What, Exactly, Did Jesus Do?

covenantThis morning I was thinking about the New Covenant. Because I’ve been involved for years in the Messianic movement, I wondering what the Christian understanding is of the New Covenant and its terms. So I went on a search.

A covenant is a legally binding contract between two parties. Examples of covenants are husband and wife, business partners, landlord and tenant, God and man. For the most part, I found most Christian sites accept this as truth. I also found a lot I could agree with, but there sure is a lot of misunderstanding out there.

God describes the covenant much like a marriage “You shall be my people and I will be your God” He then lays out the terms of the covenant – how each party is to behave, and what each party’s responsibilities are toward one another. Pretty cut and dry, don’t you think?

Well, I found this on Grace Communion International:

When Jesus announced a new covenant in his own blood, he was announcing something dramatically new! Never before had God made a covenant using human blood. The previous covenants had used animal blood. God did not allow human sacrifices. Jesus was not announcing a renewal of the old covenant, or a slight revision. Instead, it was a completely new covenant, made in a way forbidden by the old covenant! Simply in making the new covenant, Jesus was announcing the fact that the old covenant no longer applied.

Oh my…really?! According to them, God started participating in pagan HUMAN sacrifice to institute a new way of doing things! Guess that means we are now free to sacrifice our kids on the altar of Molech – or Convenience – or whatever god you choose.

Sorry…I lost it. It just amazes me how we humans (myself included) come up with all sorts of crazy nonsense to fit our own way of thinking. But seriously, when you throw out the totality of the Torah, then anything goes.

  • Eating pork is okay
  • Worshipping on whatever day you want is okay
  • Dressing provocatively is okay
  • Having sex without marriage is okay
  • Aborting babies in the mother’s womb is okay
  • Having sex with the same sex is okay
  • Marrying someone of the same sex is okay

Oh, and having sex with kids, animals, and anyone or anything you want is also okay.

Listen, God told Adam and Eve that their sin would cause death. Death, losing the gift of eternal life given in the Garden, is the result of sin. In the Torah, God provided a substitute for that death penalty – the blood of an animal (because the life is in the blood). Whenever His people sinned and repented, He forgave them. However, they still owed to the Creator for disobedience. The animal paid that debt. (Now before you go thinking this is a mean Creator, remember He is faithful and just. Justice requires payment.)

After they were cleansed and forgiven, God’s people eventually sinned again, because as my rabbi says, “Sin gets on stuff.” And God knows that. So what did He do? He came and made a better covenant.

Grace Communion went on to say, “Jesus did what we could not do, and he sacrificed himself for us as a gift, as grace.”

Arlington CemetaryHave they not heard of Arlington National Cemetery? It’s filled with people who sacrificed themselves as a gift for us, to ensure our freedom – even people who burn the flag!

The claim that self-sacrifice is the thing Jesus did that no other human has, is invalid. So what is so different about Jesus’s blood and his sacrifice? What sets him apart from the men and women who die defending our country? What sets him apart from the animals who suffered because of our sin?

Jesus was fully God and fully man. God came down and paid the price for all the sin of the entire world – past, present, and future. But is that all He did? Did He only make life convenient for us so we wouldn’t have to take the time and deal with the mess of sacrificing an animal every time we sinned?

Absolutely not! Jesus’s blood did what goats and bulls could not do. He provided us with an internal change of heart. A heart that no longer wants to sin. A heart that is circumcised.

How?

He tells us in Jeremiah how. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

Yet according to Grace Communion, God did not renew that covenant, but started an entirely new one. (Which at the risk of sounding blasphemous I must ask, doesn’t that make Him fickle and unreliable?)

New Creation StatueWhen I read Paul’s letters, I don’t hear a different covenant, I hear him say in Romans and Corinthians that Jesus did what the written Torah could not do because of our sinful nature. I hear him say that He made us new creatures, that old, sinful nature is dead and buried.

Grace Communion goes on to say that “To enjoy the new covenant, we admit that we can’t earn our way into God’s presence — we will never be good enough — but we instead rely on his mercy.

In summary, the new covenant is the relationship we have with God, made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — a relationship based on faith and grace rather than on works of the law.”

And there’s the problem with Christian thinking apart from 1st century Judaic belief. It does not understand that works never earned a relationship with God. A relationship with God always depended on faith in Him, and in His mercy and love.

When we look at the Exodus story, we see a clear picture of what God’s saving grace looks like. God first saved His people from slavery, and then He gave them the covenant that shows what his people look like and how they should live.

Jesus confirmed this covenant when he was asked to give the greatest commandment. His answer, recorded in Matthew 22, quoted Deuteronomy and Leviticus. “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.” “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”

The relationship between God and his people was always based on faith and grace – never on works. When He cut the covenant with Abraham, God’s expectation of Abraham was faith and faithfulness.

When He cut the covenant with His people at Sinai, God’s expectation of them was faith and obedience.

When He cut the covenant with David, God’s expectation was obedience.

When He announced the covenant at the Last Seder, God’s expectation was faith and obedience. Did not Jesus say, “If you love me, obey me?”

In all the covenants of the Bible – God acted, people accepted, then entered into a relationship. Because of what Jesus did, this better covenant relationship is only ‘better’ because He gave us the internal ability to obey Him – the Living Torah.

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6 Responses to What, Exactly, Did Jesus Do?

  1. James May 27, 2016 at 3:51 pm #

    As you know all too well, I’ve been pounding away on this very topic for years on my “Morning Meditations” blog. However, as I keep writing “religious” material, I feel like I’m just recycling the same, old message.

    Recently, I discovered a whole new approach: writing science fiction.

