Well good morning to you all, it's good to be back with you again for the third week here at Ards. It's hard to believe how the time goes in, isn't it? After today just one more week with you. I've really enjoyed fellowship with you all, and I trust that the Lord has been blessing and speaking, and doing the work that only He can do. Thank you for the encouragement that some of you have been giving. Having said that... what's coming next!? The first week I was here there was one glass of water. The next week there were two glasses - which I thought was a message, because I preached that long - and this week there is no water! So the message is coming loud and clear: you want me to dry up, don't you!? Someone has just gone to get me a glass, which I appreciate.
Now, we're turning to Mark 14. Now, if you haven't been with us any of these weeks, we're doing what could be entitled 'The Final Countdown to Calvary' - the last week in the life of the Lord Jesus' ministry. On Sunday, the first day of that week, we looked - here it comes, if you give a glass of water in His name you'll not lose your reward! Thank you. Palm Sunday, the Lord Jesus rode into Jerusalem in fulfilment of prophecy as the promised King of the Jews, the Messiah of Israel. Then we saw on Monday, the next day of that week, that the Lord Jesus cursed the fig tree, which was symbolic of the nation of Israel - how they were taking up space. They were intended by God to be a fruit-bearing people that would witness to the Gentile nations, but though they were taking up space they were fruitless, they were not living for the purpose for which God chose them. Then that same day, Monday, He went into the Temple and cleansed it - which was equally symbolic of the same truth: that God had finished, at that particular time, with their empty religious ritual without truth and meaning.
Then on Tuesday, we saw that the Lord Jesus in the Temple precinct was questioned by the Sanhedrin. We saw four questions in particular that they put His direction. Then, probably - we say probably because we can't be too dogmatic about each of these days - but probably on Wednesday, we looked last Sunday morning at how the Lord gave the Olivet Discourse, which you can also read in Matthew 24 and 25 and Luke 21. We read about it here, the signs of the times, the signs of the end of the age and those things that will precede the second coming of the Lord Jesus. We saw last Sunday night, the anointing of Bethany seems, in the chronological order of this passage, to come on Wednesday - but we saw, according to John chapter 12 and verse 1, this actually happened six days before Passover. So, I'm trying not to confuse you, but that means it was probably Saturday, the night before Palm Sunday. Yet it would appear to be Wednesday here in Mark's gospel, but we saw that this is a thematic thing that Mark is doing, and other gospel writers have placed this just where Judas is about to betray the Lord in order to contrast the heart of Judas - his wicked, miserable, betraying heart - with the devoted worshipping heart of extravagant love of Mary of Bethany as she anoints the head and the feet of the Lord Jesus in preparation for His burial.
Now, we saw verses 10 and 11 of chapter 14 were probably the early hours of Thursday morning when Judas goes out to meet the chief priests and tells them that he's going to betray Christ. Then we see that the verses we're considering today, verse 12, the Last Supper essentially, is also Thursday of that final week of the life of the Lord Jesus. So we will read from verse 12 then, and we are reading through to verse 26: "Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed the Passover lamb, His disciples said to Him, 'Where do You want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?'. And He sent out two of His disciples and said to them, 'Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him. Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, 'Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?''. Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us'. So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them; and they prepared the Passover. In the evening He came with the twelve. Now as they sat and ate, Jesus said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me'. And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, 'Is it I?'. And another said, 'Is it I?'. He answered and said to them, 'It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish. The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born'. And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body'. Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. And He said to them, 'This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God'. And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives".
Perhaps we could pray for a moment. I have invited you on previous occasions to come to the Lord with your need. I hope there is no one here that thinks they don't have any need, it's a terrible predicament to be in. The Laodicean church in the Bible was a church that was rich, and felt they had need of nothing, but didn't realise that they were poor, wretched, blind and miserable. So it's a great thing to know your need, and as you come to the Lord now with your need, whatever it is, ask Him to speak to you. Now, we've been having a lot of practical ministry over these weeks, and it has been challenging as has been reported to you - this morning we will also, I'm sure, have challenges, but primarily what you're going to see this morning and this evening is Jesus. I'm not going to do much more this morning and this evening other than present to you the Lord Jesus. Your reaction to that is whatever it will be, I can't do anything about that - but I pray that as you have Christ revealed to you, you pray now, that you will have Him minister to you personally in your life. So let us pray to that end - whatever your need is, whether you're a Christian or not, or you're not walking right with God, ask Him to minister Christ to you in a very living and real way.
