The New Covenant | A Communion Meditation

The New Covenant | A Communion Meditation

The night before Jesus died on the cross, he shared a meal with his apostles. It was at this meal that Jesus made a startling connection of symbolism: the broken bread represented his broken body, and the poured out cup represented his poured out blood. Jesus commanded his apostles, “Do this [that is, eat and drink] in remembrance of me.” So to this day, we celebrate what we now call Communion or the Lord’s table. It is our practice at the Downtown Church to have this special time of remembrance at the beginning of every month.

In quoting what Jesus said at this meal, the apostle Paul also reminds us of another connection Jesus made. Paul says in 1 Cor 11:25 that Jesus took the cup and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” Every time we therefore remember the Lord’s death we are to remember that his death established what Jesus calls the “new covenant.” So to fully remember and appreciate the death of Christ, we need to understand this new covenant.

Let’s then meditate on three questions together:

1. What is a covenant?

2. What is “new” about the new covenant?

3. What does it mean for us in Christ?

I. What is a covenant?

a. A covenant is an agreement. It stipulates the parties, conditions, blessings, and curses related to the agreement.

b. In the Old Testament, God initiates and establishes a covenant with Noah, Abraham, and Moses, and by extension those that would follow them. It sets the parameters for how a fallen and sinful people can come to a relationship with a holy God.

c. By simply referring to a covenant, much less the new covenant which we will come to next, Jesus means to remind us that God has already taken the initiative to bring us back into his presence.

II. What is new about the new covenant? 

a. The clearest reference to the new covenant appears in a text written six centuries before Christ, in Jeremiah 31:31-33: 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

b. In contrast to the old, Mosaic covenant, this covenant introduces at least two major differences. First, God is going to not simply externalize his will (like in the tablets handed to Moses) but internalize his will in the hearts of believers. The heart replaces the stone. God will not simply command his will but will what he commands. Second, God is going to restructure his relationship with people. Specifically, he’s going to remove the hierarchical, mediatory human offices of prophet, priest, and king whose job it was to command those that followed them to “know the Lord.” All will know. Jesus Christ assumes in himself the offices of prophet, priest, and king, as we read in the book of Hebrews.

III. What does the cross of Christ mean therefore to us in Christ?

a. As we remember the cross, and all it has entailed for us with faith in Christ, we remember that it is what enacted the new covenant. The long awaited for covenant—what the prophet Ezekiel calls the everlasting covenant—is now reality. It is our reality.

b. So let our hearts praise Him this morning:

i. That He has taken the initiative to find us, to come to us, even though we attempted to flee him out of our rebellion, guilt, and shame.

ii. That the inklings of desire we have to pursue and prefer His will is there because He wrote it on our hearts;

iii. That he openly invites us into His very presence by coming through faith in His Son;

iv. That our sin is already forgiven and we can simply receive and wonder and bask in that forgiveness;

v. That this covenant in which we stand is in fact eternal, so we can be assured of his unending love and unbreakable promise to one day see Him and be with Him forever.

If you are in this new covenant relationship with God, we invite you to participate in the Lord’s table. When you are ready, please come and take of the bread which is his body broken for you and the cup which is his blood poured out for you. And eat and drink in remembrance of him.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Hebrews 13:20-21)