Mark 14:22-25 – The Lord’s Supper


Mark 14:22-25


Jesus marks his coming death and transforms their Passover meal.


The Lord’s Supper takes place in the context of a Passover meal. Originally mandated in Exodus 12, the Passover commemorated two events. Specifically, the name itself referred to the way in which death “passed over” the Israelite households, striking only the Egyptians. To commemorate that event, the Israelites were commanded to spread the blood of a slaughtered lamb on their lintel, just as their ancestors had done that night in Egypt. More generally, the Passover celebrated the liberation of the Israelites from slavery. They commemorated their exodus by eating unleavened bread and retelling the story of their flight from Egypt (Exodus 13:3-10). Over time, the retelling of the story (known in modern times as a seder) and its accompanying meal came to include other elements, including the ritual sharing of cups of wine.

Jesus takes these elements of the Passover and reinterprets them in relation to his coming death. For his disciples, this must have come as a shock. From their earliest memories, they had celebrated the Passover as a story of God’s past action; Jesus tells them instead to think of the meal in relationship to him. The bread, which stood for the haste of the Israelites’ flight, Jesus redefines as his own body. Jesus redefines the cups of wine as his own blood, promising his disciples that he will protect them from death.

With regard to the blood, Jesus adds another layer of meaning by describing it as his “testament” as in the English phrase “last will and testament.” The Greek word used here, diatheke, can mean both “covenant” and “testament.” However, a “covenant” requires the ongoing participation of both parties. In the context of Jesus’ approaching death and his subsequent prediction of the desertion of the disciples, translating the word as “testament” makes the most sense. Jesus does not use the blood as a symbol of their partnership; rather, he invokes his own blood to testify that he will give his life on behalf of them to save them from their sins.