Intro: As I checked what’s going on in the Philippines from the internet, I saw this picture of women weaving coconut leaves in preparation for Palm Sunday. Of course this would be sold to the public as a tradition on the Sunday before Good Friday. And we know from the account that when Jesus entered the temple he was overturning tables of those who were selling doves and sheep for the sacrifice thus turning the temple into a market place. I wonder how many of those who welcomed Jesus with their palm branches were disappointed that the Jesus they were expecting to deliver them from the tyranny of Rome was a loser. I believed some have turned around in their disappointment to cry crucify Him because He could not save Himself. But what was the reason of His coming to Jerusalem? He did not come riding in a horse to be a conquering King with an army behind Him. But He came riding a lowly donkey, a beast of burden. They missed the significance that He would be their burden bearer. He would be the Lamb of God that will replace all the sheep that is being slaughtered on the day of the Passover.
In our reading yesterday from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses gave the message of the Lord to this new generation of Israelites who would enter the promise land as was promised by the Lord. He recalled to them how God delivered them from slavery in Egypt and how their forefathers entered into a covenant with God at Horeb which they failed miserably. Today we will look at the New Covenant and the terms that God requires for anyone to enter in covenant with God. But to appreciate this new covenant we need to see the old and understand the difference and why there’s a need for a new.
“Jesus Christ and the New Covenant”
“These are the terms of the covenant the Lord commanded Moses to make with the Israelites in Moab, in addition to the covenant he made with them at Horeb… Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you: it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. See I set before you today life and prosperity, death and destruction. For I command you today to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws; then you will live and increase, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land you are entering to possess… This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.” Deut. 29:1; 30:11-16, 19-20.
What has changed with this covenant that the Lord gave the Israelites? First of all, the covenant came from God. He sets the terms and the people were given the choice to accept and enter or not. What were the terms of this covenant? They were to love the Lord, walk in His ways, and keep His commands. That’s the people’s part to keep. Then anyone who enters into this covenant with God will have life and prosperity otherwise those who don’t will die and be destroyed. How would God save these people who enters into this covenant? Through a sacrifice by blood taken from a life as payment for sins in order to satisfy the demands of His law that He set with the first people He created, Adam and Eve. The first law God gave man and the consequence when broken thereof was what God said to Adam.
“And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” Gen. 2:16-17
Notice that the command was given to the man because Eve was not yet created. We know that after he ate of the forbidden fruit he did not die physically. He even lived 930 years after. Did God not do what He said He would do, that he would die? God is true to His word and right then Adam died spiritually. This is the same law that applies to everyone from the creation to the end of the world, “For the wages of sin is death.” This death is spiritual and if not given this new birth, the spirit will be eternally separated from God in hell. Was there anything Adam could do to save himself having spiritually died? Nothing. And God has to apply the law on him otherwise God will be unjust and not be true to His Word. How then will Adam and Eve be saved? They were saved by the grace of God. They were both undeserving because they have broken God’s law. How many sins did they commit? Only one sin and they died spiritually. But God came to their rescue and provided the means to save them. Life has to be sacrificed and blood shed to atone for their sins to serve God’s justice. God provided that life from an animal. This was their substitute for now.
“The Lord God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife.” Gen. 3:21
The skin was taken from an animal and before God can skin the animal he must first be killed. This is how God saved them. Blood was shed and the skin that now covers their shame represents the righteousness of Christ that is imputed to a believer to cover his and her shame. And God did it all.
The next sacrifice of an animal and the shedding of blood came by Abel.
“Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord. But Abel brought fat portions from some of the first born of his flock. The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering but on Cain and his offering he did not look with favor.” Gen. 4:2-5
Notice Abel sacrificed the firstborn. And though Cain offered the best of his crop that offering was rejected because the crops had no life and blood. Cain became the first founder of religion. He chose his own way to please God. God accepted Abel’s offering being the only way God would forgive sins. The writer to the Hebrews affirmed this requirement written in the NT.
“In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” Heb. 9:22
This was also how God delivered the Israelites, descendants of Abraham, from slavery in Egypt. They were set free when God killed all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians but spared the Israelites when they obeyed and followed the instruction to kill a lamb, a year old males without defect and to take some of the blood and put on the sides and tops of the door frames of the houses where they eat the lambs. When the angel of death came to Egypt it passed over the houses when it saw the blood and none of the firstborn sons of the Israelites were killed. After this they were to observe the Passover as a remembrance of their deliverance from slavery.
However, they could not keep from breaking their covenant with God, So God speaking through the prophet Jeremiah revealed a new covenant.
“The time is coming,” declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house if Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them.” Jer. 31-31-32
This promise was fulfilled when God sent His Son to be the Lamb of God. He will replace all the lambs that were to be offered year after year for the atonement of sins. His sacrifice will be once for all. For those in the past who believed and entered into covenant with God starting from Adam were saved for they believed and did what God commanded them to do. Though they were weak to keep the covenant their faith in the blood of the lamb saved them. And now through the prophet Ezekiel God revealed a new covenant He will put in place of the old with this promise.
“For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. You will live in the land I gave your forefathers; you will be my people and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness.” Ezek. 36:25-29
Has God fulfilled this promise? Yes, He did by sending His Son into the world. Jesus left heaven and took a body to die as the Lamb of God.
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offering and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, ‘Here I am – it is written about me in the scroll – I have come to do your will, O God.’” Heb. 10:5-7
Is this new covenant of God limited only to the Jews or Israelites? Not anymore because the Jews rejected Jesus, the Messiah God sent. Thank God, God opened heaven to us Gentiles and calling us to Himself.
As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her my love one who is not my loved one,” and, ‘It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’” Rom. 9:25-26
For this is what Jesus came to tell the world the message from His Father.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
How do both Jews and Gentiles have this eternal life? By believing in Jesus and the terms of this new covenant. What does God require? Jesus said,
“The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” Mark 1:15
The one who truly believes in Jesus must repent first, by turning away from their sins before they can believe the good news. It follows that if one does not repent, he does not believe in Jesus. Peter preached the same message.
“Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.” Acts 3:17-20
And what is the good news to be believed?
“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” 1 Cor. 15:3-4
Did Jesus suffer at the hands of wicked men by their own choice? No. It was already foretold that He would suffer even before He was born. And he said,
And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Luke 9:22
Jesus was not a victim and helpless in the hands of wicked and evil men but,
“This man was handed over to you by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.” Acts 2:23
Jesus fulfilled everything that was written about Him. As we enter into the Holy Week we ought to remember what He did for us and appreciate all the more how God saved us by His grace at the expense of His Son, taking the punishment that should have been ours.
“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21.
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” Gal. 3:13-14
And what is this new covenant that is now for us? At the Lord’s Supper,
“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Matt. 26:26-28
“Jesus accomplished and paid it all.” Glory and honor belong to Him.