24, emphasis mine). In other words, when the bread is broken, that should have been our bodies that should be broken for our sin, but He says, “I will do it.” This reminded me of John Stott’s classic quote in his classic book called The Cross of Christ: The concept of substitution may be said to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while the essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.
If you think about it, you can’t truly have life-changing love without substitutionary sacrifice.Greater love has no man than this, that he lays down his life for his friends (John 15:14). Recently I read a novel entitled Peace like a River. It’s a beautiful coming of age tale of a single father and his kids. Told in the perspective of 11-year-old Reuben, one of themes is the nature of true love. The dad, Jeremiah Land is a man with gifts of healing and miracles. Throughout the book, Reuben struggles with his asthma and wonders why his dad can’t cure him. Yet his dad feels bad for him and says, “I wish I could take your place.” At one point, a crazy maniac pursues and shoots both Jeremiah and Reuben. Jeremiah’s wound is not too bad and he should have recovered from it, but Reuben’s wound is serious and deadly, literally shredding his lungs and should have killed him. Jeremiah finally does takes his son’s place. The doctor cannot believe it. The doctor says, “I saw your lungs, Reuben, and it was as if it wasn’t touched at all!” To which Reuben quickly retorts, “Of course they had been touched.” His dad healed him while giving up his own life.
It is always moving for me when I read a book or watch a movie where you see someone jumping in front of danger to protect a loved one. Why? That’s true love. Substitutionary love changes you.When I became a parent, I didn’t realize how much it would mean that I would have to lose my independence and freedom to help my children grow. I would have to lose my sleep and identify with their sleeplessness in the middle of the night. And you give up everything so they can grow up.
Keller adds,“You can either sacrifice your freedom or theirs. It’s them or you. To love your child well, you must decrease that they may increase. You must be willing to enter into the dependency they have so eventually they can experience the freedom and independence you have.”If you love anybody whose life needs a change, it’s going to cost you. You can’t love them and bring them up without you going down. You can’t do it without transfer. Somehow, their troubles, their problems transfer to you…All real life-changing love is substitutionary sacrifice. 
So what is the Lord’s Supper saying to you and me? He really loves you. We are so bad He had to die, but we are so loved, He was glad to die. Notice He doesn’t just say, “This is my body. Isn’t that nice?” He says, “Take it.” Don’t just stare at it. He says, “You have to take what I’m doing for you. You have to receive it. You have to take it in. You have to appropriate it.” Make this love your own. He’s offering it to you believer. The table is for believers, but it is also a witness to unbelievers. If you are not born-again today, the Lord’s Supper reminds you again of Jesus’ offering you eternal life by receiving Him, not achieving it through your efforts.
But believer, we still need gospel rescue every day. We need to ingest this love every day. Look at how up and down we are with approval and criticism. Look at how anxiety tears us up. Look at how depressed we get over our circumstances. Jesus says, “You don’t have the resources to do life. So take me. Let me enter in. Let my love fill your heart. Let me nourish you, but you have to take it and make it yours.” The Lord’s Supper is a reminder of that constant invitation for us to continue being nourished in this love.
b) Our New Family
Families did Passovers. You are not supposed to do it with anybody, but Jesus gathers His disciples and says, “Let’s have Passover together.” That’s a strong message. He’s saying, “I’m making a new family. “If you believe in my death, that actually is so life-transforming that everyone else who also believes in my death is your brother and sister.”
This was the problem in Corinth that Paul had to rebuke and teach them what the Lord’s Supper was about in 1 Cor. 11. They would have a meal together and then celebrate the Lord’s Supper. But at Corinth, the rich would eat all the food and get drunk on wine, leaving the poor with nothing. They missed the point of the Lord’s Supper. It was about being together.
When we take the Lord’s Supper together, we are saying we are all family. We are all the same. We are all saved by the same grace, covered in the same righteousness and are together as one family. Notice Jesus is sitting there with them physically. God climbed into our skin, pitched His tent among us (John 1:14) moved across Hiscomfortable boundaries in humility and love, identified with us and loved us at great cost to make us one family. He didn’t decide to just facetime in Heaven. He didn’t send us a picture book to tell us he loved us. He didn’t communicate with us via holograms. He came to us, losing His family and becoming the loneliest man in history to make us a family.
This is why online communion is not what He desired. We need to be together (though I understand the need for it if you cannot physically make it to church or live in a closed country, for ex.)As a result of being a new family, how can we take the Lord’s Supper and feel superiority towards our brothers and sisters? We can’t. How can we take the Lord’s Supper thanking Him for crossing boundaries to reach us, giving up His rights in humility and love and not cross over the room to talk to someone we don’t know at church? How can we take the Lord’s Supper together and just talk to people of our own race or old friends at church? How can we take the Lord’s Supper and thank God for this new family and you only talk to people in your small group? If this is a family feast, how can we live in isolation and not prioritize church or small group? I don’t mean we are to be best friends with every single person at church, but the Gospel tells me that the gravity of my heart should move towards even people who are not like me, because that is what He has done toward me.
DA Carson says, “What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything else of that sort. Christians come together because they have all been loved by Jesus himself. They are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.” Another author says that to embrace our identities [as a] new, common family, we must engage in the difficult process of lessening our grip on the identities that we have idolized and clung to for far too long… Not only is Jesus serious about crossing boundaries to pursue us, but He’s equally serious about our crossing boundaries to pursue others.”
