Jesus was gathered with the twelve in an upper room where they had prepared to eat the Passover meal together. John recorded the fact that at some point during that evening Jesus arose from the table and laid aside his outer garments and wrapped a towel around his waist. He took a pan and filled it with water and began the process of moving from one disciple to another washing their feet. Some like Peter resisted. Even though he had been unwilling to wash the feet of the others, he would have been happy to wash Jesus feet. But even that was not something he arose to do. When Jesus did the very thing everyone thought someone should do, they were embarrassed that Jesus had been the one to take up the towel. Peter resisted saying, “You will never wash my feet.” But when Jesus said, “If I don’t wash your feet you have no part with me” he was ready to have a full bath. I wonder what was on their minds when Jesus completed the task and laid aside the pan and the towel. Jesus took their wonder to turn it into application. “You call me teacher and Lord and so I am. If I your teacher and Lord have washed your feet you ought to wash one another’s feet. I’ve left you an example.”
It is interesting to me that John doesn’t mention the instituting of the Lord’s Supper that night and Matthew, Mark and Luke don’t mention the washing of the disciples feet. I suppose the institution of the Lord’s Supper came later in the evening. Matthew records it in this way: “While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, ‘Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, 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. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day which I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” (Matthew 26:26-29) Luke records one difference in Luke 22:20 when he pictures Jesus saying this is my blood of the “New Covenant”. In I Corinthians 11:25 Paul followed Luke’s wording when he pictured Jesus saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
When the Old Covenant was given by God through Moses to the Israelites it was sealed with the blood of a lamb. Sacrifices were offered of a lamb without spot or blemish and the blood sprinkled on the covenant and the people. The writer of Hebrews will say that “Almost all things were sealed by blood and without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” That covenant was between God and the physical descendants of Abraham that he had taken by the hand and led out of the land of Egypt. The Passover that took place in Egypt to bring the death of the firstborn in Egypt and the deliverance of the firstborn among Israel was to bring separation from their old way of life as slaves. They were to be God’s chosen people in the land flowing with milk and honey. The heart of that Covenant was the Ten Commandment law given by God to Moses on the mountain.
Jesus on the Passover night not only celebrated the Old Covenant and God’s deliverance of Israel He marked the beginning of the New Covenant that wouldn’t celebrate Passover anymore but would celebrate his death to bring deliverance to all who will come to him for life. Before Judah was taken into Babylonian Captivity Jeremiah the prophet had foretold the day when God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Jacob, not like the covenant made with their fathers when he took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt. But the New Covenant would be one written on their hearts, known and read by all people. They wouldn’t have to teach everyone his neighbor and everyone his brother to know the Lord for all would know him from the least to the greatest. God would be the God of the people and he would forgive their sins and remember them against them no more. In Hebrews 8 the Holy Spirit led the writer to quote that passage and say that it was fulfilled in the covenant Jesus had established.
In Hebrews 9:15-17 it says, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made is is living.” Christ died to take away the sins under the first covenant and to offer a covenant of grace for all who will come to him. Notice the statement quoted from Jeremiah 31 the statement they wouldn’t have to teach everyone his neighbor and brother to know the Lord since all will know him from the least to the greatest. Under the Old Covenant a person became part of the Covenant by being born into the right family. If one’s parents were Jews they became members of the covenant at birth. So a child as they grew up had to be taught to know the Lord. Under the New Covenant one becomes a part of the Covenant by means of the New Birth. It requires one to have faith in the Lord and submit to the Lord’s will to become part of the covenant. So anyone in a covenant relationship with God under the New Covenant already knows the Lord and won’t need to be taught to know him.
In this New Covenant when God’s people gather to worship him and take of the Lord’s Supper or communion they fellowship with the Lord and with each other. It is a shout of acceptance and partnership with every other person in covenant relationship with the Lord. It reminds us of the high price paid by Jesus to establish this covenant and we take with him in his kingdom as we worship Him.
Praise God for the privilege of being in covenant relations with the Lord and having God as our forgiving and forgetful Father in heaven.