We are studying Mark 14:17-24 and Hebrews 8:6-7 & 10-12 for Sunday, June 2. [Notes on Mark 14:17-24 are here; notes on Hebrews 8:6-12 are here.] Here are a few questions we might want to consider as we think about what these texts mean for us:
Jesus arrives at the “large room upstairs” on the evening of Passover, “when the Passover lamb is sacrificed,” with “the twelve,” after preparations for the Passover meal have been made by still other disciples. What do we know about Passover and its meaning? (See, for instance, Exodus 12.)
What is the role of blood in the Passover story? (See, in particular, Exodus 12:7, 13, 23.)
Do we think Mark is trying to make an association between Passover and Jesus’ coming death? What association is that, do we think? What theological meaning would that have for us?
Later in the story (verse 24), Jesus will talk about his “blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” Should we understand that statement in the context of the story of Passover? Why, or why not? Is this how we usually understand it? Why, or why not, do we think? How do we usually understand it? How would understanding it as referring to Passover blood be different?
In verse 18, Jesus announces that one of the twelve will betray him. What are the implications of this announcement, do we think?
The disciples each ask whether they are the traitor (v19). Why?
[More personal: How certain are we, ourselves, that we don’t, or won’t, betray Jesus in some way? Why is that, do we think? What does this suggest to us?]
In verses 22-24, Jesus pronounces words that we now use in the celebration of communion. What do these words mean to us – can we say? How is this ceremony a “covenant” or “covenantal” ceremony, do we think?
When the author of Hebrews talks about Jesus’ “ministry,” the word in Greek has the sense of “liturgical” ministry. Earlier (Hebrews 8:1), the author refers to Jesus as a “high priest.” How often do we, ourselves, think of Jesus as a high priest? What does this idea add to our understanding of Jesus? What does it limit in or subtract from our understanding of Jesus? Why?
In verses 8-12, the author quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34. Initially, these words were addressed to the Judean exiles in Babylonia. How would that have affected the way the readers of Hebrews understood them in the first century? How does that affect the way we understand them today?
In v10, the covenant God will make is being contrasted to the covenant “that I made … on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt” (v9). How does this language relate to the Passover story mentioned in Mark, do we think?
How does the prophet Jeremiah contrast the two covenants? What do these contrasts suggest about the way they differ?
In verse 11, the text in Greek contrasts two kinds of “knowing.” “Know the Lord” uses a verb that is often used for having special wisdom or insight; “they will all know me” uses a verb that is often used for personal knowledge, being acquainted with – the way we “know someone” at work or in our neighborhood. Does this give us any ideas? What are they? How do we feel about them? Why?
Personally, I think it may be significant that the author of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah, who is speaking to the exiles in Babylonia. The author of Hebrews is speaking to people who are awaiting the return of Christ (Hebrews 9:10); speaking to them (and through them, also to us) of a heavenly country and city (Hebrews 11:16), to which they (and we) aspire along with the earlier heroes of faith. That is, perhaps: quoting a prophet to exiles, for a different kind of exilic community.
Somehow, it seems to me that taking the exilic status of this waiting community seriously would preclude making claims about being “the new Israel” and so on. Rather, it seems to me we could read this as a message of ultimate hope in light of an even better to end to a broadened understanding of exile. This would also, it seems to me, make good sense of the author of Hebrews’ emphasis on having and keeping faith.
Thinking of the meaning of the text this way might keep us from getting led into the temptation of supersessionism, and might help deliver us from its associated evils.