A Spoiled Passover Celebration

If you have lived life for very long you know the disappointment of an evening filled with great expectations that doesn’t play out like you were hoping.

Perhaps you had planned a special activity and the weather didn’t cooperate. Or you had your heart set on doing an something with other people and you got hit with sickness that required you to cancel. 

And the weight of the disappointment ranges from minor frustrations to major devastation depending on how special the event is. A rained-out t-ball game you can get over. Missing a wedding or a funeral of a loved one due to a flight delay, that’s a little more difficult.

We’ve all had special moments ruined as part of living in a fallen world.

But if I were to be candid about the scenarios that I personally feel the worst about, is when I ruin an event by my sin. In other words, my sin tainted something that was supposed to be special and caused it to not be what it could have been. 

Sin ruins things. It’s a consistent pattern.

As I reflect back on my life I can picture—special evenings, gatherings with others, holidays or birthdays marred at times by sinful desires, a lack of love or humility, personal expectations, or carelessness. 

The wonderful atmosphere of what should have been a joyful occasion, dampened by sin.

That’s exactly where we find ourselves in Mark 14 today. Please take your Bibles and turn with me to Mark 14. There is an outline in your worship guide as well.

These verses provide us with the details of the last Passover meal that Jesus would eat with his disciples. It is the last Passover the disciples would eat for the rest of their lives. It was a special night. It was to be a wonderful night of remembrance and celebration reflecting on the goodness of God to his people.

And yet this specific night was in many ways ruined. 

Not in the ultimate sense of course. From a divine perspective, and now with full picture we understand why things went down as they did. But for the men who observed this evening together what was supposed to be a beautiful time of fellowship and reflection and worship and joy collapsed into darkness and concern.

This was a Passover celebration, spoiled by sin.

During this meal Jesus will expose Judas and his treacherous intentions. It’s going to suck the air right out of the room and leave everyone reeling. 

The themes Mark wants us to learn from this passage are the depth of Judas’ sin and the sovereign hand of God in the timing of events as he composes and arranges the details according to how he wants the script written, and the depth of the love of Jesus.

If last week contrasted the love of a woman who sat at the feet of Jesus and loved him more than any earthly treasure with Judas who loved this world, this week contrasts Judas cold-blooded hatred of Jesus, and Jesus humble love toward his enemy. 

3 Scenes as Jesus Exposes His Betrayer

  1. The venue behind the exposure (12-16)

  2. The voicing of the exposure (17-20)

  3. The verdict following the exposure (21)

Mark 14:12–21—12 On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 13 And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 14 and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’ 15 “And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 16 The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; and they prepared the Passover. 

17 When it was evening He came with the twelve. 18 As they were reclining at the table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 19 They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” 20 And He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. 21 “For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

The first scene as Jesus exposes his betrayer:

  1. The venue behind the exposure (12-16)

Mark has been giving us very specific time references as we get closer to the cross and especially in this final week. He states:

(12) On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was being sacrificed, 

This meal had to be eaten within the walls of Jerusalem. There was a need to have a place reserved in advance. As we will see it seems very similar to the colt story back in 11:1-7.

We’ve got some work to do here on this one to figure out our timelines. The challenge is essentially this: how is it that the gospel writers say Jesus and the disciples are eating the Passover on Thursday evening, and then John records that Jesus was crucified on the day of preparation for the Passover (John 19:14)?

Part of the challenge is that you had two events “The Feast of Unleavened Bread”  that was seven days,   and “The Passover” which was one day. And they would get combined oftentimes and referred to in shorthand by one name or the other.

The best way to understand this is that today is Thursday.

How Jesus could eat Passover and be crucified on Passover is that you have two different dates for celebrating the one-day celebration of Passover. If you were from Galilee (which Jesus and the disciples are) you celebrated on 14 Nisan (Thursday). If you were from Judea (the Pharisees and those in Jerusalem) you celebrated on 15 Nisan.

His disciples said to Him, “Where do You want us to go and prepare for You to eat the Passover?” 

What was the process here for these guys in terms of preparation?

Remember at this point there is a mole among them There is a two-timer who is pretending to be with them, but in reality is a Benedict Arnold.

And so rather than give explicit directions naming a house and a location for the Passover, Jesus gives cryptic instructions that wouldn’t give Judas the opportunity to betray him prematurely. Jesus wanted to celebrate this final Passover meal with his disciples before he was to be taken into custody.

Jesus wanted to have this meal

Luke 22:15–16—And He said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer; for I say to you, I shall never again eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.”

