Body of Christ: Promise

The Promise. Jesus’ words of promise were confirmed with a solemn oath that he would not share the festal cup until the meal was resumed and completed in the consummation. The sober reference “no more” indicates that this is Jesus’ final meal and lends to the situation the character of a farewell. The purpose of his vow of abstinence was to declare that his decision to submit to the will of God in vicarious suffering was irrevocable. Forswearing feasting and wine, Jesus dedicated himself with a resolute will to accept the bitter cup of wrath offered to him by the Father. Yet there is here a clear anticipation of the messianic banquet when the Passover fellowship with his followers will be renewed in the Kingdom of God. Then Jesus will drink the wine “new,” where in this context newness is the mark of the redeemed world and the time of ultimate redemption. The reference to “that day” envisions the parousia and the triumph of the Son of Man (see above on Ch. 13:24–27, 32; cf. 1 Cor. 11:26). Thus, in the context of reflecting upon his violent death on behalf of the many, and just prior to the impending events of the passion, Jesus clearly affirmed his vindication and the establishment of an uninterrupted fellowship between the redeemed community and its Redeemer through the experience of messianic salvation.

The cup from which Jesus abstained was the fourth, which ordinarily concluded the Passover meal.  The significance of this can be appreciated from the fact that the four cups of wine were interpreted in terms of the four-fold promise of redemption set forth in Exod. 6:6–7: “I will bring you out … I will rid you of their bondage … I will redeem you … I will take you for my people and I will be your God” (Jerusalem Talmud Pesachim X. 37b). Jesus had used the third cup, associated with the promise of redemption, to refer to his atoning death on behalf of the elect community. The cup which he refused was the cup of consummation, associated with the promise that God will take his people to be with him. This is the cup which Jesus will drink with his own in the messianic banquet which inaugurates the saving age to come. The cup of redemption (v.24), strengthened by the vow of abstinence (v.25), constitutes the solemn pledge that the fourth cup will be extended, and the unfinished meal completed in the consummation, when Messiah eats with redeemed sinners in the Kingdom of God (cf. Lk. 14:15; Rev. 3:20f.; 19:6–9).

Note: Dr. Scott Hahn, a Catholic exegete, integrating this insight to all the gospel texts as a fuller story and citing the account from John where Jesus takes the bitter wine on the cross, concludes that the “cup of consummation” (4th cup) was taken from the cross.  There the fulfillment of the 3rd cup was enacted upon the cross when “blood was spilled” enacting the Covenant with God that again “we” are his people and He is our God.

A Transition into the Night. Among devout Jews it was common to remain together at the table for several hours after the conclusion of the meal, deep in conversation about God’s past and future acts of redemption (Tosephta Kethubim V. 5). The table-fellowship was concluded by the recitation of the second half of the Hallel Psalms. It was customary to sing the Hallel antiphonally, one member of the table company chanting the text, and the others responding to each half verse with the shout of praise, “Hallelujah.” Jesus took the words of these psalms as his own prayer of thanksgiving and praise. He pledged to keep his vows in the presence of all the people (Ps. 116:12–19); he called upon the Gentiles to join in the praise of God (Ps. 117); and he concluded with a song of jubilation reflecting his steadfast confidence in his ultimate triumph: “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord” (Ps. 118:17). In the assurance that the rejected stone had been made the keystone by God’s action Jesus found a prophecy of his own death and exaltation (see above on Ch. 8:31; 12:10f.). When Jesus arose to go to Gethsemane, Ps. 118 was upon his lips. It provided an appropriate description of how God would guide his Messiah through distress and suffering to glory.

Late in the night Jesus and the disciples left the city, perhaps in discrete groups so as not to be conspicuous. They crossed the Kidron valley and began the ascent to the Mount of Olives where the affirmations of the Passover would be tested for their integrity.

NOTES

Mark 14:12 Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover? Mark notes that this conversation took place on the first day of the Festival of Unleavened Bread. This description reflects the fact that Passover and Unleavened Bread (which followed it immediately) were treated as one holiday season (Josephus War 5.99). So the day is Passover night-day, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed. For the details of a Passover meal, see m. Pesahim 10:1–7; other elements of procuring the sacrifice are in m. Pesahim 1:1–3.