Father, Abba Father, we come to You in the name of the Lord Jesus, and we need You. I need You, I feel my great need of You this morning. O God, we thank You that for this we have Jesus. We thank You that You have promised: 'My God shall supply all your need, according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus' - and there can be no greater measure of riches than Christ. We thank You, Lord, that in Him we are immeasurably rich; without Him we are immeasurably poor - but Lord, we thank You that those of us who have trusted in Jesus, repented of our sins and believe the gospel, that we have Christ and we have everything. But Lord, so often we are not living in the wealth of our riches, so often we're not seeing Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith, who, for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross. So often, Lord, a bit like the fog that has been these last couple of days, we can't see Him because things have clouded Him out and got in the way. So, Lord, I pray now by the power of the Holy Spirit that You will breathe a fresh breath of the wind of Your Spirit and clear the fog, clear the cloud. Whatever barriers there might be between us and seeing Christ in all of His wonder and glory and splendour and majesty, and all of His beauty, Lord may we see Him now on this Thursday of the final week of His life, as He gives us this supper, and as we later on eat of that supper may we know the presence of Christ in such a fullness as we have never known before that we are overwhelmed. Lord, we want to be overwhelmed with Jesus. Hear us we pray, in His wonderful name, Amen.
Verse 12 tells us that this was the first day of Unleavened Bread when they killed the Passover lamb. Little did the disciples realise that this Passover that the Lord Jesus was about to instruct them to go and find a room in which to celebrate would be the Passover of all Passovers. This would be the fulfilment and the climax to all Passovers that had ever been celebrated, because this Passover would bring the Lamb that would take away the sins of the world to the ultimate sacrifice, one sacrifice for sins forever that would never have to be repeated. Is it any wonder that the theme of heaven at this very moment is: 'Worthy is the Lamb that was slain and has redeemed us to God by His blood out of every tribe, tongue and people and nation' - and that will forever be the theme of heaven. There is a Lamb, as if freshly slain, in the midst of the throne, and all the throngs of glory around the glassy sea, the blood-bought redeemed, are singing praise unto this Lamb - and this is what we're seeing now in time on this final week, the Lamb being delivered to be slain at the final Passover of significance.
Now, again in verse 13, just as a bit of a digression - those of you who were here in our first study will see that there are lessons to be learned about how the Lord directs His disciples, and equally how He directs us in our lives as Christians. We see Him again directing the disciples on an errand, verse 13, He sends out two disciples and says to them: 'Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him'. You remember in chapter 11, if you weren't here with us let me just fill you in, chapter 11 and verse 2 - just before the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday of this week - the Lord Jesus said to them in verse 2: 'Go into the village opposite you; and as soon as you have entered it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has sat. Loose it and bring it'. You remember that they had to follow the Lord through in all this, believing Him that what He said was true. There was a great risk in this, because they could have been construed as being thieves. But in the same sense we see that the Lord is operating here and giving all knowledge to the disciples - how else could He have known that this was going to happen, that they would go into the city, chapter 14:13, and they would find a man carrying a pitcher of water?
There is the lesson again for us: when we are seeking direction from God we ought to know that He is the all-knowing sovereign Lord, and we can trust Him. Whatever He says to us, we can trust it. Often what He says to us is in specified detail - if you look at this, it really is fascinating. Verse 14 as well: 'Wherever he goes in, say to the master of the house, 'The Teacher says, 'Where is the guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?''. Then he will show you a large upper room, furnished and prepared; there make ready for us'. It's all specified in intricate detail! So the disciples had to have faith in the word of Jesus that He wasn't sending them down a blind alley.
Do you ever feel, when you're being directed to do certain things by God, that He's sending you down a blind alley? Or at least the fear is there: 'What if it is? What if I hit a cul-de-sac?'. You need not fear! Though sometimes He asks us to do things that are unusual - we saw that the last time when He was guiding them to go and get the colt tied up, and it was owned by someone, it was a very strange thing to do - but equally so this is strange, because ordinarily only women carried water on their head, but the Lord directed them that a man would meet them carrying a pitcher of water: 'Follow him'. Now, they took bold faith, they stood upon the word of God, and they exercised obedience. Look at verse 16, just to encourage your heart if you're being asked to do something for God that might seem to be unusual: 'So His disciples went out, and came into the city, and found it just as He had said to them' - and that will always be the case. You will find that whatever the Lord is directing you to do, if you do it, and you're obedient, and you trust His word, that you will find it exactly as He has said it to you.
