Hebrews 8:6-13 Rev. Kenneth Frey
Maundy Thursday 3/29/18
Hebrews 8:6-13 But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. 7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. 10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” 13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
A New Covenant in Jesus’ Blood
1. What was wrong with the Old Covenant
2. Now is the New Covenant better?
In 1830, a man named George Wilson was convicted of killing a government employee while robbing the U. S. mail. He was tried and sentenced to be hanged. Andrew Jackson, then President, issued a pardon for Wilson, but Wilson did a strange thing: he refused to accept the pardon and no one knew what to do. The matter went all the way to the Supreme Court presided over by Chief Justice John Marshall. He concluded that Wilson must be executed. “A pardon is a slip of paper,” wrote Marshall, “the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. George Wilson must be hanged.” And he was.
Our text today speaks of a new covenant in Jesus’ blood. A covenant is like a contract but a little different. Let’s say you make an appointment to see the doctor. But you forgot all about it and didn’t go. Your doctor has no obligation to call at your house and inquire if you are there and why you didn’t show up at the appointment. Instead, the doctor simply goes on to his next patient. Your appointment was in informal contract with the doctor. Your broke that contract and it’s over.
A covenant is more like the ties of a parent to her child. If a child fails to show up for the evening meal, unlike the doctor, the parent’s obligation isn’t cancelled. The parent is obliged to find out where the child is and make sure he is cared for. A covenant bound two parties together in a relationship of faithfulness.
This text speaks of a “new” covenant. Advertisers love to use words like better, new and improved to entice people into purchasing and using the product they market. New is supposed to be better and in many cases it is. New makes the old obsolete. Take for example one of these: a floppy disk. I thought I was really high tech when I got a computer that used the 3 ¼ floppy. I was cool. Then it was CDs and now everything is in the cloud. The new has made the old obsolete. By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
The old covenant was established at Mt. Sinai through Moses. Moses told Israel the terms of the agreement – The Ten Commandments and other civil and ceremonial laws and the people agreed to it. So the agreement was made. God laid down the terms, the people agreed, a relationship was established, and then the covenant was put into effect using blood. Bulls were slaughtered, their blood was gathered, and some of the blood was splashed against the altar of the Lord and the rest sprinkled on the people. As he sprinkled the blood of the bulls on the people, Moses said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.” (Exodus 24:8)
The writer to the Hebrews quotes what God said through Jeremiah about a thousand years later. “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. God promised a new covenant, a new and improved covenant. The old one would become obsolete, not because it was flawed but because it only served a temporary purpose.
The old covenant was made just with one particular race: Israel. It was meant to set them apart from the nations around them, make them different with different dietary laws, circumcision priesthood and sacrifices. It put a hedge around Israel to protect the promise of a Savior given to Abraham.
The old covenant contained promises. It promised Israel they would live in the land of Canaan and they would be God’s special people. The problem with these promises is that they were conditional. They would have what was promised if they kept all the laws God had given them. You see the problem. They didn’t – they couldn’t keep God’s law. Did you hear how God described it? Because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them. The old covenant became obsolete because both parties in the agreement abandoned it and so it became worthless.
So God promised a new covenant. It is a covenant with a better Mediator and better promises established in the blood of Jesus. But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises. Tonight, we see how God put his new covenant into effect. As Jesus took the cup of wine and gave it to his disciples, he said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus became the mediator of a new covenant sealed with his blood shed on the cross.
God described this new covenant: This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. This new covenant will not be a bunch of laws that the people couldn’t live up to. It will be based on faith, not works. It will be all about faith in their heart in which they trust in God as their God.
He also said, No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. Every new thing eventually becomes the old thing. Your new washing machine will one day be the old clunky one that doesn’t work anymore. Your new car will one day be a rust buggy that costs too much to keep running. Your new phone will one day not have the battery life and features that you want. New eventually becomes old.
The new covenant will not get old and worn out. That’s the point he’s making here. There won’t be any need of new teaching or new revelation because there won’t be any more new covenants. This covenant will last until the end of time.
And then the most important thing about the new covenant is stated in verse 12. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” We began this evening talking about presidential pardons. When someone is pardoned, they are set free and no longer held accountable for their offenses. A pardon throws justice out the window. God can’t do that. He is a just God and sin has to be punished. That’s where Jesus comes in. He suffered all the justice of God against our sin and now God can say to us he remembers our sin no more.
That’s what this covenant is about. Jesus said, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” This new covenant established by the blood of Jesus promises forgiveness of sins so certain that God can say he remembers our sins no more.
Because of Jesus, our sins no longer exist in God’s mind. We have been pardoned. But let’s understand what that means. Pardon does not penance. We don’t have to do something to make up for our sins first before we have pardon. Pardoned doesn’t mean parole either. A pardoned man is free; a paroled man is under conditions. If the paroled man gets into trouble with even a minor offense, he will be back in prison. I think too many Christians live like they are on parole. They live in fear rather than in faith. Even though God has taken away your sin in the blood of Jesus, people often haven’t forgiven themselves. They think they must be better or feel forgiven first. Pardon is not penance and its not parole. It’s forgiveness.
Believe in the new covenant of forgiveness. When you come to the Lord’s Supper, Jesus is reaffirming his covenant with you, personally. Whatever sins you are carrying, Jesus is telling you in this sacrament that they are already forgotten.
Remember George Wilson? He is the guy who refused the pardon of President Jackson. Many people back then thought he was crazy for refusing the president’s pardon. Maybe he was. But isn’t that exactly what so many do with the forgiveness, which Jesus offers? May that never be you! Believe that you have forgiveness in the new covenant in Jesus’ blood.