NEW COVENANT BLOOD
by Pastor Martha-Jean Fitch
March 19, 2017
TEXT: Luke 22:14-20
(Begin with a children's sermon that is something like this.
Inspiration comes from Sermons for Kids - http://www.sermons4kids.com/lest_we_forget.html)
I invite the kids to come forward at this time and join me up at the front. I want to have just a few minutes with you as we begin our message. Join me here in front of our fountain. Does anyone remember why we have this fountain in our worship area? To help us remember how God's love is poured out for us - continually - and it is for you and for you and you.
And what about these roses? Why are they here? Well, this rose reminds us of Jesus - who often described as a rose - the most perfect of all flowers. We have 3 roses up here to help us remember it is the third Sunday of Lent - and we have 4 weeks left until Easter.
OK - come over here and sit down with me for just a couple of minutes. That was a lot to remember, wasn't it? Do you ever have any problems with remembering things? Raise your hand if you've ever had trouble remembering things. We all do at times, I think.
People have a lot of ways to help them to remember things. One of the oldest memory tricks is a simple piece of string. You tie a string around your finger like this and every time you look at the string you are supposed to remember something. Another thing I do to help me remember is to use post-it notes. I write down things like, "Be sure to call Ginny" or "Remember to go to the dentist next Tuesday." Or sometimes I use my phone and set an alarm with a note. And when that alarms goes off, I can read what it is I am supposed to do.
The night Jesus was betrayed, he was eating with his disciples. He knew that he would soon return to his Father in heaven. He wanted to make sure that his disciples would remember him after he was gone, so he did something that would help them to remember. As they were eating, he took a piece of bread and he broke it and do you remember what he said? "This is my body which is broken for who? You and you and you. Whenever you eat the bread, what are you supposed to do? Remember Jesus and how He died on the cross for us. Then Jesus took a cup of wine and held it up and what did He say about the wine? "This is my blood this is my life, poured out for who?" "For You!" Yes, for all of you. It has been almost 2000 years since that night and we still use that same way to remember Jesus. When we take communion, we eat the bread and drink the cup Every time we come to this this table we are to eat this meal in "remembrance" of Jesus. We remember how much Jesus suffered and died on the cross for us. And we remember how much we are loved by Jesus who wants to live in our hearts right now! That's something you don't ever want to forget!
I'm going to give you a ribbon to take with you as you return to your seats. Have someone you are seated with tie that ribbon to your finger, just like I have mine. It is red to help you remember the blood of Jesus - and as you come to take communion today - I want you to remember Jesus' love that was poured out for you in the bread and the cup. He loves you very much and don't ever forget that.
As the kids are returning to their seats, I invite the rest of you to get your Bibles out and turn to our Scripture reading for today, found in the book of Luke. Luke is in the New Testament near the beginning - Matthew, Mark and then Luke. Turn to Luke 22 and let's read about that Passover meal that Jesus had with His disciples in the upper room.
The Passover celebration was a festival that Jews from all around Israel would come to Jerusalem to celebrate. It was a festival that continues on today in the lives of Jewish people - held every year really close to our time of Good Friday and Easter. It is a time to remember to how the Israelites were freed from Egypt, back in the time of Moses, in the Old Testament. Jesus was eager to eat this Passover meal with His disciples. He got everything ready and planned out. If you notice in verses 10-13, He tells the disciples to go find a man with a pitcher of water - which would have been easy to find, since it was usually women who went to the wells with a pitcher of water not men. The disciples were to find this man and ask him where the room is where Jesus and his disciples would be having their meal together and the man would take them to the upper room where the disciples would prepare the meal.
Passover lasts for 7 days - and the meal that marks the beginning of the Passover celebration is called the Seder. During this meal, there is a retelling of the story of Israel's escape from Egypt. And it is this meal that Jesus had with his disciples - His last supper that night before He went to the cross.
Let's read Luke's description of this Seder meal, Luke 22:14-20.
14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table.15 And he said to them, "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God."
17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, "Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying,
"This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
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."
As the disciples entered the upper room, the mood was probably filled with celebration as they would once again hear the story of how God delivered them from the hands of the Egyptians - that story that is found particularly in Exodus 3-13.
The Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for 400 years when Moses was called to go to Pharaoh and demand that he let the people go. But Pharaoh had a hard heart and wouldn't allow that - so God sent some plagues to Egypt - but still Pharaoh wouldn't budge. Finally, God said He would strike down the firstborn son in every household and among every flock throughout the land of Egypt.
On that night when the angel of death was to come, the Israelites were to sacrifice a lamb to God - and then take the blood of that lamb and wipe it on the doorpost of their homes. And then, they were to go in and eat a meal together of lamb - one last meal before they were to be delivered. And when the angel of death came through and saw the blood of the lamb - it would pass over those homes - and spare the firstborn from death in that home.
During the Seder, this last supper the disciples had with Jesus, they would remember this first Passover and eat lamb - not realizing that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would accomplish the ultimate Passover in Himself. Because God's firstborn Son died, we too, are set free .we have been delivered from death!
During this Seder, there are 4 small cups of wine that are consumed.1 Two times before supper and two times after supper. These four cups symbolize God's promises to Israel and to us. These promises are found in Exodus 6:6-7. If you are able, flip back to the beginning of the Bible - the second book, the book of Exodus chapter 6. Verses 6 & 7 would be good ones for you to underline. Listen, as I read, for these 4 promises of God - that were for the Israelites - and yes, they are for us as well.