Here's the reason why, look at chapter 13 and verse 31: 'Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away'. This is the sovereign Lord who is giving us direction - I want you to grasp this, please, because I'm conscious that many of us are looking for guidance and direction in our lives for various situations. You can trust the sovereign Lord Jesus Christ with your life! You can trust Him. You can trust Him with your decisions, you can trust Him with your plans! He's even sovereign over beasts - an ass, a donkey. He's even sovereign over property - He tells them: 'There is a house, and you're going to go to the Upper Room, and there is a specific room that is prepared and just ideal for the Passover'. He's sovereign over property - maybe you're in a property situation at the moment, many people are. Well, He's sovereign. Do you know He's sovereign over economics? He's sovereign, He's in control, don't you worry, the Lord knows all about it, for He is Lord! But the great question is this: does He have the key to every room of your property, your house?
This man, whoever he was, some people think he was John Mark, the author's, father - I don't know, but whoever he was he surrendered this room to Lord. The Lord asks us to surrender our rooms, our property, the things that we own, our possessions to the Lord - but more than that: the Lord wants more than simply houses or land, the Lord wants our hearts. As C.T. Studd once asked F.B. Meyer: does God have the key to every room of your heart? Every room? Can I say to you this morning: you will never know God's direction in your life until He possesses all the keys. If there is a part of your life, a compartment where you say: 'No, Lord, that's my territory and I'll look after that, I don't want You fiddling in those affairs', you will never know the direction of God in your life. You've got to give it over completely.
Now, between verse 17 and verse 18 - and I'm just filling you in on the context - we read in verse 17: 'In the evening He came with the twelve', and then in between this and verse 18, 'Now as they sat to eat', John teaches us that it was at that point that Jesus washed the disciples feet, before the Lord's Supper. That, of course, was a lesson in humility and service. He was teaching them that He was about to serve them, just as He had served them washing their feet, He was about to serve them by dying on the cross to wash them completely of their sins. Now after this, it says in verse 18, 'they sat and ate, Jesus said, 'Assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me will betray Me''. He becomes downcast and sad as He announces that one of them whose feet He has just washed, who He is now eating with, one of them is going to betray Him.
Now we looked at Judas last Sunday night, but I want to emphasise again: what the Lord was doing here by announcing this was giving Judas an opportunity, another opportunity to confess his sin. That shows us that Judas was responsible for what he did and, though his decision was, of course, prophesied even in the Old Testament, Judas made his choice. Can I challenge you here this morning: there are some people walking around, and I've heard of them, and they're unbelievers, they're non-Christians, and they've got sort of some kind of half-doctrine of God's sovereignty and predestination - they maybe don't even understand it all, but they think that you can only get saved if God zaps you. Now I know that salvation and the new birth is a supernatural thing, but I'll tell you this: you are responsible to repent of your sins and to believe the Gospel. Your side to get worried about is not God's sovereignty, the part you should get concerned about is your responsibility to repent of your sin and to believe the Gospel.
Judas had choice, and I believe all the way through this the Lord was showing that He was giving him an opportunity, and anything he was going to do he was going to do of his own volition. Imagine the grace of the Lord Jesus. He says: 'There's one among you who is going to betray me', and a couple of seconds ago He had just washed the feet of His betrayer. He knew who he was. Imagine the depravity of Judas: he had just had his feet washed by his Lord, and yet we know - as we saw last week - that he was looking for an opportunity how he might conveniently betray the Lord Jesus. As Jesus spoke in verse 18, Judas knew he was the one, he knew he was the one.
Then in verse 19 we see the rest of the disciples were aghast: 'And they began to be sorrowful, and to say to Him one by one, 'Is it I?' And another said, 'Is it I?''. Now please note that it wasn't because they doubted themselves, and they were thinking: 'I wonder if it's me? I wonder if I'm the traitor?'. Remember it wasn't that long ago in chapter 10 that they were arguing with one another who was the greatest! These were guys who hadn't a problem with their self-image, their problem was: they had an ego trip often, and they wanted to be the greatest in the kingdom of heaven and sit at the right hand of the Lord Jesus. But now the Lord Jesus has dropped this bombshell on them, that one of these people was going to betray Him, and they're asking: 'Is it I?' - and the sense is, 'Surely not me, Lord! Surely it couldn't be me, not me!'. Was there ever a greater commentary on Jeremiah 17:20, that the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked, who can know it? They didn't realise the depravity of their own heart, and how low any of them could go.
