Bible Text: Isaiah 1:10-20; Hebrews 9:11-15 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Our Great High Priest Isaiah 1:10-20 & Hebrews 9:11-15 by William Klock As you went about your daily business this week, did any of you happen to touch anything disgusting?  I mean something really gross.  When I worked fixing computers, it was a regular occurrence.  You’d think that fixing computers would be a pretty clean job, but there are lots of times when it’s not.  We’d get stuff from the mildly icky, like cracker crumbs in the keyboard, to the truly gross, like cat spray and dead mice. Sometimes you’d start taking a computer or a printer apart and the deeper you got into it the more you wished you had rubber gloves, and what’s especially bad is when you get stuck working on one of these machines right before lunch.  No matter how well you wash your hands, you just can’t quite forget what it was you were touching – and of course it’s especially bad when you can’t quite identify what the sticky substance was…  We’ve all had that happen.  You’re sitting somewhere and you touch the bottom of your chair or the bottom of a table and – ick – somebody’s old gum reveals itself.  Or you walk across your lawn and step in something your neighbour’s dog left for you.  It’s nasty.  You accidentally touch the old gum and for an hour afterward, even if you wash your hands, you somehow pay special attention to that finger that came in contact with it, and how, even after you’ve rubbed a bare spot in the lawn cleaning your befouled shoe, you still take it off and leave it in the garage before you go inside and walk across the living room carpet. Even kids know better.  For a while we had a cat in our neighbourhood that was always leaving dead mice and birds in a corner of our front lawn.  I could always tell if it had left another present because the neighbourhood kids would be standing around it and poking it with sticks.  They were curious, but they knew not to touch the dead animal.  We all know not to touch these sorts of things.  We work hard at staying clean.  We shower daily.  We wash our hands.  We keep a bottle of Purell on hand, just in case we touch something nasty and there’s no soap and water around. Now remember how Jesus responded to the Pharisees when they accused the disciples of not washing their hands before eating: You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.” And he called the people to him and said to them,  “Hear and understand: not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man.” (Matthew 15:7-11) Think of all those gross things you’ve touched – or worked so hard to avoid toughing.  Think of how often we get worked up because we touched something that “defiles” us or we go way out of our way to avoid coming into direct contact with it.  But how often do we think about the sin in our lives that defiles us and separates us from God.  Our desire to be clean drives us to avoid the dirty.  And yet consider that God’s innate and perfect holiness does not tolerate the unholy.  When we sin we remove ourselves from his presence.  In the Old Testament, God used the Law as a tool to teach the people about the severity of their sins.  The Law used externals to teach spiritual truths and to point to the Messiah who would come and fulfil the Law by meeting it perfectly where all of us have failed. The Jews are notorious throughout the Old Testament for not understanding the inner spiritual truths of the Law.  They focused on the externals.  They went through the motions of serving God, but their hearts weren’t in the right place.  Look at our Old Testament lesson: “What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of he-goats. “When you come to appear before me, who requires of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies — I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread forth your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil,  learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow. (Isaiah 1:11-17) These were people who went through all the outward motions of piety.  They made their sacrifices, they were regular in their religious observances, they were sticklers in obeying the Law down to the last letter, but when it came to applying God’s principles in their lives, they didn’t have a clue.  Their external observances should have been a natural outgrowth of an internal relationship with God.  The Law was given to teach them how unholy they were.  It was to teach them thankfulness for the grace God gave them in the sacrificial system and in the coming Messiah – grace that restored them to fellowship with God.  Instead, they used the Law as a measuring stick to see how good they could be.  They missed the point.  They were trying to earn their salvation.  Through Isaiah, God’s saying to them, “Look, I’m sick and tired of your empty sacrifices.  You’re bringing me these sacrificial animals as if I need them.  You’re coming to me and saying, ‘Look how good I am God!  Enjoy the lamb or the bull.’  Hello!?! The sacrifice is for you, to remind you of your own sinfulness and the need you have to be restored to me.” But God also promised redemption.  Look at verses 18-19: “Come now, let us reason together, says the LORD: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.  If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” I think it’s very appropriate that our lessons take us back to the Old Testament sacrificial system on this Sunday that takes into Passiontide and prepares us for Holy Week and Easter.  It contrasts the type – the shadow – in the Old Testament with the fulfillment of the type in the New Testament.  We see how the fulfillment surpasses the type in every way. Look first at Hebrews 9:11, just the first half of the verse: But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come… Christ is our great High Priest and what he brings us as our High Priest is far better than anything that the old Levite High Priests could bring the Jews.  The blessings that Christ brings us, the “good things to come” of verse 11 are the things that the Jews were looking forward to.  Jewish promises are Christian realities, the hopes of the Jews are our certainties.  What they looked forward to in the future is our present.  The sacrificial system of the Tabernacle and the Temple were a type or a shadow that pointed to  Christ, who is the real thing.  It pointed to a future redeemer who would free his people from the bondage of sin.  They had to look forward to that day with expectation.  We live in that day. Look at the rest of verse 11: …then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) As our High Priest, Christ entered the Holy of Holies to atone for our sins.  Remember that once every year, the High Priest would enter the Holy of Holies, the place in the Temple where the shekinah gory of God dwelled, and into the presence of God the High Priest would bring the blood of a bull to atone for the sins of the people.  He would pass through the Tabernacle that the Israelites had built to get there.  Christ however, entered the presence of God directly in heaven, not through an earthly building, but through his own body when it was offered on the cross.  Only he was holy and only he could make that sacrifice.  In him the Word of God became incarnate and took on human flesh so that he could be a second Adam for us.  The Tabernacle was an earthly illustration of the way to God that we only fully know in Christ. And remember that the High Priest only entered the Holy of Holies once a year.  God could have made this a daily sacrifice if he wanted to, but I think that in its limitation to once every year it points toward the once for all sacrifice of Christ.  In verse 12 we read: …he entered once for all into the Holy Place… Jesus completed his atoning work.  He entered once for all, where the Jewish High Priest had to make his sacrifice every year.  Their Day of Atonement was annual, but ours is eternal, and is eternally perfect.  There is no need for a repeat of Christ’s sacrifice. Look at the sacrifice he made: …taking not the blood of goats and calves but his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. His is a perfect sacrifice.  The Jewish High Priest offered a life lower than his own in the annual sacrifice.  Jesus’ death was a true sacrifice, because it was the sacrifice of self.  The animals offered in the Tabernacle and the Temple were not willing participants and they were not, in their lives, equal to those for whom they were sacrificed.  In Hebrews 10:10 we read that “we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. If the sacrifice of an unwilling animal could take away the ceremonial uncleanness of the people, how much more is done for us by the sacrifice of the Son of God?  In the Old Testament the High Priest would sprinkle the people with water mixed with the ashes of a heifer to ritually cleanse them.  But this only cleansed them on an external level.  The sacrifice of Christ purifies us spiritually.  In Christ the blood of the incarnate Word is offered.  He was without blemish.  The unblemished sacrificial animals of the Old Testament pointed to him.  He is the only man who has ever lived and not been defiled by sin.  It was his blood, not the blood of an animal, that was offered, as verse 14 says, “through the eternal Spirit.”  This is the final contrast with the old animal sacrifices.  The author of Hebrews uses this phrase “eternal Spirit” to contrast with the old sacrifices of flesh.  The animals offered in the Tabernacle were dumb brutes with little value.  Christ on the other hand was God himself, he was eternal, and embodies spiritual perfection.  There’s no comparison of value between the two.  Christ’s sacrifice is infinitely better than any other.  So if an animal sacrifice could provide ritual, external purification, how much more can Christ’s sacrifice purify us inwardly?  I think this shows us just how defiled we really are by our sins.  Too many of the Jews never looked beyond the animal sacrifices to see what they pointed to.  It was like they could buy off God with one of their animals.  “Okay God, I sinned, now here’s your sacrifice.”  Maybe it hurt a little in the pocketbook, but it wasn’t any big deal.  But when we see that only God himself could become the perfect sacrifice for our sins it should drive home the point that our sins really are a big deal.  It also drives home just how much God wants us to be reconciled to him that he would die in our place so that we can be brought back to spiritual life and health and into fellowship with him. Look at verse 15: Therefore 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 which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant. The Jewish Day of Atonement was really the cornerstone of the Old Covenant, because it was on that day each year that their state of grace was renewed by God.  Christ’s atonement brought a better covenant.  His death is the pledge of our inheritance in the kingdom of grace and glory.  Remember that you can’t receive an inheritance until the person who made the will dies.  Christ died for us and we have already received our inheritance of eternal life. The only life we have is in the free gift of grace that we find through Christ’s sacrifice.  There is no life in the Law of the Old Testament.  Looking for life through the Law is futile, except that it will point us to Christ.  The purpose of the Law was to convict the people of their sins.  It teaches us what’s right and what’s wrong, and because of that it shows just how much we deserve God’s eternal punishment.  It’s the measuring stick that condemns us to hell by showing us how far we are from God’s perfect holiness and by showing us how impossible it is for us to live up to his standards.  Our “dead works” – to use the language of verse 14 – condemn us.  But Christ’s sacrifice purifies us.  Verse 14 ends with a call to us: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Christ became the sacrifice that we couldn’t make on our own.  In return we give ourselves over to him.  In Romans 12:1-2 St. Paul writes: I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. God didn’t redeem us so that we could continue living our old lives.  His grace also sanctifies us, it works in our lives to make us more like him.  God calls us to give ourselves back to him as living sacrifices.  Being a dead sacrifice is easy.  You just lay there on the altar.  But God call us to put our lives on his altar – to dedicate ourselves to him and to his service.  That’s not always easy for us to do, when our natural tendency is to want to crawl off that altar and do our own thing. Each morning when I get up, I find it helpful to visualize an altar, the sort of thing Abraham would have built when he went to sacrifice Isaac, made of piled stones on a hilltop.  I visualize myself climbing up the stones and laying myself down on top of that altar, consecrating my life that day to God and asking him to give me the grace to stay there.  As we sit atop God’s altar, contemplate the words of this wonderful hymn that I think really sums up what our prayer should be: Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee; take my moments and my days, let them flow in ceaseless praise. Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of thy love; take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for thee. Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King; take my intellect, and use every power as thou shalt choose. Take my will and make it thine; it shall be no longer mine; take my self, and I will be ever, only, all for thee. Prayer: Holy and Almighty God, we thank you for the gift of your Son who has become our Great High Priest and offered himself once and for all to atone for our sins.  We thank you for the grace that we find in him and we pray that you will keep us faithful to that grace, that we will continue daily to conform to his image.  Give us the grace to consecrate our lives to you each day, Lord, and let us be tools that are useful to you.  In the name of Jesus Christ, Our Great High Priest, we pray.  Amen.
