Covenant Love, Lesson 6.4

Covenant Love: Introducing the Biblical Worldview

Lesson Six: The New and Everlasting Covenant

Lesson Objectives

  1. To read the New Testament with understanding.
  2. To understand how the New Testament depicts Jesus as the fulfillment of the covenants of the Old Testament.
  3. To appreciate, especially, the importance of God’s everlasting covenant with David for understanding the mission of Jesus and the Church as it is presented in the New Testament.

IV. New Exodus in Jerusalem

A. With Moses and Elijah

Peter, along with James and John, are chosen to see Jesus "transfigured" in glory on a mountaintop.

The Transfiguration again evokes memories from earlier in salvation history. On the mountaintop, Jesus speaks with Moses and the prophet Elijah. It is a very visual reminder of what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount - that He had come to fulfill the Law (of Moses) and the prophets.

What were the three talking about on the mountain? "His exodus that He was going to accomplish in Jerusalem" (see Luke 9:31).

The Greek word "exodus" means "departure." But in this scene they are talking about more than some generic departure. The Gospel is deliberately referring us back to the exodus of the Israelites out of Egypt.

The prophets had foretold the raising of a "righteous shoot" or son of David, who would lead a new exodus that would gather all the scattered children of Israel into a new kingdom administered by God's appointed shepherds.

As the first exodus led to the making of a covenant between God and Israel at Sinai, the new exodus, Jeremiah prophesied, would result in a "new covenant" (see Jeremiah 23:3-8;31:31-34).

What will happen to Jesus in Jerusalem - His Passion, death and Resurrection - will be that new exodus the prophets foresaw.

As the first exodus liberated Israel, the new exodus will liberate every race and people. As the first exodus freed Israel from bondage to Pharaoh, the new exodus will free all mankind from slavery to sin and death.

B. Making a King's Entrance

To begin the accomplishment of this new exodus, Jesus enters Jerusalem in a scene reminiscent of Solomon's crowning as King (see 1 Kings 1).

Jesus is proclaimed "son of David" (see Matthew 21:9,15) like Solomon (see Proverbs 1:1). He rides a colt into town (see Matthew 21:7) as Solomon rode King David's mule (see 1 Kings 1:38, 44).

As Solomon is declared king by the crowd in a tumult of rejoicing (see 1 Kings 1:39-40), the crowd greets Jesus with an Old Testament gesture of homage to a king - spreading their cloaks on the road before Him (see Matthew 21:8; 2 Kings 9:13).

C. Passover - Old and New

The night before the Israelites' exodus from Egypt, they ate a symbolic, ceremonial meal. It was more than a meal, it was to be a memorial - a ritual remembrance of that night for all time.

We're going to review here some material we covered in Lesson Four (see "The Passover and 'Our Paschal Lamb'"). But now we're in the position to see how Jesus, in celebrating His last Passover meal with His Apostles, revealed the full meaning of the Passover.

The Passover recalls the night when God destroyed all the first-borns of Egypt in order to rescue His "first-born son," Israel (see Exodus 4:22).

On that first Passover night, all Israelite families were ordered to sacrifice an unblemished lamb (see Exodus 12:5) and paint the lamb's blood with a hyssop branch (see Exodus 12:22) on their door posts (see Exodus 12:7). Then they were to eat the lamb's "roasted flesh" with unleavened bread (see Exodus 12:8).

When the Lord came that evening for the first-born of the Egyptians, He "passed over" every house with lamb's blood painted on the door posts (see Exodus 12:12-13,23).

The Israelites were instructed to remember this night forever, "as a perpetual ordinance for yourselves and your descendants" (see Exodus 12:24).

Each year, they would relive the night, as Moses had ordered, by reading the Scriptural account of the first Passover and eating the unblemished lamb with unleavened bread.

The Passover marked their birth as a people of God in the covenant He made with them at Sinai.

That covenant was ratified by the blood of animals offered in sacrifice. Sprinkling them with the blood, Moses said: "This is the blood of the covenant which the Lord has made with you" (see Exodus 24:8).

Jesus had all this background in mind at His Last Supper, which was eaten as a Passover meal. It was celebrated on the night before His "exodus."

Jesus tells the Apostles that the bread is His body and that the wine is "My blood of the covenant" (see Mark 14:24).

Jesus is making a direct quotation of Moses' words at Sinai (see Exodus 24:8). In Luke's account of the Last Supper, the cup is even called "the new covenantin My blood" (seeLuke 22:20).

In explaining the Eucharist, Jesus compared it implicitly with the Passover celebration - saying that people must "eat My flesh," as the Israelites had to eat the roasted flesh of the Lamb (see John 6:53-58).

In telling His Apostles to "do this in memory of Me" (see Luke 22:19), Jesus was instituting the Eucharist as a "memorial" of a new "passing over" and a new covenant.

We who believe in Jesus are to remember our salvation in a ritual meal - just as the Israelites commemorated their salvation from Egypt.

D. Our Paschal Lamb

The actual "passover" of Jesus takes place in His Passion, death and Resurrection.

Here, we see Jesus identified as both the Passover lamb and the priest who offers the lamb in sacrifice.

Early on, John the Baptist had identified Jesus by the curious label, "the Lamb of God" (seeJohn 1:29).

When Christ is condemned, the Gospel tells us, it was the "preparation day for Passover, and it was about noon." Why this detail? Because that was the precise moment when Israel's priests slaughtered the lambs for the Passover meal (see John 19:14).

Later, the mocking soldiers give Jesus a sponge soaked in wine. They raise it to Him on a "hyssop branch." That's the same kind of branch the Israelites are instructed to use to daub their door posts with the blood of the Passover lamb (see John 19:29; Exodus 12:22).

