The New Testament

Hebrews 9:11-22

Maundy Thursday Service

March 20th,  2008


          “It is as good as new”.  This is a phrase used in the “repair” industry to assure the customer that the product brought in has been fixed.  Whether it is a rebuilt alternator for your vehicle, a computer that has been debugged, or a surgically repaired knee, those in the “fixing business” people like to use this phrase.  While the phrase is meant to put the customer at ease, you and I know better.  New is new.  While the alternator may be refurbished, rebuilt or fixed up, there is one thing the product is not, and that is new.  New is no longer new, once its been used.   The title for this evenings Maundy Thursday sermon; New Testament, may strike you as a bit strange.  How in the world do you make a sermon out of 27 books of the bible, the New Testament?   The point of the title is that “Testament” and “covenant” are used interchangeably in the bible, and in Hebrews it says that Jesus is the mediator of a new covenant or New Testament.  How does he do this?  By fixing up the old covenant? Tweaking it a bit?  By no means, he does it by starting over.   In order to truly start over, what is old has to be done away with, it has to die!   As a sign of death, blood is spilled, and in the Old Covenant it says in Hebrews that blood was sprinkled in the tent and on the altar, and on the people.  As messy and “unclean” as it sounds this is the way the “Old Covenant or Old Testament worked”.  They used animals, and they made sacrifices of animals again and again.   What’s new about the “New Testament”, there is no longer an animal, but a human, someone like us, and his blood was sacrificed once for all and not again and again.  

          In our gospel reading tonight, the old Passover event, something God’s people had celebrated for centuries was once again to be celebrated.  Jesus and his disciples began the old ritual of getting things together for this annual festival.  To have a rabbi and his followers celebrating this tradition was not novel, but not rather part of the old Passover tradition.   We see that in this meal, Jesus calls out his betrayer, and because of this newness of life certainly wasn’t in the air.  Being betrayed by someone close must have reminded the fellow disciples that the old ways of treating others and their Lord had infiltrated  this close group.      It is sort of like finding out a  close family member has been secretly doing something wrong, but no one had a clue or a co-worker has been taking the extra profits for years, and just now his indiscretion are coming to light. Was their newness of life at this time among the disciples?  Not at all, rather the old seeds of doubt were cast through out the room.      

          Why did Judas go the old route of betrayal?      What was the psychology behind such an event? Was it pure greed?  He was the treasurer, and I’m sure temptation to greed was never far away for him.   Was it jealousy?    Some think to become treasurer he was highly respected by all including Jesus, but maybe he thought that he didn’t get the credit of a John or Peter.  Was it disappointment that Jesus failed to strike decisively against the enemies of the Jewish Nation?  Did he become frustrated that Jesus didn’t always follow the various traditions and so called laws of Judaism as a “good rabbi” should?  Who knows the Judas’s precise psychology.  What we do know that his actions were really as old as our first fruit eaters, Adam and Eve.

          Yet, there was newness in the air, but  it was hidden to the human eye.  For even in the midst of “betrayal” and uncertainty with the disciples.  Jesus had himself to give.   Maybe Jesus wanted to remind them, and us, that in the middle of it all the junk of life his merciful presence will make a big difference.  “Take and eat this is my body”.   “This is my blood of the covenant”.   This was new.   This was different.  This was not merely a remembering or recalling of past events.  This was being connected to the one who had his body and life to give.   This meant forgiveness of sins, especially when sin was there for everyone to see.  When the sin of Judas was helping to bring the only one without sin to death.  It is in this situation Jesus gives of himself.    

          What was new is that this forgiveness would no longer be promised through the blood of goats, and bulls.   That was the old way.  This was a way that had to be done over and over again.   Sure blood was used, sure forgiveness of sins was promised, but not like this.    This was a new kind of deal.  He had a covenant, a testament, a will.   And according to Hebrews in order for this will or testament to be established and effective for the recipients, one had to die.  The book of Hebrews says “For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established.  For a will takes effect only at death…..   Not only this, but legally it can no longer be changed.  This is great news, it means that nothing greater or better than this new testament can come along.  The “new” is now established forever by Christ’s shed blood on Calvary, and his subsequent resurrection.   This new testament it about Christ giving his new life, to a world full of dead sinners.   This new testament between Jesus and us, means that we can be sure of all our promised inheritance.   This New Testament between Jesus and us, means that forgiveness isn’t based on a future promise or based upon our behavior, but rather solely and completely upon his dying and rising.  Solely and completely on his shed blood.

          Our reading gospel reading concludes with the sad account of Judas, who filled with remorse, goes ahead and takes his life.   He even admitted that “He had sinned and betrayed innocent blood”.  Yet due to his despair, he couldn’t buy into the greater truth that his “old sin” still did not match the “new testament” That is, no sin can escape forgiveness with Jesus around.  The sin of Judas, and his ultimate destruction came about because he didn’t believe Jesus really could do it for him.   He must have thought that either Jesus couldn’t’ or wouldn’t forgive him.   Yet, we know that because of this New testament, Judas was wrong, because Jesus blood shed on our behalf, his new life is greater than Judas’s sin or our sin.  

           Can anything old and worn really be new again?   Early in this message I said no.  New is new, and old is old.  Yet with this Jesus, you and I go from old worn, and even dead in sin, to brand new.  So when Jesus looks at you he can really say  “You know,  your as good as new”.  In fact in him we are.   Amen.