Mark 14:17 it was evening. Mark makes it clear that this was an evening meal like a Passover meal (Exod 12:8). Normal meals started earlier. If this was a Passover meal, it would have four courses/cups and last until almost midnight (see m. Pesahim 10:1–6, 9). The four cups occur (1) with the preliminary course to bless the Passover day, (2) after an explanation of Passover and the singing of some of the Hallel psalms [Pss 113–118], (3) following the meal of lamb, unleavened bread, and bitter herbs, and (4) following the concluding portion of the Hallel. It is not clear which cup exactly is meant given that only one cup is mentioned in Matthew and Mark (while Luke mentions two).

Mark 14:12-16 general comment: An alternative thesis, involving a three-day passion chronology, has been proposed by Jaubert. She holds that Jesus was arrested on the Tuesday night preceding the Friday of the crucifixion. The Last upper, therefore, took place on Tuesday evening in conformity with the prescriptions of the ancient liturgical calendar (based on solar reckoning) attested in the book of Jubilees and at Qumran. This understanding is reflected in the Synoptic Gospels, she contends, while the references in the Fourth Gospel are to the official (lunar) calendar. This proposal has attractive features and has won wide support, but serious objections remain to its acceptance. Chief among these are the following: (i) there is no evidence that Jesus ever followed the ancient sectarian calendar on other festival occasions. (ii) The priests were the masters of the Temple and exercised control over all that had to do with the sacrificing of the paschal victims. Even if a company wished to celebrate the feast on a day other than that fixed officially by the Sanhedrin, they would scarcely have had the opportunity to follow their convictions. All were obliged to celebrate the Passover at the official time or to abstain from observing it altogether. (iii) The four evangelists are unanimous that the Last Supper and the arrest took place on the eve of the crucifixion. (iv) The evidence furnished by the Didascalia for the Tuesday date of the meal is late and confused, belonging at the earliest to the third century A.D. In fact, of the texts favoring the Tuesday date for the Supper only four expressly speak of Wednesday in connection with the passion, and these originate in a liturgical source intent on justifying a practice of fasting on Wednesday.

Mark 14:18 one of you will betray me contrasts the intimacy of table fellowship at the Passover meal with the treachery of the traitor; cf Psalm 41:10.

Mark 14:19 They began to be distressed and to say to him, one by one, “Surely it is not I?” The question is asked in Gr. (μήτι ἐγώ) with an interrogative that expects a negative reply. Each of them was seeking assurance that he was not the one.

Mark 14:20 the one who dips with me into the dish. The Passover meal had a common bowl, probably the one in which the sauce for the bitter herbs was placed.

Mark 14:21 The Son of Man indeed goes as it is written of him. The mention of Scripture in connection with Jesus’ inevitable death echoes texts like Luke 24:43–47 and 1 Cor 15:1–3. “As it is written of him”: a reference to Psalm 41:10 cited by Jesus concerning Judas at the Last Supper; cf John 13:18–19.

Mark 14:22 Some scholars, replying on a Passover text after Jesus’ time, also note how the breaking of the bread could suggest the hope of the Messiah; a portion of the unleavened bread eaten at Passover was known as the afikomen in reference to “the one who comes”.

Codex Bobiensis (k), which provides a witness to the earliest Latin VS as used by Cyprian, reads: “… he took bread and pronounced the blessing and broke (it) and gave (it) to them, and they all ate of it; and he said to them ‘This is my body.’ And he took a cup and pronounced the blessing and gave (it) to them, and they all drank of it; and he said to them, ‘This is my blood’ …” The parallelism in the clause that “they all ate” and “they all drank” is a strong argument in favor of the primitiveness of this text. In Mt. 26:26, 28 these statements have been replaced by the liturgical direction

The actions and words of Jesus [22–24] express within the framework of the Passover meal and the transition to a new covenant the sacrifice of himself through the offering of his body and blood in anticipation of his passion and death. His blood of the covenant both alludes to the ancient rite of Exodus 24:4–8 and indicates the new community that the sacrifice of Jesus will bring into being (Matthew 26:26–28; Luke 22:19–20; 1 Cor 11:23–25).

