The New Covenant

Text: Jeremiah 31:31-34
Date: Maundy Thursday + 3/24/16

God spoke through the prophet Jeremiah telling of “a new covenant with the house of
Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.” Since the beginning God’s promise of salvation has come in the form of a covenant, a contract with two sides between two parties. God’s covenant was between Him as the greater, the creator and savior, and His people as the weaker ones in need of salvation. The Old Testament is “the old covenant,” God’s promised deliverance calling forth the obedience of faith.

Not only Israel but we ourselves have difficulty with that obedience as sin is so deeply seated that we cannot even choose to agree with God’s covenant without His power working faith in hearts, His Spirit working through His mighty Word. His Word, His promise, not only enters our ears but also our hearts and minds, driving out sin, giving the obedience of faith.

The Old Testament is the record, written for our warning and benefit, of the sin laden nature of all human beings, our weakness, our inability, our death. Over and over again God would send punishment just short of His love for the discipline of His people, always calling them back to Himself in the forgiveness of their sins. Tonight we celebrate this New Covenant by which God enables Israel and all sinners to become His people in that new covenant sealed with the blood of Jesus, the only mediator between God and man (1 Tim 2:5). As Jesus declared of the sacrament of Holy Communion, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood” (Lk 22:20).

This new covenant is new because God put His law, once inscribed only on stone tablets, now to be inscribed on human hearts. It is a new covenant unlike any before it because it changes sinners, otherwise unable to keep God’s law or come to Him, changes us into saints, the fulfillment of all of God’s Law done and given to us in Christ’s holy life, and the forgiveness of all our sin in Christ’s holy death. This covenant is new because it actually changes us.

Oh, it doesn’t change us completely at first. For as long as we live in this world sin still stalks and besets us. Yet because of the obedience of faith in Jesus Christ, we are saints and sinners at the same time. This sacrament of Christ’s blood is the food for the soul that nourishes God’s gift of faith, that keeps sweeping out our sin every day all the way until we are completely rid of sin and Christ receives us to Himself.

St. Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, declared the covenant of God when he wrote, “For one who has died has been set free from sin” (Rom 6:7). For now, the death that has set us free relies on God’s promise and gift, being baptized into Christ’s death. But then, when our life in this world is over and our bodies wait in the grave, we are already totally set free from sin as our soul is received into the very presence of Christ, our eternal King.

In Christ and by His blood we have the sure and certain promise of God: “I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”