Mark's Gospel

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The Last Supper

(Mark 14:12-26)

Some scholars think the room used for the Last Supper belonged to John Mark's mother. In the Acts of the Apostles we are told that it was a regular meeting place of the disciples (Acts 12). Jesus sent two disciple on ahead to make preparations. They are told to follow a man carrying a pitcher of water. Carrying water was not normally a man's job, some think this was probably a secret sign.

There is some debate as to whether the Last Supper was a Passover meal. It is argued that Jesus could not have been crucified on the actual day of the Passover. It is thought that the priests would have been too busy to take part in the trials. According to Mark 14:2 they had in any case decided to avoid a confrontation on that day. There was, however, a dispute between the Pharisees and the Sadducees as to when the festival began, and Pharisees were allowed to hold the meal a day before the official date. Jesus would be following the custom of the Pharisees by observing the festival on Thursday evening. John 13:1 records that the meal took place 'before the Passover'.

Furthermore, there is evidence from the Dead Sea Scrolls that the community at Qumr'an followed the solar rather than the lunar calendar which regulated the Temple services. If this is the case other non-conformist groups among the Jews, including Jesus, might have done the same. Many scholars believe that it was from the 'non-conformist' section of Judaism that Christianity sprang.

Some scholars think that the Last Supper was a Chaburah meal. This took place when private groups of men met together as friends early on Friday evenings to prepare for the sabbath. However, the meal would take place on Thursday if the sabbath were a special feast day, so as not to clash with the observance of the eve of the feast.

The meal proper began with a blessing; the leader then broke bread and consumed a fragment before giving a piece to everyone at the table. After the meal came the grace, a long prayer said by the leader on behalf of all present, a thanksgiving for all the mercies God had bestowed upon His people. It started with Creation and then recalled Israel's long history from the Exodus from Egypt to the Covenant and the inheritance of the promised land.

After the thanksgiving a blessing was recited over a cup of wine called the cup of blessing, and after being sipped by the leader it was handed round to all present. The meeting ended with the singing of a psalm. Jesus would have presided over the meal as head of the family. The Passover was and is a remembrance of God's deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt. Likewise, the Eucharist is for Christians a remembrance of God's deliverance of His people from the greater bondage of sin, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The word 'remembrance', however, has a much deeper meaning in the Bible than in present day usage. When we say we remember, we mean to bring into mind a past event which is dead and gone, whereas to Jews at the Passover, it means bringing an event out of the past and into the present as a living experience. A Jewish family celebrating the Passover is not merely remembering the Exodus, it is actually there, with Moses, reliving it, taking part in it, experiencing it as a present event. So for the Christian, the Eucharist is not so much a remembering but a reliving, a re-presentation of the Last Supper, the Cross and Resurrection.

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