More Than Meets the Eye

Mark 14:22-25 (ESV)
Institution of the Lord’s Supper
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” 23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”

“More Than Meets the Eye”


            Blood is one of those things which people at the sight of it are either totally fine with it or they get queasy, turn ghostly white and may even pass out.

            Whether you are one who gets squeamish with blood or not, I want to let you know that there’s blood all over the place.  It was mentioned in the hymns we sang and I’m sure you caught the blood references in the Scripture readings a little while ago.  It may seem odd, it may seem a bit primitive, it may even be a little unsettling to talk about blood, but I want you to know … you need to look under the blood and to what God’s Word says about it because there is more here than what meets the eye.

            The first Passover in Egypt is what got this special night started so many years ago.  That first Passover wasn’t just about the killing of perfect year old lambs, it goes far deeper than that.

            The Israelites were enslaved to the Egyptians and God wanted His people to be free.  Pharaoh though was not so willing.  So in order to try to convince Pharaoh, God sent nine plagues upon the Egyptians.  Each time, Pharaoh’s heart grew harder and harder and each time Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go.

            So on this night, God did something different.  God told Moses, God told His people to take a year-old male lamb without any blemishes and kill it at twilight.  Upon killing the lamb, they were to take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel, that beam above the door of the house they were eating it in (Ex. 12:5-7).  

            At midnight, the LORD would then come through Egypt and visit every house.  If the house had the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel, the LORD passed over that place.  If there was no blood, the first born, whether human or animal, the first born male in that household was killed.  Upon the death of Pharaoh’s own son, Pharaoh finally let the Israelite people go.

            This event is what the disciples of Jesus are remembering as they gather with him in the Upper Room.  For the disciples, the killing of lambs, the death of the first born, and the freeing of the Israelites is what this night is about on the surface.  However, underneath this shedding of blood, there is a much deeper meaning.  There is more than meets the eye.

            When Moses first told the people what God had in mind, their first reaction was not one of disgust or of a pre-mature celebration dance.  After Moses told the people what God was doing, the people we’re told “bowed their heads and worshiped” (Ex. 12:27b).  The Israelites recognized that when the Lord speaks His will, the only proper response is to worship.  You see, the true meaning of the Passover event all focuses around the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods.”  The Lord said concerning the Passover, “on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD” (Ex. 12:12).  The tenth plague was a divine act of war against the last of the false gods of Egypt, against Pharaoh and against all of the oppressors of God’s people. 

            What all this means is that under all the Egyptian blood, you should not see innocent victims of a whimsical god, but impenitent sinners receiving just judgment from the one and only true God.  And all of God’s acts of judgment on idolaters, from Noah and the great flood to the Passover in Egypt to the conquest of the Promised Land, all these acts are intended to warn us about the consequences of idolatry and impenitence.  They are all previews of the final judgment to come.

            What we should also see is that this judgment of God is what you and I deserve and then some.  For your idolatrous sins, for every time you have not feared, loved, and trusted in the God above all things with all your heart and mind and soul … you and I … we deserve the destroyer to come and spill our blood on the ground and swiftly take our soul to hell for eternal punishment.  Understand, the Lord is no tame God.  The apostle Paul says in Galatians, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap” (6:7).

            Understand, because of their sins against God, the Israelites deserved the same fate as the Egyptians.  But there is more to this blood than the sticky red substance which runs through everyone’s veins.  With God’s Word attached to the blood, there is a means of salvation, a means of rescue.  Under the blood of the Passover lambs you do not find any merit or worthiness on the part of the Israelites, but you do find the promise of deliverance from slavery.

            The Passover was to be celebrated each year by the Israelites as a way of remembering how God chose the Israelite people and protected them from their enemies.  Later God would attach His word of forgiveness to the blood of lambs, goats, and bulls in a sacrificial system operated by the priests at the tabernacle, the portable temple of God while in the wilderness and in the physical temple built later.  Through the pouring out of blood in the Most Holy Place, God provided a means for His people to receive cleansing and forgiveness of their sins.  The book of Hebrews says, “Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (9:22).

            This brings us to tonight.  This brings us to find more than meets the eye in the Upper Room on the night when Jesus was betrayed.  As Jesus and the disciples observe the Passover meal, Israel’s deliverance from Egypt was in clear view.  The recently shed blood of Passover lambs would be fresh on the disciples’ mind.  They had surely celebrated this meal dozens of times before so they thought they knew what was coming as they celebrated it on this night with Jesus.  But there would be way more than meets the eye on this holy night.

            Mark tells us, “As they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them” (14:22).  Nothing out of the ordinary here.  “Take; this is my body” (v. 22).  “Wait, what?”  The disciples must have looked at one another with this bewildered look on their faces.  Mark continues, “{Jesus} took a cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank of it.”  “Okay, good. Maybe Jesus isn’t crazy.  Maybe we just misheard him earlier.”  Then Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (v. 24).  “Wait, what did he just say?

            With royally confused disciples, there is obviously more to this meal than what meets the eye.  The meal the disciples have celebrated all these years all of sudden takes on a new and deeper meaning with these new words of Jesus.  It is no longer simply a remembrance meal of what God did for the people in Egypt through the blood of a lamb painted on doorposts but is now a new meal about what Jesus has done for you, me, and all people through his sacred body and blood. 

            John the Baptist had pointed to Jesus years earlier and proclaimed, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world!” (John 1:29).  Paul would later write, “Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed” (1 Cor. 5:7).  At the Last Supper and on Good Friday, John’s preaching was fulfilled.  It was fulfilled as God’s holy and spotless Passover Lamb, our Savior, Jesus Christ offered up His life as a sacrifice, as a ransom for many, for you and me. 

            Jesus offered up himself as the sacrifice so you and I don’t get what we deserve from God because of our sins.  Instead we receive what it is which Jesus has earned for us.  Everything in the Old Testament, all the sacrifices, all the shed blood pointed forward to the coming of Jesus and his sacrifice on the cross.  Through the shedding of Jesus’ blood, he once and for all takes care of our sins.  “For Christ died once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18a).

            Blood throughout the Bible, whether it is in animals or humans’ equals life.  Without blood, one cannot live in this world.  Once blood is shed, life leaves the body.  However, there is more than physical life when it comes to the blood of Jesus.  The blood shed by Jesus meant that he would die on that blood stained cross … but this blood also cleanses you, it forgives you of all your sins and it serves as the antidote to death.  There is power in the blood of the Lamb, in the blood of Jesus.  It is a life giving power.  That is what the disciples in that upper room received that Passover night.  This is what is received when we gather around this altar. 

            Martin Luther teaches “For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Small Catechism).  Tonight we can’t partake in this body and blood together as a family but we can remember.  This weekend we remember the sacrifice which Jesus makes for you, me, and all people.  How through his suffering and death on the cross, your sins are forgiven.  How through his resurrection in just three days, you are given the promise of a Savior who walks with you now and who will one day bring you to everlasting life.  Amen.

            The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever.  Amen.