6 "Therefore, say to the Israelites: 'I am the LORD, and I will bring
you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and
with mighty acts of judgment. 7 I will take you as my own people,
and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians.
The first cup remembers God's promise of freedom. God had chosen Israel to be His own and had freed them from the Egypt. God also desires to set us apart from the world and consecrate us to be His own chosen, holy people.
The second cup remembers God's promise of deliverance, when God says, "I will deliver you from slavery to them". This cup helps them to remember that God will free them from being chained as slaves - not only physically, but emotionally and spiritually. Not only would He get them out of Egypt - but He would deliver them from the burden the chains of slavery that had been a part of their life. Since we are helpless to save ourselves, we must trust in Him alone for our salvation.
After supper, there comes 2 more cups. The third cup is the cup of Redemption - and I will share more on that in just a bit. But know that the fourth cup was that of adoption. God promises to adopt us as His own people and to be our God. This cup looks forward with hope to that time when the Messiah comes, when our redemption will be full and complete. For us - we know this cup points to Jesus - our Messiah who has adopted us as His children, saved by grace. We look forward to that day when all people, from every nation - Jew and Gentile - will be fully restored and God will dwell with His people.
Now, getting back to the third cup - the cup of redemption. This was the cup that they drank right after supper. And it is believed by many scholars that this is the cup we think of each Sunday as we gather around the table to partake of the bread and the cup of the Lord's Supper. Every year, during the Seder, there was a routine - a script if you will - words that were repeated with each cup. Everyone knew what Jesus was supposed to say as he lifted up each cup. When he got to the third cup - Jesus was supposed to say something like this: "This is the cup of the covenant, which is the blood of the lamb, shed for your redemption." They had heard it every year since they were little children. Imagine their surprise, their utter amazement when what He actually said was, "This cup is the new covenant, which is my blood, poured out for the forgiveness of your sins."
This wasn't part of the script. They knew about the old covenant - how the blood of the lamb, put upon the doors saved them from death during the exodus from Egypt. And later - as they got into the promised land, how the people would continue to sin and worship idols and disobey God. They were an unclean people. So it was this annual sacrifice of a lamb during Passover that would atone for their sins. There always had to be a price for redemption. And for centuries, year after year - the blood of a lamb would cover the sins of the people of Israel.
But now - Jesus was saying He would become that Passover Lamb - the price for redemption would be His own blood that would be poured out - once for all - to save all people! The blood of Jesus would be the atonement. Jesus would pay the price and cover our sins by the pouring out of His blood on the cross.
Can you imagine the disciples as they sat at that table - trying to figure out what Jesus was meaning by this change in the script?
This week I read a few articles2- one being by historian and teacher Ray Vander Laan, that put a new understanding of what the disciples may have thought as they heard Jesus talk about a new covenant. It comes from the Jewish practice of marriage proposal.
It seems that back in the days of Jesus, when a young man reached the age of marriage - the young man and his father would pick out a family that had a godly daughter that would be an appropriate wife. And so, together they would go to the young girl's home - and they would sit with the girl's father to discuss the "bride price". The bride price was the money or physical items that the woman's father would ask for - in exchange for giving up his valuable daughter. The price was usually enormous. When the arrangement was agreed upon, the man's father would pour a cup of wine and give it to his son. Then the young man would then offer the cup to the young woman. It was called the cup of proposal - and was given to the young woman, much like we give engagement rings today. As the cup was being given, the man would say to the girl: "This cup is a new covenant in my blood, which I offer to you." In other words, he is saying, "I love you. I offer you my life. Will you marry me?" The woman sealed the engagement by drinking from the same glass. And from that moment on, she would be referred to as one who was 'bought with a price' - distinguishing her as an engaged woman.
Just imagine! Jesus uses these same words in the middle of the Passover liturgy - right as He hands them this third cup of redemption. Jesus here is the bridegroom - ready to pay the bride price with His very own blood. And he says to those disciples, in the language and culture they would understand: "This is the New Covenant in my blood - I love you - I give you my life. Will you be my bride?" Jesus wants to be in relationship with us - and He goes to the full extreme of laying down His life and pouring out His blood to give us that love.
And so each and every time we come to the table to receive the blood of the new covenant, we are saying "Yes" to the Lord, "Yes" to a relationship with Him. We're telling the Lord, "Yes. I accept your gift of love and forgiveness - and I give you my life in return."
Do this in remembrance of me - Jesus says. Remember - you were bought with a price! Remember - Jesus poured out His blood to cover your sins. Remember - each and every time you take the cup of redemption to your lips - remember how much you are loved!
PRAYER AND INVITATION
1Hegg, Tim. The Four Cups. Torah Resources.
This resource was used to understand the significance of all
four cups used in the Seder. I also used the script from the Christian Seder we do in church from time to time, inspired by Rev. John Roberts from Sterling, Colorado.
I was also helped tremendously from watching and reading
Ray Vanderlaan's study "The Path to the Cross" in the "That the World May Know" Bible Study series; especially chapter 4 about the Last Passover.
2Tomes, Nigel. "The Lord's Table - Relationship". http://churchintoronto.blogspot.com/2012/03/lords-tablerelationship.html
Taver, Rich. "Passover and the Bride of Christ".