Judas is on the prowl right now

Luke 22:6—So he consented, and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd.

(13) And He sent two of His disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man will meet you carrying a pitcher of water; follow him; 

Luke tells us that it was Peter and John (Luke 22:8). Just walk into Jerusalem. Well over one million people in Jerusalem right now for the holidays.

A guy carrying a water pitcher doesn’t seem like much of a sign. In fact, it is because women carried water jars, men carried wineskins. So it would be like saying, find a guy with a women’s purse. It would stand out.

(14) and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, 

So, the guy with the pitcher goes into the house. Now you go and knock on the door and ask to speak with the owner.

‘The Teacher says, “Where is My guest room in which I may eat the Passover with My disciples?” ’ 15 “And he himself will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; prepare for us there.” 

Pronouns here are fascinating. The teacher says where is my guest room. Does this indicate that Jesus had prearranged details with the owner earlier?

Would this have been common that the room was just ready and waiting and already prepared to this degree or was this something unusual?

Did this need to a be a secret location for security reasons (cf. John 11:57)?

It was possibly Mark’s house, or Mark’s parents’ house. The disciples are found in an upper room in Acts 1:13 with an unnamed owner. It would seem that it is the same upper room that the disciples are using here. 

Later this house is specifically called out and identified Acts 12:12 as a place where the believers gathered for prayer in Jerusalem.

Some speculate that it was John-Mark who was carrying the pitcher. We don’t know. But it would seem that this was a believing family, and this upper room was probably used over and over by the early church.

Just like when Jesus needed an unridden donkey as he entered the city a few days earlier:

(16) The disciples went out and came to the city, and found it just as He had told them; 

Everything exactly as expected. 

and they prepared the Passover. 

Some of the set up was already there ready for them. The table to recline at. The cushions to lay on, as specified by the proper way of taking the meal. They got together all the elements and made preparation that day.

And now we transition to the meal itself.

  1. The venue behind the exposure (12-16)

  2. The voicing of the exposure (17-20)

(17) When it was evening He came with the twelve. 

Two of them worked during the day on Thursday preparing the Passover meal. It seems as mark writes that they may have gone back to Bethan and then they all left together. But it also could have been that Jesus just came with the ten and met Peter and John and then they all went in together.

It’s dark out, the sun has set. The meal had to be eaten after the sun went down and before midnight.

Not just the final Passover they will share, but the final meal they will take together. They’ve been mostly inseparable for 3 years. Eating together times into the thousands.

(18) As they were reclining at the table and eating,

Now John gives the longest account of this evening in John 13-16. It was a very full night. This was a night that involved arguing. Parents who are wearing of children arguing at the dinner table, Jesus must have felt the same way this evening.

There arose a dispute this night (Luke 22:24ff) about which one of them should be regarded as the greatest. They were vying for prominence as they were talking about the kingdom and thinking about it.

This is the night that Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. None of them was willing to serve in that lowly role or do the lowly task. It was part of the evening in preparing the guests. Jesus took of his outer garments and put on a towel.

He took the role of a slave and washed feet.

He was the elder statesman of the group. He would serve the meal and explain the significance of the elements. There were four cups of wine that would be taken at various points in the meal. There was lamb, there were bitter herbs, there was flatbread without yeast, and there was a sweet paste of fruit and nuts.

During the meal they would remember different elements of the deliverance, the salvation of what God had done for them. They would sing the Hallel Psalms, the Psalms of praise in Psalm 113-118.

And so it was a rich night under normal circumstances. You were reflecting on the bitterness of slavery and bondage in Egypt, the sweetness of future hope and deliverance through the Messiah. The way that God passed over the houses covered by the blood of the lamb. The lack of yeast demonstrated purity as leaven was viewed as a corrupting influence.

This was a time of encouragement and spiritual strengthening and rejoicing. Psalm 118 looks forward to ultimate salvation and the coming of the Messiah.

But somewhat early into the evening, the time is disrupted by these words:

Jesus said, “Truly I say to you that one of you will betray Me—one who is eating with Me.” 

Truly—this is difficult to even imagine, but I’m making it clear that there is no slip up here in what I am about to tell you.

John 13:21—When Jesus had said this, He became troubled in spirit, and testified and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that one of you will betray Me.”

Betrayal is painful. One of the compounding pains of adultery is the betrayal. You were a person who I trusted and you pretended to be one thing to my face when you were really something else behind my back.

This statement did two things. 1) it heightened the treachery of the act 2) it gave the betrayer an opportunity to repent.