And why don't the soldiers break Jesus' legs (see John 19:33,36)? John explains that with a quote from Exodus, telling us that it was because the legs of the Passover lambs weren't to be broken (see Exodus 12:46; Numbers 9:12; Psalm 34:21).

Jesus also is reported to have been wearing a tunic that was "seamless, woven in one piece from the top down" (see John 19:23). This sounds a lot like the special garment worn by Israel's high priest which was not to be torn (see Leviticus 16:4; 21:10). Note that the soldiers say, "Let's not tear it" (see John 19:24).

These subtle details are put there to show us that what's happening on the Cross is a new Passover.

In the first Passover, Israel was spared by the blood of an unblemished sacrificial lamb painted on their door posts. The lamb died instead of the first-born, was sacrificed so that the people could live (see Exodus 12:1-23,27).

It is the same with the Lord's Passover. The Lamb of God dies so that the people of God might live, saved from their sins by "the blood of the Lamb" shed on the Cross (seeRevelation 7:14; 12:11; 5:12).

"Our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed," St. Paul says (see 1 Corinthians 5:7). On the Cross, St. Peter tells us, Jesus was "a spotless unblemished Lamb." By His "Precious Blood" we are "ransomed" from captivity to sin and death (see 1 Peter 1:18-19).

E. Death of the Beloved Son

More than that, even, what's happening on the Cross is the fulfillment of the oath that God swore to Abraham back on the Mount of Moriah.

Here we want to recall what we said in Lesson III (see "Binding Isaac").

On the Cross, Jesus is "reenacting" the story of Abraham's sacrifice of His beloved son Isaac (see Genesis 22).

Calvary, where Jesus was crucified, is one of the hills of Moriah, the mountain range where the drama of Abraham and Isaac took place.

Recall the repetition of the words "father" and "son" in the Abraham and Isaac story, how Isaac is repeatedly referred to as Abraham's only and beloved son (see Genesis22:2,12,16).

Jesus, too, is called a "beloved Son" at two crucial points in His life - in His Baptism and Transfiguration (see Matthew 3:17; 17:5).

As Isaac carried the wood for his own sacrifice, and submitted to being bound to the wood, so too Jesus carried His cross and let men bind Him to it.

Abraham had assured his son before binding him on the altar: "God himself will provide the lamb for the holocaust [sacrificial burnt offering]" (see Genesis 22:8).

And indeed God did - centuries later on the Cross at Calvary. There, God accepted the sacrificial death of His only beloved Son.

Abraham received his son back from certain death "on the third day" (see Genesis 22:4). And on the third day, God the Father received His Son back from the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:4).

In testing Abraham's faith, God had been showing us the Cross in advance, had been revealing the mystery of His own Fatherly love, of His faithfulness to His covenant promises.

God twice praised Abraham's faithfulness - "You did not withhold from me your own beloved son" (see Genesis 22:12,15).

When Paul talks about the Crucifixion, he uses the same exact Greek words to describe God's faithfulness - "He who did not spare His own Son but handed Him over for us all" (see Romans 8:32).

On account of Abraham's faith, God swore a covenant oath - that Abraham's children would be "as countless as the stars of the sky" and that through them God's blessings would flow upon "all the nations of the earth" (see Genesis 22:15-18).

As we have said, this is the covenant that God was honoring at every turn in salvation history - in freeing the descendants of Abraham from Egypt (see Exodus 2:24); in establishing David's kingdom as an everlasting dynasty (see 2 Samuel 7:8,10,11).

And on the Cross, that promise to Abraham is finally fulfilled. God, in faithfulness to His covenant promise to Abraham, in offering His only begotten Son, made it possible for all peoples to be made "children of Abraham" and heirs of the promised blessings.

As Paul said, the Beloved Son gave His life so that "the blessings of Abraham might be extended to the Gentiles" - that is, to all the peoples of the world, to all those who aren't children of Abraham by birth (see Galatians 3:14).

By faith in the Gospel, by believing that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of David and the son of Abraham, all men and women are made "Abraham's descendants, heirs according to the promise" made by God to Abraham back on Moriah (see Galatians 3:29).

Continue to Section 5

Other Lessons

  • Lesson One: The Master Key that Unlocks the Bible
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To learn the "big-picture" overview of the Bible - the story that the Bible tells.
    2. To understand the concept of "covenant" and its importance for reading and interpreting the Bible.
    3. To learn in general detail the six major covenants in the Bible.

    Begin Lesson One

  • Lesson Two: From Sabbath to Flood
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read Genesis 1-12 with understanding.
    2. To learn the meaning of the first two covenants of salvation history - the Sabbath, and the covenant made with Noah.
    3. To begin to understand the "patterns" of biblical history.

    Begin Lesson Two

  • Lesson Three: Our Father, Abraham
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read Genesis 12-50 with understanding.
    2. To understand God’s covenant with Abraham and to see how that covenant is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
    3. To appreciate key figures and elements in the Abraham story - Melchizedek, circumcision, the sacrifice of Isaac - as they are interpreted in the Church’s tradition.

    Begin Lesson Three

  • Lesson Four: The First-Born Son of God
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To read the Books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy with understanding.
    2. To understand God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai and to see how this covenant looks forward to and is fulfilled in the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
    3. To appreciate the key figures and events - Moses, the Passover, and the vocation of Israel as “a kingdom of priests” - as they are interpreted in the Church’s tradition.

    Begin Lesson Four

  • Lesson Five: A Throne For All Generations
  • Lesson Objectives
    1. To finish reading the Old Testament (from Joshua to Malachi) and to read with understanding.
    2. To understand the broad outlines of the history of Israel in light of God’s covenant with Abraham.
    3. To appreciate the crucial importance of God’s everlasting covenant with David.

    Begin Lesson Five