Hello Sunday school teachers, preachers, and students! Welcome to SundaySchoolPreacher.com. This week we take a look at how Jesus institutes the New Covenant at the Passover meal and how Hebrews shows the new covenant was foretold in the Old Testament. There are several covenants throughout Scripture but this New Covenant is the one covenant available to all humanity for salvation throughout eternity. The old covenant had its purpose but the new covenant fulfills the requirement for righteousness through Jesus Christ and for all eternity. Hebrews will tell us that now; there is no need for the Jewish practice of animal sacrifice. Some of the ideas surrounding this week’s text include the terms:
This week’s lesson is focused on how the New Covenant came into existence. Jesus plainly institutes the New Covenant in Mark and this section of Hebrews reflects back to how the New Covenant was foretold in the book of Jerimiah. But before we go any further, it’s important to understand what we’re really talking about when we use the term New Covenant. So I’ll define covenant, New Covenant, and then take a look at the backgrounds of Mark and Hebrews.
The term covenant and testament are used interchangeably. We have the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament can be called the Old Covenant and the New Testament can be called the New Covenant. It is an Old Agreement and a New Agreement.
Covenant = Testament
Old Covenant = Old Testament
New Covenant = New Testament
Covenant is defined as a formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted. Westminster Dictionary of Theological Terms defines New Covenant as the anticipated action of God in establishing a personal relationship with people (this was foretold in Jeremiah 31:31-34). Christians see this New Covenant as fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The term New Covenant is used by Jesus in relation to his death (Luke 22:20; I Cor 11:25) and elsewhere in the New Testament for the effects Jesus Christ brings. New Covenant is also, a term for the New Testament.
So the main point is there is an old covenant or an old agreement. I should also note that there are at least seven covenants in Scripture. In a general sense when we are talking about covenants; Protestant Christians recognize the Old Covenant as the 39 books of the Old Testament. There is a New Covenant, and Protestant Christians recognize this New Covenant as the 27 books of the New Testament.
So with that in mind, I’ll take a look at the background of Mark and Hebrews as they both help us understand this New Covenant.
The Gospel of Mark does not mention the name of its author. “Biblical scholars have tended to date the composition of the Gospel to the decade of 65 Common Era to 75 Common Era” (New Interpreter’s Study Bible). “Mark was believed to have written the Gospel after Peter’s death in Rome during Nero’s persecutions (NISB)”. Nelson’s Bible Handbook notes that Mark’s theme is to portray Jesus as a Servant and as the Redeemer of men.
In the fourteenth chapter of Mark Jesus is at the Passover meal. Christians recognize this as The Lord’s Supper or Holy Communion. It is here that Jesus institutes the New Covenant. It is a new agreement that is a better agreement.
Now, for some background on Hebrews. The book of Hebrews is one of eight general epistles or letters that are not addressed to a specific church. The author is not known and Hebrews is more of a sermon/treatise than a letter (NISB). One of the main emphases in Hebrews is the superiority of the new covenant to the old and the old covenant’s practice of animal sacrifices (NISB).
The eighth chapter of Hebrews deals with the true high priest (Jesus) and the two covenants (old and new). It naturally, takes a Christological interpretation of the Old Testament book of Jerimiah 31:31-34. This is the longest quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament (Townsend Commentary).
Some important words to consider from these two texts include:
New Covenant / Agreement
Review Of Last Week and How it Connects to This Week:
Last week we discussed how Paul began Romans 8 by imploring, pleading with, urging, and what seemed like begging the believers at Rome to “offer their bodies as a living sacrifice”. We discussed how Jesus Christ is the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity and that we should bring our entire life, all of who we are, our entire bodies as a living, breathing, thinking, sacrifice in service to Jesus Christ.
We also talked about the different translations of the end of verse one. The King James Version ends verse one saying “this is your reasonable service”. The New Revised Standard Version says “this is your spiritual worship” and the New International Version translates it as “your true and proper worship”. The idea is the same in either translation; we are expected to offer our complete selves holy to God.
We discussed how verse two tells us to not emulate or conform to the world but rather be transformed or changed and how it is this transformation that is the new life in Christ. We are transformed by the renewing of our minds. We discussed how verse three is a gentle reminder and warning not to boast. This was not doubt wise advice for both the Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians coming from different cultures, customs, and practices who needed to work together.
We also listed the six spiritual gifts that Paul mentions in verses six through eight. Those are gifts are prophecy, ministry, teaching, exhortation, leading, and mercy. Those various gifts are given to each of us by grace. Paul mentions other spiritual gifts in I Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4.