Bible Text: Hebrews 10:1-25 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year The Perfect Sacrifice Hebrews 10:1-25 by William Klock As we make our way through Holy Week, there’s a sense in which we do so with Jesus’ disciples.  Last night we sat with them as Jesus washed their feet and instituted his Supper.  We sat with them as he talked about sacrifice – not the old sacrifices of the Tabernacle and the Temple, but a new and perfect sacrifice of his body and blood.  The disciples understood that Jesus was talking about a sacrifice – and one that he would make.  But it’s also pretty clear that they didn’t understand how that was going to happen or what it meant.  They had spent three years with the humble preacher as he walked from town to town, with nothing but the clothes on his back, and proclaiming the Kingdom.  But I also think that they were with that crowd last Sunday – Palm Sunday – that hailed the conquering hero who, even though he rode into the city humbly and riding a lowly donkey, they knew was going to throw off his clever disguise, bring a sword, raise an army, and drive out the Romans and wreak vengeance on Israel’s enemies.  His disciples sat there at dinner, taking the bread and wine Jesus gave them and no doubt scratching their heads as they wondered what it all meant.  The Messiah.  Behold your King comes…the conquering and victories King comes…riding on a humble donkey.  The conquering King…now talking about becoming a sacrifice. And then they went with him to the Garden of Gethsemane.  They knelt among the olive trees as Jesus went off a little way away to pray by himself.  As Jesus prayed nearby like he’d never prayed before, the disciples fell asleep.  They had no idea what was happening. Jesus woke them up in time for Judas to come, leading a pack of Jewish soldiers who had come to take him away.  Peter drew out his sword, ready for the attack, and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers.  Maybe he thought that now was the time Jesus, the conquering Messiah-King, was going to throw off his clever disguise of humility and start the revolution all the Jews expected.  Now was his chance!  But it didn’t happen.  In fact, Jesus healed the soldier and told Peter: “I can appeal to my Father and he’ll send twelve legions of angels.  But if I did that, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?” The disciples ran away as the chief priest’s soldiers took Jesus away in chains.  They figured it was over…just another guy who claimed to be the Messiah – not the first and certainly not the last.  But Peter followed along to the high priest’s house and hung back in the courtyard.  He watched the sham trial they put Jesus through.  They condemned Jesus, and as the priests and soldiers spit on him and struck him, Peter gave up just like the other disciples had done a few hours before.  Three bystanders noticed Peter in the crowd and recognised him: “Hey, you!  You were with him.  You’re one of his friends.  You’re one of his followers.” And each time Peter denied knowing Jesus: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!  You must be blind!  I’ve never seen this man before!” When it was morning, the Jews dragged Jesus to Pilate’s court.  He was the Roman governor.  The Jews weren’t allowed to execute anyone; the Romans had to do it.  And so Jesus went through another sham trial before Pilate who caved into pressure from the Jews.  He didn’t want a riot on his hands and the Jews were crying for blood – and not just blood – they were crying out for a Roman crucifixion.  Pilate ask them, “But this man is King of the Jews?”  And they shouted back, “We have no king but Caesar!”  The crowds who had hailed their Messiah on Sunday, turned against him on Friday.  They wanted a conquering Messiah who would raise an army and drive out the Romans, but instead this wanna-be Messiah was talking about the Kingdom of God in men’s hearts.  He even talked about becoming a sacrifice himself.  The humility wasn’t a disguise to fool the Romans – he really was humble…a wimp…no Messiah here! The Roman soldiers, the whole battalion, took Jesus to be scourged.  They spit on him, they put a reed in his hand and a crown plaited of thorns on his head and mocked him as king, and then they beat him senseless.  They led him away with two common thieves onto a nearby hill.  They held him down on a cross while they nailed him to it with big spikes through his wrists and through his feet, then they raised the cross up and dropped it heavily into the ground. His mother, his aunt, Mary Magdalene, and John watched as the blood poured from his hands, his feet, and his head.  For three hours he hung there.  Roman crucifixion was known for its agony.  The shoulders were dislocated.  As you hung there you couldn’t breath.  To breath you had to put your weight on the spike going through your feet – alternating between the agony of asphyxiation and the agony of the spike in your feet.  After three hours Jesus cried out in anguish to his Father, “It is finished.”  And just to make sure he was dead the soldiers pierced his side with a spear to see the blood run out followed by a gush of water. That evening Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to claim the body of Jesus.  They took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a tomb and sealed it up. Now I think the disciples started to understand what Jesus was talking about last night when he had talked about his body and blood being given as a new – as a perfect – sacrifice.  In our epistle lesson from the book of Hebrews, we read some more about the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice.  If you have your Bibles, you can follow along in Hebrews 10.  The Law was but a shadow of the good things to come.  “It can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). The blood of bulls and goats, sacrificed over and over, could only convict the people of sin as it pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Christ that had not yet been made.  And so Hebrews 10 says that Jesus came to do “away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10).  The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us a vivid picture contrasting the old and the new: “Every priest [and he’s talking about the priests of the old covenant] stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14). Jeremiah wrote, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds…I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  And Hebrews reminds us, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:16-18). When Jesus breathed his last and cried out, “It is finished,” it was finished.  Whereas in the old covenant the priest laid the sins of the people on the bulls and goats sacrificed repeatedly on the altar, Jesus, our great High Priest, took our sins upon himself and died the death that we deserved.  As I said last night: life is in the blood.  The old sacrifices were imperfect, but in the shed blood of Christ we find perfection.  There’s no longer any need for more sacrifices.  Jesus did it once and for all.  The old covenant called for the sinner to humbly lay his sins on that animal sacrifice, but that bull or that goat on the altar of the Temple was a sign given by God – it was God’s finger pointing to Jesus Christ – pointing to the Cross. No more do we bring an annual sacrifice to the Temple; now the humble sinner need only trust in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. When Jesus breathed his last and gave himself up to God, the Temple served its last function in redemptive history.  Under the old covenant the Holy of Holies – or the Most Holy Place – was where the presence of God resided visibly for the people, resting on the Ark of the Covenant.  And yet the people weren’t allowed into that place – into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.  Only the High Priest was allowed there and then only once a year.  No sinful human being could enter the presence of God and the priest only did it to make an annual sacrifice for sins – and he did so only after a series of purification rituals.  And even then he did so with a rope tied around his ankle so that the other priests could pull him out should he, a sinner, be struck dead by the holy presence inside.  Nobody went there.  Sinners can never enter the presence of a holy, just, and righteous God without standing condemned. But when Jesus made his once-for-all sacrifice on the cross that day – as he breathed his last – the heavy veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  By his death, Jesus Christ opened the way into the presence of the Father.  Through Jesus Christ sinners can find perfect forgiveness and can now enter the presence of our holy, just, and righteous God uncondemned. On the cross Jesus stretched out his hands; he stretched out one hand to all those who hadtrusted in him, seeing the future and coming Messiah as they made their sacrifices at the Temple.  And with his other hand Jesus reached out to us, reached out to the Gentiles, to the nations who had never heard of the Messiah.  On the Cross he reaches out with both hands, uniting both peoples to himself, establishing his body by giving new life to dead and paralysed limbs through his shed body and blood.  Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).  That’s exactly what he did.  In fact, it’s exactly what he still does.  He stretches out his hands to draw us in, to unite us to himself.  Through his perfect sacrifice he offers perfect forgiveness of sin.  Through his body and his blood he offers new and eternal life.  Through his Holy Spirit he renews and regenerates hearts and minds and leads us on the path of holiness.  And through his cross, he leads us through the torn veil and into the Holy of Holies – into the presence of God.
Bible Text: Hebrews 10:1-25 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year The Perfect Sacrifice Hebrews 10:1-25 by William Klock As we make our way through Holy Week, there’s a sense in which we do so with Jesus’ disciples.  Last night we sat with them as Jesus washed their feet and instituted his Supper.  We sat with them as he talked about sacrifice – not the old sacrifices of the Tabernacle and the Temple, but a new and perfect sacrifice of his body and blood.  The disciples understood that Jesus was talking about a sacrifice – and one that he would make.  But it’s also pretty clear that they didn’t understand how that was going to happen or what it meant.  They had spent three years with the humble preacher as he walked from town to town, with nothing but the clothes on his back, and proclaiming the Kingdom.  But I also think that they were with that crowd last Sunday – Palm Sunday – that hailed the conquering hero who, even though he rode into the city humbly and riding a lowly donkey, they knew was going to throw off his clever disguise, bring a sword, raise an army, and drive out the Romans and wreak vengeance on Israel’s enemies.  His disciples sat there at dinner, taking the bread and wine Jesus gave them and no doubt scratching their heads as they wondered what it all meant.  The Messiah.  Behold your King comes…the conquering and victories King comes…riding on a humble donkey.  The conquering King…now talking about becoming a sacrifice. And then they went with him to the Garden of Gethsemane.  They knelt among the olive trees as Jesus went off a little way away to pray by himself.  As Jesus prayed nearby like he’d never prayed before, the disciples fell asleep.  They had no idea what was happening. Jesus woke them up in time for Judas to come, leading a pack of Jewish soldiers who had come to take him away.  Peter drew out his sword, ready for the attack, and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers.  Maybe he thought that now was the time Jesus, the conquering Messiah-King, was going to throw off his clever disguise of humility and start the revolution all the Jews expected.  Now was his chance!  But it didn’t happen.  In fact, Jesus healed the soldier and told Peter: “I can appeal to my Father and he’ll send twelve legions of angels.  But if I did that, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?” The disciples ran away as the chief priest’s soldiers took Jesus away in chains.  They figured it was over…just another guy who claimed to be the Messiah – not the first and certainly not the last.  But Peter followed along to the high priest’s house and hung back in the courtyard.  He watched the sham trial they put Jesus through.  They condemned Jesus, and as the priests and soldiers spit on him and struck him, Peter gave up just like the other disciples had done a few hours before.  Three bystanders noticed Peter in the crowd and recognised him: “Hey, you!  You were with him.  You’re one of his friends.  You’re one of his followers.” And each time Peter denied knowing Jesus: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!  You must be blind!  I’ve never seen this man before!” When it was morning, the Jews dragged Jesus to Pilate’s court.  He was the Roman governor.  The Jews weren’t allowed to execute anyone; the Romans had to do it.  And so Jesus went through another sham trial before Pilate who caved into pressure from the Jews.  He didn’t want a riot on his hands and the Jews were crying for blood – and not just blood – they were crying out for a Roman crucifixion.  Pilate ask them, “But this man is King of the Jews?”  And they shouted back, “We have no king but Caesar!”  The crowds who had hailed their Messiah on Sunday, turned against him on Friday.  They wanted a conquering Messiah who would raise an army and drive out the Romans, but instead this wanna-be Messiah was talking about the Kingdom of God in men’s hearts.  He even talked about becoming a sacrifice himself.  The humility wasn’t a disguise to fool the Romans – he really was humble…a wimp…no Messiah here! The Roman soldiers, the whole battalion, took Jesus to be scourged.  They spit on him, they put a reed in his hand and a crown plaited of thorns on his head and mocked him as king, and then they beat him senseless.  They led him away with two common thieves onto a nearby hill.  They held him down on a cross while they nailed him to it with big spikes through his wrists and through his feet, then they raised the cross up and dropped it heavily into the ground. His mother, his aunt, Mary Magdalene, and John watched as the blood poured from his hands, his feet, and his head.  For three hours he hung there.  Roman crucifixion was known for its agony.  The shoulders were dislocated.  As you hung there you couldn’t breath.  To breath you had to put your weight on the spike going through your feet – alternating between the agony of asphyxiation and the agony of the spike in your feet.  After three hours Jesus cried out in anguish to his Father, “It is finished.”  And just to make sure he was dead the soldiers pierced his side with a spear to see the blood run out followed by a gush of water. That evening Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to claim the body of Jesus.  They took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, and placed it in a tomb and sealed it up. Now I think the disciples started to understand what Jesus was talking about last night when he had talked about his body and blood being given as a new – as a perfect – sacrifice.  In our epistle lesson from the book of Hebrews, we read some more about the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice.  If you have your Bibles, you can follow along in Hebrews 10.  The Law was but a shadow of the good things to come.  “It can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). The blood of bulls and goats, sacrificed over and over, could only convict the people of sin as it pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Christ that had not yet been made.  And so Hebrews 10 says that Jesus came to do “away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10).  The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us a vivid picture contrasting the old and the new: “Every priest [and he’s talking about the priests of the old covenant] stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14). Jeremiah wrote, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds…I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  And Hebrews reminds us, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:16-18). When Jesus breathed his last and cried out, “It is finished,” it was finished.  Whereas in the old covenant the priest laid the sins of the people on the bulls and goats sacrificed repeatedly on the altar, Jesus, our great High Priest, took our sins upon himself and died the death that we deserved.  As I said last night: life is in the blood.  The old sacrifices were imperfect, but in the shed blood of Christ we find perfection.  There’s no longer any need for more sacrifices.  Jesus did it once and for all.  The old covenant called for the sinner to humbly lay his sins on that animal sacrifice, but that bull or that goat on the altar of the Temple was a sign given by God – it was God’s finger pointing to Jesus Christ – pointing to the Cross. No more do we bring an annual sacrifice to the Temple; now the humble sinner need only trust in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. When Jesus breathed his last and gave himself up to God, the Temple served its last function in redemptive history.  Under the old covenant the Holy of Holies – or the Most Holy Place – was where the presence of God resided visibly for the people, resting on the Ark of the Covenant.  And yet the people weren’t allowed into that place – into God’s presence in the Holy of Holies.  Only the High Priest was allowed there and then only once a year.  No sinful human being could enter the presence of God and the priest only did it to make an annual sacrifice for sins – and he did so only after a series of purification rituals.  And even then he did so with a rope tied around his ankle so that the other priests could pull him out should he, a sinner, be struck dead by the holy presence inside.  Nobody went there.  Sinners can never enter the presence of a holy, just, and righteous God without standing condemned. But when Jesus made his once-for-all sacrifice on the cross that day – as he breathed his last – the heavy veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the rest of the Temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  By his death, Jesus Christ opened the way into the presence of the Father.  Through Jesus Christ sinners can find perfect forgiveness and can now enter the presence of our holy, just, and righteous God uncondemned. On the cross Jesus stretched out his hands; he stretched out one hand to all those who hadtrusted in him, seeing the future and coming Messiah as they made their sacrifices at the Temple.  And with his other hand Jesus reached out to us, reached out to the Gentiles, to the nations who had never heard of the Messiah.  On the Cross he reaches out with both hands, uniting both peoples to himself, establishing his body by giving new life to dead and paralysed limbs through his shed body and blood.  Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).  That’s exactly what he did.  In fact, it’s exactly what he still does.  He stretches out his hands to draw us in, to unite us to himself.  Through his perfect sacrifice he offers perfect forgiveness of sin.  Through his body and his blood he offers new and eternal life.  Through his Holy Spirit he renews and regenerates hearts and minds and leads us on the path of holiness.  And through his cross, he leads us through the torn veil and into the Holy of Holies – into the presence of God.
