Hebrews 10:1-23 (ESV)
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,
“Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,
but a body have you prepared for me;
in burnt offerings and sin offerings
you have taken no pleasure.
Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,
as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’”
When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
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 from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,”
then he adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
As glorious and intricate as the Old Covenant priesthood was with all of its ceremony and décor, Hebrews tell us that it was “but a shadow” (Heb. 10:1). This should not cause us to think less of the Old Covenant priesthood. Rather, it should cause us to think more of the true substance and reality that cast that shadow. We should consider the beauty and weightiness of the priesthood and then realize, Jesus is even greater! But in what ways is Jesus a greater Priest?
First, the priests in the Old Covenant were themselves guilty of sin. How could a guilty sinner stand in the presence of God on behalf of other guilty sinners? How could they offer a sacrifice for others when in fact, they needed the sacrifice just as much as the people they represented? Their priestly service was a shadow anticipating Jesus, the great and true High Priest. Unlike the priests who had previously served, He was not guilty of sin. As Hebrews 4:14 says, Jesus was “in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” That is to say, Jesus can effectively represent us before God because His sinless nature allows Him to approach God in a way that no other priest ever could.
Second, the priests in the Old Covenant repeatedly brought the blood of animals to the altar for the sins of the people. However, the repeated nature of these sacrifices demonstrated that they were powerless to actually save the people from their sin because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb. 10:4).
But what is impossible for the blood of animals is not only possible, but actually realized and accomplished through the blood of Jesus our Priest. His precious, perfect, innocent, sinless blood fully satisfied the righteous requirements of God’s holiness. This is why, unlike the sacrifices that took place under the Old Covenant priesthood, Jesus’ sacrifice is a “single sacrifice for sins” (Heb. 10:12).
Jesus is both the priest offering the sacrifice and the sacrifice being offered. His sacrifice is perfect and powerful. It was powerful enough to tear the temple curtain that had previously served as a barrier between God and the people. The tearing of that curtain means that because of Jesus’ priestly service, sinners like us can “draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Heb. 10:22). Because Jesus is our Priest, we can now boldly approach God without fear.
Holy, holy, holy is our Lord and Rescuer! You have paid our ransom with the only blood that can: the precious blood of the Lamb of God. Perfect, innocent, and sinless blood.
We confess that our own righteousness is like filthy rags. Though it is impossible for us to offer an unblemished sacrifice, still we try to save ourselves.
The world demands our perfection, but we can rejoice in the good news: You were perfect in our place. The spotless sacrifice of the Only Begotten Son was sufficient!
You are the Vine.
You are the Veil.
You are the Victory.
Prince of Peace, we pray that you would release from us the tyranny of self sufficiency. Work the balm of your truth tenderly into the cracks of our weathered hearts. We are crushed when we try to carry weight we weren’t designed to shoulder. Loosen our grip on this burden and pry it from our hands; help us surrender. We are not enough but the sacrifice of our flawless, immutable, and brilliant victor was.
Holy One, train our hearts to constantly marvel at the purity of the Lamb that was slain, from this until the last of days!