This week’s lesson is the first lesson of the Summer quarter. The theme for this week and this quarter will focus on ideas surrounding covenant. In particular we will try to understand how the New Covenant came to be, how Jesus is the embodiment of the New Covenant and what that means in our day to day living. Standard Lesson Commentary, Townsend and Boyd’s Commentary all title this week’s lesson Jesus Institutes The New Covenant. The scripture text comes from Mark 14:17-24, and Hebrews 8:6-7, 10-12.
What Takes Place in These Passages:
Mark 14:17 begins with Jesus and the twelve disciples gathered together for the evening Passover meal. As they eat the Passover meal Jesus tells his disciples one of them will betray him. They all knew betrayal would mean a cruel and painful death. They also knew that betrayal would likely put them in danger as well. Can you imagine sitting at the dinner table with friends and someone says one of you will have me killed? Just knowing that someone close to you is capable of this kind of betrayal is astonishing.
Distressed, upset, and sorrowful the disciples take turns asking “is it I”. Jesus explains “it is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the bowl with me”. The NISB notes that “Dipping bread into the bowl emphasizes the bond of hospitality and intimacy that is about to be broken by betrayal”.
In verses twenty-two through twenty-four Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper otherwise known as Holy Communion. Note especially verse twenty-four. “He said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many”. Here Jesus mentions the covenant that is the basis for the new and better covenant Hebrews mentions.
Hebrews 8:6 begins by explaining that Jesus is the mediator of a better covenant with better promises. Note that verse seven explains if the first covenant had been faultless, there would be no need to look for a second one. No one could keep all the rules and regulations of the Old Testament. But more importantly, this new covenant would replace the practice of animal sacrifices. Jesus was the one sacrifice for all eternity to absolve or release humanity of the consequences of sin and separation from God.
Jesus institutes the New Covenant. When I think about the New Covenant I am also reminded of new life in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (II Cor. 5:17). We have taken off the old and put on the new. The old ways, the old habits, the old routines that created problems, caused sin, and produced confusion in our lives should be put to rest. We have a new covenant, a new agreement, a new testament that is created in Jesus Christ. This new covenant is based on righteousness, but its Christ’s righteousness, not ours. We live in an age of grace and it is that grace that finds us in the newness of Christ’s covenant.
Key Characters in the text:
Jesus Christ – Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah and according to the Christian church the incarnate second Person of the Trinity. He was crucified on a cross and was raised from the dead by the power of God.
Key Words (not necessarily in the text, but good for discussion):
Covenant – A formal agreement or treaty between two parties that establishes a relationship and in which obligations and mutual responsibilities may be enacted. Many biblical covenants are found, some providing only divine promises while others entail obligations.
Covenant of grace – The relationship into which God entered to provide, by grace, the promise of salvation to sinful humanity. It extends throughout the Old Testament by means of various covenants to its final fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
Testament – A person’s last will to dispose of property. Also, a covenant – as at Sinai. Both senses are found in Gal 3:15-18. The term is also used for the division of the Bible into Old and New Testaments (covenants).
Passover Meal – The commemorative Jewish meal recalling the deliverance of the nation of Israel from slavery in Egypt through the exodus event.
Lord’s Supper – The sacrament of Communion, or the Eucharist. (Baptist believers use the term ordinance, not sacrament) It celebrates the death of Christ, his presence with the church, and his future kingdom (reign). It was instituted by Jesus (I Cor. 11:23-26) at the Last Supper, the last meal which Jesus shared with his disciples before his crucifixion.
Themes, Topics, Discussion, or Sermon Preparation Ideas:
- A better way
- A new agreement. (Compare and contrast agreement with contract, bond, indenture, testament, etc.)
1. What does it mean when Hebrews 8:7 says “For if the first covenant had been faultless”? Does this mean there was an error in the Old Testament?
2. There are several covenants throughout Scripture. Jesus established the New Covenant. Does that mean we are bound by the old covenants?
Jesus institutes the New Covenant. The old covenant required the shedding of blood from animals for the remission of sins. This New Covenant is established by the sacrifice of Jesus on Calvary’s cross. His sacrifice was once and for all humanity because Jesus lived a sinless life.
It’s now up to us. We will never be sinless, but that should be the goal we strive for. Jesus has established the new covenant and that agreement requires each of us to follow the teachings and example of Jesus.
Preview of Next Week’s Lesson:
Next week we continue in the Gospel according to Mark. The aim of next week is to show us how Jesus Seals the New Covenant. As the Nation of Israel rejects Jesus he is turned over to Pontius Pilate for crucifixion. We will look at what it means to be in relationship with one another, Jesus Christ, and God. These relationships are made possible by the unselfish sacrifice of Jesus Christ on Calvary.