The truth is, the common Hebrew person could only come so far, and no closer when it came to me. The priesthood offered a step closer to God. The high priest could get the closest. But Jesus brings you and me even closer.
A. There is nothing like the feeling of “clean” after you have been “really filthy.” You know what I am talking about. While I am not much of a camper, I did grow up doing a lot of camping. Living in a tent in the Alaskan wilderness for a week in some glacier lake fishing has some glorious memories. Fishing for salmon, hiking, listening for bears, sitting by the campfire at night, all good stuff, but the truth of the matter is, you get very dirty camping.
B. We have had four kids go off to Camp Concern for a week of church camp. They love it! You send them off with nice clean clothes and half of them come back never having been touched, and the clothes they are wearing could almost walk on their own. They are filthy.
C. The remedy: a good long shower and clothes in the washing machine. I can’t speak for kids, but I can tell you I love feeling clean after I have gotten completely sweaty and filthy doing outside stuff.
D. Let me tell you why I think it is so important to have those filthy days and those clean days. As Jeff Snell wrote in his study guide on Hebrews, “When you forget how gross it feels to be grimy, you forget how good it feels to be clean.”
I. Only So Far
A. Worship and holiness went together for the Hebrew. They probably had a better understanding of holiness than most of us. But this tent, was not just a tent, it was the place where God would dwell among the people. A spiritual cleanliness was expected when a person came before God. Sins of the people would be atoned for in the outer court, but in the tabernacle, another aspect of worship and holiness would take place.
B. Read verses 6-7. For the Hebrews, they could only go so far. In fact, the average Jew never entered the tabernacle proper. Their worship and sacrificing was done in the outer court for the sins in which they knew they committed. They would come with their gifts, offerings, and sacrifices and worship, but only so far.
C. The Priests could go into the tabernacle and would do so regularly to perform their duties. But even they could only go so far. There was veil, a curtain, that would divide off a second area. It was if there was a huge sign that said, “Restricted Area: Authorized Personnel Only.” In fact, the only one “authorized” was the high priest and he only once a year, and then only with a blood sacrifice for the unintentional sins of the people.
D. It is a bloody religion. Without the blood there can be no forgiveness of sin. The only way to cover over, atone, for sin was with blood. Why did God ask that? He is God, couldn’t he have ask for something else? Why the blood? Listen to Lev 17:11, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life.”
E. Blood is life. Life is in the blood. Blood is absolutely necessary for atonement. The details of the tabernacle really never meant much to me, but the Hebrew writer used them to help me understand that I could only go so far, unless there was a way to go behind the curtain and into the Most Holy Place where God would dwell.
II. Cleansed By The Blood
A. Our text put it this ways (READ Heb. 9:11-12). Now jump down to verse 22. When we talk about how you and I are cleansed from our sin, we have to talk about the issue of blood. The penalty for sin is death, so the only way to defeat death is by destroying what it can do to us. The life-giving blood of Jesus, shed upon the cross, paid the penalty and defeated the enemy we call spiritual death. That gift of life is open to every person who will accept it on God’s terms.
B. The writer takes us back to Ex. 24 when God has Moses and the leaders come before him and then all the people. The story from Ex 24 helps us to see how important blood was to the original covenant. The use of blood on people only occurred on Aaron and his sons, so the story in Ex. 24 must have been deeply impressive as well as instructive in committing to follow God alone.
C. Listen to Heb. 9:18-22. The night of the “Last Supper” Jesus echoed the words of Moses and changed the way that Passover meal was seen. READ Matt. 26:27-28. You and I experienced the cleaning blood of Jesus when we were baptized, as Paul teaches in Rom. 6:3-4.
D. When our sins were washed away, it was because of what Jesus did for us through the shedding of his blood. When we partake with the living Jesus in the communion each week, we publicly proclaim our acceptance of the new covenant that Jesus established.
E. While there is nothing special in the physical water of baptism and nothing special in the grape juice used in the communion, there is no doubt that these ceremonies help us to experience the reality that God is cleansing us and keeping in covenant with us even to this day. They are not to be taken lightly or dismissed away, but used to helps us know that we are claimed and in Christ.
A. What can wash away my sin? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. What can make me whole again? Nothing but the blood of Jesus. If you have not allowed the blood of Jesus to cleans you from your sin, we invite you today to come, be baptized in His name, having your sins washed away.
B. If you have shared in Christ’s death and resurrection through baptism, but have lost that oneness, we invite you to come this morning and let us pray with you, surround you with our love, and walk beside you as you journey towards heaven. Whatever you need, all you have to do is come forward as we stand and sing.
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister