Linked to the Bible study post for Sunday, March 21 and based on these set readings (revised common lectionary):
OT Jeremiah 31:31-34 — a new covenant of heart and mind promised
NT gospel John 12:20-33 — Jesus is forthright about His death also being God’s glory
NT letter Hebrews 5:5-10 — Jesus is now our everlasting High Priest
ONE OF the most exciting things about becoming a Christian is the discovery that living a life of faith and moral integrity is highly achievable, and it is not complicated. This is because we find that Almighty God, holy and majestic creator of the world, is someone we can approach, know, talk to and receive from, in a 24/7 relationship which happens wherever we are.
A church or chapel building which has been soaked in praise, worship and prayer — sometimes for centuries — can be a good place to get quiet, to pray and to listen, a kind of spiritual oasis. But so can your barn, or garden, or another special place. Or even the car — why listen to car radio when you can talk to God uninterrupted?
Free access through our personal High Priest, Jesus
The privilege of being able to have that free access to God ranks right up there with eternal life and freedom from the burden of guilt and knowing we are loved without condition. And in that access we know we are helped by the Lord Jesus, Great High Priest, but also bearing the scars of a deep experience of pain, suffering and rejection.
- Whatever praise we have to bring, He is already singing it.
- Whatever difficult issue we need to talk about, He has been there.
- Whatever in our life is acting as a barrier between us and God, He is the deliverance from it.
Compare that with the former covenant which Jews had with God. First, you had to belong to one of the twelve tribes Then He would protect you and provide for you and give you esteem as one of the people of His possession, but there were a lot of things to learn and to obey, regular sacrifices for sin to be made and, if the priest judged you to be sufficiently righteous, he would be your connection with God. You had to talk to him as customer service.
There is no spiritual gift of being a priest
The priests all went when the temple was destroyed. Actually their role disappeared when the temple curtain was torn open at Jesus’ crucifixion. The holy of holies was symbolically opened up! And in the early church there were ministries defined as apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers but there is no mention of an order of priests. There is no spiritual gift in the Bible of being a priest. Hebrews makes it clear that this kind of mediation has now transferred to the one, unique Mediator, Jesus who is appointed High Priest in the heavenlies. And all of us who have come to trust Jesus for salvation and new life and look to Him as Lord of our lives, are now His new tribe of priests, telling others about Him and bringing others to Him prayerfully for their salvation or other needs.
The living Stone and the living stones
As you come to him, the living Stone — rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him — you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4-5 NIV
He is the One mediator between any of us and God, but He uses believers to do a little bit of mediation as He directs, which is all part of extending His kingdom on earth.
And He says in another place, “You are a priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek”…
…Once made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him, and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek.
Hebrews 5:6, 9-10
The new covenant tenant and being born again
Jeremiah saw this new life and new heart and His words seem to describe what happens when we trust Jesus and are born again.
This is the covenant that I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be My people… they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest… for I will… remember their sins so more.”
Deciding to give your life to Jesus is a big decision — to trust someone else with your life is always a big decision — but it is always an exciting release and a real sense of new life, life eternal, starting now. If we have messed up badly, that new chance to be a new person and live differently is a story we will never tire of telling. Others of us have more modest stories of change, but still stories of how new life came into us by the Holy Spirit.
The new covenant in Jesus’ death
And this came by Jesus’ death — His dying as many thought, shamefully, and certainly in unimaginable agony. His death brought us life, and showed both Him and the Father to be glorious.
The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds… And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” John 12:23-24, 32.
This was the third occasion when God’s audible voice was heard agreeing with Jesus that His glory would be seen in what was going to happen.
How the new makes the old obsolete
This new covenant that Jesus won for us is both very difficult and very easy to explain. For the believer, it is a phrase that sums up that new relationship we find ourselves in. We find we know instinctively what we are doing and praying and beginning to hear. This is where the good works happen. It’s not trying to please God, but rather finding ourselves being fruitful, probably in ways we never imagined. But apart from this revelation, it is hard to work out. It looks like a new form of the old covenant, and this is where there’s a temptation to fall back on robed priests and complex rituals and church buildings with segregated places. When we are struggling to see that each of us in fellowship with each other and the Lord is what invites God’s presence as a living temple, we fall back on creating our own.
But that covenant and that pattern of worship is obsolete:
By calling this covenant “new,” He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.
Hebrews 8:13 NIV
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.
Hebrews 8:6 NIV
New covenant of fellowship
Jesus wants each one of us to know why we are accepted by the Father through Him. It is what He died for. Man was created for fellowship with God, and through Jesus, now ruling and reigning in heavenly glory, what was lost has been regained. As Jeremiah prophesied all those years ago:
“They will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest… I will put My law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people. Jeremiah 31:34,33