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. ‘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 14:22-25 (NIV)
Read: Mark 14:12-26
Consider: Sometimes it is easy to forget that Jesus was a Jew and would have celebrated Jewish religious festivals. Today’s reading introduces the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread that followed it. You are probably familiar with the sequence of events that unfolded when the disciples met together in the upper room to celebrate the Passover. As the meal progressed Jesus revealed that one of the disciples would betray him, but did not reveal the identity of his betrayer. Of course Judas Iscariot would have understood that Jesus was speaking of him and I’m sure this would have made him uncomfortable.
Later in the meal Jesus makes reference to his body and blood in instituting the communion (Lord’s Supper or Eucharist).
You may have missed the detail Mark’s account contains which records what Jesus and the disciples did at the end of the meal. In Mark 14:26 we read: When they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. You may have never thought of what Jesus and the disciples may have sung at Passover. Being Jews they would traditionally have sung or recited Psalms 113-118 during the meal. In the Jewish liturgy this is known as Hallel (meaning praise or thanks). Commentators are generally of the opinion that at the end of the Passover meal Jesus and the disciples would have sung Psalm 118.
Let’s look briefly at Psalm 118 to see what it contains. The psalm starts and ends with these words: Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 29). Knowing what is ahead of him, the words of Psalm 118 sung by Jesus take on specific meaning. In Psalm 118 we read: The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me? There is another familiar passage later in the psalm: The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; the LORD has done this and it is marvellous in our eyes. The LORD has done it this very day; let us rejoice today and be glad. The words of the psalmist: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the LORD (Psalm 118:26a) are attributed to Jesus by the crowd, as he rode into Jerusalem (Mark 11:9). Finally, the words of Psalm 118:27 say: The LORD is God and he has made his light shine on us, and they bring to remembrance the words recorded in John’s gospel, where it speaks of Jesus as being the light that has come into the world (John 1:4-5, 9). The Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 4:6 also resonate with the words in the psalm: For God, who said, ‘Let the light shine out of darkness,’ made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6).
Psalm 118 contains many references that Jesus would have known were speaking of his life, ministry and death. The disciples would probably not have understood the significance of the references in Psalm 118 at the time, although they might have realised their significance later.
Pray: Father, we thank you that Jesus was able to praise you, even when he was facing death on the cross. May we learn to praise you in all circumstances. Amen