We continue with our series looking at ”The Promise Keeping God” this time looking at how the New Covenant is based on the cross of Christ. The service will also include communion.
We think of communion as a really old and established tradition, going back as it does to the time of Jesus some 2000 years ago, however our text today tells us that it is rooted in an even older tradition. The exodus from Egypt is believed to have occurred around 1450 BC, and this gives us the date of the Passover as told of in Exodus 12.
In order to survive the night before their escape from Egypt, the Israelites had to kill a lamb, paint some of the blood on the lintel & door posts of their homes, then roast the meat and eat it with unleavened bread.
Thereafter they were to celebrate it each year as the feast of unleavened bread; for 7 days they were to eat bread made without yeast and on the seventh day eat it with roast lamb. This was the meal that Jesus and his disciples were eating.
Scripture tells us how important blood is to God. It was synonymous with the life of a person or animal. It was so important that ‘shedding of blood’ became the phrase used for killing a human. This in turn allowed the shedding of animal blood to become a payment for sin.
The Israelites had to accept or understand the need for sacrifice before they could be expected to take part in it and so God explained why and how it worked in Leviticus.
Leviticus 17:11 (NIV)
11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.
The Israelites also had to agree to be part of the sacrificial system, to take part and obey it.
Exodus 24:1-8 Tells of the confirmation of the Mosaic Covenant, when the book of the Law was read to the Israelites and they swore to obey it. The last words of the passage may sound familiar.
Exodus 24:7-8 (NIV-WS)
7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.” 8 Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”
These sacrifices were limited. They could never pay the full price as an animal life does not have the same value of a human life and were therefore continually needed to allow God to ‘overlook’ sin. In order to appropriate and take hold of this covenant and its promises, the Israelites had to undertake an ongoing system of animal sacrifices at their own expense.
Paul in his letter to the Romans states both the problem and the answer;
Romans 6:23 (NIV)
23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Jesus was not only the son of God but was by His very nature God. As such His life was infinitely more valuable than an animal life. It was this infinity of value that allowed his life to be the once and for all sacrifice for sin.
In using the passover meal to institute the New Covenant (albeit the sacrifice came later on the cross) Jesus was deliberately combining the passover, where God’s people were set free and the the sacrificial system instituted through Moses, which paid the price of sin, and it seems that Jesus deliberately echoed the words of Moses when he said;
Luke 22:20 (NIV)
20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The wine we drink connects us to that sacrifice that happened almost 2000 years ago on a cross just outside Jerusalem that was itself routed in almost 1500 years of sacrifice.
Challenge: Before we can drink from this cup we need to accept, agree with, and appropriate or take hold of the sacrifice that Jesus made for us. In other words we need to enter into a covenant relationship with God. A relationship we will remain in, no matter what.
This is not something to be taken lightly, but if we are prepared to enter this covenant relationship then he in turn promises to wash away every sin we ever have or will commit and make us His children.
Theme: The Cup of the New Covenant
Reading: Luke 22 v 7 – 23
Preacher: Robin Brenchley
Led by: Chris Hughes