When Jesus began his public ministry, John the Baptist pointed to him and pronounced, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!”
(John 1:29) For three and a half years, Jesus lived, taught, healed, and modeled spiritual life and forgiveness.
When he entered Jerusalem the Sunday before his arrest, Jesus knew that his time to give himself as the sacrificial lamb had come at last. He allowed the people to proclaim him as king, and they shouted “Hosanna!” as he entered the city on the back of a colt. During the week, he argued with the religious leaders again about the meaning of spiritual life, threw the merchants out of the temple, and taught his followers important truths about the coming kingdom. On Thursday night, he prepared to have his final meal with the Twelve.
At some point in the Passover dinner, Jesus stopped, took a piece of bread in his hands, gave thanks and broke it. As he passed it around to the men, he told them, “Take and eat; this is my body."
When each of them had eaten a piece of bread, he picked up a cup of wine, gave thanks, and passed it to the men, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins”
What was Jesus talking about when he talked about “the covenant” in his blood
? Six hundred years before, during a time of calamity for the nation of Israel, Jeremiah had predicted that God would someday inaugurate a new covenant. The old one had begun at Mt. Sinai, and was steeped in the blood of bulls and goats as offerings for sin. (Jeremiah 31:31-34).
The central, defining characteristic of the new covenant would be the blood shed by the Lamb of God to pay for the sins of the world.
Though Jesus and his disciples celebrated the Passover on Thursday evening, the Passover lambs were actually sacrificed the next afternoon—at the time he was dying on the cross.
The new covenant shocked the sensibilities of the people who thought they could manage and control God by following rules, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees. Old habits of law, performance, and fear simply aren't part of Christ’s new order.
When we taste Jesus, the doorway of heaven opens, and we enter into the very presence of God. At the moment of Jesus’ death at Calvary outside Jerusalem, a miracle happened across town. Matthew records the event: “At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom”
(Matthew 27:51). The temple wasn't like today’s churches. It had several courts, like the ones for women and Gentiles, who weren't allowed to come into the temple itself. Inside the temple, the most sacred place was the holy of holies, which housed the ark of the covenant holding Aaron’s rod and the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The high priest entered this room once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, to offer sacrifice to God. A heavy curtain sixty feet high enclosed this small room. The Jewish historian Josephus reported that the veil was four inches thick, so strong that horses tied to each side couldn't pull it apart. At the moment Jesus breathed his last breath, the veil was miraculously ripped from top to bottom. This signified that the blood of Jesus opened the door for anyone who believes in him to enter the presence of God.
In what way does grasping the significance of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood prove to be even better than winning the lottery and getting out of jail?