B. What’s so New About the ‘New’ Covenant?
The Old Testament has Covenants, in the New Testament, Jesus is the Covenant.
Love (HESED) Must Give Itself
What makes the ‘New’ Covenant distinctively different from the ‘Old’ Covenant? Has Jehovah’s grace and mercy changed? Has His attitude toward mankind changed? Has His earnest desire for a relationship with humans changed? Has Jehovah changed? Or is the difference merely in style or method or focus?
God’s attitude and earnest desire do not change. His commitment, indeed, has been total, yet His HESED demands more – Covenant has to be taken to a new level. It is useful to repeat the quote used at the beginning of this book:
What does love always desire? Love does not ask for gifts. Love asks for love. “I don’t want your gifts” says the maid to the lover, “I want you.” Why this? Because love must always give itself to and for the beloved. If love were to give anything else but love, it would not be real love. Now this little baby in Bethlehem is God. It is love, it is God giving Himself.
… When we realize that God is Love, Bethlehem must follow…. Because God is Love, Love had to give itself. It did give itself. The Child in Bethlehem was born because God loved the world. . [Berthold von Schenk]
This is the framework that stands behind Covenant, both the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’: God must give Himself. However in the ‘New’ Covenant, the dramatic difference is that Jehovah breaks the barrier between God and human, between Creator and creature. The precious Birth in Bethlehem is the reality, the fulfillment, the inevitable conclusion of HESED/Love giving Itself, the crowning point of Covenant itself.
Actually ‘Really Real’?
Blood Covenant between people (like Jonathan and David’s) throughout the world is never ‘really real’ – one Life/Blood never does actually flow between them. If a person gives a ‘pint’ of Blood at the local Blood bank, his Covenant-partner does not experience a loss of half a ‘pint,’ nor any other effects from that donation. Although the concept is powerful and meaningful enough, it still is only figurative – they are indeed in Covenant, however they in reality are still very separate people – their Bloods do not in fact become a single entity.
Even in regard to God’s Covenant, throughout the Old Testament He does not have Blood to share – He is (as best as our words can describe Him) a Spirit Being. Every Covenant in the Old Testament could only be by proxy, by the Blood of sacrifices sprinkled on the altar and then sprinkled upon the People [Exodus 24:6, 8]. Even in His Covenant with Abraham, there seems to be a sense that if He could just take that one step further through some sort of physical personal commitment, He would have. Of course, spiritually the Covenant connection is powerfully real, as the intercession in regard to Sodom and Gomorrah indicates. Yet Covenant just seems to have a limp.
That is, until Jesus: “because in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” [Colossians 2:9].
In Jesus, the unity of Covenant is no longer merely a strong concept, now it is a fully tangible reality, an absolute reality, a reality in a Person: in one Body is found two Persons (God and Man), and the same Life/Blood actually flows in both. If Jesus bleeds, Man bleeds and God bleeds. Everything that is Man’s is now God’s, and vice versa, in a total sharing with nothing held back. This is a Covenant impossible to divide, impossible to break – which has been one of its main (theoretical) hallmarks all along. He is the ‘really real’ of the prophesy: “I will … give You as a Covenant to people, as a Light to nations” [Isaiah 42:6, also 49:8] – in other words, ‘You are the Covenant,’ the “one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus” [I Timothy 2:5]…
The “I Am” Statements
Once ‘Jesus is the New Covenant’ is realized, it falls into place alongside the “I Am” statements in the Gospel of John. The significance of these statements might be identified by looking at His declaration to Martha “I am the Resurrection and the Life” [John 11:25] in the account of the raising of Lazarus.
Jesus does not say, ‘I bring…’ or ‘I give…’ or ‘I demonstrate…’ or ‘I empower…’ or ‘I initiate…’ the resurrection. He says simply, “I am the Resurrection” – in other words, He is identical to the Resurrection, He is interchangeable with the Resurrection. In place of the Resurrection, insert His Name – and vice versa. In light of His promise “For where two or three are gathered in My Name, there am I in the midst of them” [Matthew 18:20], the Resurrection Himself with nail-printed hands and a spear cut in His side stands in every group of disciples’ midst just as He does that first Easter evening [Luke 24:36] (a wonderful concept at a Christian funeral) …
When this writer’s father was asked to speak about First Communion as an earlier event to Confirmation, the inevitable question was raised, “Do children really understand Holy Communion?” His answer was to turn the question around: “Do you? What do you understand?” He found that the replies he received usually spoke of Holy Communion as “receiving IT.” He commented that “we will never really begin to understand this Sacrament until we learn to say ‘HIM’ – for we receive the Lord Jesus Christ.” It must be ‘HIM’ – Jesus – Life – that flows through us in Covenant…
According to Isaiah, it would not have been outlandish for Jesus to also declare, ‘I am the Covenant.’ He does not merely represent, nor bring, nor initiate the Covenant with us. Just as to have the Resurrection means you had to have Jesus ...