Bible Text: Hebrews 1:1-12; John 1:1-14 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon on the Nativity of Our Lord Hebrews 1:1-12 & St. John 1:1-14 by William Klock I’ve always been an early-riser, but especially so when I was a little boy.  It paid off on Sunday mornings, because we weren’t allowed to watch T.V. on Sunday mornings.  I think my parents thought it was too “worldly” and that it would distract us from worship—and they were probably right!  But when I was about ten, I’d sneak into the living room before anyone else was up and I could usually manage to watch two favourite shows before  everyone else was up: Get Smart!, the show about the bumbling secret agent, and The Lone Ranger.  When it came to the Lone Ranger, I always wondered why no one seemed to care who he was until the end of the story.  He’d ride into town and save the day, everyone would be full of gratitude, but it was only as he was riding out of town that someone would think to ask, “Who was that masked man?”  And then, of course, it was too late to ask. Two weeks ago we were gathered here for a nativity play that centred on the birth of a baby.  We saw Joseph and Mary sitting by the manger; we saw angels and shepherds and wise men come to adore him.  Today we have a crèche in the corner and many of us probably have one setup at home—all centred on the baby.  The baby, the Christ Child, came to save us, but who is he?  Maybe we aren’t even sure exactly what it means that he came to save.  We sang a song a few minutes ago and asked, “What child is this?”  That’s the same question people were asking in the First Century and it was to answer that question that the gospels were written by Jesus friends and disciples.  That’s especially true of St. John, Jesus best friend, who took special care to tell people that the baby—that Jesus—wasn’t just a man, but that he was God.  That’s the central truth of John’s Gospel, but he sums it all up in his prologue—our Gospel lesson on this day when we remember and celebrate the coming of God Incarnate. When it comes to the Lone Ranger, it’s no big deal to be left wondering who the masked man was, but when it comes to the baby in the manger, it absolutely critical that we know who he is, why he was born, and what he came to do.  This evening I want to look at what St. John tells us about Jesus so that we won’t have to go away wondering, “What child is this?” The first thing—the first truth—St. John tells us about Jesus is that he is the Christ.  If we jump to the end of our Gospel lesson, he tells us in verse 17: For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. St. Matthew, in his gospel, tells us the story of how Jesus got his name: An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21) “Jesus” is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua that literally means, “The Lord saves.”  What better name for the one whom St. John tells us is also “Christ”—another Greek word, but this time a title that means “the anointed one”—the same meaning as the Hebrew word “Messiah”—the title of the One whom God had promised as far back as the time of Adam and Eve’s first sin, who would come to destroy sin and death and to restore sinful men and women to fellowship with God. What child is this?  St. John tells us that he is Jesus Christ—that he is Jesus the Saviour and the Christ—the promised and long-awaited Messiah.  His human name, Jesus, tells us that he has come to save.  His divinely given title, Christ, tells us what he’s come to save us from: from the consequences of our sins. If we go back to verse 1, St. John tells us a second truth about the child in the manger.  John calls him the Word and he says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. These words have come under attack time and again because they are so precise in telling us who Jesus is.  At the core of virtually every heresy, false doctrine, or cult is a misunderstanding of just what this verse tells us so precisely about the person of Jesus.  In fact, as the Holy Spirit worked through John, he crafted these words so precisely that the Greek rules out the major heresies that were faced by the early Church.  In the face of those who claimed Jesus was just a man, these words affirm that he is eternal—that he existed before God began to create.  In the face of those who denied the divinity of Jesus, these words affirm that he is God.  And in the face of those who taught that the Trinity simply described God existing in three “modes” these words affirm that Jesus is not merely God, but has existed for all eternity with God—with the Father. What child is this?  This child is not only fully man, but is just as fully God.  It’s for this reason that he is worthy of our worship and why we need to confess with St. Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” St. John writes about Jesus as the “Word”.  Why the “Word”?  That’s the third truth here: Before he became Incarnate and took on human flesh, John says that he was called the “Word”.  Look again at verse 1: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God. That Jesus in his pre-incarnate state was known as the Word tells us something about God.  He’s not the Deed.  He’s not the Thought.  He’s not the Feeling.  No, Jesus is the Word.  As much as God’s deed and thoughts and feelings are important, we need his Word if we are to be restored to him.  The first two verses of our Epistle lesson from the book of Hebrews tells us: Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. Our God has never intended to be unknown to us.  He created humanity to know him and to be in fellowship with him, and when we fell into sin and broke that fellowship, he began communicating with us through his prophets, giving us the Scriptures, that the fellowship might be restored.  Our God is a God who speaks to us, who tells us about himself.  Not only that, but it is the power of the Word that brings life.  Back at the beginning of this year I preached on the need for preaching that clearly communicates God’s Word as we find it in the Bible.  Why?  Because his Word is the source of life.  By the power of the Word he created the cosmos.  By his Word written, we know God himself and we know his ways and expectations.  And by his Word now Incarnate in Jesus, he offers us a means to be restored to the life we lost through sin.  Jesus, the Word Incarnate, is the culmination of God’s revelation to us.  He is the last and final Word and the Word by which God comes to us, makes himself clearly known to us, and draws us close. I said that the Word was the agent of Creation.  That’s important.  Look at verse 3: All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. St. John tells us this for at least two reasons, the first being that it emphasises that Jesus Christ is God.  God is the Creator.  He’s the source and the origin of everything that exists except for himself.  Whether it’s a rock, a tree, the earth, the sun, the vast expanse of space, you, or me, it all comes ultimately from God as Creator.  So when St. John tells us, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made, “ he’s telling us that Jesus – the Word – stands outside the created order – that the Word is God. But in verse 10 John also writes: He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. The fact that the world—that we—have failed to recognise him, to give him credit as our loving Creator, and to give him the worship and obedience that he is due stresses our condition: that we are sinful and rebellious creatures, blind to God and his truth, and lost in darkness.  But John doesn’t leave us lost in the dark.  In verse 4 he gives us the Good News: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. As the one who gave life to the universe in the first place, he is the one who now offers life to sinful men and women.  Every one of us has a problem: We’re all sinners and therefore cut off from our holy God.  We are spiritually dead and blind.  John tells us that Jesus is the solution to both problems.  He has the life we need and his life is the light that lifts our darkness. John says in 5:21, “the Son gives life to whom he will.”  In other words, he does for us spiritually what he did physically for Lazarus.  Remember that Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, and yet Jesus stood outside his tomb and called out to the dead man, “Lazarus, come out!”  And out walked Lazarus. How does that life that Jesus gives relate to light?  It relates in two ways.  First, it gives us the ability to see.  When dead people are given life, they see.  Changing the image a bit: when you’re born, you see.  It’s the same spiritually speaking.  Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).  Jesus gives life and that life then becomes light – it becomes the ability to see spiritual reality. But second, the life he gives relates to light in that Jesus is himself the light that is seen.  What, after all, is the unbeliever blind to?  Before we receive Jesus’ life, we’re blind to the truth and beauty and worth—the glory—of Jesus.  So when John says, “In him was life, and the life was the light of men,” he’s saying that the Word Incarnate is both the power to see spiritual splendour and the splendour to be seen. That’s why John says in verse 14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory.”  This was precisely what Jesus prayed for us—for his people—in John 17:24, “Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory.”  This is what he claimed when he said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12; 9:5).  What child is this?  This is the Word Incarnate who has life in himself and that life is the light of men.  He is the power to open our eyes to splendour, but he’s also the very splendour our opened eyes are to see. Let me run through these five truths again.  (1) The baby is Jesus Christ, the Saviour and promised Messiah.  (2) He is God.  He was with God and he was God from eternity past.  (3) He is the Word.  He is God-speaking-to-us.  (4) He is the Creator.  All things were made through him, but he himself was not made.  Again, he is God.  And (5) he is life and light.  He is the living power to see and the all-satisfying splendour to be seen. Now knowing whom this child is, how do we respond to him? Verses 10 and 11 describe the response of many: “He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.”  You might hear all this about Jesus Christ and say, “I don’t know him and I’m not going to receive him.”  That’s a scary thing to say to your Creator and your life and your light.  It’s something said because of our blindness and if that’s your response this Christmas, hear these truths from John’s gospel again and allow Jesus—the light—to take off the blinders that you might see him and know him. You see, that’s the second response.  Verses 12 and 13 say, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”  There will always be those who reject him out of blindness, but the Word became flesh, the Word shines as light in the darkness, so that we might see him for who he is and receive him as Saviour and King and receive the life and light he offers. Christmas is the time when we remember that God sent his Son into the world to give new life to sinners and to restore us to fellowship with himself.  Jesus comes to the spiritual caves where we’ve holed up in the dark, and as he stood at that cave in which Lazarus was buried, he cries out to us, “Come out!”  Friends, judgement is coming one day, but before it comes Jesus cries, “Come out!  Leave the darkness and come into the light.  Receive me as your God and your substitute and your treasure.  My death counts as your death and my righteousness counts as your righteousness, and through me you will have eternal life.” Heavenly Father, you have sent he who is life and light into the world to lead us out of our spiritual death and darkness.  Open our eyes to his light, we pray, perhaps for some of us for the first time, that we might praise him as the angels and shepherds did on that night so long ago.  And yet remind us, Father, that to truly praise him, we must fully entrust ourselves to him as the one who saves us from the consequences of our sins and as the King whom we faithfully serve.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King.  Amen.
Bible Text: Hebrews 9:11-15; John 8:46-59 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for Passion Sunday Hebrews 9:11-15 & St. John 8:46-59 by William Klock Our focus each of these Sunday in Lent has been on the love of God that flows from the cross to us, and then on how that love flows out of us—back to God in gratitude, and out to our brothers and sisters, and eventually to the whole world.  And yet as we each look at our own lives—and if we’re really honest with ourselves—we’re all going to see a lack of love.  Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, but we all walk to a lesser or greater degree in selective obedience.  We’re willing to give up those sins that don’t cost us much, but we hold tight to our favourites.  When it comes to the good things Jesus tells us to do, we do the ones, again, that don’t cost us a lot, or we do the things that make us look good to other people, but we ignore the things that require hard work, or that require us to give up our time, or that cost us financially.  We all also walk in selective love when it comes to others.  It’s easy to let sin, and anger, and pride get in the way of actually loving our brothers and sisters the way Jesus loves them.  We take offense at something and it’s easier to cut off a brother or a sister than it is to swallow our pride and seek reconciliation.  Or we lose focus on what’s important.  I got into a theological argument with someone this week and let pride get the better of me.  I realised after the fact that my focus was on being right myself, when it should have been on helping a sister in Christ find God’s truth.  I put my pride before her well-being.  We all have a long way to go as we grow in the love of God. The solution is to meditate on the cross.  Isaac Watts wrote those wonderful words we opened with this morning: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an off’ring far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”  The love of God to me—to us—demands my all—our all—in return.  But do we give our all?  I don’t.  And I don’t because I’ve failed to fully grasp the depth of God’s love for me, or maybe I get it, but I’ve failed to let the knowledge of God’s love that I have in my head, work it’s way into my heart.  Or I’ve compartmentalised it, failed to let it permeate every area of my life.  The bottom line is that I’m still too full me and not full enough of Jesus. Hopefully, as we grow in Christ and as the Spirit does his work in our lives, the ratio of “Jesus” to “me” gets higher and higher and completes the work that started when each of us first believed.  At least on some level, we’ve got to understand the supremacy of Jesus in order to be saved.  I’ve actually had people tell me—people who are supposedly Christians—that God loves them because they deserve it, because they’re good, or because they’re somehow worthy of his love—because of something they’ve done.  And I think—I hope—we all balk at that.  The Gospel message is that God showed us his love and sent his Son to die for us, while we were yet sinners—while we were his enemies, dead in sin, deserving nothing but death and eternal damnation.  As long as we think we’re deserving of God’s love, we can never truly believe and accept the Gospel message.  And yet while we may not be so blatant in denying our sinfulness, you and I are still often guilty of pride in our works.  We admit we’re sinners, we say we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice that he made at the cross, but when it really comes down to it, we still don’t reallyand fully understand just how bad our sins are and we don’t truly understand that we were dead in our sins.  We think of ourselves more as just being sick in our sins—maybe even really, really sick, but not actually dead.  We still like to think that we have something to offer God, something to contribute to our salvation, even if it’s something very small.  So we trust in Jesus—mostly—but we still trust in ourselves.  And as long as we keep trusting in ourselves—even if it’s only a little bit—we will never truly understand the depth of God’s love and we’ll never truly live the life that Holy Spirit is working in us to perfect.  Brothers and sisters, the solution is to meditate on the cross.  That’s what Isaac Watts did.  In the first verse of our hymn he wrote: “When I survey—when I look on and meditate on—the wondrous cross, where the young Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” As we enter Passiontide today, our Gospel lessons will put our attention on the cross, but it’s not enough just to know that Jesus died on the cross.  We need to understand why he died on the cross and we need to understand just who it was who died there on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  And that’s where our Epistles point us.  They help us meditate and reflect on Jesus and the cross—not just the image of some nice guy who was crucified for something he didn’t do, but on God Incarnate—God himself—who offered himself up to save sinful men and women from eternal death. I want especially to look at our lesson from Hebrews 9 this morning.  This is a passage that will weave its way through Passiontide.  