As we close this book we look at two sacrifices, that of Jesus and that which we give. Let the idea of sacrifice lead us in our walk with the Lord.
A. It is considered to be one the most holy of days in the Jewish calendar. We call it “The Day of Atonement” or “Yom Kippur.” It was described in detail in Lev. 16 and began with a ritual for Aaron, or subsequent high priests, to prepare to enter into the Holy of Holies. It was not to be taken lightly because the people were to understand that atonement for sin was to be done God’s way.
B. It would include the sacrifice of a bull for the high priest; the blood was then sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant (vs 11). Then you have two goats, one to be sacrificed for “all the sins of Israel” (vs 16) the other goat was used as the scapegoat. The goat carried on itself all the sins of the people and they were forgiven for another year.
C. But as the ceremony ended we read these words (Lev. 16:27-28). It sounds very similar to our text from Hebrews 13. This morning we want to examine two sacrifices, but neither one is the Day of Atonement.
I. The Sacrifice of Jesus
A. Heb. 13:11-12. If I understand the altar that we as Christians have, I would tell you that altar is Jesus himself and the sacrifice of himself on the cross. The cross was how Jesus sanctified us who believe on him. He is the first altar we read about in this text. Through his death you and I have been set aside as holy before God.
B. There are symbols that are just as important to the Christian as there were symbols important to the Jews. For us, the cross and the empty tomb represent the reason we believe what we believe. The Jews had the Ark of the Covenant and the Temple, but the sacrifices had to be done at least annually. But for us, we see what Jesus did on the cross as ending all sacrifice by becoming the atonement.
C. When the sacrifice for atonement was done, the bodies of the animals were taken outside the camp and burned. It is that comparison that the Hebrew writer begins to call us to action. Listen to Heb. 13:13.
D. There is a calling about this first altar, Jesus and the cross, that we need to keep before us. We are called to “go to him and bear the reproach.” Let me remind you that when Jesus was taken away very few people went with Jesus. We believe John was in the house of the high priest while Jesus had his mock trial and Peter warmed outside by a fire. But when Peter denied Jesus and their eyes met, all biblical accounts have Peter gone.
E. We find John, Mary the mother of Jesus and some other woman at the foot of the cross when Jesus was dying, but for the most part everyone else left him to die alone. They may have been sad, but no one seemed to risk dying with him. The Hebrew writer calls upon us “to go to him outside the camp and bear the reproach he endured.” Do you get what he is calling you and me to do? He is calling us to stand up for our faith not matter the cost. For some of these Jews, leaving the “camp” (Judaism) and become a Christian was a huge cost. The point is this, until YOU and I are ready to take up our cross, to pay whatever the price is to be a disciple of Jesus, the altar of Jesus has little benefit for us.
II. The Sacrifice of Praise
A. But there is another sacrifice I want us to see this morning. It begins for us in Heb. 13:14-16. We see beyond today and seek something greater than what this world has to offer. Since we claim the gift of salvation, we claim the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city. Now in this life, we are priests.
B. Our role as spiritual priests is to bring a gift to the altar, our sacrifice. One of the greatest offerings in the OT was the Thanksgiving Offering. The reason why is because all the other sacrifices seek something from God (atonement), but a thanksgiving sacrifice only gives to God. So the offering we bring to Jesus is not a lamb, for He is our Lamb, but a thanksgiving offering, a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of our lips that acknowledge His name.
C. When you sing from the heart you open up in a way that is like few other ways. When you pray from the heart, you share with God the deepest part of you and let his light shine into the darkest part of you. Even reading, especially reading aloud, the word of God is an affirmation of who He is and what He is doing in us. The fruit of our lips.
D. But the second sacrifice we bring is when we sacrifice self for others. A living sacrifice. Doing good and sharing what God has given to us is a sacrifice. You could keep everything for self, and have nothing, or you can share it with others and experience the joy of a selfless life.
A. I don’t want to just exist; I want to live and to live to the fullest. I don’t want to just attend, I want to worship. I don’t want to just know about God, I want to experience Him.
B. I seek a city that is to come. My worship is far more than just this hour on Sunday. We bring the sacrifice of praise into the house the Lord. We bring us to God through Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit who helps us in all aspects of our life. Let me close with this passage from Paul (Phil. 3:7-11). To that, I say “Amen!”
Because of Jesus,
Jeffrey Dillinger, minister