Then in verse 20 it says: 'He answered and said to them, 'It is one of the twelve, who dips with Me in the dish''. Now what that simply means is: all of them were dipping in the dish with sops of bread at the Passover, and the Lord was basically saying, 'Not only is it one of you, but it's one of you who is having fellowship with Me'. To break bread in the Middle East was a token of fellowship, it was a very deep pact of friendship, you were entering into a mutual trust and tryst with one who had become your friend. To break that fellowship was to be seen as the deepest, most wicked treachery. So the Lord is saying: 'Not only is it one of you, but one of you at this moment who I am now fellowshipping with in the most intimate friendship, you're going to betray Me'. Now, even this was a fulfilment of prophecy, for in Psalm 41 verse 9 we read: 'Even my own familiar friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me'.
Now let's pause for a moment: imagine how those disciples felt. After three and a half years of discipleship with Jesus Christ, the Son of God and the Son of Man, and He says to them: 'One of you is going to betray Me to death'. But move on from that, and ask yourself: how did Jesus feel? We can never know that, but it's worth contemplating isn't it? How did He feel, that one of His friends would betray Him? Then we read in verse 21: 'The Son of Man indeed goes just as it is written of Him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had never been born'. When Judas received the bread dipped in the bitter herbs, we read from John's Gospel that Satan entered into him, and then Judas left to notify the chief priests where Jesus could be found - setting off a chain of events that would eventually lead to the crucifixion of our Lord. Again showing that the Lord is in complete control here, He knows what He's doing - in fact, He is driving the matter on, He is forcing the matter in hand because He has come into this world to bleed and to die, to be our sacrifice. In fact, He said to Judas, we read in John 13: 'What you are doing, do it quickly'. What a wonderful Saviour!
Judas having left, the Lord now institutes the Supper with His disciples. Now you've got to understand that the Last Supper, the Lord's Table, the Lord's Supper, was originally the Passover feast. They had met, hadn't they, to celebrate Passover? In Exodus chapter 12 we read that on the 9th of Nisan - that's around March or April - the Passover lamb would be selected, and then it would be slain on the 14th day of the month. The supper of the Passover had to be eaten in Jerusalem, it was a memorial of the Exodus where God delivered His people, Israel, from Egyptian bondage, and took them into the wilderness eventually to enter into the Promised Land. The original Passover consisted of a roasted lamb, unleavened bread, and a dish of bitter herbs. Now the lamb, of course, reminded them of the blood of the lamb that was shed and then applied to the door posts of their homes in Egypt, so that the death angel would pass over them and they would be delivered. The bread, if you read Exodus 12:39, the unleavened bread symbolised the haste at which they left Egypt - in other words, they hadn't time to leaven the bread because they were in a hurry. The bitter herbs, of course, speak very graphically of their suffering in Egypt as slaves under the iron hand of Pharaoh. Of course there are other things involved: there's saltwater which speaks of the tears of the people in Egyptian bondage. Now at some stage, we're not sure when, during the centuries from the original Exodus as they celebrated this Passover, the Jews introduced the drinking of four cups of wine to the Passover feast - these cups would be diluted with water.
So that's the Passover, and the Lord comes to celebrate the Passover with His disciples, and He uses certain elements of this Passover feast to institute His Supper: the feast not now in memorial of the Exodus from Egypt, but now in memorial of His death. How did He do it? Well, we know, we read that, verse 22: 'as they were eating, Jesus took bread', this unleavened bread, 'He blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, 'Take, eat; this is My body''. He takes one of the pieces of unleavened bread, He blesses it and He breaks it - and, incidentally, when you break unleavened bread there is a 'crack', you don't hear it when you break the bread that we have, but when you break unleavened bread there is a 'crack'. He broke it as a symbol of His body. Then He takes the Passover cup in verse 23: 'He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it'. He took the cup.
Now, you should now be asking the question - are you asking it? No? - which cup? How many cups did I say there were in the Passover feast? Four. Which cup did He take? Now there's a little clue about which cup it was given in Luke's Gospel, you don't need to turn to it - but it's found, if you want to look it up later, in Luke 22 verse 20. It says that it was 'the cup after supper' He took, 'saying, 'This is My blood''. Now 'the cup after supper', we know, was the third cup of the Passover feast, the third of the four Passover cups. The first cup that was taken is the cup of sanctification. The second cup is the cup of remembrance. Significantly, the third cup of the Passover is the cup of salvation, the cup of redemption. It was when He took up the cup of salvation and redemption that He said in verse 24: 'This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many'. So the Lord Jesus was entering in, in the institution of the Lord's Supper, to a new covenant with His disciples which was signified in this third cup.
