Summary: Christ has made a marvelous sacrifice for each of us; he has not only freed us from the bonds of sin, but also the chains of guilt. The gates of heaven are flung wide, and we cannot help but respond!
In just a few days, we will be gathering with family and friends to celebrate Thanksgiving. It’s the first big celebration in what we have come to call the “Holiday Season,” that spans from late November through the New Year. In just two weeks, churches around the world will kick-off Advent, which is the season of preparation leading up to our celebration of Christ’s birth. Advent is also the beginning of what is called the liturgical year. Over the course of each liturgical year, we move from Christ’s birth through his baptism, teachings, healings, miracles, death and resurrection, and on to his glorification as the exalted Son of God, the Messiah. So it is fitting that as we close out this liturgical year and look forward to the coming Advent season that we come to this passage from Hebrews—a broad sweeping view of the work of Jesus and its significance for each of us.
The image the writer of Hebrews uses to portray Christ’s accomplishment is one of Jesus, seated at the right hand of God the Father, casually awaiting the day when his enemies will be made into a footstool for his feet. It’s the picture of rest at the end of a long work day; relaxation at the completion of great project, the satisfaction a mission accomplished. So what is it, exactly, that Christ has accomplished. Well, the writer of Hebrews tells us that, too, by way of contrast. For generations, “every priest” the writer tells us, “stands every day serving and offering the same sacrifices over and over, sacrifices that can never take away sins. But this great high priest, Jesus, offered one sacrifice for sins for all time.” Here finally, concludes the author of Hebrews is the fulfillment of all the promises of scripture and the prophets; Christ has achieved that day when the law will be placed on our hearts and written in our minds, but our sins and lawless behavior are forgotten. And “when there is forgiveness for these things, there is no longer an offering for sin.”
Christ has done for each of us what no other priest has yet been able to do. Day after day, year after year, generation to generation, the priests have been hard at work at the Temple, offering sacrifices to God on behalf of a sinful people. And yet the sin remains. Fallen humanity is still separated from their God; the Holy of Holies is still closed off to all but the highest of priests on only the holiest of days; no one else is worthy.
Have you ever been paralyzed by guilt? Many of us struggle under the weighty pain of regret and guilt regarding our past behaviors, especially when those behaviors have caused harm to others. I remember something that happened when I was a little kid; still in elementary school, still in the single digits. I was at daycare one summer day, and on that particular day, one of my friends had brought a bunch of craft supplies. During the morning hours, the girls sat around the table doing crafts together, and we had lots of fun. When it was lunch time, our care giver had us clean up the crafts, and then she put them away in a safe place for the rest of the day.