He said, “Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.” (Mark 14:36)
Jesus knew he was going to die. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all agree that at least three times, Jesus told his disciples he was going to be murdered..
But Mark makes plain Jesus did not want to die.
More vividly than the other gospel writers, Mark describes Jesus’ panic in the garden. In Matthew Jesus prayed “if it be possible, let this cup pass.” Luke has it “if you are willing, remove this cup from me.” In Mark, however, Jesus is more direct. First, he leans heavily on his relationship with God calling him “abba Father” (or daddy, father). It’s the only time Jesus uses this most familial of addresses. Then, he says “all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me.” It’s not a request, but a cry of desperation.
You have to see all this to appreciate what follows. They don’t forcibly drag Jesus away, kicking and screaming. Jesus willingly goes to meet the mob, and then goes with them. And though the story that follows is shorter in Mark than the other accounts, it’s obvious Jesus is in charge all the way. He criticizes the mob for their hypocrisy. He refuses to answer the High Priest except to warn him of impending judgment – a judgment Jesus himself will inflict. He refuses to answer Pilate except to affirm that he is king of the Jews.
Jesus will go to his death in control all the way, because he had, in the end, entrusted himself to God. In days of difficulty we pour out our hearts to God for deliverance. Sometimes it is received. Sometimes not. Either way, life is to be lived under His hand, and that means there comes a time when prayers for deliverance stop. Not because we lose faith, but because we have resigned ourselves to the will of God, and trust Him to see us through.
“Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand” (Mark 14:42).
I think I’d have said it differently.
The disciples would run of course – but not Jesus. Years later, Peter described the unfolding scenes of the following hours this way: “When they hurled their insults at him [Jesus], he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” (1 Peter 2:23).
Jesus didn’t want to die. No serious reading of Mark’s Gethsemane account can miss the terror that tore at his soul. Running would have made absolute sense. But when Judas arrived with his unruly band of brigands, Jesus stayed. He rebuked the crowd for treating him like a criminal, rebuked his disciples for adopting the same posture as the mob, and healed the wounded.
He may have been led “like a lamb to the slaughter,” but he was no pushover.
Before the High Priest he demanded witnesses be brought to substantiate the charges against him. When criminally assaulted for insolence, Jesus demanded proof he had spoken improperly. Before the Jewish council and Pilate he admitted his identity as the Son of God and king of the Jews. He did not flinch.
Christian people are called to “show proper respect to everyone: Love the brotherhood of believers, fear God, and honor the king.” But it doesn’t mean we roll over and play dead in the face of opposition. We must speak out in favor of the oppressed, against injustice, and against sin, bringing light to the darkest of places – even if they are high places. But we cannot adopt the weapons or vocabulary of the powers of darkness. Never denying who we are, we follow the one nailed to a cross, entrusting our lives to Him who judges justly.
“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.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it” (Mark 14:22-23).
This institution of the Lord’s Supper is also found in Matthew 26:27 and Luke 22:17. While all three accounts are substantially the same, Mark differs in that only he is specific in saying all the disciples drank from the same cup.
It is part of a larger point in Mark. Three verses later, Jesus tells his disciples they will all fall away. Peter replies: “even if all fall way, I will not.” Two verses later all the disciples say “Even if I must die with you, I will not deny you.” Finally, when Judas comes to betray Jesus in the garden, all the disciples flee (vs. 50).
Three points stand out to me: First, the table of the Lord is not a table of merit. It is a table of grace. Not one of those disciples deserved to sit in fellowship with Jesus. But they all did, and they all did at the invitation of Jesus. None of us comes to the table of the Lord worthy of the fellowship it provides. But by the grace of Christ, we join him, and one another, there. Second, we are either all in it together, or not in it at all. The table of the Lord reminds us we are one body. Third, we come not just to be reminded of who we are, but to be reminded of what Christ can make of us if we remain, together, in fellowship with Him.
“I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29).
Yes, this verse sounds very much like another from Mark 14. But it is a little different. In this one, Jesus says “I will not drink this fruit of the vine . . . until . . . I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”
The passage again calls to mind the great banquet scene in Isaiah 25 and Matthew 22, both of which are images of the kingdom of God at the end of time. Jesus’ vow here is not just an oath to make the promised kingdom happen. It is also a warning. He does not promise to drink with everyone, but only with those in his Father’s kingdom. I appreciate the way J. A. Motyer (in his commentary on Isaiah) sums up the point: “In the end, there will be a great gulf fixed between those who are at the feast and those who are not. It will not suffice to have belonged to a group close to the kingdom, to have stood on its very threshold, or to have known some who entered.”
You’ve got to actually enter into the kingdom.
It requires entrusting your life to God, believing his guidance is better than your own and that of the world about you. It means turning from the ways of the world, dying to it and being raised to a new life (Romans 6:3-4). It means being “born again” (John 3:5), having your past washed away (Acts 22:16), being cleansed (Ephesians 5:26), and having God adopt you into His family (Galatians 3:26-27).
