One of the most important statements Jesus made at the Sermon on the Mount dealt with the people’s concerns about who He was in relationship to the Old Testament, defined by the Law and the Prophets. In Matthew 5:17, He said that He did not come to abolish (do away with) the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them. He further states that it is a sure thing in verse 18. Jesus was telling them that He came to complete the required relationship with God as revealed in the Law of Moses so that He could introduce a new one. This new relationship would be better than the old since He would become the strength of it as mediator. He was introducing a ministry of excellence, as Hebrews 8:6 says, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises”.
New Covenant Typology in John 2:1-10
“1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.”
It is significant that Jesus’s first miracle in His public ministry took place at a wedding in Cana and was intended to show that He came to introduce a new covenant. The fact that it occurred at a wedding is important because it will be at a wedding, the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelations 19:7-9) where the bride (believers in the new covenant) will adorn fine linen, representing the righteous acts of the saints. Also take note of the waterpots, “set there for the Jewish custom of purification” as required by the old covenant laws. Jesus instructed the servants to fill them with water and then draw some and bring to the headwaiter. It was determined that it was not just wine, but “the good [kalos – choice, excellent] wine”. Wine reminds us of the cup Jesus offered in Luke 22:20, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.” By changing the water into wine, Jesus was introducing the new covenant, a more excellent ministry.
It should be noted that wine was understood as a symbol of the coming kingdom age and the new covenant. In Isaiah 25:6, “The Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; a banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, and refined, aged wine.” In Genesis 49, Jacob prophesied over each of his sons. Regarding Judah in verses 10-11, he said, “The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples. He ties his foal to the vine, and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine; He washes his garments in wine, and his robes in the blood of grapes.” This is a clear reference to the coming Messiah, the Lion of Judah, who would rule with a scepter over the world in the kingdom age.
The New Covenant Offers Better Promises
What makes the new covenant excellent? As Hebrews 8:6 states, it is based on better promises. Those better promises include, but are not limited to:
- The promise of God’s grace – the new covenant is dependent on what God has done, according to grace.
- The promise of internal change – the new covenant promises God will create a new heart and spirit.
- The promise of forgiveness for all – the new covenant depends on the blood of Christ paying the price.
- The promise of eternal blessing – the new covenant promises eternal life to all who receive it by faith.
We notice from these promises that what makes the ministry excellent is that God does something for us that we couldn’t possibly do for ourselves; this is the very definition of grace. When the ministry depends on God and not just angels or other created beings, it has a good chance of being excellent. In Hebrews 1:4 in reference to angels, Jesus “has inherited a more excellent name than they”. This ministry is excellent because Jesus has become not only its mediator, but its guarantor (Hebrews 7:22).
The Excellence of Agape Love
“And I show you a still more excellent way”. 1 Corinthians 12:31
The last verse of 1 Corinthians 12 is an introduction to chapter 13, the “love” chapter. The still more excellent way is love, agape love, sometimes translated charity. It is greater than any spiritual gift. The foundation of the new covenant is agape, God’s love, unconditional love. In Romans 5:8, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” The proof of the excellence of the new covenant is that it is based on God’s love. This love is the greatest love since it willingly lays down its life for others. It starts with Jesus, but it doesn’t end there. This love becomes the evidence of the new covenant in the believer’s life. In 1John 3:14 and 16, “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren”. This love confirms that the believer has passed from death into life (zoe – God’s life).
Paul teaches in Romans 13 that the true believer owes only love to others (verse 8). This kind of love, expressed as loving your neighbor as yourself, is the fulfillment of the old covenant law. It is the royal law! To receive God’s love personally opens the door to be able to love others in this way. Excellence flows from this kind of love.