    I know that probably sounds strange, but I’m four stories into a series about how the world’s first two truly AI “Positronic” robots (borrowing heavily from the creations of Isaac Asimov) have become aware of God, first through an exploration of Judaism and then Christianity.

    The result is that, not being emotionally attached to any particular theology or doctrine, they can dispassionately examine these religions and come to conclusions where traditional biases are absent. It’s a great way unify the “two halves” of the Bible in a manner not often considered (except by people like you and me).

    I don’t want to spam your blog (although this is turning into an unabashed plug for my new material), but if you’re curious, click on my name which is linked to my fresh material (first story is at the bottom).

  2. Ro Pinto May 28, 2016 at 12:19 pm #

    I know how you feel about recycling, but it still is the Good News, so I am sure you will continue to pursue getting it out there, as will I. In fact, I am taking courses to learn how to expand my reach to ensure the message gets out.

    Just when I think I have nothing to say, God downloads a whole new perspective, asks me questions that I cannot answer, driving me straight into His word. I also end up running into people who are seeking and searching to get to know the Jewishness of their Savior. I believe people like you and I are called to help them find the answers they seek.

    It’s when we start conversing with those already in the Messy-anic Movement (and I say that lovingly), that we start butting heads. Yet, there are many within the Movement that are still unsure of where to start on this journey to their Jewish Messiah. These two groups of people is where I am called to focus my message.

    As to your writing science fiction, I don’t find that strange at all. Think CS Lewis! 🙂 SF is one of my favorite genres.

    You, sir, have my complete permission to ‘spam’ this blog. In fact, here is the link to your new site with the story. I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Last year, I had an idea for a book series geared more for ‘tweens’ that will spread the message in an enjoyable way. As you pointed out, Yeshua used parables. Stories teach.

    So you keep right on writing, James. God will bless it. I know your writing has blessed me.

  3. Gene Shlomovich June 6, 2016 at 6:26 pm #

    “Absolutely not! Jesus’s blood did what goats and bulls could not do. He provided us with an internal change of heart. A heart that no longer wants to sin. A heart that is circumcised. How? He tells us in Jeremiah how. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.””

    I read what Jeremiah is saying. But what did Jesus do? How did he “provide us with an internal change of heart”? Where does Jesus the man-god dying sacrificially or any exalted figure doing anything at all (or even merely coming down and existing) fit anywhere into what Jeremiah is saying? For that matter, where do any of the prophets say that this how G-d would write His law on “their hearts”, through this medium of a man-god? The more one reads the Jewish scriptures, the more it becomes clear that Jesus the demigod is being force-wedged by Christianity into Jewish prophecies where he is neither found nor belongs. By redirecting humanity’s attention toward its exalted and unbiblical “100% man / 100% god”, Christianity has served to take away the glory from G-d Himself.

  4. Ro Pinto June 6, 2016 at 8:19 pm #

    Thank you for stopping by, Gene.

    To answer your question about what He did to provide us with an internal change of heart – by giving us the Spirit of God. If we are cleansed from sin – which is what the entire sacrificial system did (not just as a foreshadow of things to come).

    I know we probably don’t agree on a lot, and that’s fine. I like that we can dialogue.

    Is there a way, through the Hebrew scriptures, that God explains how He will write the Torah on their hearts? I am asking this question sincerely.

  5. Gene Shlomovich June 6, 2016 at 8:41 pm #

    “Is there a way, through the Hebrew scriptures, that God explains how He will write the Torah on their hearts?”

    Ro, it’s just an expression to symbolize that the Torah of G-d will permeate the Jewish people through and through like it never has in the past, to the point that they will never depart from it again.

    Consider this statement from Deuteronomy 11:18, which uses a very similar language:

    Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

    Then, in the same Jeremiah 11, the prophet adds “And no longer shall one teach his neighbor or [shall] one [teach] his brother, saying, “Know the L-rd,” for they shall all know Me from their smallest to their greatest”

    Can we honestly say that everyone already has had Torah written on their hearts and that there’s no need to teach others about G-d? If that’s still not the case, how can anyone, especially Christians who have not had the most positive view of Torah for the last two thousand years (to put it mildly), say that the words of Jeremiah have been fulfilled through Jesus? All evidence points to the fact that Jesus’s “law-already-inscribed-in-our-hearts” followers have not done much better (and it could be argued, worse) than the Jews who are yet to have the same Torah written on their hearts. So, in what way then did Jesus fulfill Jeremiah 11 as described?

  6. Ro Pinto June 6, 2016 at 10:25 pm #

    We do agree on a couple of things, Gene, that Christians have been vehemently opposed to the Torah, maybe not for the entire two thousand years, but then again, Gentiles (myself included) have had a warped view of the Creator since all of us (in Adam and Eve) were kicked out of the Garden.

    I hopped over to your site and read just a couple of your posts. I don’t understand all the anger, but if it’s because the missionary work Christians, then I am truly sorry.

    You and I also agree about some Hebrew Roots groups. I’ve been blasted here and on social media for continuing to call myself a Gentile. But, I am from the nations. In fact, from Italy/Sicily. So, if I understand my bible and historians correctly, that would make me from the line of Japheth.

    I hear what you are saying about the Torah permeating God’s chosen people (from the line of Jacob). And yes, I agree that there is still a need to teach others about God. But aren’t there places in the Hebrew scriptures where things happened progressively? Every Word of God is for the specific time it was spoken, yet it also speaks of future events.

    Having participated in Messianic Judaism, I am sure you are aware that the point of this post is that God did not create a ‘new’ covenant, obliterating the old. He would never turn His back on His chosen people. He loves them/you and His character is one of faithfulness.

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