The Significance Of Jesus's Death
Last week we began Hebrews chapter nine and spent the morning talking about the old covenant.
We focused specifically on what was missing for all but a few that lived under the old covenant.
God was not accessible as He is today.
His dwelling place on earth was in the innermost room in the tabernacle and later the temple.
Because of the persistence of sin, no one but the high priest was allowed to go into God’s presence.
This caused two issues that were identified by the author of Hebrews.
1. Under that Old Testament, God was inaccessible.
2. Because God was inaccessible, there was no personal experience with God.
The Old Covenant wasn’t God’s final step in the process of redeeming mankind.
Like many other covenants that he instituted prior to Jesus, it was a step closer to the final plan, which was Jesus.
For example, his covenant with Abraham to create a nation set apart as God’s holy nation.
Or God’s covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai that God and Israel would enjoy a unique relationship.
God is, over time, working in the lives of mankind to work us closer to himself.
He was working to restore the relationship that was destroyed by sin.
The final covenant that God makes with Israel is the promise of a new, better, covenant.
He speaks of that new covenant through the prophet Jeremiah.
31 “Look, the days are coming”—this is the Lord’s declaration—“when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. 32 This one will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt—my covenant that they broke even though I am their master”—the Lord’s declaration. 33 “Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 34 No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.
God‘s next step is to bring his people in closer.
He is going to remove some of the separations that were between himself and his people.
The process required in order to make that happen is what we will be discussing today.
This section that we have been in for the last few months is the author's attempt to remind the churches of God’s promises and the fulfillment of this final covenant that they had been waiting so long to see.
Just like we struggle with going back to living under the law, the churches that this letter was written to also struggled.
It is hard to just change from one system of belief to another, especially when we are trying to do it in our power.
As we move forward in the chapter today, we are going to see the author describe this new covenant and what that means for us today.
Before we read our passage today, I want us to look at a passage that is referenced in Hebrews 9 to give us a chance to better understand the gravity of what we are going to read in Hebrews.
Look with me at Numbers 19 at just one of the many processes that was required in order to purify the people.
If you will remember, this whole process is to make us holy so that we can go into the presence of God.
We cannot be unclean and go into God’s presence because that would tarnish God’s holiness.
1 The Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron, 2 “This is the legal statute that the Lord has commanded: Instruct the Israelites to bring you an unblemished red cow that has no defect and has never been yoked. 3 Give it to the priest Eleazar, and he will have it brought outside the camp and slaughtered in his presence. 4 The priest Eleazar is to take some of its blood with his finger and sprinkle it seven times toward the front of the tent of meeting. 5 The cow is to be burned in his sight. Its hide, flesh, and blood, are to be burned along with its waste. 6 The priest is to take cedar wood, hyssop, and crimson yarn, and throw them onto the fire where the cow is burning. 7 Then the priest must wash his clothes and bathe his body in water; after that he may enter the camp, but he will remain ceremonially unclean until evening. 8 The one who burned the cow must also wash his clothes and bathe his body in water, and he will remain unclean until evening. 9 “A man who is clean is to gather up the cow’s ashes and deposit them outside the camp in a ceremonially clean place. The ashes will be kept by the Israelite community for preparing the water to remove impurity; it is a sin offering. 10 Then the one who gathers up the cow’s ashes must wash his clothes, and he will remain unclean until evening. This is a permanent statute for the Israelites and for the alien who resides among them.
If you continue on reading in chapter 19 you will see a whole list of what would require people to go through this process.
This is one of the shorter rituals that are found under the old covenant.
It is also notable that this must be repeated every time a person becomes ceremonially unclean.
So read with me from Hebrews and let’s see the beauty of what Jesus has done for us.
11 But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), 12 he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, 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, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God? 15 Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living. 18 That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood. 19 For when every command had been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll itself and all the people, 20 saying, This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you. 21 In the same way, he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the articles of worship with blood. 22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
There is a lot to unpack here, but there are two main things that I want us to see today.
I know it can be easy to get lost in all this scripture, but we need to see the whole of what Jesus has done.
1. The Old Covenant had limited access and limited effect.
2. The New Covenant has unlimited access and permanent effect.
Jesus entered the Most Holy place and has stayed there, at God’s right hand, and he made one sacrifice that covers all sin for all people.
God sent his son to take the burden of sacrifice and atonement off of his people.
For generations, the atonement of sin relied on a lot of people doing things in just the right way.
This process, like the law, showed the inability of people to be like God.
We aren’t perfect and even our best attempts fall tragically short.
That is why he says in verses 14 that Jesus is so much greater.
14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?
The sacrifice of Jesus is unlimited and so much greater because of the value of the sacrifice.
There have been millions of bulls, heifers, goats, birds, lambs, etc, but there is only one Jesus.
The one and only son of God gave himself.
He laid himself on the altar and gave his life for the forgiveness and atonement that we all need.