As the Gospels tell us the story of the Passion, Hebrews reminds us of the why behind Jesus’ Passion—it gives us the behind-the-scenes look at our own redemption.  It takes us back to the Old Testament—to the types and shadows that pointed to Jesus—and it shows us how he fulfilled them.  And as it shows us those things, it also explains who it was who died and why.  Look at Hebrews 9:11. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come… This is what Hebrews is all about: Jesus, our High Priest.  If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book of the Bible with me, it would be Hebrews, because it not only lays out the Gospel message clearly, but it explains it and it explains the majesty of Jesus, the holiness of God, the sinfulness of my sins, and the love and mercy and grace that were poured out at the cross.  The writer of Hebrews—we don’t know who he was—takes us back to the Old Testament and particularly to the descriptions of the tabernacle and the sacrificial system and to the priests who made those sacrifices in the tabernacle on behalf of the people.  And now he tells us: Jesus came, and he came specifically to be the “high priest of the good things that have come.” This is how St. John saw Jesus in the vision he records in Revelation: standing in the midst of the seven candlesticks of the temple and clothed in the white robes of the high priest.  Jesus is the new High Priest.  The descendants of Aaron served as high priests over the sacrifices of the Old Covenant—over all those things that, even in their imperfections, were established by God to point the people to Jesus.  And now, Hebrews tells us, Jesus has come: the High Priest of the good things—the perfect things—that the Old Testament only hinted at. In the Old Testament God was still teaching his people, still working out his plan of redemption—and to do that he started with a select group of people and a little piece of land he had carved out for them among the nations.  But God had no intention of leaving things that way.  He established an earthly kingdom that pointed to a heavenly kingdom.  He built an earthly temple that pointed to a heavenly one.  He established an earthly priesthood that pointed to a great high priest who would be God himself.  And God did all this so that he could prepare the people by teaching them the sinfulness of their sins, by teaching them about holiness, and by showing them that sin can only be overcome and reconciliation with God can only be made by his grace. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus brought that training period to a close when he came to fulfil that first covenant and subsumed it in a new and better one—when he came and brought heavenly reality to those earthly types and shadows.  Verse 11 goes on: …then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)… The tabernacle that God instructed Moses and the Israelites to build was an amazing and beautiful thing, but there was something better.  It was imperfect.  Jesus came as the high priest of the better things that had been promised.  In his role as priest, he entered not into the earthly tabernacle—not the one built by men—but into a heavenly and spiritual tabernacle.  In the Old Testament the high priest entered once every year into the Holy of Holies.  It was partitioned off from the rest of the tabernacle by a heavy curtain.  The shekinah—the presence of God that had followed the Israelites as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—was there in the Holy of Holies, resting on the Ark of the Covenant and no sinful man could ever enter the presence of our perfectly holy God.  When the priest did go in that one time each year, on the Day of Atonement, he had to undergo a long ritual of purification, and even then he went in with a cord tied to his ankle so that if he were struck down the other priests could drag him out without having to enter the Holy of Holies themselves.  And it wasn’t just any priest who would enter the Holy of Holies on that one day; there was only one mediator between God and man—there was only the one high priest who would enter to make that annual sacrifice for the sins of the people—and yet he too—just like the tabernacle itself—was imperfect.  He too, because of his sins, might turn out to be unacceptable to God and be struck down. That’s the image Hebrews draws on: that one high priest, ritually purified, dressed in his high priestly robes—but not his ordinary robes, but special robes just for that one day, entering the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of the day’s sacrifices before the presence of God, and no doubt he stood there trembling at the awesomeness of what he was called and commissioned to do. As I read this I can’t help but imagine myself standing behind the trembling high priest as he carries his incense and the bowl of blood from the sacrifice, getting ready to enter.  I see the other priests pulling back that heavy curtain so that he can enter, and as they do so, we see through the Holy of Holies where the presence of God rested in that great cloud, into the true Holy of Holies—into heaven itself where God sits enthroned in all his majesty.  It’s that truly heavenly Holy of Holies where Jesus entered as our great High Priest.  Hebrews 9:12 goes on: …he [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. The high priest in the Old Testament could enter the Holy of Holies, but that’s as far as he could go.  There was no way for him to enter the full presence of God in the heavenly tabernacle, because even he was separated from the holiness of God by sin.  He was able to enter the Holy of Holies because he carried with him the blood of the bull and goat sacrificed each year on the Day of Atonement—animals sacrificed for the sins of the people—but bulls and goats make imperfect sacrifices.  They only get us so far.  And they have to be made repeatedly.  The Day of Atonement and this sacrificial ritual had to be repeated by the earthly high priest every year.  But Hebrews tells us, that Jesus sacrificed himself and entered the presence of God—entered the heavenly tabernacle—with his own blood.  He made the perfect sacrifice—a sacrifice that took him past the earthly tabernacle, past the earthly Holy of Holies, and gave him access to the very presence of God himself.  And because his sacrifice was perfect, he finished the work of atonement.  Not only was there no more need for the imperfect sacrifices of bulls and goats, but even his own sacrifice only needed to be made once—for all time.  The blood of bulls and goat purchased redemption for a year.  The blood of Jesus purchases redemption forever. The writer goes on in verses 13 and 14: 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. Here’s another comparison between the Old Covenant and the New.  God had given his people instructions on ceremonial purity.  In the law there are long lists of things that render a person unclean.  They’re not generally things that are sinful—there’s nothing inherently wrong with touching a corpse, being a menstruating woman, giving birth, having eczema, or having mildew in your house or on something you own.  God’s point in these regulations was simply to teach the people what it meant to be set apart from the world.  These were basically object lessons in holiness.  And so if you found yourself rendered ceremonially unclean, it meant that you couldn’t enter the tabernacle for worship.  Sometimes it meant having to live outside the camp for a time.  But there were sacrifices that could be offered to restore “cleanness”.  Being sprinkled with the blood from a sacrificed cow would render you clean again if you had touched a dead body, for example.  And yet you’d still have to go through life knowing that eventually—no matter how careful you might be—something else would happen that would render you ceremonially unclean.  It was just a way of life for the Jewish people. In Rabbinic Judaism they came up with all sorts of almost neurotic rules—we see many of them in today’s kosher regulations (two dishwashers, two sets of pots and pans, two sets of Tupperware, all so that meat and dairy don’t mix)—to help people avoid the preventable things that would render them unclean, because of the inconvenience it could cause. All that for the purification of flesh that would inevitably become unclean again and again.  In contrast, Jesus offered his own blood, that we might be purified from so much more—that we might be purified not just from petty things that would render us temporarily unclean in the flesh, but from the very sin in our lives that renders us spiritually unclean and that condemns us not just to a few days or weeks living outside the camp of God’s people, but that condemns us to living in eternity outside the City of God, outside the place of his presence, away from his people, away from the Body of Christ, and that condemns us to hell. Why and how?  Because Jesus wasn’t just some nice guy who died on a cross.  As the writer of Hebrews tells us: his was a sacrifice “without blemish”.  As St. John shows us in today’s Gospel lesson, there were two characteristics that made him the perfect sacrifice for sin: First, he was sinless.  Jesus got into an argument with the Jews over whether or not they were truly following in the works and in the faith of Abraham.  Basically, he pointed out that they were sinners and they turned around and said, “No.  You’re the sinner!”  And so he asks, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?”  And of course, none of them could.  They made all sorts of accusations against him, but nothing was true and when he asked them, point-blank what his sins were, there was nothing they could say.  And this is how and why he could offer himself as a sacrifice for sins: because he wasn’t guilty of sin himself. But second, he was God.  Part of his condemnation of the unbelieving Jews was that they claimed to listen to and to follow God, but they refused to listen to Jesus.  He explains to them that if they claim to listen to God, then they’d better listen to him.  What he’s really doing is asserting his divinity.  And of course the Jews argue with him.  They accuse him of having a demon and as the argument goes back and forth, Jesus starts making his claims of divinity more and more clear.  First he tells them that the God they claim to worship is his Father, then he claims to be the Messiah that Abraham looked for.  They get angrier and angrier and when he finally claims to be Abraham’s Messiah, they ask him: “How would you know who Abraham’s Messiah was?  Do you know Abraham?  You’re not even fifty years old and Abraham lived 2000 years ago!  You’re crazy!”  And that’s when Jesus says those famous words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  There’s no clearer way Jesus could have claimed to be God Incarnate.  He tells them that not only was he around before Abraham, but he says that he was and still is “I AM”.  That was the name that God gave to Abraham at the burning bush.  When Abraham asked who he was supposed to say sent him to free the Israelites from Egypt, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  St. John, in telling the story, even uses exactly the same unusual grammatical construct to say it that was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  There was no clearer way for Jesus to say: “I’m God!”  And we know the people understood, because they got so angry they tried to stone him for blasphemy. But friends, that’s how we know Jesus could make the perfect sacrifice: he was God.  If he wasn’t God, we could never believe all the other claims the Bible makes about his sinless perfection and we’d always be left doubting whether or not he actually did pay the penalty for our sins at the cross.  We could never truly live in full faith that he triumphed over sin and death, and without faith in him and in his death, we’d still be slaves to sin.  Jesus could be that perfect sacrifice because he was God. And so the writer of Hebrews goes on in verse 15: Therefore 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. Each one of us stands condemned by the law of God, but in Jesus we have the mediator of a New Covenant that promises eternal life—in fact, that makes us co-heirs with him in his sonship.  All we have to do is appropriate it—all we have to do is grab hold of it—by faith—by trusting whollythat his sacrifice is sufficient for our sins, and then showing our trust in him by truly making him our Lord and walking in his ways.  Going back to where we started this morning: We stop trusting in ourselves, and instead trust in Jesus.  If we will do that, he promises to be our high priest—our mediator with God, doing what you and I can never do for ourselves. That’s why, after his work on earth was finished, he ascended to heaven.  As the Old Testament priests offered the sacrifice for the people in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, Jesus offers his perfect sacrifice in the heavenly throne-room of his Father.  Through his broken body and his shed blood, he offers us eternal life as he unites us to himself.  And that’s what we celebrate and partake of this morning as we come to his Table.  The Jews, if they were lucky, caught a glimpse of the Holy of Holies over the shoulder of the high priest, once each year, as the curtain was drawn back so that he could enter.  But, brothers and sisters, as we come to his Table each Sunday, we enter directly into the heavenly throne-room of God as we receive the bread and wine.  As you come today, survey—meditate and think on—the wondrous cross where the Prince of Glory died.  Meditate on the love of the Father in sending his Son to die.  Meditate on the love of the Son, who humbled himself and submitted himself to a brutal death for your sake.  Meditate on that love—so amazing, so divine—and ask if you have truly committed to him your soul, your life, your all. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, we acknowledged in the collect that it is only by your mercy that we are preserved in body and soul from the consequences of our sins.  Remind us each day of the cost of your mercy—that the price of our redemption was the blood of your Son, shed at the cross—that as we reflect on your lovingkindness, we might commit ourselves more and more to love of you, love of our brothers and sisters, and to truly living out your love in our lives.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Bible Text: Hebrews 10:1-25; John 19:1-37 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Sermon for Good Friday Hebrews 10:1-25 & St. John 19:1-37 by William Klock Last night we sat with Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room as he first washed their feet and showed them what it meant to be a servant—settling the dispute amongst those bickering disciples over who was the greatest and who was the least.  He who was without question the greatest among them—he who was God himself—stripped down to a towel, knelt on the floor, and washed their dirty feet, even washing from the feet of Judas the mud caked their from his trip to the chief priests to whom he sold out his master and friend.  We saw St. Peter draw back from Jesus—“No Lord!  You can’t wash my feet!  If anything, I should be washing yours.”  And yet Jesus insisted.  If he couldn’t be a servant, he couldn’t redeem these men at the cross. That night in the Upper Room, Jesus turned everything upside-down.  After washing of the disciples’ feet—something totally inappropriate for a teacher to do to his students—he took the bread and the wine of the Passover meal and started referring to them as a new sacrifice.  These men knew all about sacrifices. They knew all about bulls and goats and lambs sacrificed for sin, their bodies broken and their blood poured out before the altar.  And yet Jesus took the bread and wine and said that it was his Body broken and his blood poured out—it was him making a sacrifice for sin.  From what the Gospels tell us, the disciples just didn’t get it.  They really did want to follow Jesus, they wanted what he had to offer, but they didn’t understand yet what it was he was offering.  Peter said “No” to Jesus washing his feet.  When Jesus explained that he needed it, Peter wanted it—even wanted more of it (“Wash my whole body, not just my feet, Lord!)—but he still didn’t understand what it meant.  He just trusted Jesus and wanted what he was offering. Why Jesus didn’t just come out and tell the disciples in plain Aramaic that he was going to die for them, that he was going to rise on the third day, and that after fifty days he would ascend to heaven and send them his Holy Spirit, we can only guess.  Why did he have to explain it all in what, at the time, were riddles and oblique references?  I think he revealed things that way because it left the disciples wondering, and when the clarity finally came at Pentecost it made the work of Jesus so much more dramatic for them. When they went to pray at Gethsemane that night after supper, it’s obvious that despite the weight that was on Jesus, the disciples still didn’t get it.  They knelt among the olive trees as Jesus went off a little way away to pray by himself.  And as Jesus prayed nearby like he’d never prayed before, the disciples fell asleep.  They had no idea what was happening. Jesus woke them up in time for Judas to come, leading a pack of Jewish soldiers who had come to take him away.  Peter drew out his sword, ready for the attack, and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers.  Maybe he thought that now was the time Jesus, the conquering Messiah-King, was going to throw off his clever disguise of humility and start the revolution that all the Jews expected.  Now was his chance!  But it didn’t happen.  In fact, Jesus actually healed the soldier and told Peter: “I can appeal to my Father and he’ll send twelve legions of angels.  But if I did that, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?” The disciples ran away as the chief priest’s soldiers took Jesus away in chains.  They figured it was over…just another guy who claimed to be the Messiah—not the first and certainly not the last.  But Peter followed along to the high priest’s house and hung back in the courtyard.  He watched the sham trial they put Jesus through.  They condemned Jesus, and as the priests and soldiers spit on him and struck him, Peter gave up just like the other disciples had done a few hours before.  Three bystanders noticed Peter in the crowd and recognised him: “Hey, you!  You were with him.  You’re one of his friends.  You’re one of his followers.” And each time Peter denied knowing Jesus: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!  You must be blind!  I’ve never seen this man before!” When it was morning, the Jews dragged Jesus to Pilate’s court.  He was the Roman governor.  The Jews weren’t allowed to execute anyone; the Romans had to do it.  And so Jesus went through another sham trial before Pilate who caved into pressure from the Jews.  He didn’t want a riot on his hands and the Jews were crying for blood—and not just blood—they were crying out for a Roman crucifixion.  Pilate asked them, “But this man is King of the Jews?”  And they shouted back, “No he’s not!  We have no king but Caesar!”  The crowds who had hailed their Messiah on Sunday, turned against him on Friday.  They wanted a conquering Messiah who would raise an army and drive out the Romans, but instead this wanna-be Messiah was talking about the Kingdom of God in men’s hearts.  He even talked about becoming a sacrifice himself.  The humility wasn’t a disguise to fool the Romans—he really was humble…a wimp…no Messiah here! The Roman soldiers, the whole battalion, took Jesus to be scourged.  They spit on him, they put a reed in his hand and a crown plaited of thorns on his head and mocked him as king, and then they beat him senseless.  They led him away with two common thieves onto a nearby hill.  They held him down on a cross while they nailed him to it with big spikes through his wrists and through his feet, then they raised the cross up and dropped it heavily into the ground. His mother and his friends watched as the blood poured from his hands, his feet, and his head.  For three hours he hung there.  Roman crucifixion was known for its agony.  The shoulders were dislocated.  As you hung there you couldn’t breath.  To breath you had to put your weight on the spike going through your feet – alternating between the agony of asphyxiation and the agony of being nailed to a piece of timbre.  After three hours Jesus cried out in anguish to his Father, “It is finished.”  And just to make sure he was dead the soldiers pierced his side with a spear to see the blood run out followed by a gush of water. That evening Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to claim the body of Jesus.  They took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, placed it in a tomb and sealed it up. Now I think the disciples started to understand what Jesus was talking about last night when he had talked about his body and blood being given as a new—as a perfect—sacrifice.  In our epistle lesson from the tenth chapter of Hebrews, we read some more about the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice.  The Law and the old sacrifices were but a shadow of the good things to come.  “It can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). The blood of bulls and goats, sacrificed over and over, could only convict the people of sin as it pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Christ that had not yet been made.  And so Hebrews 10 says that Jesus came to do “away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:9-10).  The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us a vivid picture contrasting the old and the new: “Every priest [and he’s talking about the priests of the old covenant] stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14). Jeremiah wrote, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds…I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  And Hebrews reminds us, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:16-18). When Jesus breathed his last and cried out, “It is finished,” it was finished.  Whereas in the old covenant the priest laid the sins of the people on the bulls and goats sacrificed repeatedly on the altar, Jesus, our great High Priest, took our sins upon himself and died the death that we deserved.  The old sacrifices were imperfect.  First, they were just brute animals, and second, those animals didn’t offer their lives willingly.  But in the shed blood of Christ we find perfection—God Incarnate shed his own blood and he did of his own free will.  For that reason, there’s no longer any need for more sacrifices.  Jesus did it once and for all.  The old covenant called for the sinner to humbly lay his sins on that animal sacrifice, but that bull or that goat on the altar of the Temple was a sign given by God—it was God’s finger pointing to Jesus Christ—pointing to the Cross. No more do we bring an annual sacrifice to the Temple; now the humble sinner need only trust in the once-for-all sacrifice of Christ on the Cross. When Jesus breathed his last and gave himself up to God, the Temple served its last function in redemptive history.  Under the old covenant the Holy of Holies—the Most Holy Place—was where the presence of God resided visibly for the people, resting on the Ark of the Covenant.  And yet the people weren’t allowed into that place—into the direct presence of God.  Only the High Priest was allowed there and then only once a year.  No sinful human being could enter the presence of God and the priest only did it to make an annual sacrifice for sins—and he did so only after a series of purification rituals for himself.  Nobody went there, because sinners can never enter the presence of a holy, just, and righteous God without standing condemned. But when Jesus made his once-for-all sacrifice on the cross that day—as he breathed his last and pronounced, “It is finished”—the heavy veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the people was torn in two from top to bottom.  By his death, Jesus Christ opened the way into the presence of the Father.  Through Jesus Christ sinners can find perfect forgiveness and can now enter the presence of our holy, just, and righteous God uncondemned. On the cross Jesus stretched out his hands; he stretched out one hand to all those who had trusted in him, seeing the future and coming Messiah as they made their sacrifices at the Temple.  And with his other hand Jesus reached out to us, reached out to the Gentiles, to the nations who had never heard of the Messiah.  On the Cross he reaches out with both hands, uniting both peoples to himself, establishing his body by giving new life to dead and paralysed limbs through his shed body and blood.  Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).  That’s exactly what he did.  In fact, it’s exactly what he still does.  He stretches out his hands to draw us in, to unite us to himself.  Through his perfect sacrifice he offers perfect forgiveness of sin.  Through his body and his blood he offers new and eternal life.  Through his Holy Spirit he renews and regenerates hearts and minds and leads us on the path of holiness.  And through his cross, he leads us through the torn veil and into the Holy of Holies—into the presence of God.
Bible Text: Hebrews 9:11-15; John 8:46-59 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Our Great High Priest Hebrews 9:11-15 & St. John 8:46-59 by William Klock As we enter Passiontide today, our Gospel lessons will put our attention on the cross, but it’s not enough just to know that Jesus died on the cross.  We need to understand why he died on the cross and we need to understand just who it was who died there on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  And that’s where our Epistles point us.  They help us meditate and reflect on Jesus and the cross—not just the image of some nice guy who was crucified for something he didn’t do, but on God Incarnate—God himself—who offered himself up to save sinful men and women from eternal death. I want especially to look at our lesson from Hebrews 9 this morning.  This is a passage that will weave its way through Passiontide.  As the Gospels tell us the story of the Passion, Hebrews reminds us of the why behind Jesus’ Passion—it gives us the behind-the-scenes look at our own redemption.  It takes us back to the Old Testament—to the types and shadows that pointed to Jesus—and it shows us how he fulfilled them.  And as it shows us those things, it also explains who it was who died and why.  Look at Hebrews 9:11. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come… This is what Hebrews is all about: Jesus, our High Priest.  If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book of the Bible with me, it would be Hebrews, because it not only lays out the Gospel message clearly, but it explains it and it explains the majesty of Jesus, the holiness of God, the sinfulness of my sins, and the love and mercy and grace that were poured out at the cross.  The writer of Hebrews—we don’t know who he was—takes us back to the Old Testament and particularly to the descriptions of the tabernacle and the sacrificial system and to the priests who made those sacrifices in the tabernacle on behalf of the people.  And now he tells us: Jesus came, and he came specifically to be the “high priest of the good things that have come.” This is how St. John saw Jesus in the vision he records in Revelation: standing in the midst of the seven candlesticks of the temple and clothed in the white robes of the high priest.  Jesus is the new High Priest.  The descendants of Aaron served as high priests over the sacrifices of the Old Covenant—over all those things that, even in their imperfections, were established by God to point the people to Jesus.  And now, Hebrews tells us, Jesus has come: the High Priest of the good things—the perfect things—that the Old Testament only hinted at. In the Old Testament God was still teaching his people, still working out his plan of redemption—and to do that he started with a select group of people and a little piece of land he had carved out for them among the nations.  But God had no intention of leaving things that way.  He established an earthly kingdom that pointed to a heavenly kingdom.  He built an earthly temple that pointed to a heavenly one.  He established an earthly priesthood that pointed to a great high priest who would be God himself.  And God did all this so that he could prepare the people by teaching them the sinfulness of their sins, by teaching them about holiness, and by showing them that sin can only be overcome and reconciliation with God can only be made by his grace. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus brought that training period to a close when he came to fulfil that first covenant and subsumed it in a new and better one—when he came and brought heavenly reality to those earthly types and shadows.  Verse 11 goes on: …then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)… The tabernacle that God instructed Moses and the Israelites to build was an amazing and beautiful thing, but there was something better.  It was imperfect.  Jesus came as the high priest of the better things that had been promised.  In his role as priest, he entered not into the earthly tabernacle—not the one built by men—but into a heavenly and spiritual tabernacle.  In the Old Testament the high priest entered once every year into the Holy of Holies.  It was partitioned off from the rest of the tabernacle by a heavy curtain.  The shekinah—the presence of God that had followed the Israelites as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—was there in the Holy of Holies, resting on the Ark of the Covenant and no sinful man could ever enter the presence of our perfectly holy God.  When the priest did go in that one time each year, on the Day of Atonement, he had to undergo a long ritual of purification.  And it wasn’t just any priest who would enter the Holy of Holies on that one day; there was only one mediator between God and man—there was only the one high priest who would enter to make that annual sacrifice for the sins of the people—and yet he too—just like the tabernacle itself—was imperfect.  He too, because of his sins, might turn out to be unacceptable to God and be struck down. That’s the image Hebrews draws on: that one high priest, ritually purified, dressed in his high priestly robes—but not his ordinary robes, but special robes just for that one day, entering the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of the day’s sacrifices before the presence of God, and no doubt he stood there trembling at the awesomeness of what he was called and commissioned to do. As I read this I can’t help but imagine myself standing behind the trembling high priest as he carries his incense and the bowl of blood from the sacrifice, getting ready to enter.  I see the other priests pulling back that heavy curtain so that he can enter, and as they do so, we see through to the Holy of Holies where the presence of God rested in that great cloud, into the true Holy of Holies—into heaven itself where God sits enthroned in all his majesty.  It’s that truly heavenly Holy of Holies where Jesus entered as our great High Priest.  Hebrews 9:12 goes on: …he [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. The high priest in the Old Testament could enter the Holy of Holies, but that’s as far as he could go.  There was no way for him to enter the full presence of God in the heavenly tabernacle, because even he was separated from the holiness of God by sin.  He was able to enter the Holy of Holies because he carried with him the blood of the bull and goat sacrificed each year on the Day of Atonement—animals sacrificed for the sins of the people—but bulls and goats make imperfect sacrifices.  They only get us so far.  And they have to be made repeatedly.  The Day of Atonement and this sacrificial ritual had to be repeated by the earthly high priest every year.  But Hebrews tells us, that Jesus sacrificed himself and entered the presence of God—entered the heavenly tabernacle—with his own blood.  He made the perfect sacrifice—a sacrifice that took him past the earthly tabernacle, past the earthly Holy of Holies, and gave him access to the very presence of God himself.  And because his sacrifice was perfect, he finished the work of atonement.  Not only was there no more need for the imperfect sacrifices of bulls and goats, but even his own sacrifice only needed to be made once—for all time.  The blood of bulls and goat purchased redemption for a year.  The blood of Jesus purchases redemption forever. The writer goes on in verses 13 and 14: 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. Here’s another comparison between the Old Covenant and the New.  God had given his people instructions on ceremonial purity.  In the law there are long lists of things that render a person unclean.  They’re not generally things that are sinful—there’s nothing inherently wrong with touching a corpse, being a menstruating woman, giving birth, having eczema, or having mildew in your house or on something you own.  God’s point in these regulations was simply to teach the people what it meant to be set apart from the world.  These were basically object lessons in holiness.  And so if you found yourself rendered ceremonially unclean, it meant that you couldn’t enter the tabernacle for worship.  Sometimes it meant having to live outside the camp for a time.  But there were sacrifices that could be offered to restore “cleanness”.  Being sprinkled with the blood from a sacrificed cow would render you clean again if you had touched a dead body, for example.  And yet you’d still have to go through life knowing that eventually—no matter how careful you might be—something else would happen that would render you ceremonially unclean.  It was just a way of life for the Jewish people. In Rabbinic Judaism they came up with all sorts of almost neurotic rules—we see many of them in today’s kosher regulations (two dishwashers, two sets of pots and pans, two sets of Tupperware, all so that meat and dairy don’t mix)—to help people avoid the preventable things that would render them unclean, because of the inconvenience it could cause. All that for the purification of flesh that would inevitably become unclean again and again.  In contrast, Jesus offered his own blood, that we might be purified from so much more—that we might be purified not just from petty things that would render us temporarily unclean in the flesh, but from the very sin in our lives that renders us spiritually unclean and that condemns us not just to a few days or weeks living outside the camp of God’s people, but that condemns us to living in eternity outside the City of God, outside the place of his presence, away from his people, away from the Body of Christ, and that condemns us to hell. Why and how?  Because Jesus wasn’t just some nice guy who died on a cross.  