When Christ celebrated the Passover with His disciples, He gave thanks for the cup and they all passed it around and drank from it. He then told them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many” (Mark 14:24). He said a lot with those words! I want to say something about the blood and the covenant.
Blood was involved in the institution of the covenant between God and Israel at Sinai (Exodus 24:3-8; Hebrews 9:18-20). To say blood was involved is simply another way of saying that the covenant didn’t go into effect without the sacrifice of a life. Leviticus 17:11 lays down the principle that “the life of a creature is in the blood.” Therefore, blood represents life.
In the case of the Mosaic covenant, it was as animal sacrifice. In the case of the new covenant, it was the sacrifice of Jesus. But whenever we hear “blood” we should think “life,” because that’s the intent behind such speech. So, when Jesus speaks of the fruit of the vine representing “My blood of the covenant,” He is speaking of it representing the life He was about to give to bring us to God.
Turning to the word covenant, we should understand that it is more than a relationship—it is a specific kind of relationship as defined by the covenant itself. The most common covenant relationship is marriage. A man and woman enter into relationship and take on the roles of husband and wife. They exchange solemn promises to that effect and pledge to be faithful to each other. God takes all of this quite seriously and we should as well (Hebrews 13:4).
Similarly, there are financial covenants we enter into when we purchase a car, a house, or property. There are also neighborhood covenants regulating the kind of house we can build, where we park our vehicle, or other matters. Then there are those annoying little covenants we enter into when we go online concerning cookies, downloads, updates, etc. There’s not much there relationally speaking, but what little there is, is quite meticulously defined in paragraphs and sometimes pages of fine print! But in all of these things, great or small, the common denominator is that covenants spell out the relationship.
Returning to the Passover celebration of Jesus and His disciples, we plug in these things and come up with the truth that through the giving of His life, He inaugurated a new covenant—a way for people to have a new relationship with God. The fruit of the vine represents the sacrifice Jesus would make to reconcile us to God and bring us this new life.
Although the passage’s focus is on what Jesus did for us to bring us into the covenant, it’s not wrong, and it is in fact healthy to think about our side of the relationship. After all, we aren’t in a general relationship with God like we are with our friends—where very little, if anything, is defined. We are in a covenant relationship—where we have specific responsibilities and commitments.
Although we rarely think of it this way, baptism is the act whereby we “sign” the covenant. Paul will make the point in numerous ways in Romans 6:3ff about how our immersion into Christ is not only where we receive new life (6:6), but it is also where we give up our old life (6:2). Unfortunately, there are more than a few people today who major in receiving new life truth but want little or nothing to do with giving up their old lives. God doesn’t sew a new patch on an old garment! He gives new life to people who have committed to living that way—people who have confessed Jesus as “Lord” (Romans 10:9-10).
The Hebrews writer will speak of the new covenant God established with Israel (and the world) through Jesus. In 10:15-16 he tells us the Spirit says, “’This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put My laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.’” This is the other side of what is means to be in a covenant relationship with God. We have received new life through Jesus and we are committed to living out that new life as it is spelled out through the Spirit in the biblical witness.