It should also remind you of your loved ones that are not here to take the Lord’s Supper with you. Whenever I clean up after Communion and I pour out the extra cups, I think of people who weren’t able to make it that day and I think about lost people who are not part of our family of faith. How can I love them so they will end up next to me taking Communion together?
c) HisTotal commitment
As a result of His substitutionary sacrifice, notice He also enters into a covenant with us. He says the cup represents my commitment to you. To covenant with someone meant blood. It literally meant, “to cut.” This is talking about Christ’s commitment to us. Notice He says He’s so committed to us that He is going to make sure we make it to the Ultimate feast in the future in v.25. He is absolutely and unconditionally committed to getting us home, no matter how bad your life feels right now.
It is amazing to me that the Lord’s Supper here is sandwiched between a betrayal and promises of failure. He says, “One of you will betray me” in v.18 and then after making this commitment in v.27, “You will all fall way.” But in v.28, “I will find you and pick you up in Galilee.” Remember also that they even failed during the meal as well, fighting over who was the greatest (Luke 22:24).
It would make sense if Jesus is here having His meal and knowing one of His disciples is going to betray Him and the rest are all going to just think about themselves when Jesus needs them the most, to just say, “None of you is worthy to share this meal with me. All of you have failed me.” But not our Jesus. He offers the meal to Judas and offers it to all the disciples.
Do you know why this table is amazing? At Jesus’ table, there is room for deserters and betrayers. Why does that encourage us? Because we are always thinking about our commitment to the Lord: “If I just read the Bible more, prayed more…if I was more committed, I wouldn’t be this way. If only I didn’t fail so much…how can God put up with someone like me?” The Lord says, “Come to the table. I welcome you here. I am far more committed to you than you are to me. I want to push that in your heart so deeply that you stop swimming in your badness all the time and start soaking in my goodness. I want you to depend on my commitment to you more than your commitment to me.”
Jesus says in the Lord’s Supper, I am reminding you that this is the real food your heart needs. See my undying, unconditional commitment to you demonstrated by my dying commitment to you, and now my living commitment to you. That’s the food your heart needs. Then, you wouldn’t be so scared. Then, you wouldn’t be so depressed. Then, you wouldn’t be so upset. Man, what would that do if we truly believed that? What different people we would be!
Paul tells us that we should examine ourselves and sometimes we think that means we have to clean ourselves up and tell God we will try harder. That is not what that means. We are worthy of the Lord’s Supper when we recognize how unworthy we are.
Ruth Bell Graham, late wife of Billy Graham once wrote this in her journal:
I am a weak, lazy, indifferent character; casual when I should be concerned, concerned when I should be carefree; self-indulgent, hypocritical, begging God to help me when I am hardly willing to lift a finger for myself; quarrelsome where I should be silent, silent where I should be outspoken; vacillating, easily distracted and sidetracked. You know how soon my mindfrom Heavenly things to earthly is drawn aside.
How oft I fail and fall. I have found tremendous comfort in this old hymn by Joseph Hart:
Come you sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded,
Sick and sore;
Jesus, waiting, stands to help you,
Full of mercy, love and power …
Let not conscience bid you linger,
Nor of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness he requires
is to feel your need of Him.
There it is. All that I am not, He is; all that I am and should not be, He forgives and covers.Do you feel needy for Him today? You are welcome to come and dine at the King’s Supper.
Miller, L. (2008, October 24). Beliefwatch: Communion Online. Newsweek. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from http://www.newsweek.com/beliefwatch-communion-online-91993.
Flanders, T. S. (2011, October 1). Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli at Marburg: Vital Lessons in Christian Unity. Pater Noster. Retrieved February 27, 2014, from http://quiesincaelis.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/martin-luther-and-ulrich-zwingli-at-marburg-vital-lessons-in-christian-unity/.
Boyett, J. (2010, March/April).”Remembering Communion” RELEVANT Magazine. Retrieved February 27, 2014, from http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/practical-faith/remembering-communion
Grudem, W. A. (2004). Systematic Theology: an Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (p. 991). Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House.
Erickson, M. J. (1998). Christian Theology. (2nd ed., p. 1124). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Grudem, W. A. (993).
Erickson, M. J. (1124).
Piper, J. Ibid.
Grudem, W. A. (994).
Erickson, M. J. (1127).
Erickson, M. J. (1128).
Mikoski, G. S. (2010). Bringing the Body back to the Table. Theology Today, 67(3), 255-259. Retrieved October, 2010, from http://ttj.sagepub.com/content/67/3/255.full.pdf+html.
Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon, “Supper with Friends” in the series King’s Cross, The Gospel of Mark Part 2 the Journey to the Cross. Preached February 4, 2007 on Mark 14:12-22. The Timothy Keller Sermon Archive. New York City: Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
Macarthur, J. Ibid.
Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death
of the Son of God (pp. 162-163). Penguin Group US. Kindle Edition.
Keller, T. J. Sermon. Ibid.
Stott, J. (1986). The Cross of Christ (160). Downer’s Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.
Enger, Leif (2001). Peace Like a River (307). New York, NY: Grove Press.
Keller, T. J. Sermon. Ibid.
Keller, T. J. Sermon. Ibid.
Carson, D.A. (2002). Love in Hard Places (61). Wheaton, IL: Crossway.
Cleveland, C. (2014, February 28). There is No ‘They’ in the Kingdom of God.RELEVANT Magazine. Retrieved February 28, 2014, from http://www.relevantmagazine.com/god/church/there-no-they-kingdom-god.
Keller, T. J. (2013). Sermon. Ibid.
As quoted by Pritchard, R. (n.d.).Sermons by Ray Pritchard (1 Co 11:27).
Retrieved February 28, 2014.