daily biblical sermons

How Christ's sacrifice is superior to the Old Testament sacrifices, and what it does for us
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, Th.D.
Homily of Thursday, Second Week of the Year, January 21, 2021
Hebrews 7:25-8:6, Psalm 39, Mark 3:7-12

Biblical quotations are taken from the Revised Standard Version unless otherwise noted




“But he [Christ] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; he did this once for all when he offered up himself. Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever. Now the point in what we are saying is this: we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent which is set up not by man but by the Lord” (Hebrews 7:24-8:2).



In chapter two of the letter to the Hebrews we read, “Therefore, in all things He [Christ] had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17 NKJV). This is an important verse in the epistle to the Hebrews, for it sums up the whole point of the epistle. The author is telling us that Jesus is our great high priest and to do so he had to become like us human beings. That means that he had to have a human nature like us so that he could “make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17b NKJV).



Our reading today is taken from the seventh and eighth chapters of the letter to the Hebrews, where the author shows that the sacrifice of Christ is superior to the Old Testament sacrifices. Why is it superior?



For one thing the Old Testament priests died and had to constantly be replaced by new people. But Jesus, although he died, he rose again and ascended into heaven and still functions now as our high priest on our behalf in heaven. “Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).



Furthermore, the sanctuary in which the Jewish priests offered sacrifice was a copy of the heavenly sanctuary, which God showed Moses on Mount Sinai and told him to make an earthly sanctuary like the heavenly sanctuary. “They [the Levitical Old Testament priests] serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, ‘See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain’” (Hebrews 8:5).



So, Jesus serves in the original model for the Jerusalem temple, which was preceded by the tent in the desert made by Moses on the model of the vision of the heavenly sanctuary that God gave him on Mount Sinai. So, Jesus serves in the original true heavenly sanctuary, while the Levitical priests serve in only an earthly copy of it.



Also, the Jewish sacrifices could only be performed in the Jerusalem temple, so Judaism could hardly become a religion for all mankind, where, when sins are committed, they could offer a sacrifice, because only a few people lived in the vicinity of the Jerusalem temple.



Furthermore, the Old Testament sacrifices for sins were animals, whereas Jesus sacrificed himself, and he is the divine Son of God, equal to the Father in divinity. Besides, animal sacrifices do not have the power in themselves to take away sins, but Jesus’ sacrifice, as that of the divine Son of God, did have that power, “for it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4).



There is only one sacrifice that was ever offered on earth that did have the power in itself to take away sins, and that was the sacrifice on the cross of Jesus Christ the divine Son of God made man. It is obvious therefore that his sacrifice is superior to anything that was offered in the Old Testament, which was only intended as a preparation for the one sacrifice of Christ.



Finally, our reading today tells us that our high priest is seated at the right hand of God, when he continues to offer his sacrifice to his Father, whereas the Jewish high priests stood and offered their sacrifices. This “shows that he [Jesus] has done his work, and that with acceptance; and is in a state of ease and rest; and is possessed of honor, glory, majesty, and authority” (John Gill, 1697-1771, emphasis added). Our reading today tells us, “We have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent [heaven] which is set up not by men but by the Lord” (Hebrews 8:1-2).



What can we say about Christ’s sacrifice? It makes propitiation for our sins, that is, it propitiates (renders propitious or favorable to us) God himself, or it propitiates divine justice, which was wounded or offended by our sins. Christ propitiates divine justice by satisfying it through enabling our sins to be justly punished in his own flesh on the cross (Romans 8:3-4). So, God’s justice is satisfied and thereby propitiated (rendered favorable or propitious to us).



This is what Christ’s sacrifice does: “Christ is the Mediator, who having made peace, atoned for sin, satisfied justice, and brought in an everlasting righteousness, introduces his people into God’s presence; in whom their persons and services are accepted, and through whom all blessings are communicated to them” (John Gill).



Jesus’ sacrifice began on earth, when he gave his life on Calvary, but his sacrifices continues for all time in heaven in the heavenly sanctuary. Although his sacrifice began on earth, “yet the continuance and consummation of all is in heaven, by his representing [re-presenting] there the merit of his sacrifice, and his making continual intercession” (Joseph Benson, 1749-1821, emphasis added).



How does Jesus intercede for people while he is in heaven? It is “by the appearance of his person for them; by the presentation of his sacrifice, blood, and righteousness; by declaring his will, that such and such blessings be bestowed on such and such persons; and by recommending the prayers of his people, and removing the charges and accusations of Satan” (John Gill).



Do we need to ask what meaning all this has for us today? Is it not obvious? Do we not all have sins and imperfections that trouble us and that we cannot atone for ourselves nor can any other human being atone for and so free us from? This is what Christ was sent to do for us – that which we most need and which nobody can do for themselves and no other human being can do for them. Only Jesus Christ the Son of God was sent by God to do this for us if only we put our faith in him and sincerely repent and intend to immediately amend our life. This brings us great relief, inner peace, and heavenly joy.



Christ’s heavenly intercession, whereby he perpetually shows the blood of his sacrifice to his Father for all who put their faith in him and seek his help brings us many blessings. It brings “the consolation of distressed ones; fresh discoveries of pardoning grace to fallen believers; renewed strength to oppose sin, exercise grace, discharge duty, and bear up under temptations, and deliverance out of them; perseverance in faith and holiness, and eternal glorification; and he intercedes for these things; not for all the world, but for all the elect, even though transgressors” (John Gill). Christ intercedes for those that put their faith in him and genuinely repent. These are his elect ones. Even when they fall and sin, he intercedes for them.



Justice was fulfilled by Christ’s sacrifice, because in justice we owed God suffering and death in punishment for our sins and could not pay it and be saved at the same time. So, God sent his Son to suffer and die as our substitute in punishment for our sins for us. All that put their faith in him will have his suffering and death credited to them as paying their debt of suffering and death that they have with God in punishment for their sins.



God, therefore, seeing that all their sins have been duly and justly punished in the flesh of Christ on the cross (Romans 8:3-4), will declare them righteous and reckon to them his own righteousness (Romans 4:5) so that they shine with the righteousness of God himself.



By Christ’s sacrifice “justice was satisfied; the law fulfilled; sin taken away, and complete salvation obtained; so that there never was since any need of his offering again, nor never will be; which shows the perfection and fullness of his priesthood, and the preference of it to the Levitical one” (John Gill).

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