Click play to listen to the audio version of this sermon.
“And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting for that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.” (Heb.10:11-13)
The priests in the Old Testament were the official, certified, ‘blood handlers” for Israel. Carpenters work with wood, bakers made stuff out of flour, farmers grew crops out of the ground, shepherds raised sheep, and priests slaughtered those sheep along with bulls and cows and goats, and collected their blood and poured that blood onto the curtain that hung in front of the ‘holy place’ and onto the people into the temple.
Just try to picture it. You come to church with a little lamb or a big sheep or ‘Bessy the cow’ and the ‘priest’ slaughters it about where the ‘baptismal font’ is. And the blood is collected in containers and some is thrown on the altar and then some is thrown on YOU.
And everyone and everything is a ‘bloody mess.’ And what would the Department of Health say about this? And what would the Humane Society say about this? And what would the neighbors say about this? But on the other hand, all your neighbors would certainly know that you’d got to church this week.
So the question is, “WHY?” WHY did they do it? WHY was ‘blood’ such a big part of this religion that it required an entire ‘PRIESTHOOD’ just to manage it?
And the answer is, ‘sin.’ ‘Sin’ and ‘blood’ go together like ‘cancer’ and ‘radiation’; like ‘diabetes’ and ‘insulin’; like ‘nausea’ and ‘alka-seltzer.’ ‘Sin’ ultimately leads to ‘bloodshed’ in more ways than one. The ‘killing’ that ‘sin’ causes is ‘sin’s cure.’
‘Sin’ and ‘blood’ have been linked together for as long as there has been ‘sin.’
In the beginning, before there was any ‘sin’ in the world, the Lord God brought all the precious little and big animals He had made to Adam for Adam to name, because that which you NAME is that which you have RESPONSIBILITY to take care of, and Adam named each and every one of them, and whatever he named them, that was it’s name.
Adam was naked and not ashamed. Since there was no such thing as ‘sin,’ there was no such thing as shame, because the root cause of all ‘shame’ is sin.
But then came the great ‘fall.’ And naked Adam and naked Eve brought ‘sin’ into this ‘sinless’ world and suddenly they were filled with ‘shame.’ And ‘FEAR,’ and ‘ANGER,’ and ‘JEALOUSY,’ and ‘HATRED,’ and ‘REGRET,’ and even MURDEROUS THOUGHTS.’
And God brought those animals before Adam once again. The same animals that God created and Adam had named. And they were KILLED. Innocent animals were KILLED because Adam and Eve sinned.
And get this, it was God who sacrificed them. It was God who put these precious creatures to death for the sake of sinful Adam and sinful Eve. “And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them.” (Gen. 3:20).
And you can bet that God got bloody. And God put those bloody skins onto Adam and Eve and Adam and Eve got bloody. And everyone was a ‘bloody mess.’
But the skin and the blood of the INNOCENT ANIMAL covered the ‘sin’ and the ‘guilt’ and the ‘shame’ of ‘guilty’ man and woman. And as long as they wore the bloody skin of the INNOCENT ANIMAL, they could stand before God without fear and even with confidence.
So, a long, long time before we get to that point in Israel’s history when God gives His law for how to deal with ‘sin’ to Moses and Moses writes it down make to make it ‘OFFICIAL,’ God had already established THE BLOOD OF INNOCENT ANIMALS as the answer to man’s sin.
So, a long, long time before Moses’ brother Aaron became the first ‘official, appointed ‘blood handler,’ and all of Aaron’s sons became the official priests of Israel, the blood of animal sacrifices had already been established as the way of dealing with man’s sin.
As time went on, the wearing of ‘BLOODY ANIMAL SKINS’ became less and less ‘fashionable.’ Keep in mind, this is all long before refrigeration. Just imagine the smell. How long would that BLOODY SKIN last before the stench became too much to bear? Just barely a day. And so every day, day after day, another sacrifice had to be made and another bloody skin put on. BECAUSE NONE OF THIS ACTUALLY ‘TOOK AWAY’ THE SIN OF THE SINNER. It only covered it up.
After awhile, instead of ACTUALLY WEARING THE BLOODY SKIN, the priest would just throw the blood from the sacrifice onto the sinner. But everyone understood what it meant.
And the blood would ALSO BE THROWN onto the curtain in the Temple, behind which was the Holy Place where the Ark of the Covenant was, where God was present, and God Himself got bloody. And the priest, whose hands were the very hands of God, would get bloody.
The sacrifices would go on, day after day and week after week and month after month and year after year. With every sacrifice, the sinner is reminded over and over again that he is a sinner who sins daily. With every sacrifice, the sinner is reminded over and over again that this sacrifice would do nothing for the sins that he would commit tomorrow and the next day and the next day and day after day and week after week and year after year.
