Today we are continuing our conversation through some of the key principles found in the Book of Hebrews. The foundation of this book that we see over and over and over again is that Jesus is greater. Greater than angels, greater than Moses. Greater than you and I. And this is the heart of Hebrews and what I need to hear again today: Jesus is greater.
We started off the series with an overview of that concept and ended with the processing of moving from being told to actually processing Jesus’ greatness. And today we jump into a conversation about how Jesus’ sacrifice was once and for all.
We’ve looked at many things throughout this series. Salvation is continually available. Jesus understands us. Don’t wander. The old and new temple. The old and new covenant. Jesus is greater than all things.
It’s good to reflect on all of that, and yet, it’d be easy to get distracted and forget about these things. It’s inevitable.
What are some common things that distract you from what is most important in life?
Let’s talk about trust for a moment. If you choose to trust someone or something, that says a lot about your perception of that person or institution.
I am not sure if you know, but addresses have not always been a thing. Even today there are parts of the world that are resistive to addresses being created. This is because it lets the government know where you are, where you live, and where your family stays. Even in today’s political craziness the idea of having an address seems pretty normal, but to people who do not trust their government it can be seen as an act of violence. An address exposes them to “eye of the state.”
Having a perception of a dangerous government changes the perception of something as mundane as having an address attached to the place you live.
So what are trust and trustworthiness?
Why are they important?
Where do they come from?
Why can’t they be forced?
What changes in us when we go from a new acquaintance to someone we’d let watch our kids?
It can be easy to focus on being trustworthy now and neglect the “not yet.”
How is trustworthiness measured?
How do you know who you can trust and can’t trust?
It’s easy for us to use phrases like they need to earn my trust, or I need you to show me that I can trust you.
We often treat others in a way that says they need to prove they are worthy of our trust. Understandable, living in a world that easily trusting people can lead to getting hurt.
But what changes in this trust conversation as we think about our relationship with God?
Has God earned, proven and shown his trustworthiness to you?
In my own moments this year of answering no, I realize that those moments speak more to my inability to fully comprehend time and space and much less to do with the person of Jesus.
Again, not to diminish struggle and pain, but to help us talk about how Jesus is even greater than our broken perceptions of whether or not He is trustworthy.
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
My faith and my own experience say that Jesus has in fact earned, proven and shown His trustworthiness time and time again. Yet my trust in him can fluctuate widely. How is that possible?
Why is it common for people’s trust in God to fluctuate widely?
Think about these words for a moment.
What comes to mind when thinking about each of these words? What associations do you make?
Forgiveness, this concept of atonement and reconciliation or making relationships right again is what we’re focusing on. All kinds of things come to mind when I think about forgiveness.
Grace. Undeserved. Difficult. Important. Impossible. Slow. Process. Challenging.
What do you think other people in your world would write down as their word association with forgiveness?
What do you think the people addressed in Hebrews would write?
When the hearers of Hebrews would hear forgiveness their roots would bring them back to places like what is found in Leviticus 16. That forgiveness was found within the system of animal sacrifice.
There is some comfort in this perspective of achieving the right relationship with God through these external kinds of things.
Someone else does the work.
Someone else represents me.
Someone else risks it and goes before God.
There is a price and when the price is paid it is done.
There is a rhythm to it and if it didn’t work, we will try again later.
Tangible, visible, and with a clear start and stop.
But this old system was not once and for all. Jesus stands out as being once and for all. See how it repeats all throughout scripture.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life. Very truly I tell you, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to judge because he is the Son of Man.
Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Paul paints all kinds of pictures to show that Jesus’ work was once and for all. Read Romans 6 and 8, Galatians 2, or 1 Corinthians 15. Peter makes mention of this exact concept in his writings as well. It’s all over the new testament, and so much of the old testament points forward to it.
Think about the associations we made originally with the word forgiveness.
What associations with forgiveness is this Biblical theme building?
How are these associations supposed to impact us today?
Getting distracted from what’s most important.
Figuring out what is or isn’t trustworthy.
Why trust in God can fluctuate.
What we think of in regards to forgiveness.
All of this leads us to an important question.
Do I trust that Jesus’ forgiveness of me is once and for all?
This is complex. And the audience of Hebrews was facing issues that were complex. They absolutely needed reminders in this moment as so much was going on culturally and it would be easy to have second guessed their belief systems. The writer writes to them to remind them.
We all need reminders.
I need reminders for silly simple things a lot of times. If you’re married, you and your spouse probably have some level of back and forth reminders of things you both forget to do. Joy and I certainly do.
If you have kids, you probably have some one way reminders to your kids. Everyday. Every hour. Over. And over. And over. And over.
And as frustrated as i get with having to remind my kids to pick up legos, or not leave the toilet seat up, or to not do whatever it is, I easily forget that when it comes to faith and following Jesus, I have needed constant reminders at points. Things that I’ve believed to be true but have forgotten, or just thought were too good to be true, or just didn’t understand so I shrugged my shoulders at.
Everything we’re talking about today revolves around trust.
Why is it hard to trust in Jesus’ once for all sacrifice?
How does trusting it affect how you live?
Here is Hebrews, the spark notes edition:
God speaks through Jesus who is His exact representation.
Jesus is greater than angels.
