A reminder in your mouth
The lesson of the Last Supper is that we have to take Jesus in as our Passover lamb before we see him as our king.
22And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”
In the previous verses, the disciples demonstrated they had no concept of a “Messiah King” who would assume the throne of Israel by dying. Now, Mark intentionally distills the details of Jesus’ last celebratory meal with his disciples to focus on one of the hardest truths to accept: We will never arrive at the place where we don’t chronically forget the gospel.
So Jesus gives us a way to put it in our mouths.
For a Jewish family, the Passover celebrated God’s deliverance from Egypt and rehearsed the story of his salvation—it was a ritual at the core of Jewish identity. And here, Jesus reveals to his disciples that this 1,400-year-old meal has always been about him.
Preparation for Passover included a complete sterilization of the house—even the tools used to rid the house of leaven would have been burned. This sets the scene; the bread on the table was was a picture of sinlessness.
In the middle of dinner, Jesus stops and prays over this unleavened bread. As he passes the bread out, his disciples would have been struck by his words, “This is my body.”
It’s not hard to stand in the disciples’ shoes and think with them, “You want me to eat your body?”
Jesus then takes a cup of wine and tells the disciples to drink his blood.
He’s giving them a reminder—before it happens—that his blood would be shed for their sins, and they drink the cup before knowing what it means.
This recurring theme was a source of offense and confusion in Jesus’ teaching. The disciples might have been reminded of an argument he had with the Pharisees—the time he’d said, “The bread that I give to the world is my flesh.”1 But now Jesus is explicitly teaching that he is the Passover lamb who would feed the whole world.
The Bread, the body, the wine and the blood of Christ: this is true food and drink—without him we die.
We forget the gospel as often as we get hungry. But God has rigged food to work like this, pointing us to the reminder that our salvation is in Jesus and not in ourselves. People eat daily, but the redeemed eat with a deeper and life-giving reminder of God’s grace.
The disciples anticipated the crowning of Jesus as the King of Israel, and gaining the privileges that accompany a central role in an earthly political revolution.2 Jesus answers that expectation, telling them he will have a kingdom, and they will feast at his side when he is king. But the lesson of the Last Supper is the same for us as it was for them:
We have to take Jesus in as our Passover lamb before we see him as our king.
Just like the disciples, we might find ourselves following Jesus for personal gain, because we’re prone to forget the gospel even after we “get it.” But God is gracious in the resulting confusion, and leaves us reminders of his deliverance. He saves us from the wandering expectations of our rebellious hearts.
You might forget the gospel every day, but the next time you put food in your mouth is an opportunity to remember again.
1 John 6:51
2 Mark 10:37