Hebrews #15 Why the Cross?
Forward in Faith #15
Why The Cross?
Last week, we talked about the Blood of Jesus poured out for us. We talked about the Power of the Blood and the efficacy of the blood that it will never lose its power.
But why did Jesus shed his blood for us on the cross.
I talked some time ago about how it seemed that the writer of great letter seems to be just dwelling on the same teaching over and over.
It seems that he is repeating the same truth again and again that he is dredging deeper and deeper into the same truth.
Is he wasting our time? Or, could it be that we are missing it, or that we fully don’t appreciate or comprehend it.
Yes there must be shedding of blood in order to forgive sin, but is it just that God wants a few drops of blood?
Back when “The Passion of the Christ” was coming out, I saw a screening of it in Orlando at a Pastor’s Conference. That night the director, Mel Gibson spoke to us. He said something that at first sounded profound, but the more I thought of it the more it didn’t set right with me.
Mel was talking about his appreciation for the depth of the sacrifice. He said, “Jesus could have just pricked his finger for and shed perfect blood to appease our sin, but instead he went through the cross to show his love for us”.
Is that all it was? Was the cross just an example of Christ’s love?
Well to answer that question, look at the Old Testament sacrifices … they were methodical, orchestrated, and gruesome killing of innocent life as a substitute for the guilty sinful life.
The Cross was a place where methodical, orchestrated, gruesome killing took place on those on whom a death sentence had been proclaimed. There was nothing like it on the face of the earth.
So, when that sentence was carried out on Jesus Christ it became a methodical, orchestrated, gruesome, sacrifice on innocent life as a substitute for the guilty, sinful life.
There is a reason for the cross.
I don’t pretend to understand it all but LOOK with me at the Cross of Jesus Christ.
In order to understand the cross we have to look at the Sacrificial System in the Old Testament Law
First Read our Text with me
So we look today at the question of “why the Cross” and we look back across thousands of years to the Law given to Moses and the Covenant that it contained.
What was …
1. The Purpose of the Sacrificial System
When God gave the law and all its ordinances to Moses the then had Moses offer a special sacrifice. It was not a sacrifice of sin but instead a sacrifice of Covenant.
After the sacrifice was offered, God had Moses to sprinkle the blood from the sacrifice on the tablets of the law, altar, and on the people. It was God’s promise that gave a foundation for all the conditions of the law. It guaranteed that God would hold up to his end of the commitments made in the covenant.
So then all the other sacrifices required in the law were based on the promise of God and so what purpose did the sacrifices serve?
A. To Address Sin
Because we are sinners our sin breaks our fellowship with God
There were sacrifices that were given IN communion with and sacrifices that were given FOR communion or because we had broken our fellowship with him.
So there were burnt offerings and peace offerings offered as we were IN fellowship with God and there were Sin and Trespass offerings that were offered because when OUT of fellowship with God.
The priest offered our sacrifice and he and the sacrifice went between us and God to deal with our sin that broke our relationship with God
The Sacrifices also served the purpose …
B. To Announce The Coming Sacrifice
The sacrifices for the sins of the people had to be without blemish. Not just any animal could be offered. Those which required blood were unblemished
Those sacrifices that were not blood sacrifices could not contain leaven or honey.
Why? Because the leaven was a symbol of sin and honey had a tendency to ferment which was also a picture of being corrupt.
Then the sacrifices also contained SALT. Salt is a preservative and a picture of INCORRUPTION.
So the sacrifice was pointing to a time when a sacrifice would come that would be without sin and without corruption that would itself be incorrupt.
I won’t spend much time here but to whet your appetite let me tell you a little about how they offered the sacrifices and see how they point us to Jesus
The one offering the sacrifice would
Lay hands on it – to identify with it
Kill it -
Cut it up
And wash it out
On an individual sacrifice, the person offering would say this “I entreat, Oh Jehovah: I have sinned, I have done perversely, I have rebelled, I have committed (name the sin) but I return in repentance, and let this be for my atonement (cover).”
The sacrifices, of course, involved death. But more than that they involved blood in order to deal with sin, and so the death because a means by which the blood was shed and provided for the sin. The blood was crucial. So in the sacrifice of smaller things like birds, only the priest killed those for fear of losing the blood. The blood must be obtained and it then was sprinkled.
After sacrifices, the blood was sprinkled on the four horns of the altar … then it was taken into the Holy Place and was sprinkled 7 times toward the veil the separated from God’s presence. Then it was sprinkled on the four horns of the Altar of Incense.
Annually on the Day of Atonement it was taken behind the Veil into the Most Holy Place and sprinkled there on the Mercy Seat on the Arc of the Covenant.
On many of the sacrifices portions of the animal were then consumed by the priests.
Sometimes portions other times all of the sacrifice was burned. This point being that the sacrifice was destroyed and the wrath of God then had been poured out and sin had been punished
The Priest only would
Catch the blood
Sprinkle the blood
Light the Altar
Lay on the wood
Bring the pieces
Carry out the sacrifice
Lev. 17:11 – “The soul of every creature is bound up in its blood; therefore I gave it to atone for the soul of man-that one soul should come and atone for the other.”