This sacrifice never has to be repeated and therefore is permanent in its effect.
15 Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.
Jesus, upon giving his life, enacted the new covenant that would repair what has been broken for so long.
What a relief we get to experience in knowing that the burden of right living or sacrifice is no longer on us.
But how does that work its way into our lives?
How do we go from living for ourselves and in our power to living under this new covenant?
Look at vs 16-17
16 Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.
The word ‘will’ is also translated as covenant.
A will is a covenant.
In order for this will or covenant to go into effect, something must die.
Jesus’s death is what instituted the New Covenant and opened up the opportunity for us to know God as described by Jeremiah.
His death opened up access to God and it is through that access that we can know God.
“Instead, this is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after those days”—the Lord’s declaration. “I will put my teaching within them and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will one teach his neighbor or his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know me, from the least to the greatest of them”—this is the Lord’s declaration. “For I will forgive their iniquity and never again remember their sin.
This is why Jesus died, to make atonement for our sins.
His death, on the cross, is what has made us pure.
22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.
Blood had to be shed in order for us to be forgiven.
There is a price that must be paid for sin.
God could not just make it disappear because that would make him unjust.
A person who commits a crime has to deal with the penalty of that crime.
There is also a penalty for sin and Jesus took that penalty upon himself.
This morning as you came in, you had the opportunity to pick up one of these cups.
We could not talk about the sacrifice of Jesus today and his fulfillment of the Old Covenant without doing as he instructed.
Just before his death, Jesus gathered with the disciples in the upper room to celebrate Passover.
A celebration of God’s deliverance of Israel from slavery.
Part of that deliverance was the covering of blood from an unblemished lamb on the doorpost of God’s people.
When death came through, it passed over those covered by blood.
On this night, Jesus eats this meal and celebrates a new Passover.
Jesus is about to be the spotless lamb that will be sacrificed in order to cover the sins of all people.
Those in that room didn’t fully understand at that moment the significance of what Jesus was saying.
I want to take a moment today and draw your attention to what is happening at this moment.
Jesus is explaining to his followers, what He is about to do.
If you are here today, adult, teen, or child, and have not accepted the work that Jesus has done on your behalf to restore your relationship with the father, I want you to understand that this cup represents a promise.
This is a symbol of hope.
Jesus died with you in his mind.
This is for you.
There is a significant difference between seeing the gift and accepting it.
You may have known for a long time, or it may have just become clear today, that Jesus died for you.
If you see a gift that is for you, but you don’t open it, you haven’t received it yet.
Today you have the opportunity to open this gift.
Before we proceed this morning, I want to give any who have not accepted this gift of salvation to do so.
Right where you are, you can pray and ask God to complete the work of restoration by accepting his gift.
Jesus, I believe that you are the son of God and that you gave your life to pay for my sin.
I want to accept that gift today and give my life to you.
Thank you Jesus for doing what I could not do and restoring my relationship with God.
If you prayed that prayer today or in the past, this cup isn’t just hope, it is your reality.
Jesus did this out of pure love.
As we look at the recounting of this event by Luke, notice the emotion that Jesus portrays in his wording.
14 When the hour came, he reclined at the table, and the apostles with him. 15 Then he said to them, “I have fervently desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.
Jesus is saying that he has longed with passion for this moment.
It is the culmination of his time on earth, the reason for his time there, but most importantly, it is the moment in which the brokenness between God and his people will be healed.
Jesus is about to be the sacrifice and he gives the disciples specific instructions about how to remember what this all means.
17 Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks, he said, “Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you, from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19 And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
The blood and the bread play such a significant role in reminding us what this means.
We didn’t discuss this today, but I want you to see this as well.
The bread is a reminder of the bread that was to be on the table at all times in the temple.
I briefly referenced it last week.
This bread is to remind the people of God’s provision.
God made a promise to his people that he would always provide what they needed.
In referencing the bread and the blood together, Jesus is marrying these two ideas together.
He is the provision and the sacrifice.
As you take this cup today, don’t just consider what it represents in theory.
When you partake, remember the covenant that you have made with God when you gave your life to him.
He is fulfilling his part of the covenant by providing the sacrifice.
He has made a new covenant with you that is unlimited and permanent.
This is a reminder that you are no longer a slave to the law.
Jesus has fulfilled it so don’t make it your master again by trying to do it on your own.
There is no requirement for you to try and be something.
All the work has been done on your behalf.
God sent Jesus to fulfill the law because you were unable to.
Don’t take that yoke back upon yourself.
This morning, take the bread, and as you eat it, thank God for fulfilling his promise to provide all that you will ever need.
Then take the cup, and thank God for the sacrifice that Jesus made to purify you.
Through this cleansing, we are made pure and holy.
Because of what Jesus has done, the promise was fulfilled.
God lives in us, writes his words on our hearts, and makes us more and more like himself every day.