As the writer of Hebrews tells us: his was a sacrifice “without blemish”.  As St. John shows us in today’s Gospel lesson, there were two characteristics that made him the perfect sacrifice for sin: First, he was sinless.  Jesus got into an argument with the Jews over whether or not they were truly following in the works and in the faith of Abraham.  Basically, he pointed out that they were sinners and they turned around and said, “No.  You’re the sinner!”  And so he asks, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?”  And of course, none of them could.  They made all sorts of accusations against him, but nothing was true and when he asked them, point-blank what his sins were, there was nothing they could say.  And this is how and why he could offer himself as a sacrifice for sins: because he wasn’t guilty of sin himself. But second, he was God.  Part of his condemnation of the unbelieving Jews was that they claimed to listen to and to follow God, but they refused to listen to Jesus.  He explains to them that if they claim to listen to God, then they’d better listen to him.  What he’s really doing is asserting his divinity.  And of course the Jews argue with him.  They accuse him of having a demon and as the argument goes back and forth, Jesus starts making his claims of divinity more and more clear.  First he tells them that the God they claim to worship is his Father, then he claims to be the Messiah that Abraham looked for.  They get angrier and angrier and when he finally claims to be Abraham’s Messiah, they ask him: “How would you know who Abraham’s Messiah was?  Do you know Abraham?  You’re not even fifty years old and Abraham lived 2000 years ago!  You’re crazy!”  And that’s when Jesus says those famous words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  There’s no clearer way Jesus could have claimed to be God Incarnate.  He tells them that not only was he around before Abraham, but he says that he was and still is “I AM”.  That was the name that God gave to Moses at the burning bush.  When Moses asked who he was supposed to say sent him to free the Israelites from Egypt, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  St. John, in telling the story, even uses exactly the same unusual grammatical construct to say it that was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  There was no clearer way for Jesus to say: “I’m God!”  And we know the people understood, because they got so angry they tried to stone him for blasphemy. But friends, that’s how we know Jesus could make the perfect sacrifice: he was God.  If he wasn’t God, we could never believe all the other claims the Bible makes about his sinless perfection and we’d always be left doubting whether or not he actually did pay the penalty for our sins at the cross.  We could never truly live in full faith that he triumphed over sin and death, and without faith in him and in his death, we’d still be slaves to sin.  Jesus could be that perfect sacrifice because he was God. And so the writer of Hebrews goes on in verse 15: Therefore 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. Each one of us stands condemned by the law of God, but in Jesus we have the mediator of a New Covenant that promises eternal life—in fact, that makes us co-heirs with him in his sonship.  All we have to do is appropriate it—all we have to do is grab hold of it—by faith—by trusting wholly that his sacrifice is sufficient for our sins, and then showing our trust in him by truly making him our Lord and walking in his ways.  Going back to where we started this morning: We stop trusting in ourselves, and instead trust in Jesus.  If we will do that, he promises to be our high priest—our mediator with God, doing what you and I can never do for ourselves. That’s why, after his work on earth was finished, he ascended to heaven.  As the Old Testament priests offered the sacrifice for the people in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, Jesus offers his perfect sacrifice in the heavenly throne-room of his Father.  Through his broken body and his shed blood, he offers us eternal life as he unites us to himself.  And that’s what we celebrate and partake of this morning as we come to his Table.  The Jews, if they were lucky, caught a glimpse of the Holy of Holies over the shoulder of the high priest, once each year, as the curtain was drawn back so that he could enter.  But, brothers and sisters, as we come to his Table each Sunday, we enter directly into the heavenly throne-room of God as we receive the bread and wine.  Think of the words written by Isaac Watts so long ago: When I survey the wondrous cross, on which the prince of glory died; my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.  And in the last verse he proclaims: Where the whole real of nature mine, that were an offering far too small; love so amazing, so divine demands my soul, life, my all.  As you come today, survey—meditate and think on—the wondrous cross where the Prince of Glory died.  Meditate on the love of the Father in sending his Son to die.  Meditate on the love of the Son, who humbled himself and submitted himself to a brutal death for your sake.  Meditate on that love—so amazing, so divine—and ask if you have truly committed to him your soul, your life, your all. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, we acknowledged in the collect that it is only by your mercy that we are preserved in body and soul from the consequences of our sins.  Remind us each day of the cost of your mercy—that the price of our redemption was the blood of your Son, shed at the cross—that as we reflect on your lovingkindness, we might commit ourselves more and more to love of you, love of our brothers and sisters, and to truly living out your love in our lives.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Bible Text: Hebrews 10:1-25; John 19:1-37 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year It is Finished Hebrews 10:1-25 & St. John 19:1-37 by William Klock Last night we remembered Jesus and his disciples in the Upper Room.  We were there with them as Jesus washed their feet and showed them what it means to be a servant.  They were bickering over who would have to lower himself to washing all their feet.  And as they argued and were overcome by pride, Jesus—who was unquestionably the one man there who deserved to have his feet washed by someone else—Jesus stripped down to a towel, knelt on the floor, and washed their dirty feet.  He even knelt in front of Judas and washed the dust and mud from his feet—the dirt accumulated from his trip to the high priests to betray his master and friend. We saw St. Peter draw back from Jesus—“No Lord!  You can’t wash my feet!  If anything, I should be washing yours.”  And yet Jesus insisted.  If he couldn’t be a servant, he couldn’t redeem these men at the cross. Jesus turned everything upside-down.  After washing the disciples’ feet—something totally inappropriate for a teacher to do to his disciples—he took the bread and the wine of the Passover meal and started referring to them as a new sacrifice.  These men knew all about sacrifices. They knew all about bulls and goats and lambs sacrificed for sin, their bodies broken and their blood poured out before the altar.  And yet Jesus took the bread and wine and said that it was his Body broken and his blood poured out—that it was him making a sacrifice for sin.  From what the Gospels tell us, the disciples didn’t understand.  They really did want to follow Jesus, they wanted what he had to offer, but they didn’t understand yet what it was he was offering.  When Jesus had tried to wash Peter’s feet, Peter had indignantly refused, but Jesus explained that he needed it—that if we wanted any part in his master, this washing was essential—then Peter wanted it—even wanted more of it (“Wash my whole body, not just my feet, Lord!”)—but he still didn’t understand what it meant.  He just trusted Jesus and wanted what he was offering. Why Jesus didn’t just come out and tell the disciples in plain Aramaic that he was going to die for them, that he was going to rise on the third day, and that after fifty days he would ascend to heaven and send them his Holy Spirit, we can only guess.  Throughout his earthly ministry we see Jesus teaching people with riddles and oblique references instead of just coming out and saying things plainly.  I think he revealed things that way because it left the disciples wondering, and when the clarity finally came at Pentecost it made the work of Jesus so much more dramatic for them. After supper Jesus took his friends to the garden of Gethsemane to pray.  Even after the foot washing and that last supper and all Jesus’ talk about servants and sacrifices, they still didn’t understand.  They had no idea what was going to happen.  They knelt among the olive trees as Jesus went off a little way away to pray by himself.  And as Jesus prayed like he’d never prayed before, the disciples drifted off to sleep.  They had no idea what was happening.  Jesus woke them up in time for Judas to return, leading a pack of Jewish soldiers who had come to take him away.  Peter drew out his sword, ready for the attack, and cut off the ear of one of the soldiers.  Maybe he thought that now was the time Jesus, the conquering Messiah-King, was going to throw off his clever disguise of humility and start the revolution that all the Jews expected.  Now was his chance!  But it didn’t happen.  In fact, Jesus actually healed the soldier and told Peter: “I can appeal to my Father and he’ll send twelve legions of angels.  But if I did that, how would the Scriptures be fulfilled?” The disciples ran away as the chief priest’s soldiers took Jesus away in chains.  They figured it was over.  “So it turns out Jesus is just another in the long list of false messiahs.”  But Peter wasn’t ready to give up on his friend, so he followed along to the high priest’s house to see what would happen.  He watched the sham trial they put Jesus through.  They condemned Jesus, and as the priests and soldiers spit on him and struck him, Peter gave up just like the other disciples had done a few hours before.  Three bystanders noticed Peter in the crowd and recognised him: “Hey, you!  You were with him.  You’re one of his friends.  You’re one of his followers.” And each time Peter denied knowing Jesus: “I don’t know what you’re talking about!  You must be blind!  I’ve never seen this man before!” When it was morning, the Jews dragged Jesus to Pilate’s court.  He was the Roman governor.  The Jews weren’t allowed to execute anyone; the Romans had to do it.  And so Jesus went through another sham trial before Pilate who caved in to pressure from the Jews.  He didn’t want a riot on his hands and the Jews were crying for blood—and not just blood—they were crying out for a Roman crucifixion.  Pilate asked them, “But this man is King of the Jews?”  And they shouted back, “No he’s not!  We have no king but Caesar!”  The crowds who had hailed their Messiah on Sunday, turned against him on Friday.  They wanted a conquering Messiah who would raise an army and drive out the Romans, but instead this wanna-be Messiah was talking about the Kingdom of God in men’s hearts.  He even talked about becoming a sacrifice himself.  On Sunday they had thought that his humility was a clever disguise to put the Romans off their guard.  Today they realise that it isn’t a disguise—Jesus really is a humble servant, ready to die.  The crowds weren’t ready to accept someone like that as Messiah. The Roman soldiers, the whole battalion, took Jesus to be scourged.  They spit on him, they put a reed in his hand and a crown plaited of thorns on his head and mocked him as king, and then they beat him senseless.  They led him away with two common thieves onto a nearby hill.  They held him down on a cross while they nailed him to it with big spikes through his wrists and through his feet, then they raised the cross up and dropped it heavily into the ground. His mother and his friends watched as the blood poured from his hands, his feet, and his head.  For three hours he hung there.  Roman crucifixion was known for its agony.  The shoulders were dislocated.  Hanging, you couldn’t breath.  So you pushed yourself up, putting all your weight on the spike through your feet to gasp for air—alternating between the agony of asphyxiation and the agony of being nailed to a piece of timbre.  After three hours Jesus cried out in anguish to his Father, “It is finished.”  And just to make sure he was dead the soldiers pierced his side with a spear to see the blood run out followed by a gush of water. That evening Joseph of Arimathea went to Pilate to claim the body of Jesus.  They took it down from the cross, wrapped it in linen, placed it in a tomb, and sealed it up. Now I think the disciples started to understand what Jesus was talking about last night when he had talked about his body and blood being given as a new—as a perfect—sacrifice.  In our epistle lesson from the tenth chapter of Hebrews, we read some more about the nature of Jesus’ sacrifice.  The Law and the old sacrifices were but a shadow of the good things to come.  “It can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:1-4). The blood of bulls and goats, sacrificed over and over, could only convict the people of sin as it pointed to the perfect sacrifice of Christ that had not yet been made.  And so Hebrews 10 says that Jesus came to do “away with the first in order to establish the second.  And by that…we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”(Hebrews 10:9-10).  The writer of Hebrews goes on to give us a vivid picture contrasting the old and the new: “Every priest [and he’s talking about the priests of the old covenant] stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sin.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God…for by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified” (Hebrews 10:11-14). Jeremiah wrote, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws on their hearts, and write them on their minds…I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”  And Hebrews reminds us, “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:16-18). When Jesus breathed his last and cried out, “It is finished,” it was finished.  Whereas in the old covenant the priest laid the sins of the people on the bulls and goats sacrificed repeatedly on the altar, Jesus, our great High Priest, took our sins upon himself and died the death that we deserved.  The old sacrifices were imperfect.  They were just brute animals, but also, those animals didn’t offer their lives willingly.  That’s the difference between the old sacrifices and the once-for-all new sacrifice made by Jesus.  In the shed blood of Christ we find perfection—God Incarnate shed his own blood and he did so of his own free will.  For that reason, there’s no longer any need for more sacrifices.  Again, Jesus did it once and for all.  The old covenant called for the sinner to humbly lay his sins on that animal sacrifice, but that bull or that goat on the altar of the Temple was a sign given by God—it was God’s finger pointing to Jesus Christ—pointing to the Cross. No more do we bring an annual sacrifice to the Temple; now the humble sinner need only trust in the once-for-all sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross. When Jesus breathed his last and gave himself up to God, the Temple served its last function in redemptive history.  Under the old covenant the Holy of Holies—the Most Holy Place—was where the presence of God resided visibly for the people, resting on the Ark of the Covenant.  And yet the people weren’t allowed into that place—into the direct presence of God.  Only the High Priest was allowed there and then only once a year.  No sinful human being could enter the presence of God and the priest only did it to make an annual sacrifice for sins—and he did so only after a series of purification rituals for himself.  Nobody went there, because sinners can never enter the presence of a holy, just, and righteous God without standing condemned. But when Jesus made his perfect sacrifice on the cross that day—as he breathed his last and pronounced, “It is finished”—the heavy veil that separated the Holy of Holies from the people was torn in two from top to bottom.  By his death, Jesus Christ opened the way into the presence of the Father.  Through Jesus Christ sinners can now find perfect forgiveness and can enter the presence of our holy, just, and righteous God uncondemned. On the cross Jesus stretched out his hands; he stretched out one hand to all those who had trusted in him, seeing the future and coming Messiah as they made their sacrifices at the Temple.  And with his other hand Jesus reached out to us, reaches out to the Gentiles, to the nations who had never heard of the Messiah.  On the Cross he reaches out with both hands, uniting both peoples to himself, establishing his body by giving new life to dead and paralysed limbs through his shed body and blood.  Jesus said, “When I am lifted up, I will draw all men to myself” (John 12:32).  That’s exactly what he did.  In fact, it’s exactly what he still does.  He stretches out his hands to draw us in, to unite us to himself.  Through his perfect sacrifice he offers perfect forgiveness of sin.  Through his body and his blood he offers new and eternal life.  Through his Holy Spirit he renews and regenerates hearts and minds and leads us on the path of holiness.  And through his cross, he leads us through the torn veil and into the Holy of Holies—into the very presence of God.
