27 Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.
28 “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.”
When you think about all that Jesus said and did, the events of the Last Supper are pretty low-key. Certainly, the Lord’s Passover meal with His disciples in the upper room is an important part of the story, but there are no miracles performed – other than predicting Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial – and there are no parables, no great sermons, no crowds of people, no healings. All in all, it’s a pretty quiet evening except for one thing: Jesus explains one more time what is about to happen and why it will happen. Jesus’ simple explanation of the bread and the wine is the beginning of Christian theology as we see it explained through letters of the apostles.
Today’s verses from the Gospel of Matthew tell us that Jesus is enacting a new covenant. This is not the Ten Commandments any more – no more sacrifices and rituals and purifying meals and offerings. This is a new covenant, a new contract between God and men that actually had been in the plan from the very beginning. It was this moment that was revealed to Jeremiah:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah–
32 “not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.
33 “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
34 “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
And here at the Last Supper we are told WHY God will forgive our sins: Jesus has shed His blood for us – for ALL of us. Since the time of Moses, the blood of lambs had been used to ritually purify priests and rulers and the people, and the sacrifices were performed at least yearly and sometimes more often than that. The blood was considered a sign and seal of the covenant between God and Israel. As we read in Exodus 24:3-8, that was a covenant written on stone and paper. After everyone had agreed to this covenant, then Moses sealed it with the blood of a sacrifice:
And Moses took the blood, sprinkled it on the people, and said, “This is the blood of the covenant which the LORD has made with you according to all these words.”
But here at the Last Supper, Jesus tells the disciples that He is about to shed His own blood for a new covenant BEFORE anyone has agreed to it. In Moses’ day and in the days of the kings of Israel and Judah, the people would come together and fast and pray and sacrifice lambs and bulls, and then they would agree to do all that God commanded. This new covenant through Jesus is reversed: God has already made the sacrifice, God has already purified us, God has already sealed the covenant with the Blood of His Son, and now He waits for us to agree to the covenant.
When we present the gospel, we must remember to mention that this new covenant really is a “done deal.” We need to tell people that their sins have already been forgiven, and that God merely awaits their agreement to a new order, a new way of doing things. God’s grace has been extended to all of us, and the only sacrifice God wants now is a “broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17) – i.e. repentance and faith. But most of all, we must never let people forget that this new covenant is sealed with blood just like the old covenant, sealed by the blood of the very Son of God.
Lord God Almighty, of all the things You could have required of us, I am amazed and thankful that all You require is repentance and belief. I praise You, Father, for giving Your precious Son to seal this new covenant between us. I pray, O Lord, that I find Your Word where it is written on my heart, and that I never forsake the love You have given us, that I shall always live as You have desired. Amen.