But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
(Hebrews 9:11-14 ESV)
What Thou, my Lord, hast suffered, was all for sinners' gain:
Mine, mine was the transgression, but Thine the deadly pain.
Lo, here I fall, my Saviour: 'tis I deserve Thy place;
Look on me with Thy favour, vouchsafe to me Thy grace.
n attributed to Bernard of Clairvaux (12th C.)
The Writer to the Hebrews has just finished reviewing how the Temple Sacrifices were done, as prescribed in the Law. His conclusion is that the annual visit by the High Priest into the Most Holy Place with a blood sacrifice couldn’t possibly address our sin as fallen people, separated from a holy God. The thinking is that, if God needs to be placated because we have sinned, it is irrational to imagine that the imposition of the ashes of the burned carcass of a cow would in any way pay the debt we owe. He uses the words “defiled persons” to describe us.
Okay, so I’ve been out in the world and during the day I did some work in the garden and then fed some farm animals. I worked on my house and barn for a while later in the day. When I come inside that evening, I’m going to be stinky and dirty. The best way to clean all that muck off me is: A good sprinkling of cow ash. Right? So if that’s not sufficient for cleaning my dirty body, how could it ever clean my soiled soul?
In another place in Hebrews, the Writer tells us, “ For on the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); but on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19 ESV)
Then what value was the Law? Simply to demonstrate to us that we were separated from God? To prefigure Christ’s Sacrifice? The Law may well have been perfect in itself, but in the hands of sinners the Law becomes ineffective. And so one perfect priest satisfied the Law with his own blood (something none of us would have been willing to do), not simply substituting for a humankind that would be unwilling to come and do what he did, but in order to bring us to God. He doesn’t merely go into the Most Holy Place alone and then return to where we are to soil himself again. Jesus takes us into the Most Holy Place with him, spills his own blood on the altar there, and then invites us to stay!
The Most Holy Place is now ours, because one died for all.
As I review what I have written I know the explanation is inadequate. I’m struggling to explain here the most profound thing: dirty as I am, at great cost to himself (whatever that means – I don’t understand it), Jesus has found a way to welcome me where he and his father are.
Glory to God in the highest!