Now let's look at this phrase 'new covenant' for a moment. The new covenant was represented in these earthly tokens, but what you've got to understand about biblical covenants: they weren't made - that's the language we use - a covenant, basically, is an agreement, and we say 'We have made a covenant', or 'We have made an agreement'. But in the Old Testament Hebrew language, to make a covenant actually explicitly means 'to cut a covenant'. You 'cut' a covenant in the Old Testament. Let me show you this, please, and it's important that we know this, and I believe it will really enhance our understanding of this new covenant, and indeed what we will do later on around the Lord's Table.
Turn with me to Genesis chapter 15, and here we have what is called 'The Abrahamic Covenant', where God makes a covenant with Abram - it's made in other places, Genesis 12 and even 17 - but here we read that the covenant was cut. Verse 18 of Genesis 15: 'On the same day the LORD made a covenant' - and literally in Hebrew the phrase is 'the LORD cut a covenant with Abram, saying'. Now even this cutting of the covenant is very significant, let's read how it was instigated. Verse 8 of chapter 15 of Genesis: 'Abram said, 'Lord GOD, how shall I know that I will inherit it?'' - Inherit what? Well, inherit the land is part of what is promised here, there are many other promises, but this is what he's talking about specifically. He's saying: 'How will I know that I will inherit it?'. 'So He said to him', the LORD said to him, ''Bring Me a threeyearold heifer''. Now this is significant, because what Abraham is saying is: 'Lord, I'm not sure' - now, he's not being as explicit as this, but he's basically saying 'I'm not sure I can trust You'. In other words, 'How can I know that this is going to happen?'. The LORD says: 'Right, here's how you'll know: take' - there it is in verse 9 - ''Bring Me a threeyearold heifer, a threeyearold female goat, a threeyearold ram, a turtledove, and a young pigeon'. Then he brought all these to Him and cut them in two', there's the cutting, 'cut them in two down the middle, and placed each piece opposite the other; but he did not cut the birds in two. And when the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away. Now when the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell upon Abram; and behold, horror and great darkness fell upon him. Then He said to Abram', God said to him, ''Know certainly that your descendants will be strangers in a land that is not theirs'', that's Egypt, ''and will serve them, and they will afflict them four hundred years. And also the nation whom they serve I will judge; afterward they shall come out with great possessions. Now as for you, you shall go to your fathers in peace; you shall be buried at a good old age. But in the fourth generation they shall return here, for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete'. And it came to pass, when the sun went down and it was dark, that behold, there appeared a smoking oven and a burning torch that passed between those pieces'.
Now, I don't want to go into the detail of this, but that was Shekinah glory, a visible manifestation of the invisible God walking between the pieces, signifying that this was a unilateral agreement that God was taking upon Himself. It had nothing to do with Abram, it had all to do with God: 'On the same day the LORD cut a covenant with Abram, saying: 'To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates; the Kenites, the Kenezzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites, and the Jebusites''. Now, this is the way agreements were made, I want you really to understand this, even secular agreements would have been made by cutting a covenant, even cutting beasts in two. Men who were having a deal with one another would have walked down a carriageway of riven carcasses, blood and gore, to say to one another - and this is what it meant - 'May what has been done to these beasts be done to me, if I do not keep my word', that's what they were saying! Do you understand?
Now, what was Abram asking God for in verse 8: 'How can I know? How can I know that this agreement You're entering into with me, I can trust and know that You're going to fulfil?' - and this is basically what the Lord is saying, 'Right, Abram, let's sign a contract today. Let's sign an agreement and settle this once and for all, and if I do not honour My word, may I be rent asunder just like these beasts'. Now, the animals in themselves were prophetic, look back at them please in verse 9 of chapter 15 of Genesis, God says: 'Bring Me', in other words the sacrifice is for God, it's for His benefit, and there are three animals that are named here - can I just draw your attention to the fact, if you think about it for a moment: they are all tame animals. So these were not animals that Abram had to go around chasing and catching, but they are tame animals - in other words, willing servants of man, meeting his need.