Mark 14:23 he took a cup… It is not clear which cup of the meal this was, but the purpose of the third cup was to praise God for bringing salvation to his people, so it is a possible candidate. Others argue that it was an earlier cup, assuming that the bread was a part of the meal after the second cup. Both views assume that a Passover meal was being celebrated. It is hard to know which cup is meant. Luke indicates that Jesus had multiple cups but refused to drink after this cup was taken, leaving his final cup of the meal untouched.

Mark 14:24 This is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many. The “many” are those who believe in Jesus as suggested from precedent for such thinking in Judaism from 4 Macc 1:11b; 17:21b-22; 18:3–4; 2 Macc 7:33, 37–38; Testament of Moses 9:6b–10:1; Liber antiquitatum biblicarum 18:5; and other Jewish texts.

The influence of related liturgical texts (Lk. 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25) accounts for the reference to the “new” covenant in the Byzantine textual tradition. In Ch. 14:24 the reading “covenant,” without qualification, is well attested (א Β C D L W Θ Ψ 565 d k) and should be followed. It has been held that the expression “my blood of the covenant” cannot be primitive because Aramaic does not tolerate a genitive after a noun with a pronominal suffix. This construction, however, is adequately attested in Syriac and examples are found in the Targum to Ps. 68:36; 110:3.]

for many: the Greek preposition hyper is a different one from that at Matthew 26:28 but the same as that found at Luke 22:19,20 and 1 Cor 11:24. The sense of both words is vicarious, and it is difficult in Hellenistic Greek to distinguish between them. The liberation brought by Jesus’ death will be for many; cf Isaiah 53:12. Many does not mean that some are excluded, but is a Semitism designating the collectivity who benefit from the service of the one and is equivalent to “all.” While there are few verbal contacts between this saying and the fourth Servant Song (Isaiah 52:13–53:12), the ideas of that passage are reflected here.

General Comment: In the entire Marcan description of the meal there is no mention of the lamb. Some scholars argue that there was no lamb on this occasion because Jesus had been condemned as an apostate Jew and as such was forbidden to eat the paschal lamb (although he could share in the bitter herbs and the greens). There is, however, no reason to believe that Jesus would have concurred in the judgment of the Sanhedrin and submitted to its mandate. He presumably sent two of the disciples into the city because they were less well known to the priests than he was and they would have no trouble securing all that was required for the meal

Mark 14:26 they sang a hymn. The Hallel psalms (Pss 113–118) were sung at the Passover meal. As Jesus and his disciples proceeded to the Mount of Olives, they were singing these praises to God.

Sources

  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007).
  • Walter Brueggemann, “The Book of Exodus.” New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 1, ed. Leander E. Keck. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 880–881.
  • Alan Cole, Mark: An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989). 294-301
  • Fred B. Craddock, “The Letter to the Hebrews.” New Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 12, ed. Leander E. Keck. (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1994–2004) 106–107
  • John R. Donahue and Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Mark, Sacra Pagina v.2 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer / Liturgical Press, 2001) 391-402
  • Wilfred Harrington, Mark, The New Testament Message, v.4 (Collegeville, MN: Michael Glazer Press, 1979) 214-218
  • William L. Lane, The Gospel of Mark, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974) 496-509
  • Philip Van Linden, C.M., “Mark” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, ed. Dianne Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 390-91
  • Pheme Perkins, The Gospel of Mark, vol. 8 of The New Interpreter’s Bible (Nashville, TN: Abington Press,1994) 702-706
  • Ben Worthington, The Gospel of Mark: A Social-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2001) 370-76
  • David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005). 528-30
  • Brian Stoffregen, CrossMarks Christian Resources, available at crossmarks.com/brian/

Dictionaries

  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)
  • The Anchor Yale Bible Dictionary, ed. David Noel Freedman, Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, John David Pleins and Astrid B. Beck (New York: Doubleday, 1996).

Scripture –The New American Bible available on-line at http://www.usccb.org/bible/index.cfm

 

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