Sermon – Pentecost 26 – November 18, 2018
Hebrews 10:11-25 ‘Out of the Shadows’
CT: Through the cross Jesus has truly done something new and lasting; forgiveness that brings changes in us now and eternally.
Intro: Think about how much has changed in your lifetime. Automobiles, televisions, and telephones; it’s a long way from the horse and buggy, but not that long! There are wars and rumours of war, famine, violent winds, floods, fires, and earthquakes…it’s said that weather patterns are changing. Our society too has changed the way it views marriage, gender, the gift of life; even marijuana is legal now! Maybe it causes you to worry? Even landmarks that we take for granted as always being there change or disappear altogether. Yet we tend to anchor our lives in people, places, or traditions that we look to as more or less permanent. But they’re not, which is why at the death of a loved one we are never the same again. The disciples looked to the temple as a permanent structure. It stood out on the skyline of Jerusalem with its gleaming white stones, elaborate metal work and tall columns. It overflowed with traditions that brought comfort and a sense of security. But Jesus said: “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” The temple, like the sacrificial system and all the laws and feasts that shaped so much of their lives were but “a shadow of the good things to come, instead of the true form of these realities” (Hebrews 10:1).
Obsolete: Much of what we purchase today from that cell phone to a kitchen appliance seems to have a built in life expectancy. Something newer, faster, better, or something you simply can’t get parts for anymore drives our consumer economy. Our Epistle lesson today tells of a planned obsolescence;
the sacrificial system complete with the place of those sacrifices was coming to an end. That ongoing system of sacrifice, year after year, almost seems like a mouse on an exercise wheel, going nowhere, because the blood of animals can never take away sin. But they had a purpose! The graphic nature of those bloody sacrifices made vivid the cost of our sin and our need for forgiveness. The innocent, spotless lamb was a substitute focusing us on God’s promise to cover over His peoples’ sin. The sacrificial lambs were replaced by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As the Apostle Paul wrote to the Colossians: “These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 3:17)
Everything—all that blood— pointed to the real thing; a once and for all sacrifice for the forgiveness of all of our sins. In the previous chapter, the writer of Hebrews told of its necessity. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” Jesus’ bloodshed and death are the actual, necessary work of forgiveness; the substance; the meat and potatoes; the heart of the matter.
Not Obsolete: Jesus’ sacrifice remains unchanged by the political or religious landscape of every age. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8) He didn’t need to offer a sacrifice for His own sins as the priests in the temple did; He is both the priest and the sacrifice; the only perfect substitute for you and me, that all our sins would be covered—forever. Think of it! “He has perfected for all time we who are being made holy.” Through Christ Jesus something very new and lasting has come to you and me. It won’t grow old or fade away. It’s as solid and effective as the day it was given; our sins are forgiven. Jesus’ sacrificial death is never obsolete! We can always and forever enter into God’s presence with boldness because of Jesus. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life! By His blood He is not only our forgiveness, but through His body He opens the way for us into God’s presence and remains with us. And here at His Table Jesus offers us just that; His Body and His Blood, forgiving our sins and ushering us into the presence of God.
Outcome: All this is the very root and life of faith which clings to this wonderful new, permanent reality of forgiveness. God has done the miracle of a lasting change in our hearts. It’s His ongoing work in our sin strapped lives working out His purpose in a sin laden world. So we are encouraged then to draw near to God with our new hearts—a true heart—in full assurance of faith in this new, permanent reality of forgiveness. We can now see ourselves in the certainty of God’s mercy toward us. As Martin Luther said, “Such a confident and joyful heart can spring from nothing else than the certain knowledge of the forgiveness of sin.”
Confess: This we hold fast to; it’s our confession of hope. Jesus’ blood secures our today, tomorrow, our forever, but as Jesus warns in our Gospel lesson, “See to it that no one leads you astray.” Let no person, no event, and no teaching cause you to doubt that you are forgiven for Jesus’ sake. Everything in our world is changing, but not Jesus—not the Gospel—not the Word of God. These anchor us in life’s storms. Jesus is more than a good man, an example or a cheerleader for better living; He’s our Lord and Saviour. That is the firm ground we stand on. Don’t read into Scripture what you want to hear; read it diligently for the truth of your sin and its consequences, your need for forgiveness, the necessity of Jesus’ sacrifice, and God’s gracious provision to keep you steadfast in faith—for He is faithful.
Stirred: Only now and with this unchanging, solid truth of our forgiveness can we begin to consider how to be godly agitators—stirring one another to love and good works. With Jesus and His cross—with the miracle of faith; that you believe—with the promises of our Baptism—with an unwavering confession of hope underneath us, behind us, and around us can our hands, thoughts, and energies be directed with each other toward God’s good purposes. Today, more than ever, we need to gather in this place to receive God’s gifts, the full assurance of our pardon and a place in His house, be strengthened to face whatever this next week will bring, and to encourage one another. We are being woven into the fabric of the mission-directed Body of Christ, part of God’s purpose and directions in the years to come. While the Day is drawing near when our battle against sin and unbelief will end, grace is never obsolete; grace is now and here, and God’s grace never changes.