Now, each of these animals foreshadows a distinctive aspect of Christ's person and Christ's work. There is a heifer here, a threeyearold heifer, and a heifer seems to indicate energy - this beast of burden and work. The Lord Jesus Christ was the Servant, we know this from Mark, from Isaiah, the Suffering Servant who came to do the Father's will. Then you're to take a threeyearold goat, the goat in the Old Testament is the sin offering, the Lord Jesus was coming to be a sin offering. Then they're to take a threeyearold ram, and the ram in the Levitical offerings was connected with consecration, and Jesus is coming and consecrating Himself, surrendering Himself to the Father's will, which meant the cross. Then there are these birds, 'a turtledove, and a young pigeon'. Now birds come from heaven, the first heaven, and I believe this is signifying the Lord Jesus Christ as the Holy One from heaven. Now, maybe you think this is pushing things, but let me ask you: how old were each of these animals, each of them? Three times it is repeated: 'three years old', and the Lord Jesus Christ offered Himself after three years of service as the Servant of the Lord.
Now in verse 11, we don't have time to go into this too much, but in verse 11 we see: 'When the vultures came down on the carcasses, Abram drove them away'. Now that implies, to me at least, that Abram knew that this was a way of two men entering into an agreement with one another. What would happen was: once the carriageway of carcasses was made, the two signatories to the agreement would walk, arm in arm together, down the middle to say that they were agreeing with one another. Abram's waiting on God showing up, he's chasing the birds away from the carcasses, he's waiting on God turning up to walk down the middle with him - and what does God do? God comes in and puts him asleep, and what's that saying? 'Abram, this is going to have nothing to do with you, this is a unilateral, unconditional covenant that God is going to keep in spite of man's cooperation'. He's going to honour His word, and for that reason, when Abram was asleep probably, he saw this vision of the burning Shekinah light moving down on its own, God moving down the middle, saying 'I'm going to do this for Myself and for My glory'. I do think that perhaps Abram's sleep is significant when we think of the death and resurrection of the Lord, and you can see that picture even in Adam and Eve when God was taking Eve out of Adam - what did He do with Adam? He put Him asleep, and right throughout Scripture we see death and resurrection through covenants cut, there is death and resurrection - and what is it all signifying? It's all pointing forward to that great Passover Lamb. It's all telling us that, out of the greatest suffering imaginable, there is going to be the greatest salvation: the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, that's a prototype cutting of a covenant that's important biblically to understand the New Covenant that Jesus was cutting with His disciples. But the New Covenant is actually specifically mentioned in Jeremiah 31, so turn there with me to that please. Now this is vital, because we run around at times talking about ourselves as 'New Covenant Christians', and we don't have the first notion what the New Covenant is! Some people just think of the New Covenant as being New Testament - and I know they're the same word, but that is not everything that it means, just to be a New Testament Christian. For to the Jews, in Jeremiah's day, to the Jews God speaks by His Spirit, verse 31 of Jeremiah 31, concerning a new covenant - this is a promise: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt', that was the Mosaic covenant, which they broke, which is now null and void through the death of the Lord Jesus, 'My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts'. You see, the problem that the Jews had, and we all have, with law, is that we can't keep it because we are depraved in our hearts. But this new covenant would be different, because God would write it on our hearts so that we would be able to live righteously before God: 'And I will be their God, and they shall be My people. "No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more'.
Now there are many things promised in the New Covenant, not least the spiritual and national regeneration of Israel. They will be restored nationally to the land, the first stage of which has already happened in 1948, the birth of the nation of Israel; but they will be restored spiritually also - God will restore the Jews. There will be complete justification, verse 34, their sins and iniquities will be remembered no more; and there will be the personal ministry of the Holy Spirit indwelling - in other words, God would write His law on people's hearts, and they'll not need teachers to show them the way, the Holy Spirit Himself will show them the way.
Now, in Jeremiah 31 the New Covenant was being promised as a far prospect in the future. Now when we come to the Last Supper, back to Mark 14, we find that the New Covenant is now being promised as a near prospect. Remember the verse, 24? 'This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many'. The New Covenant - now stay with me please - is about to be cut, cut, where? At Calvary. Imagine Him pouring the wine into the cup - some believe they only had one cup but they poured it four times for the four cups of the Passover. Imagine Him pouring, it's graphic because, in the Temple sacrificial system, the blood of the animal would be poured out as a drink offering. All their Jewish psyche would be running ahead of themselves with all of this pictorial, graphic instruction concerning the voluntary sacrifice of the Lord Jesus. The symbolism is just incredible. Here is Jesus, and He's doing this for them, He is the benefactor of this covenant and He's going to be cut by a voluntary sacrifice. It's a unilateral covenant, in other words it's all of God - they don't have to agree to it necessarily, it's wholly established by the means of the obedience of the Lamb who, Philippians 2 says, humbled Himself, became a servant, even unto death, even the death of the cross. Remember, in a few moments the disciples are all going to flee and forsake Him anyway - they're not even entering into this covenant in the sense of a person who has the weight of responsibility of fulfilling what's being asked of them!