Which meant great ‘JOB SECURITY’ for the priests. But it also meant that from the moment they were ‘on duty’ they would be ALWAYS ‘standing,’ ALWAYS ‘working,’ NEVER ‘sitting,’ NEVER ‘finished.’
I think by now you can see where this is headed. It is headed to Jesus, the INNOCENT Lamb of God.
Every animal ever sacrificed and every drop of blood ever shed for every sinner who sins was only a PREVIEW of the real thing. When the time had fully come, the TIME that God had set before the creation of the world, God put forward His Son to be His official, appointed priest.
And this Priest does what no other priest had ever done. No priest had ever given Himself to be the Lamb to be the sacrifice. And it wouldn’t have done any good if they had, because every priest was himself also a sinner FOR WHOM innocent animals needed to be sacrificed.
But Jesus Christ is the sinless one. He has no SHAME before God or before man, because He has no sin. He and He alone had no need to be covered in a bloody skin.
But look at Him hanging on the cross. He is a ‘bloody mess.’ Was there ever a man who has ever worn a ‘BLOODY SKIN’ as you see He wears?
It is not for Himself that He is bloody – IT IS FOR YOU. It is not for His sin that he wears that bloody coat – IT IS FOR YOURS.
The priests offered many sacrifices, repeatedly, for the one sinner… but Jesus Christ has offered the one sacrifice for all sinners that IS NEVER REPEATED.
In other words, Jesus Christ put the priesthood OUT OF BUSINESS. He made their work obsolete.
All the priests throughout all of Israel’s history had done their job. They prepared the world for the GREAT PRIEST whose PRECIOUS BLOOD would no longer REMIND the sinner of his sin, BUT TAKE IT AWAY, ONCE AND FOR ALL.
And even if you can’t forget it because your faith is weak, God has forgotten it because He is strong. “For I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
And “where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.” FINALLY, after all this time… FINALLY, because there is nothing more that needs to be done…, FINALLY, when the voice declares, “it is finished,” FINALLY, it is time to ‘SIT DOWN.’
“But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God.”
So, when we confess in the Nicene Creed, “HE SITS at the right hand of the Father…” and in the Apostles Creed “HE SAT DOWN at the hand of God the Father almighty…” we are not saying that His legs were tired and now FINALLY He gets to rest. We are saying that His work of redeeming sinful men and women is FINISHED. It is ‘COMPLETE,’ ‘PERFECTED.’ There is nothing more to add or do, and if you try, you will loose the whole thing.
God the Father has raised the “great high priest,” His only Son from the dead and “seated Him” at His side on His royal throne. Time is now winding unstoppably to the end, “when his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet” and everything is once again, ‘AS IT WAS IN THE BEGINNING.’
As we just sang:
“No temple now, no gift of price, no priestly round of sacrifice,
Retain their ancient pow’rs.
As shadows fade before the sun the day of sacrifice is done.
The day of grace is ours.” (LSB #530:1)
This may seem too obvious to even say it, but that CURTAIN IN THE TEMPLE had two sides to it. One side faced the congregation and the other side faced almighty God. And yet it was all one curtain. It was what separated man from God and prevented man from ‘seeing’ God. But it was also that which united God and man, for both were joined together in the one piece of cloth.
The writer to the Hebrews makes the astounding statement that that curtain is, in reality, the flesh of Jesus Christ, who is both God and man and through Whom, we are united to God and God to us.
As He breathed His last upon the cross, THE TEMPLE CURTAIN WAS TORN IN TWO from top to bottom. And a “new and living way” was opened to us. “Therefore brothers and sisters, … we have confidence to enter the holy placed by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh…”
Jesus Christ has clothed us in His ‘BLOODY SKIN’ in our baptism. We are no longer SEPARATED FROM GOD, and God is no longer SEPERATED FROM US. We have entered into the very “Holy of Holies” through the ‘BLOODY CURTAIN’ that Jesus has opened to us.
And we enter, NOT IN trembling fear but in holy fear, NOT IN shame but with confidence knowing that all that the God the Father sees when He looks at us is the ‘BLOODY SKIN’ His Son.
With ‘boldness’ and ‘confidence,’ we come here, clothed in the ‘bloody skin’ of Jesus, not that MORE SACRIFICES would be made for or sins. How ridiculous would that be? But we come here to receive the ONCE, FOR ALL SACRIFICE of our ‘great priest’ for the ONCE AND FOR ALL forgiveness that He achieved for us on the cross.
We come to this banquet table, not to REMEMBER OUR SINS, but to ‘REMEMBER’ that by this ‘single sacrifice,’ God has ‘FORGOTTEN’ all of our sins FOREVER.
“In faith and confidence draw near, within the holiest appear.
With all who praise and pray;
Who share one family, one feast, one great imperishable Priest,
One new and holy way.” (LSB #530:3)