The Pilgrim Way is one of my favourite places to walk. It follows one of the ancient footpaths from Winchester to Canterbury across the North Downs. Now there are many public footpaths in England but this one is unique. As the name suggests, for hundreds of years it has been used by pilgrims. For some it was a way to do penance and earn merit with God. For others it was a special time to deepen their spiritual walk. The trail ends at Canterbury Cathedral where pilgrims kneel at the spot where Thomas Becket was killed by the knights of Henry II. There is a simple memorial which marks the place of Becket’s martyrdom. For nearly a thousand years, Christians have knelt there to ask God that they, like Becket, might live courageously for him in spite of the powers of the world. When the position of Archbishop of Canterbury fell vacant, Henry appointed his friend Thomas Becket in the position thinking he would do his bidding. But something happened to Becket after he was appointed as spiritual leader of England. He stopped being complacent about his faith. He put politics and luxury behind him. He gave up his former wealth and life style. And he began to challenge the king over differences between the church and government. He paid the ultimate sacrifice. But Becket’s martyrdom did not earn him a place in heaven. And neither does a pilgrimage to Canterbury. There is only one way to find forgiveness for the past and peace of mind for the future.
It is found in the blood of Jesus Christ. And this sacrifice makes all other sacrifices unnecessary. Notice how Hebrews chapter 8 ends and how chapter 10 begins:
“By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13)
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” (Hebrews 10:1)
The Mosaic law is only a shadow because it is temporary, obsolete, outdated and will soon disappear. But why? Why temporary? Why only a shadow? Why obsolete? Because of what comes between chapter 8 and 10. Hebrews 9 dwells on the sacrifice of Jesus, the precious atoning blood of Jesus shed in our place. Hebrews 10 elaborates. I want us to observe 3 reasons we don’t need to offer sacrifices, why we no longer live under the Mosaic Law, why we cannot earn our salvation by good works.
- Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice: Because He is one of us
“Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me.” (Hebrews 10:5)
In Old Testament times God told the people to sacrifice animals as a temporary covering for their sins. It was a temporary plan for the perfect sacrifice that was coming. As they confessed their sins and laid their hands on the head of the animal, they understood that it was dying in their place. They deserved to die, but God was accepting a substitute. The sacrifice pointed to the perfect Lamb of God who would come. After the lamb was sacrificed on the altar, they would take it home and the whole family would eat the lamb. The sacrifice would actually become a part of them. The sins of the people were covered as they looked forward to the perfect sacrifice coming. Our sins are taken away as we look back to the perfect sacrifice of Christ offered on Good Friday at Calvary. Daily we must confess our sins and in prayer place them on the one who was our substitute and sacrifice. Because he died in our place and was offered as a sacrifice for our sins, we partake of his body and blood metaphorically as we receive the wine and bread of communion. It becomes a part of us as we ingest it. And now, when God sees us, he sees the sacrifice of Christ. We do not come depending on our own ability to make a worthy sacrifice — we know that is impossible — we come depending only on the sacrifice of Christ. Remember Hebrews was written when the Temple was still standing and animal sacrifices were still offered daily. That is why God insists:
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. Otherwise, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins. It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-4)
An animal sacrifice could never take away sins. We deserve to die for our sin. The perfect sacrifice must be one of us. That’s why Hebrews 2 says
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death…For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-15,17).
Jesus can empathize with you because he became one of us to break the power of Satan and our fear of death. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice. First, because: He is one of us.
2. Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice: Because He is Sinless
“Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” …. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all…
For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:9-10, 14)
Do you realise that if you give your life to Jesus, when you put your trust in him, he now only frees us from Satan’s grip, he also gives us something to fill the void, to fill the vacuum.
When we trust in Jesus we are declared perfect – righteous – which means ‘in the right’ – not guilty, innocent, notice this declaration is in the past tense. But more than that, by his presence he is progressively (present tense) making us holy also. Remember what we learnt from Hebrews 1, 4 and 7:
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word.” (Hebrews 1:3)
“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
“Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself” (Hebrews 7:26-27)
There was just one problem with the priests who offered sacrifices for the sins of the people. They were sinners just like the people. So before they could offer sacrifices for anyone else, the priests had to offer sacrifices for their own sin. And these sacrifices had to be repeated, not just because they kept sinning, but because the sacrifices only provided a temporary covering for sin anyway. They did not actually remove sin. No sinner could atone for anyone else. And no animal could take the place of a human being. But God had a plan. He would become one of us, and then die in our place, to be our ransom. In doing this, he would do something that no one else was able to do. He would become the temple – the place of sacrifice, he became the High Priest who would offer the sacrifice, and above all, he became the Passover lamb the atonement sacrifice – all three roles in himself. Jesus is the perfect sacrifice because he is one of us and he is sinless. And there’s a third reason that Jesus is the perfect sacrifice:
- Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice: Because He is Divine
We know his sacrifice was accepted because God’s word says:
“But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, and since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool. For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:12-14)
The Lord Jesus sat down. He sat down in heaven. He sat down at the right hand of God the Father. He has made all his enemies, all your enemies his footstool. All because of who he is and what he has done. Because his work was complete. He was able to do all of this because he is nothing less than Divine. The Lord Jesus is unique in his role above all other religious leaders because Jesus is supreme above all other gods. As we have just observed, “For by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” You have been made perfect (past tense). You are being made holy (present tense). This is because Jesus continues to intercede for us, applying his work on the cross in our place, defending us against our accuser from and before the very throne of God and by His indwelling Holy Spirit.
“Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need — one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:23-26).
Do you have this assurance that you have been saved from judgement irrevocably, that you have been freed from Satan’s power unequivocally, that you are accepted before God unconditionally, that you are being made holy like Jesus continuously? If you do, it is your greatest treasure in earth. If not, you can have that assurance tonight if you trust in Jesus as your perfect sacrifice. Jesus is…
Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice: Because He is one of us.
Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice: Because He is Sinless.
Jesus is the Perfect Sacrifice: Because He is Divine.
During Napoleon’s Austrian campaign, his army advanced to within six miles of Feldkirch. It is a beautiful little village nestled in the mountains of Austria. It looked as though Bonaparte’s men would take the little unprotected town without resistance. But as Napoleon’s army advanced in the night, the Christians of Feldkirch gathered in a little church to pray. It was Saturday night before Easter morning. At sunrise the bells of the village pealed out across the countryside. Napoleon’s army, not realizing it was Easter Sunday, thought that the Austrian army had moved into Feldkirch during the night and that the bells were ringing in jubilation. Napoleon ordered a hasty retreat, and the battle at Feldkirch never took place. The Easter bells caused the enemy to retreat, and peace reigned in the Austrian countryside. What a wonderful God we have who has put our spiritual enemy in retreat and given us victory, given us peace, given us assurance of sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life because of the death, the resurrection and the ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ. He always lives to intercede for us. Because he lives, our enemy has not only retreated, he has been totally defeated. Jesus is indeed the Perfect sacrifice. Amen.
Let us close by encouraging one another by saying together, Hebrews 10:19-25.
“Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart and with the full assurance that faith brings, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”