Bible Text: Hebrews 9:11-15; John 8:46-59 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Our Great High Priest Hebrews 9:11-15 & St. John 8:46-59 The focus of the lessons during the season of Lent is the love of God that flows from the cross to us, and then on how that love flows out of us—back to God in gratitude, and out to our brothers and sisters, and eventually to the whole world.  And yet as we each look at our own lives—and if we’re really honest with ourselves—we’re all going to see a lack of love.  Jesus tells us that if we love him, we will keep his commandments, but we all walk to a lesser or greater degree in selective obedience.  We’re willing to give up those sins that don’t cost us much, but we hold tight to our favourites.  When it comes to the good things Jesus tells us to do, we do the ones, again, that don’t cost us a lot, or we do the things that make us look good to other people, but we ignore the things that require hard work, or that require us to give up our time, or that cost us financially.  We all also walk in selective love when it comes to others.  It’s easy to let sin, and anger, and pride get in the way of actually loving our brothers and sisters the way Jesus loves them.  We take offense at something and it’s easier to cut off a brother or a sister than it is to swallow our pride and seek reconciliation. The solution to our lack of love is to meditate on the cross.  Later this morning, in our offertory, we’ll be singing the words of Isaac Watts’ wonderful hymn “When I survey the wond’rous cross”.  It’s a hymn of contemplation of the cross of Christ, and as he thought on the significance of what Jesus did there, he wrote those words most of us likely know by heart: “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an off’ring far too small; love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”  The love of God to me—to us—demands my all—our all—in return.  But do we give our all?  I don’t.  And I don’t because I’ve failed to fully grasp the depth of God’s love for me, or maybe I get it, but I’ve failed to let the knowledge of God’s love that I have in my head, work it’s way into my heart.  Or I’ve compartmentalised it; failed to let it permeate every area of my life.  The bottom line is that I’m still too full me and not full enough of Jesus. Hopefully, as we grow in Christ and as the Spirit does his work in our lives, the ratio of “Jesus” to “me” gets higher and higher and completes the work that started he started in my Baptism.  At least on some level, we’ve got to understand the supremacy of Jesus in order to be saved.  I’ve actually had people tell me—people who are supposedly Christians—that God loves them because they deserve it, because they’re good, or because they’re somehow worthy of his love—because of something they’ve done.  And I think—I hope—we all balk at that.  The Gospel message is that God showed us his love and sent his Son to die for us, while we were yet sinners—while we were his enemies, dead in sin, deserving nothing but death and eternal damnation.  As long as we think we’re deserving of God’s love, we can never truly believe and accept the Gospel message.  And yet while we may not be so blatant in denying our sinfulness, you and I are still often guilty of pride in our works.  We admit we’re sinners, we say we trust in Jesus’ sacrifice that he made at the cross, but when it really comes down to it, we still don’t really and fully understand just how bad our sins are and we don’t truly understand that we were dead in our sins.  We think of ourselves more as just being sick in our sins—maybe even really, really sick, but not actually dead.  We still like to think that we have something to offer God, something to contribute to our salvation, even if it’s something very small.  So we trust in Jesus—mostly—but we still trust in ourselves.  And as long as we keep trusting in ourselves—even if it’s only a little bit—we will never truly understand the depth of God’s love and we’ll never truly live the life that the Holy Spirit is working in us to perfect.  Brothers and sisters, the solution, again, is to meditate on the cross.  That’s what Isaac Watts did.  In the first verse of our hymn he wrote: “When I survey—when I look on and meditate on—the wondrous cross, where the young Prince of Glory died, my richest gain I count but loss, and pour contempt on all my pride.” As we enter Passiontide today, our Gospel lessons will put our attention on the cross, but it’s not enough just to know that Jesus died on the cross.  We need to understand why he died on the cross and we need to understand just who it was who died there on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins.  And that’s where our Epistles point us.  They help us meditate and reflect on Jesus and the cross—not just the image of some nice guy who was crucified for something he didn’t do, but on God Incarnate—God himself—who offered himself up to save sinful men and women from eternal death. I want especially to look at our lesson from Hebrews 9 this morning.  This is a passage that will weave its way through Passiontide.  As the Gospels tell us the story of the Passion, Hebrews reminds us of the why behind Jesus’ Passion—it gives us the behind-the-scenes look at our own redemption.  It takes us back to the Old Testament—to the types and shadows that pointed to Jesus—and it shows us how he fulfilled them.  And as it shows us those things, it also explains who it was who died and why.  Look at Hebrews 9:11. But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come… This is what Hebrews is all about: Jesus, our High Priest.  If I were stranded on a desert island and could have only one book of the Bible with me, it would be Hebrews, because it not only lays out the Gospel message clearly, but it explains it and it explains the majesty of Jesus, the holiness of God, the sinfulness of my sins, and the love and mercy and grace that were poured out at the cross.  The writer of Hebrews—we don’t know who he was—takes us back to the Old Testament and particularly to the descriptions of the tabernacle and the sacrificial system and to the priests who made those sacrifices in the tabernacle on behalf of the people.  And now he tells us: Jesus came, and he came specifically to be the “high priest of the good things that have come.” This is how St. John saw Jesus in the vision he records in Revelation: standing in the midst of the seven candlesticks of the temple and clothed in the white robes of the high priest.  Jesus is the new High Priest.  The descendants of Aaron served as high priests over the sacrifices of the Old Covenant—over all those things that, even in their imperfections, were established by God to point the people to Jesus.  And now, Hebrews tells us, Jesus has come: the High Priest of the good things—the perfect things—that the Old Testament only hinted at. In the Old Testament God was still teaching his people, still working out his plan of redemption—and to do that he started with a select group of people and a little piece of land he had carved out for them among the nations.  But God had no intention of leaving things that way.  He established an earthly kingdom that pointed to a heavenly kingdom.  He built an earthly temple that pointed to a heavenly one.  He established an earthly priesthood that pointed to a great high priest who would be God himself.  And God did all this so that he could prepare the people by teaching them the sinfulness of their sins, by teaching them about holiness, and by showing them that sin can only be overcome and reconciliation with God can only be made by his grace. Hebrews reminds us that Jesus brought that training period to a close when he came to fulfil that first covenant and subsumed it in a new and better one—when he came and brought heavenly reality to those earthly types and shadows.  Verse 11 goes on: …then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation)… The tent—the tabernacle—that God instructed Moses and the Israelites to build was an amazing and beautiful thing, but there was something better.  It was imperfect.  Jesus came as the high priest of the better things that had been promised.  In his role as priest, he entered not into the earthly tabernacle—not the one built by men—but into a heavenly and spiritual tabernacle.  In the Old Testament the high priest entered once every year into the Holy of Holies.  It was partitioned off from the rest of the tabernacle by a heavy curtain.  The shekinah—the presence of God that had followed the Israelites as a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night—was there in the Holy of Holies, resting on the Ark of the Covenant and no sinful man could ever enter the presence of our perfectly holy God.  When the priest did go in that one time each year, on the Day of Atonement, he had to undergo a long ritual of purification.  And it wasn’t just any priest who would enter the Holy of Holies on that one day; there was only one mediator between God and man—there was only the one high priest who would enter to make that annual sacrifice for the sins of the people—and yet he too—just like the tabernacle itself—was imperfect.  Despite being the high priest, despite his ritual cleansing, he still entered the Holy of Holies by the grace of God.  His status and his ritual cleansing didn’t change the fact that, just like everyone else, his soul was stained with sin. That’s the image Hebrews draws on: that one high priest, ritually purified, dressed in his high priestly robes—but not his ordinary robes, but special robes just for that one day, entering the Holy of Holies to sprinkle the blood of the day’s sacrifices before the presence of God, and no doubt he stood there trembling at the awesomeness of what he was called and commissioned to do. As I read this I can’t help but imagine myself standing behind the trembling high priest as he carries his incense and the bowl of blood from the sacrifice, getting ready to enter.  I see the other priests pulling back that heavy curtain so that he can enter, and as they do so, we see through to the Holy of Holies where the presence of God rested in that great cloud, into the true Holy of Holies—into heaven itself where God sits enthroned in all his majesty.  It’s that truly heavenly Holy of Holies where Jesus entered as our great High Priest.  Hebrews 9:12 goes on: …he [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. The high priest in the Old Testament could enter the Holy of Holies, but that’s as far as he could go.  There was no way for him to enter the full presence of God in the heavenly tabernacle, because even he was separated from the holiness of God by sin.  He was able to enter the Holy of Holies because he carried with him the blood of the bull and goat sacrificed each year on the Day of Atonement—animals sacrificed for the sins of the people—but bulls and goats make imperfect sacrifices.  They only get us so far.  And they have to be made repeatedly.  The Day of Atonement and this sacrificial ritual had to be repeated by the earthly high priest every year.  But Hebrews tells us, that Jesus sacrificed himself and entered the presence of God—entered the heavenly tabernacle—with his own blood.  He made the perfect sacrifice—a sacrifice that took him past the earthly tabernacle, past the earthly Holy of Holies, and gave him access to the very presence of God himself.  And because his sacrifice was perfect, he finished the work of atonement.  Not only was there no more need for the imperfect sacrifices of bulls and goats, but even his own sacrifice only needed to be made once—for all time.  The blood of bulls and goats purchased redemption for a year.  The blood of Jesus purchases redemption forever. The writer goes on in verses 13 and 14: 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. Here’s another comparison between the Old Covenant and the New.  God had given his people instructions on ceremonial purity.  In the law there are long lists of things that render a person unclean.  They’re not generally things that are sinful—there’s nothing inherently wrong with touching a corpse, being a menstruating woman, giving birth, having eczema, or having mildew in your house or on something you own.  God’s point in these regulations was simply to teach the people what it meant to be set apart from the world.  These were basically object lessons in holiness.  And so if you found yourself rendered ceremonially unclean, it meant that you couldn’t enter the tabernacle for worship.  Sometimes it meant having to live outside the camp for a time.  But there were sacrifices that could be offered to restore “cleanness”.  Being sprinkled with the blood from a sacrificed cow would render you clean again if you had touched a dead body, for example.  And yet you’d still have to go through life knowing that eventually—no matter how careful you might be—something else would happen that would render you ceremonially unclean.  It was just a way of life for the Jewish people. In Rabbinic Judaism they came up with all sorts of almost neurotic rules—we see many of them in today’s kosher regulations (two dishwashers, two sets of pots and pans, two sets of Tupperware, all so that meat and dairy don’t mix)—to help people avoid the preventable things that would render them unclean, because of the inconvenience it could cause. All that for the purification of flesh that would inevitably become unclean again and again.  In contrast, Jesus offered his own blood, that we might be purified from so much more—that we might be purified not just from petty things that would render us temporarily unclean in the flesh, but from the very sin in our lives that renders us spiritually unclean and that condemns us not just to a few days or weeks living outside the camp of God’s people, but that condemns us to living in eternity outside the City of God, outside the place of his presence, away from his people, away from the Body of Christ, and that condemns us to hell. Why and how?  Because Jesus wasn’t just some nice guy who died on a cross.  As the writer of Hebrews tells us: his was a sacrifice “without blemish”.  As St. John shows us in today’s Gospel lesson, there were two characteristics that made him the perfect sacrifice for sin: First, he was sinless.  Jesus got into an argument with the Jews over whether or not they were truly following in the works and in the faith of Abraham.  Basically, he pointed out that they were sinners and they turned around and said, “No.  You’re the sinner!”  And so he asks, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?”  And of course, none of them could.  They made all sorts of accusations against him, but nothing was true and when he asked them, point-blank what his sins were, there was nothing they could say.  And this is how and why he could offer himself as a sacrifice for sins: because he wasn’t guilty of sin himself. But second, he was God.  Part of his condemnation of the unbelieving Jews was that they claimed to listen to and to follow God, but they refused to listen to Jesus.  He explained to them that if they claimed to listen to God, then they’d better listen to him.  What he was really doing was asserting his divinity.  And of course the Jews argued with him.  They accused him of having a demon and as the argument went back and forth, Jesus started making his claims of divinity more and more clear.  First he tells them that the God they claimed to worship is his Father, then he claimed to be the Messiah that Abraham looked for.  They got angrier and angrier and when he finally claimed to be Abraham’s Messiah, they asked him: “How would you know who Abraham’s Messiah was?  