The added words, one who is eating with Me, unique to Mark, allude to Psalm 41:9 where David laments that his trusted friend Ahithophel (cf. 2 Sam. 16:15–17:23; 1 Chron. 27:33), who shared table fellowship with him, had turned against him. To eat with a person and then betray him was the height of treachery.

Now just consider for a moment the pressure on Judas. We’ve all been there. You have been deceitful. You have on your conscience the burden that you have not been honest, and you must come clean.

But your flesh doesn’t want to do it. And then the Lord serves up the perfect opportunity to speak. And you are conflicted. That’s where Judas is at here. He’s nearing the point of no return.

Of course, his bitterness toward Jesus, his greed and fear of man and wounded pride is going to overcomes him. So, he plays the game now.

Jesus is making a prediction here meaning the deed hasn’t been done yet, and so everyone is reeling because if you are sitting there, you are wondering—could it be me?

So far, Jesus odds have been pretty good whenever he says something is going to happen. Little girls that die end up living as predicted. Fish have coins in their mouths as predicted.

It was unsettling to say the least: 

(19) They began to be grieved and to say to Him one by one, “Surely not I?” 

The way the phrase is constructed in the original each one of the disciples is expecting a negative response from Jesus, clearing their name. “It is not I, is it?” “Surely, it isn’t me… right?”

Grieving here means they were experiencing severe emotional distress. They were weighed down with sorrow and sadness and pain. The word is strong already, but Matthew add the adverb deeply. They were deeply or greatly in severe emotional distress. 

This is your Messiah. This has been your rabbi, your teacher for three years. This has been your friend, your master, and your God. Jesus has tested these men and they have been found loyal and faithful. When given the opportunity to leave with the crowds in 

John 6:68—Simon Peter answered Jesus, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”

These men knew that the chief priests and scribes hated Jesus. But they are reeling trying to comprehend how one of them could. They’ve been through so much together.

John 13:22—The disciples began looking at one another, at a loss to know of which one He was speaking.

All of them but one is dumbfounded right now. Finally, Peter can’t handle it any longer. He has to break the awkwardness and know who it is. According to John 13, Peter motioned to John who was reclining on Jesus and said, “find out who it is…” John asked Jesus, and then Mark records his response here in v. 20—

(20) And He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who dips with Me in the bowl. 

When it came to Judas, the indictment was undeniable.

Matthew 26:25—And Judas, who was betraying Him, said, “Surely it is not I, Rabbi?” Jesus said to him, “You have said it yourself.”

Gives you a raw look at what hatred for God really looks like. When Peter will betray Jesus (not in this manner, but betray his loyalty) his eyes will meet Jesus and he is instantly crushed. 

See the visible difference between a sinner and a saint is not whether you sin, but how you respond to it. A saint is broken by it and longs for Jesus to be honored.

Friends, see the love of Jesus in this passage! Even for an enemy.

  • Jesus knew from day one that Judas would be his betrayer.

  • Jesus saw that Judas was pretending. He was pretending to care about the poor while robbing them and those who had contributed out of good will for their needs. He was pilfering. Jesus heard him offer fake prayers to God the Father to keep up appearances.

  • Jesus noticed this past Saturday night when Mary of Bethany poured nard on his head and Judas stirred everyone up about what a waste of money it was.

  • Jesus knew when Judas left Wednesday night to go sell him off to the chief priests and scribes. He left their fellowship to make friends with the enemy.

  • Jesus seated Judas with everyone else that night. He didn’t say, “hey we’re gonna go in here… leave and do what you need to do, you’re uninvited”

  • Jesus washed Judas’s feet that evening. Took the position of being Judas’ slave.

  • Jesus gave him bread. It was the sign of intimate fellowship.

What’s the picture here? Jesus never held back from Judas. We’re tempted to think, “of course he didn’t because he’s God.”

1 Peter 2:21–23—21 For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Can I tell you, this is the secret to responding supernaturally when wronged? I don’t care what it is, when you consider Jesus it displays what true humility looks like. It displays true submission to the Father’s plan. It instantly puts the situation in proper perspective.

What’s the temptation in the flesh?

When you are wronged, your temptation is to pull back. Separate yourself. Stop serving. Stop sacrificing. Close yourself off and not open up. Preserve yourself.

Most leaders deal swiftly with a rat. Jesus knew about Judas from day one. Growing up in the Kremlin during the rise of Joseph Stalin meant that you would often get close to people and then lose them. The reason was that if someone was suspected of being disloyal then they were disposed of. And not just them, but their entire extended family and their circle of friends.

That’s how dictators deal with betrayal.

