11 But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 15 Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
In the name of Jesus, our great High Priest. Amen.
In the name of Jesus, our great High Priest. Amen.
Jesus has shed His blood for you. He offered Himself without blemish to the Father to purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Because Christ has shed His blood for you, you have been called to be God’s children and receive the promised eternal inheritance. God be praised!
Imagine for a moment that you made plans to take your family to Great Wolf Lodge in Bloomington. (In case you don’t know, that’s a hotel with a huge indoor water park similar to what we have at the CanAd Inn and Splashers, but many, many times bigger.) You show your kids the pictures of the water park and all the waterslides and splash pads, and your kids are raring to go. But then, when you arrive, instead of wanting to go to the water park, your kids say they would rather splash around in the bathtub of your hotel room. You plead and urge them to put on their swimsuits, try the waterslides, the lazy river, and all the different attractions. But your kids insist they would rather sit in the tub with their rubber duck.
Well, there was a similar thing going on when this text was written.
The letter of Hebrews was basically a sermon written to a largely Jewish congregation. The way that the book is written, it seems as though some of these Jewish believers were beginning to wonder if they had made a mistake by becoming Christians. It appears as though they were wondering if they should return to their old, Jewish religion with the high priest, the Temple, the altar overlaid with gold, the festivals, the sacrifices, and the blood of goats and bulls. They were wondering if they had left the true worship of God for a much humbler, simpler religion of Christianity.
The whole book of Hebrews, but especially these verses and the surrounding context, serves as a resounding, “No! Don’t do it!” Throughout the book of Hebrews, these Christians are pointed to the fact that what they had in Jesus, and what we have today is better, greater, and more perfect.
In fact, if you go back to Hebrews 8[:5], we are told that all the instructions that Moses received about the services, sacrifices, and festivals even the Tabernacle itself all served as copies and shadows of the heavenly things. A few verses after our text here (Heb. 9:23), we are told that the earthly copies of the heavenly things were given by God, but they needed to be purified with all those rites and rituals that God gave to Moses and Aaron.
So, here’s the picture this text is painting for us. The purpose of all the Old Testament ritual and ceremony – the daily sacrifices, the buildings, the furniture, the washings – all of it served, for a time, as a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. The earthly tabernacle was given to God’s people as a picture of what is going on in heaven. God’s people could see the details going on before them, but they were to know that it was just a shadow of the reality of what is going on in heaven before God.
And now, because of Jesus, the shadow of the Tabernacle and Temple is no longer needed. Still today, we Christians, we people of God, have the reality. I hope and pray that this results in two things for you.
First, I hope that when you read those passages from Exodus and Leviticus, when you read about the construction of the Tabernacle with the vessels and different colors of fine twined linen, when you read about the priests and their vestments and their activities, when you read about the feasts and the sacrifices, I hope that you now read them with a little more interest because, again, they are copies and shadows of the heavenly reality.
But second, and more importantly, I hope you see that all of it points you to what Jesus, your Savior and Great High Priest, has done and accomplished once for all and once for you! Because now the reality in heaven has been perfected by the blood of Jesus, your Savior.
In the Tabernacle, the altar of incense served as a copy. The people were to look at the smoke of the incense rising into heaven and know that the prayers they made on earth were also rising up to God. In the Tabernacle, the bread of the presence served as an earthly shadow reminding the people that God was present with them. In the Tabernacle, the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies served as an earthly copy and shadow that preached to the people 364 days each year that access to the holy God was closed. And on the Day of Atonement, when the high priest could enter into the Holy of Holies, that curtain preached that access to God was possible when the blood of atonement was sprinkled there.
And now that Jesus, our Savior and Great High Priest, has come, all the shadows and copies are done away with. Now, because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we know that our prayers are acceptable and rise up to God. Now, when we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Holy Spirit intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words (Ro. 8:26). Now that Jesus has come, we don’t need the bread of the presence because the Holy Spirit has taken up residence and dwells in your heart (1 Cor. 6:19). Now that Christ has come and shed His blood and brought His blood into the heavenly Holy of Holies, your conscience has been cleansed and purified to serve the living God (Heb. 9:14).
This book of Hebrews is telling the people who are tempted to go back to the earthly copy of the heavenly reality to forget shadow and look at Jesus, who is the real thing! To go back to the Tabernacle and priests and sacrifices would be like choosing to play in the hotel bathtub instead of spending the afternoon at the water park. Brady and Leah, I know you’re watching, you wouldn’t do that, would you? Of course not! It would be foolish! It would be like driving to visit the Grand Canyon, but instead of looking around at the beautiful scenery and take it all in, you look at a couple pictures of the Grand Canyon. Sure, the pictures may be wonderful and beautiful, but you’re there at the real thing! Experience it! Take it in!
So, dear saints, I have two closing thoughts.
First, as we gather together at church (and even as we gather together virtually), we have the fulfillment. We have the purification and holiness that God delivers through Christ. Yes, it is best when we can gather together and receive the blessings of God’s purifying Word and Sacrament in person together, but we can still receive it now in this way. This is also why we use the liturgy (the order of our service). All of it is taken from Scripture to deliver to you the promises that Christ has won and given. And I am so excited for the time when we can again receive those things in this house of God together.
And second, know that everything Christ has done as your High Priest is to deliver to you His redemption from your sins. Because of Jesus, you have a pure conscience.
So, pay attention. Look at me because I want to ask you something right now:
What is troubling your conscience? Is it something you have done in the past? Is it some new sin? Is it your fears? Is it your worry about the future? Is it some sin against God or against your neighbor? What is troubling your conscience right now?
Whatever it is, know that Jesus has carried that sin that is bothering your conscience to the cross. He suffered. He bled. He died for that sin. And He has risen again to present His atoning blood in the courtroom of heaven as the unassailable, unquestionable evidence of your innocence. And in that courtroom of heaven, the verdict has been spoken. You have been declared by God, the righteous Judge in heaven, to be not guilty because of Jesus.
So, what has been spoken by God in heaven, I speak to you now on earth. You have, right now, an eternal redemption. Your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for (Is. 6:7) by Jesus. Christ has removed your sin from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). Because of Christ, your Greater and more Perfect High Priest, you have the entire forgiveness of all your sins. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.