June 18, 2009

The sacrifice of Jesus vs. other priests (from Hebrews)

The book of Hebrews in the Bible was primarily written for the Hebrews or Jews, who followed God through elaborate rituals and sacrifices. The author is explaining that Jesus has already given Himself as the complete and perfect sacrifice to take away all our sins. This is quite appropriate for this group discussion.


The first promise that was made included rules for worship and a tent for worship here on earth. The first part of the tent was called the holy place, and a lampstand, a table, and the sacred loaves of bread were kept there. Behind the curtain was the most holy place. The gold altar that was used for burning incense was in this holy place. The gold-covered sacred chest was also there, and inside it were three things. First, there was a gold jar filled with manna. Then there was Aaron's walking stick that sprouted. Finally, there were the flat stones with the Ten Commandments written on them. On top of the chest were the glorious creatures with wings opened out above the place of mercy. Now isn't the time to go into detail about these things. But this is how everything was when the priests went each day into the first part of the tent to do their duties. However, only the high priest could go into the second part of the tent, and he went in only once a year. Each time he carried blood to offer for his sins and for any sins that the people had committed without meaning to.

All of this is the Holy Spirit's way of saying that no one could enter the most holy place while the tent was still the place of worship. This also has a meaning for today. It shows that we cannot make our consciences clear by offering gifts and sacrifices. These rules are merely about such things as eating and drinking and ceremonies for washing ourselves. And rules about physical things will last only until the time comes to change them for something better. Christ came as the high priest of the good things that are now here. He also went into a much better tent that wasn't made by humans and that doesn't belong to this world. Then Christ went once for all into the most holy place and freed us from sin forever. He did this by offering his own blood instead of the blood of goats and bulls.

According to the Law of Moses, those people who become unclean are not fit to worship God. Yet they will be considered clean, if they are sprinkled with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a sacrificed calf. But Christ was sinless, and he offered himself as an eternal and spiritual sacrifice to God. That's why his blood is much more powerful and makes our consciences clear. Now we can serve the living God and no longer do things that lead to death. Christ died to rescue those who had sinned and broken the old agreement. Now he brings his chosen ones a new agreement with its guarantee of God's eternal blessings! In fact, making an agreement of this kind is like writing a will. This is because the one who makes the will must die before it is of any use. In other words, a will doesn't go into effect as long as the one who made it is still alive.


The Holy Spirit also speaks of this by telling us that the Lord said,
"When the time comes, I will make an agreement with them. I will write my laws on their minds and hearts.
Then I will forget about their sins and no longer remember their evil deeds."

When sins are forgiven, there is no more need to offer sacrifices. My friends, the blood of Jesus gives us courage to enter the most holy place by a new way that leads to life! And this way takes us through the curtain that is Christ himself. We have a great high priest who is in charge of God's house. So let's come near God with pure hearts and a confidence that comes from having faith. Let's keep our hearts pure, our consciences free from evil, and our bodies washed with clean water. We must hold tightly to the hope that we say is ours. After all, we can trust the one who made the agreement with us.

(Ritual communion is useless) (Hebrews 10:8-14)

The Law teaches that offerings and sacrifices must be made because of sin. But why did Christ mention these things and say that God did not want them? Well, it was to do away with offerings and sacrifices and to replace them. That is what he meant by saying to God, "I have come to do what you want." So we are made holy because Christ obeyed God and offered himself once for all. The priests do their work each day, and they keep on offering sacrifices that can never take away sins. But Christ offered himself as a sacrifice that is good forever. Now he is sitting at God's right side, and he will stay there until his enemies are put under his power. By his one sacrifice he has forever set free from sin the people he brings to God.

JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST WE NEED (not the popes, not Mary, not the saints) (Hebrews 7:22-28)

This means that Jesus guarantees us a better agreement with God. There have been a lot of other priests, and all of them have died. But Jesus will never die, and so he will be a priest forever!

He is forever able to save the people he leads to God, because he always lives to speak to God for them. Jesus is the high priest we need. He is holy and innocent and faultless, and not at all like us sinners. Jesus is honored above all beings in heaven, and he is better than any other high priest. Jesus doesn't need to offer sacrifices each day for his own sins and then for the sins of the people. He offered a sacrifice once for all, when he gave himself. The Law appoints priests who have weaknesses. But God's promise, which came later than the Law, appoints his Son. And he is the perfect high priest forever.

(Hebrews 9:25-28)

Christ did not have to offer himself many times. He wasn't like a high priest who goes into the most holy place each year to offer the blood of an animal. If he had offered himself every year, he would have suffered many times since the creation of the world. But instead, near the end of time he offered himself once and for all, so that he could be a sacrifice that does away with sin. We die only once, and then we are judged. So Christ died only once to take away the sins of many people. But when he comes again, it will not be to take away sin. He will come to save everyone who is waiting for him.


But what about people who turn away after they have already seen the light and have received the gift from heaven and have shared in the Holy Spirit? What about those who turn away after they have received the good message of God and the powers of the future world? There is no way to bring them back. What they are doing is the same as nailing the Son of God to a cross and insulting him in public!


The Scriptures say, "If you hear his voice today, don't be stubborn like those who rebelled." Who were those people that heard God's voice and rebelled? Weren't they the same ones that came out of Egypt with Moses? Who were the people that made God angry for forty years? Weren't they the ones that sinned and died in the desert? And who did God say would never enter his place of rest? Weren't they the ones that disobeyed him? We see that those people did not enter the place of rest because they did not have faith. The promise to enter the place of rest is still good, and we must take care that none of you miss out. We have heard the message, just as they did. But they failed to believe what they heard, and the message did not do them any good. Only people who have faith will enter the place of rest.

1 comment:

  1. Early Christians believe that the Eucharist is a true sacrifice -- the one offered once and for all at the Calvary. God is beyond time and space hence past, present, and future is just one eternity. What Jesus did, happened once, the Eucharist is a "remembrance" which the original word used by the author for "remembrance" is nearer to "re-live" used only twice in the Bible: one during the (first) Passover of (old) Israel, and another during the (second and last) Passover.

    The analysis here would clearly be in contradiction with the prophesy in Malachi 1:10-11, the dialogue with Jesus in Jn 6:31-69, and the Last Supper accounts where Christ clearly said about "re-living" his offering/sacrifice.

    The analysis here also "degrades" the "breaking of the bread" that the disciples regularly do (especially during every Lord's Day). cf. Acts 2:42,46. If the Bread is not the Lord's real body, then the miracle of multiplication of bread and fish will attain a more shallow meaning and we will be guilty of Christ's words: "you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled" (Jn 6:26).

    With the Faith, you can see beyond the image... Indeed, "flesh is of no avail." The Bible is one whole message -- from Genesis to Revelation.