This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
FOOD BANKS PROVE POVERTY SAY ENGLISH CLERGY
J.B. Phillips New Testament (PHILLIPS)
The Passover-supper prepared
12 On the first day of unleavened bread, the day when the Passover was sacrificed, Jesus’ disciples said, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?”
13-15 Jesus sent off two of them with these instructions, “Go into the town and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him and say to the owner of the house to which he goes, ‘The Master says, where is the room for me to eat the Passover with my disciples?’ And he will show you a large upstairs room all ready with the furnishings that we need. That is the place where you are to make our preparations.”
16 So the disciples set off and went into the town, found everything as he had told them, and prepared for the Passover.
17-18 Late in the evening he arrived with the twelve. And while they were sitting there, right in the middle of the meal, Jesus remarked, “Believe me, one of you is going to betray me—someone who is now having his supper with me.”
19 This shocked and distressed them and one after another they began to say to him, “Surely, I’m not the one?”
20-21 “It is one of the twelve,” Jesus told them, “a man who is dipping his hand into the dish with me. It is true that the Son of Man will follow the road foretold by the scriptures, but alas for the man through whom he is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had never been born.”
22 And while they were still eating Jesus took a loaf, blessed it and broke it and gave it to them with the words, “Take this, it is my body.”
23-25 Then he took a cup, and after thanking God, he gave it to them, and they drank from it, and he said to them “This is my blood which is shed for many in the new agreement. I tell you truly I will drink no more wine until the day comes when I drink it fresh in the kingdom of God!”
1. For Mark,this occasion is one of several in which he depicts Jesus at table. He records that Jesus was criticised for eating with collaborators and sinners. That theme is continued here, with emphasis on Jesus’ careful preparation for the meal in the dangerous city. ^You have prepared a table for me in the presence of my enemies.” Even at this last supper of the loyal friends of Jesus, it is revealed that there is one traitor; and the reader will discover that the rest leave him in the lurch. That’s a gathering to which I can honestly belong. Tonight at Communion, I will ask again as I’ve always asked, “Surely it’s not me?” and as always Jesus will say, “Surely it is.”
2. “This is my body” Mark has depicted the bodily presence of Jesus as the bearer of the good news of the kingdom, in healing the sick and liberating the demon-possessed. This gesture of identifying his body as passover bread sums up his whole ministry as liberating food, that is, as a sharing of “God’s goodness in the land of the living” and now also, in the land of the dead. I can’t fully receive what he offers me without sharing my own bodily life-my life in all its physical and practical connections- with others. It’s easier to respond to Jesus’ gift in my head than in my body, but I know I must be as genuine as those of my family and friends who have shared their lives with mine, and those unknown to me, whose labours provide my daily bread, or are deprived of bread by Government policy. Any piety that ignores these basic connections is fake.
3. An agreement traditionally required ratification by animal sacrifice. Here Jesus inaugurates a new agreement which will replace the Mosaic one. This new agreement has been defined by Jeremiah (Chapter 31):
31 “Indeed, a time is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 It will not be like the old covenant that I made with their ancestors when I delivered them from Egypt. For they violated that covenant, even though I was like a faithful husband to them,” says the Lord. 33 “But I will make a new covenant with the whole nation of Israel after I plant them back in the land,” says the Lord. “I will put my law within them and write it on their hearts and minds. I will be their God and they will be my people.
34 “People will no longer need to teach their neighbors and relatives to know me. For all of them, from the least important to the most important, will know me,” says the Lord. “For I will forgive their sin and will no longer call to mind the wrong they have done.”
Doubtless for Mark it was clear that only a small portion of Israel had accepted this new agreement, while many gentiles had joined themselves to the people of God. Jesus’ utter refusal to dilute the goodness of God is what takes him to the cross; his life-blood marks the new agreement. He carries its terms into the heart of darkness, yet there is an almost playful gallantry in his words, ” I will drink no more wine until I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” One of the best commentaries on this is Brian Wren’s great hymn, “Here hangs a man discarded” in its original version not the politely cleaned up version which appears in CH4 the hymn-book of my church:
Life emptied of all meaning / drained out in bleak distress
can share in broken silence/ my deepest emptiness.
And love that freely entered / the pit of life’s despair
can share our hidden darkness/ and suffer with us there.
Lord, if you now are risen /help all who long for light
to hold the hand of promise / and walk into the night
If I share his cup I’m asked to share also the gallantry of the one who walks into terror hoping for justice, into the night, hoping for dawn.