By Stuart Powell
Much of Christianity is understood best through the lens of the Old Testament. The history of Israel and the Law of Moses reveal how far humanity fell from the ideal God created. The earliest believers were devout Jews who had spent their lives looking forward to the Messiah spoken about in their Hebrew Scriptures.
Considering all this, this New Testament passage is striking: “But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6, New English Translation).
How did Jesus’ sacrifice usher in a covenant superior to the Law of Moses? To understand this, we must consider the promises of each covenant.
The promises of the Mosaic covenant described things limited to this world: land to inherit, government, military victories, harvests, and children. These all are vital for the life we know in this world. But still, sin separated us from God. Even the sacrifices God prescribed in the Law could not remove that barrier. Hope based on these promises cannot endure beyond this life. That disappointment creates in us a yearning for something better.
The promises of Jesus’ covenant are better because they are based on things founded in eternity: an incorruptible inheritance, a holy and just eternal king, the end of conflict, endless harvests from the tree of life, and all of God’s children living together. These things are better because they will endure beyond the brokenness of the world.
Because Jesus’ covenant is founded on better promises, they have a greater impact on how we live in this sinful world. Our faith in Jesus’ sacrifice creates hope that shapes how we view other people. That hope calls us to love all people as Jesus loves his children.
We gather around this table to remember the life Jesus gave to introduce this superior ministry. The bread reminds us of the body he laid down so we can be made whole. The cup reminds us of the blood that poured out from him so we can be washed clean. Every believer is welcome to celebrate and remember the sacrifice of the superior ministry of Jesus.
Stuart Powell lives outside of Terre Haute, Indiana, where he serves with the North Side Christian Church.