Mark 14:12 – 21
On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.” So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal.
When it was evening, he came with the twelve. And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, “Surely, not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me. For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that one not to have been born.”
When it is the day for the Passover lamb, the disciples ask Jesus where they should prepare the meal for him. This was an important day in Jewish tradition, a day which commemorated their salvation from slavery in Egypt through God’s gracious action. It is fitting that Jesus, who, through God’s gracious action, came for our salvation, should move into his sacrificial giving for us; his arrest will follow the meal. People generally shared this celebration with family. For Jesus and his disciples their group had become family – they shared life together. Our church community becomes family to us in this way; we share life together.
Jesus answers their question in a strange way – it reminds us of the way he told them to find the donkey when he came into Jerusalem on that Sunday. He tells them to go into the city, and to follow a man carrying a water bottle on his head to a house where they are to ask the owner to direct them to a large upper room where they can prepare the passover meal for the Master. It was unusual for men to carry water, so this particular servant would not be hard to spot, but how did Jesus know he would lead them to that particular house, which would have been larger than usual homes in the city, to have a large upper room? Had he made prior arrangements with the owner of the house? Or did he just know these things? Sometimes, we don’t have an answer – the disciples didn’t; but they went and found the room, just as he had instructed.
And when evening came (the festival begins at sunset), Jesus took his place at table in the Upper Room with the twelve. But still, he surprises them, “One of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They immediately begin to ask him, “Surely, not I”. And he replies, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me.” Sharing bread, dipping it into a shared bowl – like breaking off good hot bread and dipping it into seasoned olive oil at an Italian restaurant – is an act of hospitality, of sharing as family. The one who betrays Jesus also betrays the community which had become his family. Betrayals are dangerous things – they come back to haunt the one who betrays, as Jesus says, “woe to that one by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!”
Our “play” is moving towards its climax – there is plotting, intrigue, betrayal. Will good win? Who is this Jesus? Mark has moved quickly through his gospel, everything happening “immediately”, moving from one scene to the next. Now, the action has slowed; he has spent much ink on the week between Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and this Passover meal. Now he slows even further, as he gives us details about this most important night and the following day.
photo is the building that is built over the Upper Room. The spot is considered sacred by Jews (it is the traditional location of a synagogue beneath, and King David’s tomb), Muslims (the building once served as a Muslim mosque – the windows show Muslim designs), and Christians, and is maintained as an interfaith chapel.