This is all of God and all of Jesus, and yet the beneficiaries are these disciples who are representative of the house of Israel and Judah - for this is a covenant made, Jeremiah 31, with the Jews - and yet we find out later that we, Romans 9, 10 and 11, as wild Gentile olive branches, are ingrafted into the vine of Israel. In other words, we have become partakers of these blessings of the New Covenant now through grace in the Lord Jesus. But what I want you to see is Jesus, when He says New Covenant - there's so much meaning in it! He's going to Calvary to be cut at Calvary as a Covenant. When you think of Genesis 15, and this Abrahamic Covenant, I believe what God was saying to Abraham as He promised that his children, not just his ethnic children of the Jews but his spiritual children, that they would be as many as the stars of the sky and the sand of the seashore, that God was going to have to be the sacrifice, that the Son of God was going to have to be ripped apart, cut apart at Calvary, so that God might walk through His corpse to be reconciled with men. Is that not what the Bible means when Paul says: 'God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself' at the cross?
Are you seeing it? Is it all coming together? How does Isaiah put it? Literally the Hebrew reads: 'He was pierced through for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities'. The New Covenant was being cut at Calvary. Jesus is enacting this Last Supper to point towards it. At the Abrahamic Covenant the animals were cut. At the Mosaic Covenant, do you remember what was cut then? What was cut then? Tablets of stone, and animals were cut, and the shedding of blood, and the blood was sprinkled on the people - but this New Covenant will not be engraved on tablets of stone, but will be engraved on men's and women's hearts. This is being cut with the shedding of the blood of the only Begotten Son of the Eternal God!
Now, if you're not marvelling in awe and wonder, maybe it's my fault I'm not getting it across - but please get to that point of realising what was going on at Calvary! God was cutting a covenant for you on the flesh of His own Son. That's why, in Isaiah 49, we read: 'I have inscribed you', cut you, 'on the palms of my hands'.
Turn to Hebrews 9 to see the New Testament commentary on these things please, Hebrews 9 verse 13: 'For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?'. I say 'Hallelujah!' for that! What the Mosaic Covenant could not do - it could not change the heart, it could not cleanse the conscience - the New Covenant has done by the shedding of the blood of Christ. Do you know you can have a clear and clean conscience? Have you? That is your blood-right in Jesus! Unsaved person here today, tortured by skeletons in the cupboard that you're hiding from loved ones and from God, you think, you can be set free through the blood of Jesus! Cleanse your conscience, and not only cleansed from sin, but from dead works. Under the Mosaic Covenant the Jews were trying to earn 'tick' with God and favour with God by legalistically following rituals - and most Christians, I say it again, most Christians are trying to live the Christian life like that! They don't realise that's why Jesus died, to set us free from the dead works of the flesh, and to clear our conscience from knowing that we're not meeting the mark - because, no matter what your rule is, or your ethic is, you'll never meet it because we're all failures!
'For this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance'. One of the promises of that New Covenant is the Holy Spirit to live in your heart to enable you to live as you ought to live, a thing that the Old Testament Jew could never do! The blood of Messiah is the basis of salvation in the New Covenant. The blood ratified, signified and sealed the New Covenant - and if you want to read more about that, read all the way through from Hebrews 8 right to Hebrews 10. So this is what Jesus is going to do, this is the climax and pinnacle of His whole life: He is the Passover Lamb who will carry away the sins of the world forever, never needing another sacrifice again! He gives them this Supper to enter into this agreement with them.
Now, it's interesting how the Lord based the Last Supper, the Lord's Supper, on the Passover practice - but it's also equally interesting the things that He didn't use. You see He only used the unleavened bread and the third cup, which is the cup of salvation - but please, here's something I noticed for the first time: in all the gospel records of the institution of the Lord's Supper, there is no Paschal lamb mentioned. Was there a lamb there? I don't know, but certainly the disciples were not instructed to go and get the lamb, were they? There was no lamb there, and whether there was one and it's just not mentioned, or whether there wasn't one - surely the emphasis of the Holy Spirit in the gospel narratives is this: He is the Lamb! This is the Passover Lamb of God that all the other lambs, and all the other rivers of blood in the Old Testament economy pointed forward to. He is the Lamb! See Him! Do you see Him? Will you see Him this morning as we break the bread and drink the cup?