Jewish Rabbis describe this simply as
“one soul is a substitute for the other”
One Rabbinical statement reads this way
‘The offerer, as it were, puts away his sins from himself, and transfers them upon the living animal;’ and that, ‘as often as any one sins with his soul, whether from haste or malice, he puts away his sin from himself, and places it upon the head of his sacrifice, and it is an atonement for him.’
And so the Sacrifice dealt with our sin and it announced that another sacrifice was coming that would end this sacrifice
By the way, the sin-offering and trespass offering always was required to be a male to satisfy the ransom for the sin.
One other thing about the sacrifice for sin, while the altar of incense that represented prayers used Frankincense and other perfume oils, there was never perfume or sweet smelling oils allowed with the sin-offering because it is an offering of repentance and brokenness and there is never anything joyous in it. It was necessary, the joy came after it after God graciously accepted the sacrifice.
Thus it pointed to the coming sacrifice of the Suffering Savior, the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
But there were problems inherent in the system
2. The Problem With the Sacrificial System
A. It Doesn’t Eliminate Sin
I really don’t need to spend any time here
The fact that 1000’s of years went by and they were STILL offering the sacrifices in Jesus’ day said enough, the sacrifices hadn’t dealt with the sin.
But more than that … the sacrificial system, created by God …
B. It Doesn’t Appease God
vv5-7 quote from Psalm 40 –
Sacrifice and offering you did not desire … with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased
God arranged for the sacrificial system but it doesn’t satisfy him. It does not please him. The only thing about it that pleases him is that it allows him to show mercy and Micah 7:18 says he “delights to show mercy”
The Sacrifices of the Law were intended to point us to Christ to point out our sin but not to eliminate sin or to ultimately please a Holy God.
But some people thought that if they kept doing it long enough they would finally satisfy God
But folks, here is the problem.
Some of us in the church today have the same problem. We think much the same thing. We think if we keep being good, if we keep being “Christian” if we keep being religious, if we keep praying, if we singing songs, reading our Bible, listening to sermons, keep learning, that we can finally “make it” and eliminate sin, and be pleasing to God
But people it didn’t work for them, and it won’t work for us either.
I believe that this is what the Holy Spirit is trying to get us to see. I believe this is why our writer keeps taking us back through this over and over. He wants us to see ourselves in the Old Religious system that while beautiful and effective for a time is ultimately empty by itself.
That is the problem with the Sacrificial System.
That is the problem with religious expression that is an end to itself
But there IS GOOD NEWS!
We have heard it before but has it sunk in yet?
The Sacrificial System has served its purpose
And now to deal with the Problem of the Sacrificial System and Empty Religious Exercise, there is …
3. The Provision of a Better Sacrifice
All of the Jewish teachers believed that while the sacrifices were a substitute for us, they also taught and believed that scripture taught us that when the Messiah came, the need for sacrifice for our sin would be no more!
Thank offerings yes, peace offerings, yes … i.e. worship would continue but once and for all our sin would be dealt with when the Messiah came.
Genesis 3:15 tells us that the Offspring of the Woman would come and though suffering as he is “bruised” at the heel by satan, he would CRUSH him who is the author of sin and get Victory.
We learn as scripture goes on that he will be of the line of David and so David sang of him in his Psalms in words too numerous to read today.
So as one writer said
Seed of Woman
Suffering for us
He Becomes our
Isaiah 52:13-Ch53 points so vividly the picture of the coming suffering Messiah who though “despised and rejected, a man of sorrows (who) took up our infirmities (was) pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, (and) the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all … he was led like a lamb to the slaughter and as a sheep before her shearers … he was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death … yet it was the Lord’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the Lord makes his life a guilt offering he will see his offspring and prolong his days and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand. After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
By his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors
There is a Hymn that is sung during the Jewish Passover sings of the Messiah coming and says this
‘Haste, my Beloved; come, ere ends the vision’s day;
Make haste, and chase Thyself the shadows all away!
“Despised” is He, but yet “extolled” and “high” shall be;
“Deal prudently,” “sprinkle nations,” and “judge” shall He.’
In Jesus Christ we have the Provision of a Better Sacrifice.
Better in EVERY way but particularly in three categories … a Better priest and a Better Sacrifice thus bringing us better results
A. A Better Priest
Oh we have learned about Melchizedek … he was a good man, he was a King of Peace and a King of Righteousness but he was only a man though a Priest and had to offer sacrifices for his own sin and that of others. He appeared to be from out of nowhere but he was just a foreshadow of Jesus
Moses appointed a good High Priest in his brother Aaron. Aaron was a great man … as were many of his lineage that came after him from the house of Levi
But they were just men, they were just filling the gap, they were just pointing to Jesus
But Jesus Christ is a better High Priest
He IS the King of Peace, ushering in a Kingdom of Peace with God
He IS the King of Righteousness
He IS eternal, from everlasting TO everlasting
He is The best High Priest.