Not Jesus. He keeps freely giving himself away even to Judas, trusting the Father’s plan through this situation.

Jesus calling out Judas was a grace.

It was a grace in that it gave Judas one more opportunity to repent. It gave him one more moment of divine accountability to stop and consider his ways and turn to Jesus in confession and find free mercy and forgiveness.

Second it was a grace for the disciples. Jesus was benefiting these men. It would be difficult for them to process the betrayal. Judas had played the hypocrite so well it was imperceptible.

John 13:18–19—"I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.’ “From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.

Well this brings us to our third scene as Jesus exposes his betrayer:

  1. The venue behind the exposure (12-16)

  2. The voicing of the exposure (17-20)

  3. The verdict following the exposure (21)

If you read the Bible, these are familiar words to you. The words themselves are simple enough, the language is plain, but the truth they contain is so weighty and difficult.

(21) “For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him; 

This is not an accident, this is God’s plan. God told the prophets what he was going to do. God spoke through David and Isaiah (Psalm 22, Isaiah 53).

Psalm 41:9— Even my close friend in whom I trusted, Who ate my bread, Has lifted up his heel against me.

but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! 

Jesus gives a lament denoting heartfelt pity. Notice the contrast. This is happening according to my plan and timing just as it was written by me beforehand. But this is tragic. But nevertheless I pity the man who is responsible for this deed and will be held accountable for it.

Judas didn’t blame God or Satan for his sin. In fact, after the act, he admitted:

Matthew 27:4—…“I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.”

God ordained what would take place, and at the same time Judas was personally guilty. So much so that Jesus says:

It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

Here’s one of the darkest and heaviest statements I think we’ve encountered yet in Mark. Most likely Judas was give-or-take roughly the same age as Jesus. Judas’ was born to parents who were most likely filled with joy when their son came into the world.

At the time when they named him, Judas didn’t have the connotation it now does.

And yet Jesus is able to say knowing all of the contingencies and the judgment that Judas is going to face in Hell and says, “it would have been advantageous to have never had lived.” Judas is a tragedy of tragedies.

Why?

Hebrews 10:29-31—How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY.” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” 31 It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Of course, in one sense sin is sin. One sin is enough to condemn you as a lawbreaker. But not all sin is the same. And Judas sin will incur a more severer punishment because he trampled under foot the Son of God.

When he sees the face of Jesus in the final judgment, it will be terrifying.

It is perplexing to understand how this works. There are two realities in tension here that are both true as it pertains to the character of God and the plan of God and Judas as a creature made by God. J.I. Packer describes the tension as: 

… the apparent opposition between divine sovereignty and human responsibility, or (putting it more biblically) between what God does as King and what He does as Judge.

Notice he doesn’t say the opposition as though there is a contradiction, but the apparent opposition.

Scripture teaches us that, as King, [God] orders and controls all things, human actions among them, in accordance with His own eternal purpose. Scripture also teaches that, as Judge, He holds every man responsible for the choices he makes and the courses of action he pursues.

Feel the tension? We can see that both of these principles are true. But how they work together is mysterious. I know that tension can be difficult. Sometimes we work overtime to try to resolve in with sophisticated arguments.

But we must view these things properly. Not as a tension to be resolved, but as an impetus to increase our worship of God as we see that he is not fully exhaustible or comprehensible to us. To hear from Packer again on this matter:

Our speculations are not the measure of our God. The Creator has told us that He is both a sovereign Lord and a righteous Judge, and that should be enough for us. Why do we hesitate to take His word for it? Can we not trust what He says?

He continues in the same way to point out that a God that fits human understanding exhaustively and doesn’t confront us with difficulties is a God made in man’s image and an imaginary God.

But our God is a God whose thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways, but as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are his ways higher than our ways and his thoughts than our thoughts (Isaiah 45:8ff).

And so, God controls and ordains all things, even the sin of Judas. While the Scriptures also teach on the balance that if Judas had turned to Jesus for cleansing, it would have been provided.

What a magnificent perspective of our God.

On the one hand this passage is about a very special night that was in many ways tainted by sin. It was a heavy and sobering night filled with grief and sorrow.

And yet on the other hand, this passage displays the reality that our God is perfect control of all situations at all times, working every contingency to accomplish his plan and purpose. 

And it displays the deep love and mercy of Jesus. A Jesus who was lovingly exposes sin. And a Jesus who is serving in the face of being wrongs and continues to love.

Well, next week we will complete the meal and we will watch as Jesus enacts a new covenant with his own blood. 1 Corinthians 5:7—Christ our Passover Lamb.

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