Friday, March 21, 2008

Jesus Christ, Our Priest

(A Good Friday sermon based on Hebrews 10:16-25)

The death of Jesus Christ on the cross changed and changes everything. Jesus, the book of Hebrews says, is our great high priest who has cleansed us of our sins through his sacrificial death and who has opened the way to God up for us. Because of what he did on Calvary we are forgiven. Because of what he did on the cross our sins have been blotted out.

That is reality for us. As our great priest Jesus has brought about our salvation. By his once for all sacrifice he has taken away our sins. Our salvation is all because of Jesus Christ.

Because of what our priest Jesus Christ has accomplished for us and in us, the author of Hebrews encourages us to do some things. We can do these things because of what Jesus has already done and we can do them with his help.

First, let us have faith. The full statement is, “Let us approach 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” (v. 22). We are to approach God with sincerity and with faith. Let us not understate the wonderful thing that happened because Jesus died for us: we have direct access to God and in Christ we can go to God knowing that he receives us. Here is a good opportunity for us to remember our baptism: the water of baptism reminds us that we have been cleansed of our sins by God in Christ.

Are we exercising our faith? Are we approaching God with bold faith, knowing that Christ has opened the way for us? Are we living in the glory of our baptism and in the power of our salvation?

Second, let us have hope. The full statement is, “Let us hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful” (v. 23). Because of what Christ our priest done in dying on the cross we know for a fact that eternal life is ours and that God is going to work his purposes out in the end. We know that our salvation will culminate in life with and in God forever. We know all of that because we have the promises of God and God is faithful. His faithfulness is seen in the death of Jesus on the cross—that is how far God will go to bring his promises to fruition.

Do we waver in living in hope? Sometimes circumstances weigh us down, but in the strength of Christ our hope can remain sure and strong, not because of what we can do but because of what Christ has already done and continues to do in us.

Third, let us love. The full statement is, “Let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (vv. 24-25). The word “provoke” has negative connotations but here it is used in a positive sense. We are to incite love and good deeds in one another. How do we do that? We do not do that by nagging or by cajoling or by berating. In the Christian life, love begets love. We show our love for one another by meeting together.

I would very much like for this Holy Week to be remembered as a time when we recommitted ourselves to gathering together for the worship of the Lord. We do that first and foremost for the Lord. But we also do so out of our love for one another. Think of how much more inspiring worship is when more of us are here. As you consider whether or not to attend worship (which frankly should not be a matter for consideration at all!) remember how your presence here inspires and helps your fellow church members. One healthy byproduct of our meeting together is the encouragement it offers to us all. How much more encouraging it is to worship with all of our brothers and sisters! Let us practice love toward one another and thereby encourage love in one another.

[Note: My attention was called to the faith, hope, and love triad in these verses by Hugh Montefiore, The Epistle to the Hebrews(San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 174.]

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