Commonly Called Passion Sunday 2019
The Epistle – Hebrews 9:11-15
The Gospel – St. John 8:46-59
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
“Now even the first covenant had regulations for worship and an earthly place of holiness.  For a tent was prepared, the first section, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread of the Presence. It is called the Holy Place.  Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place,  having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant … Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat… These preparations having thus been made, the priests go regularly into the first section, performing their ritual duties,  but into the second only the high priest goes, and he but once a year, and not without taking blood, which he offers for himself and for the unintentional sins of the people…” (ESV)
These verses, though perhaps a bit strange to hear right out of the gate should be familiar to all of us.
These are the first 10 verses of Hebrews 9.
The next 5 verses are what we just heard in the reading for the Epistle today.
The verses you just heard should sound familiar because we have talked about the Tabernacle of God that Moses had built in the early days of the Jews when they were in the wilderness.
The Tabernacle was the central place of worship.
It was the place where the people would go on a regular basis…bringing with them an animal to sacrifice for the atonement of their sins.
You heard the description of the furnishings…the Ark of the Covenant was in there. The table of bread, the candle stand.
The high priest, once a year would enter into the most holy place within the Tabernacle, and he would make atonement for the sins of the people.
This concept is important for a Christian to know because it has a direct impact on how we understand the work of Christ Jesus on the Cross.
If we don’t know why Jesus died or what Jesus’s death accomplished, then we really don’t know what a sacrifice Jesus made for us.
In the Old Testament, under the Old Covenant, before Jesus came, and even in His day, this is what was going on.
The High Priest in the Tabernacle and later the Temple, was in essence the mediator between God and man.
He was the official representative of the people. He alone had access to the presence of God and the people only had access to God through the High Priest.
Originally Aaron and later other High Priests, would wear a white linen garment to enter the Most Holy Place.
The High Priest would pass through the entrance of the Tabernacle, with the eyes of all of the people on him. He would take with him a young bull and a ram….taking the same route all of the other people would take to make their sacrifice…toward the altar.
The High Priest now doing what everyone else does, but to make a greater atonement for himself and all of the people.
The young bull would be taken to the altar and sacrificed there. He would lay his hands on the head of the animal, confess his own sin and that of his family, then he would slaughter the animal.
The animal was a substitute for the High Priest and the blood of the animal was shed to make atonement to God for his sins.
Then some of the blood was placed in a bowl, incense was taken as well, along with coals of fire, he washed his feet and hands and entered into the Most Holy Place. Only he could go in there.
He went in behind the curtain, taking the blood and the incense with him. He would first sprinkle some incense on the coals so that the inner room he was in would be filled with smoke…like a cloud.
Then he sprinkled some of the blood on the lid of the Ark of the Covenant. Then 7 times on the ground in front of the Ark.
The ritual God required is quite remarkable. All of this to atone for the sins of the people.
Notice even today we have similar actions. We have incense, clouding up the sanctuary, representing the presence of God as well as other things. ….calling to mind the same things the ancient High Priests did.
We have the High Priest clothed in a robe, hiding the person wearing it to a great degree.
What we don’t have is the bowl of animal blood. But we will see soon that the Blood of Christ is called upon and mentioned in our own service as well.
Then we heard this today, “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect [Tabernacle] (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)…
…that is, not a material structure made with wood and fabric and bronze and gold and silver where the people would go in and out….but rather, Jesus …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.
Jesus enters a new sanctuary, not made by men. Not made on earth. It is made by God in heaven…because Heaven is the dwelling place of God.
He goes on to ask, “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?”
He is asking, if what the High Priest did in the Old Covenant, sprinkling blood on the Ark of the Covenant and burning bulls and goats acted in such a way so as to satisfy the sins of the people…..how much more did the sacrifice of Jesus and the sprinkling of His blood all over the wooden cross do an even better and in fact perfect job of atoning for the sins of the people??
He offered Himself to God on the Cross as the Lamb of sacrifice and His blood was shed, thus ending the old way of the Old Covenant…
…ending the High Priest entering into the Most Holy Place and going through all of that ritual…
…ending all of that atoning which never really blotted out the sins of the people like Christ’s blood does.
At best we could say “The Jewish Day of Atonement was the corner-stone of the Jewish Covenant, for by it their state of grace was annually renewed to the people of God.”
This was a renewal of their state of grace before God.
He goes on, “Therefore he is the mediator…Jesus is the High Priest between the people and God…..
He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (ESV)
So that all who are called…. all of us who have been called by the Holy Spirit, the elect of God, we have been called into this New Covenant, bloodless…only Christ’s blood…never to bleed again….
All so that we who believe in Him and trust in Him may receive the promised eternal inheritance.
The death of Christ has granted us now access to the Father and access to eternal life because we have been redeemed from the transgressions we have committed.
And if you might be asking, well, what if I continue to sin? Will the sacrificial blood of Christ continue to cleanse me from my sin?
The precious blood of Christ was shed once for all, and yet it works for all who call upon His name and call upon His blood and its atoning works cleanses us again and again.
Remember that Scripture passage we all should have memorized.. If we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and He will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
What a perfect lesson to hear at the end of Lent.
As we have contemplated our sin, so now we have the message of forgiveness, atonement and comfort in today’s scripture lessons.
As we come to the end of this low, joyless time we are given the greatest message of hope.
Today is the day we are reminded of Christ’s atonement.
In the Old Covenant the High Priest had to perform that ritual every year, again and again, carrying that blood over and over again into the Temple… precisely because what he was doing did not have the ability to bring perfect salvation.
The sacrifices of the Old Covenant have now been superseded by the sacrifices of Lamb of God, Jesus Christ.
This is the New Covenant, in Christ’s blood…built on better …in fact perfect promises which cover the sins of the whole world.
Jesus attests to His perfectness and fitness in the Gospel today.
He asks of the Jews who were confronting Him, “Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?” (ESV)
In other words, “Which one of you can prove me a sinner?” “Who can point to any transgression on my part?”
“Who here as anything they can bring against me?”
And none of them did. They had to make something up in the end.
This is the requirement for perfection. Sinless. Spotless. Without blemish. The New Testament is replete with passages telling us about the perfection of Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
 “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (ESV)
 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens.” (ESV)
1 Peter 2:22
 “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.” (ESV)
1 John 3:5
 “You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin.” (ESV)
Scott ~ “But more striking still is our Lord’s own consciousness of perfection, and this, when we remember that to Christ we owe our deepest knowledge of human sinfulness.
He condemned others, but could not condemn Himself. He taught us to pray for pardon; He did not join in the prayer.”
Very early Church Father Origen says, “Now, I understand the words “which of you” to be said not only to those present but also to the whole human race, as if we were to understand it to mean: Who of your race? Or, what sort of person will be able to convict me of sin? But be assured: there is no one.” Commentary on the Gospel of John 20.277–78.
None of us can say we are without sin. We should all be well aware of this. Lent should make us very aware of this. Hopefully everyone here is quite clear on that and in agreement.
It is only the sinless perfection of Christ who can stand before the Father and make the claim to be without spot of sin.
Thanks be to God that this is true and that this spotless perfect Savior has atoned perfectly our sins and granted us life everlasting through faith in Him.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.