Pay attention, don’t drift away.
Jesus became fully human and can identify with us in temptation and suffering.
Jesus is greater than Moses was.
Don’t harden your hearts or turn away from God. Rest in Him. He sees everything.
Jesus is your high priest now so approach God confidently for grace and mercy.
Jesus as a human learned obedience through suffering. Learn from him and move past the basics.
God is faithful and keeps his promises. Remember, Jesus is your high priest.
FOR REAL. The old system of priests is fulfilled in Jesus. No more repetitive sacrifices.
The first covenant didn’t work because people failed. Jesus didn’t fail.
All of the old system of sacrifice and priesthood and sin - Jesus did all of that work and fulfilled what people couldn’t and took care of what people failed at.
You know how temple and sacrifice work. Think about how time after time the high priest had to offer sacrifice to cover sin. It was never enough. But Jesus’ sacrifice was once for all. Final. Enough.
And his sacrifice doesn’t just get rid of sin. It cleanses our consciousness so that we can actually be free to serve God.
Remember how the old system, every sacrifice was only good for a year. You still had an annual reminder of sin.
Not anymore. Jesus bore all of that sin in his body on the cross and established a new covenant with us.
This wasn’t just a high priest in the temple. This was Jesus entering heaven before God and sprinkling his own blood on behalf of us.
After his once for all sacrifice he sat down in rest at God’s right hand.
Think about this. Let all of this encourage you. Draw near to God.
Think about all those who went before you. Those who lived in the old system but had faith in God for things they couldn’t see and died without experiencing.
Since They went before us and were faithful, let’s not forget who Jesus is and let us also be faithful. Throw off everything that holds you back.
Resist sin and endure hardship as discipline.
God loves you now as a child; let him lead you in discipline as a father does with his kids. You’re really his child.
Pursue holiness, love each other deeply.
Follow Jesus. As he has gone outside the camp, follow Him.
The readers of this letter were very familiar with sacrifice. They knew it from the history of their people and probably saw it often happen around them. Their model of following Jesus and not having to offer sacrifices in the same way as their ancestors was the “new way.” Probably felt foreign at points. Probably looked around at everyone who was actually offering sacrifices still and felt crazy at points.
Knowing the history of Israel, and knowing the persecution that these followers of Jesus were facing, the writer of Hebrews would have written everything he could to get them to remember Jesus’ sacrifice and to not go back to what was. If you read straight through Hebrews you’ll see that it’s very repetitive. Reminder after reminder that Jesus’ sacrifice really did take.
After Jesus did his work on the cross, He sat down. This shows up multiple times in Hebrews. His sitting down showed that he accomplished what had not been done since the beginning of humanity. All along people had to offer up sacrifices as repentance for their sins. Now Jesus offered himself up once and for all and permanently took the place of all repentance sacrifices.
Everything about the gospel hinges on this. We can either think it’s too good to be true and not believe it, or we can just not understand it, or worse take advantage of it and shrug our shoulders. We need to be reminded that Jesus’ sacrifice really was once and for all time.
Hebrews was a reminder to those who didn’t understand, or thought it was too good to be true, or were tired of life being hard and wanted something easier.
I encourage you to read through Hebrews yourself and see this repetition. In the final part of the letter the writer says a few things, but this is what really stuck out to me as I read through it all again.
Remember how many mentions the writer made about the temple, priests and sin offerings. He ends the letter reinforcing this once more.
The high priest carries the blood of animals into the Most Holy Place as a sin offering, but the bodies are burned outside the camp. And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come.
Going to Jesus outside of the camp. Sick people were also outside. People with skin diseases and discharges. And foreigners. It’s where people who were executed for crimes were taken. And where people went potty. It was all together not a great place. Not holy. Outside of the gates meant no security, familiarity, comfort. This goes all the way back to Moses. Before the tabernacle was first established in the wilderness, Moses and other leaders met with God in the “tent of meeting.” And guess where it was located? Outside the camp.
And this is the exact place Jesus goes to in his suffering and sacrifice. The place he entered became sacred. And the writer is calling these followers to go to that outside place.
Through Jesus’ sacrifice we’re called to go to him outside the camp. To leave the comfort, the ease, the “known” and to enter into the unknown. We can think that God’s call to Abraham to “leave his land and go to a place God would show him” was unique, but in some way that is God’s call to every follower of Jesus.
This doesn’t mean everyone is going to end up in Sri Lanka doing overseas missions work. This means that God is constantly inviting us to step into the unknowns of our own lives because that’s where Jesus has gone to, and that’s where people who would have been considered “too outside” in the old system actually reside. We’re called to go there. And when we get there we’ll find that’s where Jesus is at.
Reflecting on Christ’s once for all sacrifice, in what ways are you challenged and encouraged to grow and to “go to him outside the camp?”
Take It Deeper Questions
Read Hebrews 10:1-18
What daily rituals do you enjoy most and dislike most?
What are the differences between Old Covenant atonement and New Covenant atonement?
How much of your time is spent with a gnawing and/or vague sense of guilt?
What does a life look like as it is continually being made holy?
If you were to memorize one verse from this section, what would it be and why?
Bible Reading Plan
1 Peter 1
1 Peter 2
1 Peter 3
1 Peter 4
1 Peter 5