9–15 November 2015.
This week we come to Hebrews chapter 10, and we especially want to look at verses 1–2 and 11–12: “The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never (by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year) make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest [i.e. Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
We have a great saying in English: “If at first you don’t succeed, try and try again.” If our children try something and it doesn’t work out, we use this saying to encourage them. “Don’t get disappointed, don’t give up, just try it again. Keep practicing until you get it right.”
But the biblical writer has a different meaning in mind here. In the temple, the priests had particular rituals and sacrifices that they used to take away the sins of the people and bring them back into connection with God. These sacrifices were all listed out in Moses’s law. But no matter how many sacrifices they offered, their work was never done. No matter how many sacrifices they offered, sin was still there. Maybe we could say, “Well, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again!”
But for the writer of Hebrews, a couple of centuries of trying was probably enough to know that this approach was not going to work. If the sacrifices hadn’t permanently washed away the sins of the people by now, then maybe the priests should just accept that those rituals aren’t good enough. Maybe the time had come to admit that the laws of Moses weren’t going to bring us close to God. Sure, the laws promise this, but they never quite deliver. As the writer tells us in 7:19 “The law made nothing perfect”. Real perfection, fulfilment, forgiveness and new life only come through Jesus.
So while the priests have been standing and standing for centuries at their never-ending sacrifices, Christ comes along, offers the one and only sacrifice we will ever need, and then sits back down. The job’s done! It’s finished! What else do we want to do? Christ has done everything for us. So do we want to be close to God? Do we want forgiveness? Then take Christ’s hand, trust in what he has already done for us, and then take a seat and relax.
Be at peace, be glad, because in Jesus everything is complete, and everything is finally perfect.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis