Friday, January 23, 2015

In Search Of Truth, Hebrews 9:23-28

Having built a case for Jesus being an infinitely more qualified “go-between” for God and humanity than anyone before him, in chapters 8 and 9 the author of Hebrews compares the method of Jesus' mediation with the methods of the old covenant. Under the old covenant, sacrifices only dealt with sin superficially and temporarily. They used animals (creatures of great, yet limited, worth) as objects of sacrifice and the sacrifices were performed by flawed, limited humans in a place built by flawed and limited humans.

The author compares this with Christ's far more valuable and effective “once for all” sacrifice, which makes him the mediator of a new covenant/will between God and believers, who are also his “heirs”. This new covenant, like the old, had to be “inaugurated” with blood. The reason seems to be because of the true ugliness and evil of sin, which we don't see with the true clarity that God does. In truth, sin of any kind is so vile that “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Sin is serious and justice demands a costly payment to set things right. (9:22)

Even for the old covenant to be put into practice, blood was needed to make the people and objects used in the process fit for their purposes. And for the new, better covenant, a better sacrifice was required.

I had to ask myself, why? Why would the “heavenly things” need to be purified? Doesn't Christ perform his service in God's presence(9:11-12, 9:24)? Why would that place need purifying?
Scholars are not agreed on what is being referred to here. The most logically consistent understanding of this passage I've come across depends upon the meaning of the Greek word “katharizo”, translated here in some Bibles as “purified” or “cleansed”, but which can also be translated “consecrated” or “dedicated”. It seems as though this is the better translation, indicating that the “holy places” Christ entered (9:11-12) for the purposes of dealing with our sin were dedicated and made fit for this purpose by the infinite worth of Jesus' own blood. (“Sacrifices” being plural here to establish the general rule that Christ fulfills in his single sacrifice.)


The earthly tabernacle/temple was a place made for humanity to interact with God, but it was still bound to the earth and to corrupted creation, made by flawed human hands. By contrast, Jesus interacts with God on our behalf in his immediate presence, completely removed from the corruption and “radioactive fallout” of sin we live in on earth.


Two things jump out at me in these verses.

First, Jesus doesn't continue to offer his sacrifice for sin repeatedly each year, as the levitical priests did on the “Day Of Atonement”( or “Yom Kippur” as it's known today) when they offered the sacrifice for the sins of all in Israel that had taken place over the course of the last year. The moment we have that “faith transaction” with Jesus, our sins in the past, present and future are all dealt with by a single, perfect sacrifice.

Second, Jesus offered his own blood, his own life, as a sacrifice. How could we think that killing an unwilling animal would really solve the problem of sin? Yes, animal sacrifice was payment of a sort. But in killing an unwilling animal the priests were taking a life that God created. Not something with the same value as a human life, but something in creation that God considered “good” after it was made. In “dealing” with one problem another is created. What a tainted mess of a “solution”! In fact what should have been obvious was that it was never MEANT to be a real solution, but rather something that emphasized the mess we make of things with our sin and the need we have to be rescued that ONLY God himself can step in and provide. Jesus was the PERFECT sacrifice. His worth was more than great enough to pay the penalty, and no other person or creature was unwillingly harmed in the transaction.

Finally, the expression “the end of the ages” doesn't necessarily refer to the end of time or the end of the world. In fact the context better supports it being understood as “the consummation” or “the climax” of the ages. The old covenant made it clear that humanity needed rescue and Jesus was the resolution to that age-old problem.


The author emphasizes the completeness and finality of Christ's sacrifice by comparing it to human death. Despite the language often used in describing “near death experiences”, no one returns from the true state of death. Death is final an irreversible. The same is true of Christ's payment for our sin and removal of our guilt before God.

In fact, when Christ returns, he will not be coming again to cure the sin problem within humanity. He will be coming to rescue believers in a different way. (The author doesn't elaborate, so that's a story for another time.)

So in light of this I feel like I should ask myself, do I REALLY believe that my sin and shortcomings are dealt with? Or am I still trying to define myself by what I accomplish or how people perceive me? Insecurity is a common trait among geeks, and I think we can trace it back to having an old covenant mentality, where we see our actions and accomplishments as the source of purpose and value, and the compensator for our repeated shortcomings and failures.

As geek believers, we have to commit ourselves to reprogramming our brains, since by default we see the world through the dysfunctional filter of what the Bible calls “the flesh”, our tendency toward sin. It's the natural tendency of all humans to justify self-worth through skills, physical traits and accomplishments.

I don't think it's being introverted that gives geeks a bad rep. I think its the degree to which we live under the old covenant that makes us hard to be around sometimes. In an “old covenant mentality” we ignore our own sins, talk too much about ourselves or attempt to showcase our strengths, become easily defensive, avoid other people, or feel hurt when people disagree with us. We constantly do everything we can to present a positive image of ourselves to others and even to ourselves. The old covenant is exhausting and stressful to live under and keeps us from engaging in what God truly made each of us for!

But if we really choose to believe and trust that Jesus' sacrifice is the “once for all” compensator for our shortcomings, we will live in greater freedom than we've ever known. We'll acknowledge and wrestle with our sins because through Jesus failure isn't defeat. We'll aim to be interestED instead of interestING around others, because Jesus thought we were valuable enough to die for, so we don't need others to give us value. We won't feel worthless when we make mistakes or see our shortcomings exposed, because we know we're broken and dysfunctional and we know one day we'll be fixed.

So how do we make the change from mentally living under the old covenant to living in the relentless, undeserved favor of Jesus? Reprogram, starting with a regular habit in scripture that reshapes the way you interpret life. If we want to be disciples(“learners”) of Jesus, he told us how and also told us the results.

(John 8:31-32, ESV) So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

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