This is, however, but the beginning. Submitting to the rule of God is a life-long life-style. That is, in its essence, the requirement of Kingdom belonging, and the condition to fellowship at the great banquet of God.
“This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them. “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” (Mark 14:24-25).
The last line is a puzzling one. Both Matthew and Mark mention it. It contains both a vow and a promise. The abstention from wine might not seem like much of a vow for many of us. We have other alternatives. But given that wine was the staple drink of the ancient world, refusing it would be tantamount to not drinking anything! It was a serious vow. But what does it mean?
There are two ways to look at this promise:
First, it was an assurance that the arrival of the Kingdom of God was imminent. Jesus would soon rise from the dead, ascend to the father, and take his place at the right hand of God, ruling over all authority, power, and dominion. The Church, where that rule would be seen on the earth, would be established and God’s people would gather regularly to fellowship with Christ in the Lord’s Supper.
But second, perhaps something more future also is involved. Isaiah had promised a glorious banquet in the presence of the Lord (25:6-9). This promise was mentioned several times by Jesus and connected to the Kingdom of God at the end of time (see Matthew 22). John refers to it in Revelation 19 as the “wedding supper of the lamb.” The promise not to drink wine until he drinks it with us looks forward to that day when we will eat and drink together with Jesus, in His presence, at the end of the time. The vow Jesus takes here is our assurance it will happen. The Lord’s Supper is a weekly reminder that something greater is coming.
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.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:22-24).
In the ancient world, serious agreements (covenants) were sealed by slaughtering animals and cutting them in half. Participants in the agreement walked between the halves and then burned them in sacrifice (see Jeremiah 34:17-20). The notion was: “If we do not fulfill our part of this agreement, may we become as this animal.”
Whenever I read this passage in Mark 14, I am reminded of a story in Genesis 15. There, in a crisis of faith, Abraham asks how he can believe God will make good on his promises. God has him to prepare several animals for sacrifice, cutting them in half. But Abraham is not asked to walk between them. Instead, God, in a flame of fire, passes between them and burns them up in sacrifice. The point is this: God is making a covenant with Abraham, a covenant guaranteed solely by God and his wholly by His being.
When we become God’s children, we enter into an agreement with God, an agreement so serious it is guaranteed by the sacrifice of God Himself – signified by the blood of Jesus. This event in Mark 14 is Christ’s initiation of the Lord’s Supper. Our observance of that Supper each week is a reminder not only of Christ’s death, but also of His covenant with us and the promises of that covenant. It is also a reminder that those promises, so integral to the covenant, are guaranteed by the life of God himself.
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them (Mark 14:23).
Ages before, God had said “I will set my face against any Israelite or any foreigner residing among them who eats blood, and I will cut them off from the people” (Leviticus 17:10). Keep in mind that the statement “cut them off from the people” implied a death sentence – likely to be carried out by God Himself.
In the Old Testament, life was bound up in blood (Leviticus 17:11). It was too precious to be used as food. If it was used at all, it was to be offered to God for forgiveness of sins, but never to be consumed by humans. So imagine how horrified the disciples must have been when Jesus passed around his cup of wine, had his disciples drink from it, and then told them: “This is my blood.”
Christ’s blood was certainly an atonement offering – his ransom price for our sin. But his life was also the life of God. To drink the blood of Christ was to share in his life and destiny. His life is the only life worth sharing so intimately, and the life of Christ is the only life worth emulating (John 6:53ff).
In the Lord’s Supper, we remember not just that Jesus died, or that he died for us, or even that he died so we might find forgiveness. It is also a reminder that we have voluntarily decided to share in his life. While we affirm this decision in observing the Lord’s Supper, to be true, it must be seen in the way we live each day.
“Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. . . . [W]herever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her”(Mark 14:6,9).
Mark’s story of Jesus is rapidly coming to a close. There is an ominous feeling in the air. In the longest speech recorded by Mark, Jesus has pointed to the end of the temple and the end of the world (chapter 13). Three times the Lord has told his disciples that he’s going to be killed (8:31ff; 9:31ff; 10:33ff). It would seem, however, that no one was really listening.
No one, that is, except the woman in this story.
As Jesus reclines at a meal on the Tuesday before his death, this woman comes in and pours an expensive perfume on his head. She knows he is going to die. She likely would give anything to keep it from happening, but happen it will. There is nothing she can do and she knows it. Understanding the will of God, and accepting it, she “leans in” with a huge sacrifice of her own, anointing Jesus with an ointment worth nearly a year’s wages.
There were objections of course and unfortunately, the objections usually get the most attention, telling the woman’s story, but ignoring her and the lesson in her action.
Throughout Mark, Jesus has called people to join in his mission, to follow him, to be “all in,” all the way to the cross. The woman who gave the two copper coins cast in “all her living.” This woman likewise did “what she could” with a huge sacrifice of her own (14:8). She didn’t do it for the fame. She did it for the honor of her Lord.
As we think about the resurrection of Jesus this Lord’s day, we might also think about what we are doing to honor him whose death has saved us all.