In Christ we have been made a Kingdom of priests. And we can come before God through Christ. But he is our High Priest.
You and I could not go before God. we are not High Priests.
The High Priest was himself dressed in Fine Linen on the Day of Atonement which symbolized purity. And the blood the sacrifice I’m sure splashed on his fine linen as he stood in the Most Holy Place before God representing his people taking their sin, and the sacrifice that covered, sprinkling it before God
But Jesus our High Priest, needed no fine linen to PRETEND to be pure.
He himself was COMPLETELY PURE and they stripped him naked like the sacrifice that was skinned before being offered And the sin of the world was laid on him as our Better Priest was also
B. A Better Sacrifice
1. Better in Quality
And so these sacrifices pointed to the time when Jesus Christ would come born without sin
Born without a human sin nature but among humanity so that we who were sinful could lay our hands on Christ as we were human and he was fully God yet fully human
And Jesus would be taken for us.
Not just a prick of his finger, but with equal brutality, directness and methodical nature of the old sacrifice, Jesus would be sacrificed on the cross. A bloody death.
He was not BURNED, but the Wrath of God burned on him as he became sin for us
The sin-offering sacrifice and the trespass-offering dealt with the sin of individuals. The sin-offering was a general redemption. But the trespass-offering was offered as a RANSOM for a some special wrong. These were for “sins of ignorance”. That is a sin that either you didn’t KNOW was wrong, you didn’t KNOW you had done, was through unintentional sin, it could be a sin as a result of weakness, or a time when you didn’t realize you were even guilty
And Romans 5:8 says God demonstrates his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us
It was better in Quality and
2. Better in Quantity – ONE
It is said that the Temple in the first century could hold 210,000 worshippers on the High Holy Festival Days.
With that many worshippers and all the liturgy, hymns, sacrifices, incense, etc. we are told that at least 500 priests were needed to carry out the duties.
Josephus the Jewish Historian says that 82 men held the office of High Priest from Aaron to Phinehas before the Temple was destroyed in AD 70.
But we have ONE High Priest
And we then are HIS Priests serving him
One of the most interesting regulations for many of the sacrifices was the symbolism in the sacrificial meal. The priests were required to consume the meat that had been burned and sacrificed. The 1st Century Jewish Philosopher, Philo, explains why they ate the sacrifice “since God would never have allowed his servants to partake of it, had there not been a complete removal and forgetting of the sin atoned for”
Lev 10:17 – makes it clear that God expected him to partake of the sacrifice BECAUSE it had been accepted by God.
So we have a better priest, Jesus Christ who has offered a better sacrifice himself
And God accepted his sacrifice
And Jesus ascended to the right hand of the Father offered himself in the TRUE TEMPLE in Heaven
His Sacrifice pure
His Sacrifice accepted
His Sacrifice perfect
So like those priests we should consume it
C. Better Results
1. IN us … v16 quotes Jer 31:33 this is the covenant I will make … I will put my laws in their hearts …
It is no longer something OUT THERE that we do
It is no longer in Jerusalem
I don’t have to wait for the next Holy Day or Feast. I can go to Jesus RIGHT NOW and he gives me access to The Throne Room of God
If you lived far away from Jerusalem, like most did, you would have to wait months to be made right with God
People we were SO FAR away from God … and we were far away … and if you are far away from him today, you ARE as close as turning to Jesus Christ
Eph 2:13 – you who were once far away have been brought near through Christ Jesus
Don’t wait another day … for Better Results including
v17 – their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more is Jer 31:34
so the sacrifice of Christ provided for our forgiveness as God wipes our slate CLEAN
Someone say YES!
Results are IN us not OUTside
We are Forgiven and so
the biggie … v18 says
And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin
3. The End of the Sacrifice v18
We don’t NEED a Sacrifice of Bulls, Goats, Turtle Doves, or Lambs …
Because we have the CROSS
And just like everything else the Cross surpasses EVERYTHING of the previous Sacrifices
Why The Cross?
Because the Cross has Said it all
The Cross says
There is no other way to be made right by God
The Cross Says
God is serious about sin
The Cross says
Jesus loves me and I am desired by God
The Cross says
God can change my life
The Cross says
Jesus is all I need
The Cross says
No more sacrifice necessary
The Cross says
let Christ embrace me
The Cross has said it all
That is why the cross
You know what the Cross did for Me?
Same thing that David sang about in Psalm 40
"I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth
So I speak of (his) faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal (His) love and your truth
But God was pleased to save me;"
When I Think About the Lord
"When I think about the Lord
How he saved me
How he raised me
How he filled me with the Holy Ghost
How he healed me to the uttermost
When I think about the Lord
How he picked me up turned me around
How he placed my feet
On solid Ground
Makes me wanna
Because of the Cross
That’s Why the Cross
I Will Glory in the Cross
AT THE CROSS
Alas and did my Savior bleed
And did my Sovereign die
Did he devote that sacred head
For sinner such as I
At the Cross
At the Cross
Where I first saw the Light
And the Burden of my heart rolled away
It was THERE, by Faith, I received my sight and now I am happy all the day
"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world."