On Maundy Thursday, we come to reflect on our sinfulness, come to genuine repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, our lord and Savior, for the forgiveness of our sins. When there is forgiveness there is life and salvation. This is the new covenant, Jesus Christ giving his life on the cross for the final sacrifice for sin and the promise of life and salvation.
Why a new covenant? What happened to the old covenant? There is nothing wrong with the old covenant, only that it is temporary. Besides, according to Prophet Jeremiah, “my covenant that they broke”.
How do the old covenant break? As God’s people taken out of Egypt into the Promised Land, Israel was given the sacrificial system of the temple for the forgiveness of their sins. Forgiveness is a vital part of Israel’s relationship with God. However, sacrifices had become “Ex Opere Operato” or “by the fact that it is done”. They thought as long as they offer their sacrifices on the Day of atonement, they remain to be God’s people. So they continue with their evil ways, of worshiping idols and violate God’s law as they please. They can always offer a sacrifice on the Day of atonement for their forgiveness. Their rebellion and apostasy led them into exile in Babylon from where Prophet Jeremiah was prophesying about a new covenant, to give them hope and to show them God’s faithfulness despite of their sins.
The sacrificial system of the temple was temporary in nature. It was instituted for the forgiveness of sin while waiting for the coming of the Messiah. This is the reason why it is repeated every year. Now that Jesus is born, died and raised from the dead, the sacrificial system of the Old Testament is no longer necessary. Jesus has given the final sacrifice for the forgiveness of sin. It is the one sacrifice once and for all.
The offer of forgiveness comes to us in the breaking of bread and the wine in the Lord’s Supper. It is no longer necessary that we offer an animal sacrifice every time we need forgiveness. The old covenant is now replaced by the new covenant. Jesus has already done it on the cross. He offered his life as one and final sacrifice thus satisfying God’s justice for sin.
Are we to follow Israel’s hypocrisy that led them to exile? No! We instead learn a lesson from them because their experience is a foreshadow of the things to come. We receive Jesus’ body and blood in the Lord’s Supper in genuine repentance for the forgiveness of our sins. This is vital in keeping our relationship to God until Jesus comes again in glory to judge the world.
When there is real repentance there is real forgiveness. When there is real forgiveness, there is life and salvation. Jeremiah went on to say: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD”. “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Luke 22:7-20 (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 10:15-25)
A Holy Week Reflection by Rev. Daniel Pondevida, Parish Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church, South Luzon District.