Do you know Abraham?  You’re not even fifty years old and Abraham lived 2000 years ago!  You’re crazy!”  And that’s when Jesus said those famous words: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”  There’s no clearer way Jesus could have claimed to be God Incarnate.  He tells them that not only was he around before Abraham, but he says that he was and still is “I AM”.  That was the name that God gave to Abraham at the burning bush.  When Abraham asked who he was supposed to say sent him to free the Israelites from Egypt, “God said to Moses, ‘I AM WHO I AM.’ Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”  St. John, in telling the story, even uses exactly the same unusual grammatical construct to say it that was used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament.  There was no clearer way for Jesus to say: “I’m God!”  It was as good as Jesus saying, “I’m Yaweh.”  And we know the people understood, because they got so angry they tried to stone him for blasphemy. But friends, that’s how we know Jesus could make the perfect sacrifice: he was God.  If he wasn’t God, we could never believe all the other claims the Bible makes about his sinless perfection and we’d always be left doubting whether or not he actually did pay the penalty for our sins at the cross.  We could never truly live in full faith that he triumphed over sin and death, and without faith in him and in his death, we’d still be slaves to sin.  Jesus could be that perfect sacrifice because he was God. And so the writer of Hebrews goes on in verse 15: Therefore 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. Each one of us stands condemned by the law of God, but in Jesus we have the mediator of a New Covenant that promises eternal life—in fact, that makes us co-heirs with him in his sonship.  All we have to do is appropriate it—all we have to do is grab hold of it—by faith—by trusting wholly that his sacrifice is sufficient for our sins, and then showing our trust in him by truly making him our Lord and walking in his ways.  Going back to where we started this morning: We stop trusting in ourselves, and instead trust in Jesus.  If we will do that, he promises to be our high priest—our mediator with God, doing what you and I can never do for ourselves. That’s why, after his work on earth was finished, he ascended to heaven.  As the Old Testament priests offered the sacrifice for the people in the Holy of Holies of the tabernacle, Jesus offers his perfect sacrifice in the heavenly throne-room of his Father.  Through his broken body and his shed blood, he offers us eternal life as he unites us to himself.  And that’s what we celebrate and partake of this morning as we come to his Table.  The Jews, if they were lucky, caught a glimpse of the Holy of Holies over the shoulder of the high priest, once each year, as the curtain was drawn back so that he could enter.  But, brothers and sisters, as we come to his Table each Sunday, we enter directly into the heavenly throne-room of God as we receive the bread and wine.  As you come today, survey—meditate and think on—the wondrous cross where the Prince of Glory died.  Meditate on the love of the Father in sending his Son to die.  Meditate on the love of the Son, who humbled himself and submitted himself to a brutal death for your sake.  Meditate on that love—so amazing, so divine—and ask if you have truly committed to him your soul, your life, your all. Please pray with me: Heavenly Father, we acknowledged in the collect that it is only by your mercy that we are preserved in body and soul from the consequences of our sins.  Remind us each day of the cost of your mercy—that the price of our redemption was the blood of your Son, shed at the cross—that as we reflect on your lovingkindness, we might commit ourselves more and more to love of you, love of our brothers and sisters, and to truly living out your love in our lives.  We ask this in the name of Jesus Christ.  Amen.
Bible Text: Hebrews 10:1-25; John 19:1-37 | Preacher: The Rev'd William Klock | Series: The Church Year Our Paschal Lamb Hebrews 10:1-25 & St. John 19:1-37 Last night we sat with Jesus in the Upper Room as he began his Passion by making a new Sacrament of the Passover bread and wine.  As he gave them to his disciples, he said, “Take and eat.  This is my body, broken for you.  This is my blood, poured out for you.”  In the Passover meal, it was the lamb that was at the centre of things.  It was the lamb that recalled the first Passover, when the firstborn sons of Israel were spared because the people painted the blood of the slain lamb on their doorposts.  Jesus now put himself in the place of that lamb and made that remembrance and celebration in the Upper Room the last true Passover.  In less than twenty-four hours he would be hanging on a cross dead; he would himself become the perfect, once-and-for-all Passover Lamb.  And from that time on, his people would celebrate not the Passover, but the Eucharist—the “Great Thanksgiving in which the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world is present in the bread and wine, filling his people with love and grace. The Passion of our Lord began last night as he instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood.  It continues today as we read the Gospel and see him complete his sacrificial mission. After supper, Jesus went with his disciples to Gethsemane to pray.  While they were there, Judas betrayed him to the soldiers of the high priest.  During the night, the priests threw together a hasty court and tried Jesus on charges of blasphemy.  They found him guilty.  But the Jews were ruled by the Romans.  They couldn’t execute anyone on their own authority, so they took Jesus to Pilate, the Roman governor.  Our Gospel today picks up the story at that point.   Pilate, despite finding no fault with Jesus, gave into the demands of the people and handed Jesus over to his soldiers to be abused, beaten, and crucified.  The soldiers made a mockery of his kingship.  His people refused and rejected his kingship.  And Pilate, acknowledging his kingship after a fashion with the placard nailed to the Cross, ignored Jesus’ kingship. We read in the Gospel how Jesus was forced to carry his own Cross through the streets of the city, how he was crucified on the hill Golgotha, how he suffered on the Cross and ultimately died, gasping the words: “It is finished!”  What began in the Upper Room the night before when Jesus took on the role of the Lamb of God was completed at three o’clock Friday afternoon when he took his last breath and died.  Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that the great veil in the temple was torn in two at that moment.  The heavy curtain that sealed the holy of holies, that sealed the place of God’s holy presence from sinful humanity, was rent.  In his sacrifice, through his own body broken and his own blood poured out, Jesus opened the way for restoration between God and man. But how?  That’s where our Epistle today comes in.  It takes us back to the Old Covenant.  It takes us back to the Law, given through Moses, and it puts that Lat into perspective in light of Jesus.  It shows us the shortcomings of the Law and the perfection of the Gospel.  Look at Hebrews 10: For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. (Hebrews 10:1) The Law was a wonderful thing so far as it went, but it didn’t go far enough.  It left the people condemned and mired in sin.  The very sacrifices made for sin underscored the seriousness of sin and the fact that a better and perfect sacrifice was needed to effectively deal with our sin problem.  Hebrews goes on in verse 2: Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins?  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year.  For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (Hebrews 10:2-4) Consider what a bloody place the temple was.  A steady stream of people came on a daily basis, bringing animals with them for sacrifice.  A river of blood flowed from the catch-basin of the altar, through the wall, and down the cliff-side into the valley below.  Rather than taking away sin, those sacrifices only emphasised the sin of the people while pointing to God’s future provision of a true and perfect sacrifice that would satisfy his holy and just requirements, that would finally deal with our sin problem. And so the writer of Hebrews points to the coming of the one who would be that perfect sacrifice as he quotes the words of David in Psalm 40.  In the words of the Psalmist, Jesus declares that God takes no pleasure in sacrifices and offerings, in burnt offerings and sin offerings.  They fall short.  But Jesus also declares that he has come to do God’s will, as the Law and Prophets had foretold—as the one whom those imperfect sacrifices of the temple anticipated. Look at verses 9 and 10: He does away with the first [that is, the old sacrifices and offerings of the Law] in order to establish the second [his Father’s will].  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. That’s an amazing statement.  It was the will of the Father all along, even as he gave instructions for the tabernacle and for the Levite priests, and for the sacrifices and offerings, that one day they would be done away with.  Sanctification could not come through the Law.  Sanctification—the forgiveness of sins and the conversion of sinners into saints—could only come through “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”  As proof the writer points to the Old Covenant priests and gives us an image of futility.  I think of my wife who laments regularly the fact that housework is never done.  Before she’s done cleaning the house, it’s already getting dirty again.  I think back to my days repairing computers.  I could repair and repair all day, but the steady stream of broken computers never ended.  And so for the priests in the temple.  Look at verse 11: And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. Day in and day out; bloody day after bloody day; but not one of those animals truly dealt with the sin problem of those who offered them.  God intended that the futility of the old system would remind the people of the sinfulness of their sins and point them to the perfect Lamb, the perfect sacrifice to come.  In faith they were called to look for their redemption in the One who hadn’t yet come, whom they didn’t know, but whom God had promised. And in contrast to the endless and futile work of those priests, the writer presents Jesus in verses 12 to 14: But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. And in this the writer of Hebrews takes the sacrifice of Jesus to another level.  So far he’s been presented as a perfect sacrifice for sin, but his sacrifice actually goes further.  Jesus actually ushers in a New Covenant that goes beyond forgiving sins; the New Covenant is actually about the business of removing sin.  The writer quotes a passage from yesterday’s First Lesson from Morning Prayer, from Jeremiah 31: And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,              “This is the covenant that I will make with them                   after those days, declares the Lord:           I will put my laws on their hearts,                   and write them on their minds,”    then he adds,            “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” (Hebrews 10:15-18) Through the work of Jesus, not only are sins truly and fully forgiven, but the Law is put in our hearts and written on our minds.  That’s a reference in Old Testament language to the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.  In the days of Moses, God presented his people with his Law on tablets of stone—a declaration of what is right and pleasing and what is wrong and displeasing to him.  The people could look to those tablets and aspire to live up to God’s holy standard, but the power simply wasn’t in them.  Those tablets showed them an impossible ideal of holiness that left them condemned in their sin.  But for those who stand cleansed by the blood of Jesus, who have trusted in his perfect sacrifice, the Holy Spirit is given.  Through him we are united with Jesus himself and given not only the desire to please God, but the ability to do so. And so he sums it all in verse 18: Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin. Offerings and sacrifices for sin are no longer needed when sin has been truly and finally forgiven.  God’s people no longer need to make sacrifices for their sins.  Jesus has perfectly dealt with them.  To continue to make sacrifices for our sins is to blaspheme the work that Jesus completed at the Cross.  Now, you and I may not offer bulls and goats in an attempt to appease God, but how often do we try to cover our sins with good works?  Brothers and sisters, Jesus has dealt with our sins.  Simply trust in what he has done; trust in him as the once-and-for-all, perfect sacrifice for your sins. The practical application of all this draws us back to the Gospel accounts of Jesus’ death and the tearing of the veil in the temple.  That veil was there under the Old Covenant to keep sinful men and women out of the holy presence of God.  Even those who had made their offerings for sin were still not allowed into the Holy of Holies.  There was no way for them to be truly made holy and what is unholy can never enter God’s presence.  And yet look at the invitation we have in verses 19 to 22: Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. So long as we come through Jesus, by trusting in the sacrifice he made at the Cross for the forgiveness of our sins, we have an invitation to enter into the holy presence of God.  Jesus clothes us in the long robe of his own righteousness so that when the Father looks at us, he sees only the purity and holiness of his Son.  He is our “great high priest” who has offered himself for our sake on the Father’s altar, and it is he who in our Baptism gives us “full assurance of faith” as he sprinkles clean our hearts and washes our bodies, making us clean through and through.  Brothers and sisters, that’s where our assurance lies as Christians: in the work of Jesus at the Cross and his application of that work to us by faith in Baptism. And since we have this assurance, the writer exhorts us in verse 23: Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. Our hope is in this confession that Jesus has dealt with our sins fully and for all time at the Cross.  God is faithful to what he has promised, so let us hold fast to the hope that is within us. And don’t forget that God does not expect us to walk this path alone.  Look at verses 24 and 25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. There is unity in Jesus Christ.  He unites each of us to himself, but in doing so he unites us all to each other.  Our new life is not new life alone, but new life as part of his covenant community.  As we saw last night in Jesus’ example of servanthood: as he has been our servant, we are to be the servant of others: sharing a common life in Jesus, exhorting each other to love and good works, drawing each other back when we stray, sorrowing with each other when we hurt, and rejoicing with each other in the blessings of God. Let us pray: “Merciful God, you have made all people and hate nothing that you have made, nor do you desire the death of sinners but rather that they should be converted and live: have mercy on all who do not know you or who deny the faith of Christ crucified.  Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt for your Word and bring them home to your fold, blessed Lord, so that we may all become one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.”