Summary: Lent 5 B midweek. By His suffering, Christ totally identifies with our human condition, and is therefore able to make a perfect sacrifice in our place. Therefore, we are reassured of the completeness of salvation in Christ
“Ashes of Sacrifice”
Lent 5(B) midweek
May the words of my mouth, and the meditations of our hearts, be acceptable in Thy sight,
O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
“Ashes of Sacrifice”
Summertime barbecue is something that people here know a lot about. And with a Kingsford Charcoal plant (right here) in Belle, you expect them, too. And from what I’ve seen so far, the barbecue turns out well. But that is not so for some of us. Some of us specialize in what is referred to as a “burnt offering.” While that happens in our backyard barbecue grill, we don’t have actual sacrifices or burnt offerings at church. But the Israelites did. A sacrifice of burnt offering was made at the temple every morning and every evening. Continually. There was not a day or night that did not have a sacrifice.
It was the priests at the temple who made the sacrifice. That in fact, is the essential focus of the word “priest.”: one who makes a sacrifice to a deity on behalf of another. The priest would make the daily sacrifices on the altar of sacrifice. It was actually outside of the temple building. It stood in the temple courtyard. These sacrifices continued day in and day out. Then once a year, the high priest would take the blood of the sacrifice into the temple, into the holy of holiness, and sprinkle it on the ark of the covenant to make atonement for sins.
In our reading today, the writer explains how Jesus is our high priest, instead of the temple priests. And how His sacrifice is perfect and complete.
The temple priests were selected from the people. They were from the sons of Aaron, so not just any one could be a priest. But they were from the people. The children of Israel. Christ, too, was selected from among the people. He was chosen and sent by His Father to do this special sacrificial work. And while He descended from heaven, He ded not remain separate and apart from us. As we confess in the Nicene Creed, ‘He came down from heaven … and was made man.” In Christ, God became man.
Today is not only a midweek of Lent, it happens to be March 25, nine months before Christmas. So it is the feast of the Annunciation. We remember how the angel Gabriel told the Virgin Mary that she would conceive and bear a Son. And His purpose was set even before He was born. For the angel said, “You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”
How then, is this occasion of the conception of Jesus related to His role as our High Priest? The High Priest had to be chosen from among the people. Christ had to be a human, like us, born among us, live among us, that He might be chosen by His Father to be a High Priest for us.
The priest of the temple had to offer a sacrifice for their own sins, the reading tells us, before they could offer a sacrifice for the people. Christ had no sin of His own. He did not have to offer a sacrifice of purification. He was holy. He was perfect.
What then does it mean when the writer says, “And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him?” Was he not already perfect? The perfection, or completion we might say, is not moral perfection. Christ was always morally perfect? What completion then? Completion of identity with us, with humanity.
Christ became man, as we have already noted. But too often we focus only on the fact that Jesus is God. We forget that his humanity was complete. How much God was Jesus? 100%. How much man was Jesus? 100%. He received from his mother Mary a humanity that was broken, just like ours. Jesus was broken a descendant of Adam. And all sons of Adam have a broken humanity. Our flesh is broken and sinful. Christ’s humanity was also broken. Broken, but without sin.
And as a man, in the brokenness of his flesh, Christ had pain and suffering. Here it says in verse 8, “he learned obedience through what he suffered.” He learned obedience? Yes. At first that seems odd to us. We so quickly think first of Jesus as God, that we think that He just did right thing with the greatest of ease. “I got this. No problem.” But Christ was fully and completely human. He always did the right thing. But He had to bring His flesh into subjection.
You know how it is. How there are times when we know we must obey, or must do something. But we sure don’t want to. We have to force ourselves to do as we ought. And what do we do, we suffer through it. That's even what we say, "I suffered through it." And so in suffering, we learn obedience. So too, of Jesus.