Summary: The reality of Christ is greater than the shadow of the OT animal sacrifices.
The Reality Versus the Shadow
Hebrews 10:1-16 (19-25)
John Tung, 3-25-07
The title for today’s message sounds like an athletic competition between two teams: The Reality versus The Shadow, like the Nationals versus the Orioles, or The Redskins versus the Cowboys. But the sermon is not about games, it is about Christ. It is about the reality of Christ versus the shadow of Christ reflected in the OT animal sacrifices.
And since in the Christian church calendar it is the Lenten season, a time to reflect about the suffering of Christ, that is why I have chosen for us to think and reflect about Christ’s sacrifice, but in relation to the OT sacrifices.
And in our Scripture reading during worship services this year, we have been reading sections of the book of Hebrews. And you might be wondering what the main theme of the book of Hebrews is. Well, the main theme of Hebrews is that Christ is better than the OT sacrifices.
One passage among many that speaks about this is in Heb. 10:1-16. So, let us turn to that passage right now. [Read.]
II. Why is Christ (the reality) better than OT sacrifices? 10:1-16:
And we want to begin by asking the question why is Christ’s sacrifice better than the OT sacrifices? And we ask this question because this was the question that the people back then was also asking.
Knowing that Christ had given his life as a sacrifice for our sins, people wanted to know how about the OT sacrifices: do they still need to carry those out? And if not, why not?
To answer those questions, the writer of Hebrews wrote this whole book.
And one of the ways the writer of Hebrews answers these questions is by using two images to help them understand the greater value of Christ’s sacrifice over the animal sacrifices.
In Heb. 10:1, he uses the image of “shadow” to illustrate what the OT sacrificial laws were all about. He says they are good laws, they aren’t bad or useless - they are good. But they are not the “reality” - and by “reality” this second image, he refers to Jesus Christ.
And as the writer of Hebrews goes on to explain the difference, there are three reasons that Christ’s sacrifice is better than the OT sacrifices.
A. Because he is the Final over the Cyclical: 1-4
The first reason is “Because he is the Final over the Cyclical” (slide).
Because Christ’s sacrifice is the final, once-for-all sacrifice, that’s why it’s better than the annual or cyclical sacrifices the OT priests had to perform over and over again.
For those of you reading Leviticus in the 2007 daily Bible Reading Guide, you have just read about all the sacrifice of animals.
And they had to be repeated day after day, year after year, and this was giving a message that these sacrifices were not the final sacrifice.
If it was the final sacrifice, then these cyclical sacrifices would have stopped.
But the very fact that they were repeated, done over and over again, showed that it was necessary, but that it wasn’t the final reality, but merely pointed to the reality. Therefore, they are called shadows.
When you stand under the sun, you see a shadow on the ground. (Does the sun cast a shadow of me on the ground while I’m up on stage?) That shadow is a shadow of you, but it is not you. You can’t feed a shadow. You can’t improve the life of a shadow. You don’t talk to a shadow. But you feed a person, a person’s life can improve, you talk to the person. A shadow reflects the person whose shadow is on the ground. We all know that a shadow is not the real thing, it reflects the real thing.
In the same way, when we have all the OT sacrifices where goats, bulls, sheep, doves were sacrificed, it would be foolish for us to think that those sacrifices in themselves were the reality, when in fact all those sacrifices were pointing to the greatest sacrifice of all, that of Jesus Christ.
That’s why when Christ came he was called the Passover Lamb who takes away the sins of the world. And his sacrifice was the last sacrifice for sins. That’s why Christians don’t carry out animal sacrifices now. Christ has completed it.
But why did God have the OT people perform animal sacrifices when they weren’t the final sacrifices?
Well, God had in mind a time when the final sacrifice would come. He did not have in mind the final sacrifice to come at the beginning, but later on.
So, until the final sacrifice came, there were these “shadows,” which were annual reminders of sins and showed that they still needed the final sacrifice to take away their sins.