Thursday, April 13—Transitioning From the Old to the New Testament Perspectives

Let’s take a moment to compare the words used for atonement in the Old and New Testaments. The original Hebrew word was kaphar, which means “to cover.” In the New Testament, however, the word changes to hilasterion, which means “propitiation.” Originally, the blood of sacrificial animals was used to cover peoples’ sins and restore their relationships with God. So these animals served as interim substitutes for human sinners, but ultimately a sin-free human had to take the punishment that we so rightly deserved, Isaiah 52:13 to 53:12 describes what will come in the prophecy that often is called “The Suffering Servant.” Verses 4 to 6 in chapter 53 summarize this passage very well.
 
“Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Revised Standard Version)
 
Now that we are in the midst of Holy Week and Maundy Thursday is here, we are particularly reminded of the connection between the Old and New Testaments and the theological foundations of atonement, In Exodus 12, God provided very detailed instructions to the Israelites regarding preparation for, carrying out of, and ongoing observance of the Passover Supper. Once again, a sacrificial animal—a lamb “without blemish, a male a year old”—would be served for dinner, and its blood would be put on the two doorposts and the lintel as a sign. At midnight the Lord smote the first born of both men and animals of every household that had not been marked appropriately.
 
“And when you come to the land which the Lord will give you, as He has promised, you shall keep this service. And when your children say to you, ‘What do you mean by this service?’ you shall say, ‘It is the sacrifice of the Lord’s Passover, for He passed over the houses of the people of Israel in Egypt, when He slew the Egyptians but spared our houses.’” (Exodus 12:25-27 Revised Standard Version)
 
The parallels between that first Passover Supper and the one Jesus ate with His disciples are not a matter of happenstance but of divine design. They were God’s plan from the beginning of creation, and they were fulfilled according to His plan.
 
As John 1:1-5 reminds us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and without Him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in Him was life, and the life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.” (New Revised Standard Version)
 
Reference: An essay by Dr. Eugene Merrill, Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, found on The Exchange: A Blog by Ed Stetzer, http://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2012/january/closer-look-jesus-and-atonement-in-old-testament.html
 

Prayer Suggestion

Prayerfully recite the words of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 that were spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ on the night of His betrayal as He shared the Passover Supper with His disciples. These words still are used today as we celebrate the sacrament of Holy Communion in remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. Then take a few minutes to pray silently, praising God for sending His son to take away the sins of the world.
 
“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it, and said, ‘This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’ In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.’ For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” (Revised Standard Version)