There's something else also that is left out, as far as we know the Lord appears not to have drunk the fourth cup of the Passover meal. Do you know what the fourth cup signifies? It is called the 'Hallel' cup, which means 'the cup of praise'. By the way, after the Jews drink this cup of Hallel, the cup of praise, do you know what they say to one another? 'Next year in Jerusalem', they celebrated this feast in Jerusalem, and they were saying: 'Next year in Jerusalem'. The Lord didn't drink this cup, instead He says to them in verse 25: 'Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God'. In other words, He wouldn't be there next year in Jerusalem, He was going out today - and the next time He would drink of the fruit of the vine would be in His kingdom, a future day that is yet to be.
Now we know that on His way to the Mount of Olives He taught them many truths that aren't recorded in Mark's gospel, and if you want to read them - and they're precious - read John 14: 'Let not your heart be troubled', John 15 about the vine, John 16 about the Holy Spirit, John 17, His great High Priestly prayer, all at this juncture. The final thing our Lord did with His disciples before leaving the Upper Room and going to the Mount of Olives was to sing the traditional Passover hymn - that's what it says, isn't it? Verse 26: 'When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives'. Do you know what the Passover hymn was? It was based on the great Hallel, which is Psalm 113 through to Psalm 118. We don't have time to study it of course, but read it! Psalm 113 through to Psalm 118, they most likely would have taken excerpts from those Psalms - and it's a most wonderful commentary on Calvary!
Now I want you to picture this, please picture it - I'm almost finished - before we break bread please picture this: the Lord has enacted a ceremony agreeing to covenant and to cut Himself to be the instigator and the benefactor of the New Covenant. Now He stands and sings the great Hallel, listen to some of the verses: 'The pains of death surrounded me, and the pangs of Sheol', the grave, 'laid hold of me; I found trouble and sorrow. Then I called upon the name of the LORD: 'O LORD, I implore You, deliver my soul!'' - that's Psalm 116. The same Psalm: 'For You have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, and my feet from falling. I will walk before the LORD In the land of the living'. Psalm 116 again: 'I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD. I will pay my vows to the LORD now in the presence of all His people. Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of His saints for where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator'. Psalm 117: 'Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples!'. Psalm 118: 'You pushed me violently, that I might fall, but the LORD helped me. The LORD is my strength and song, and He has become my salvation'. Psalm 118 as well: 'I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD. The LORD has chastened me severely, but He has not given me over to death. Open to me the gates of righteousness; I will go through them, and I will praise the LORD'. Another: 'The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. This was the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes'. One for the last, and there are many more, Psalm 118 again: 'God is the LORD, and He has given us light' - listen to this one! - 'Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You'.
Imagine our Lord singing these words, imagine Him even singing before the cross, and singing these words perhaps: 'Bind the sacrifice with cords to the horns of the altar. You are my God, and I will praise You; You are my God, I will exalt You'. All I can say is:
'Bearing shame and scoffing rude,
In my place condemned He stood;
Sealed my pardon', and covenant, 'with His blood.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!'.
Let us pray. Tonight we will be, God willing, following our Lord to the Garden of Gethsemane. Father, these things are too wonderful for me, and I apologise to You Lord and confess that I just can't do it, I can't make this the way it should be, so that people would really understand what Jesus was entering into with His disciples, the significance of it to their minds - and the anticipation of Calvary, what it meant for You, Father, to cut Your own Son, that it should please You to bruise Him, that You might give Your word in agreement to those who believe in it, You're covenanting to take them as Your children and never let them go. Lord, I pray, if there's any soul here this morning who has never entered into the good of the New Covenant by faith - it's not by anything we can do only taking it, receiving it at the giving by grace - we pray that this morning they would enter in, they would see by the Holy Spirit's power the magnitude of what Jesus has done. What we're about to do shows forth His death, and even if there are unbelievers in our midst we believe it is a graphic description of what He was to do, and what He has now done and finished. Lord, we pray for all of us as believers, O God, lift the scales from off our eyes, let us see Jesus in His passion for us, in His steadfast endurance to go to the cross. As this wine is taken by us, and this bread is broken, let us not lose the symbolism. We know, Lord, that this is not just bread and wine in the sense that it symbolises something more, but we know, Father, that we must, by faith, eat of His flesh and drink of His blood. We pray that, Lord, we would know what it is to feed on Christ, who is our life; and that we will truly meet the Lord now as we meet around this board, in Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered in Ards Evangelical Church, Newtownards, Northern Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the fifty-third recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "The Sop And The Supper" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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