Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave 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. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” Matthew 26:27-29
As our Master sat at a table surrounded by His faithful disciples on their last Passover together, He knew something that they did not. He knew that on that very night He would be betrayed and arrested. He knew that the next day He would be handed over to the Romans to be crucified. He knew that His body would be broken in the process and that His blood would run freely. What, then, were the disciples thinking as they heard their Master say these words? Did they assume they were more rabbinical puzzles? More parables to interpret? They didn’t seem to grasp the coming tragedy that they had been warned about at least three times already.
Whatever they might have thought, Jesus was being all too clear about what was coming. And what did He say about the blood that He would shed? “This is my blood of the covenant.” Whoa. Those were loaded words.
When Jews heard the words “blood” and “covenant” they would have to think back to the bulls’ blood shed when God officially entered into covenant with the nation of Israel. “Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that Yahweh has made with you in accordance with all these words’” (Exodus 24:8). It is hard to overstate the sacredness and importance of that concept for faithful Jews at that table. The covenant God entered into with Israel through Moses was the foundation of their whole life with God.
Try to imagine, then, the profound sense of wonder Jesus’ words about His own blood must have inspired. What was He saying to them? If His blood was the blood of a covenant, it would have to be a new covenant! In fact, in Luke’s account, Jesus says explicitly, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” (Luke 22:20). The idea that Jesus could initiate a new covenant between God and people would have been tremendous enough, but that His blood would be the basis of that covenant must have been explosive.
Yet, a new covenant was promised through the prophet Jeremiah (see Jeremiah 31:31-33).
Jesus was not introducing anything outside of the promises God had made His people long before. And here’s where that conversation so many centuries ago on the other side of the planet hits so close to home. That new covenant that Jesus initiated in His innocent blood shed on the cross is the beautiful offer of welcome and acceptance for we who are Gentiles – we who, under the former covenant, were on the outside looking in. Now, because of Jesus’ sacrifice, a new and living way has been opened for all who will trust Him and who will enter into this new covenant that is greater and more perfect than any before it.
Welcome to the Kingdom of God, Disciple! It can be yours because nearly two thousand years ago one man shed the only blood that could open it to you. May we live to honor Him and our new covenant today!
Honored and delighted to be in the new covenant with you,