Here is the sermon manuscript for my Maundy Thursday sermon. Our worship leader, Kori Rožić, asked me to talk about Jesus our High Priest.
The original recipients of Hebrews were Jewish Christians who were tempted by persecution and social pressure to return to Judaism and leave their Christian faith behind.
The writer of the letter warns them against turning their back on faith in Jesus, and argues for Christianity’s superiority over Judaism. A major part of his argument is that Jesus as High Priest is superior to the Jewish priesthood; this takes up the majority of chapters 4-10.
The Jewish High Priest conducted daily sacrifices for the nation, and played a special role on the Day of Atonement (described in Leviticus 16). On that day:
- He set aside his priestly robes and (for some of ritual) wore the same clothing as the rest of the people; this indicates that he is a sinner like them.
- He made sacrifices for his own sins and the sins of the other priests.
- He entered the Holy of Holies by himself; no one else could enter.
- He sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices on the Ark of the Covenant.
- Chose scapegoat and transferred the people’s’ sins onto the animal.
- He dressed again in priestly robes and made sacrifices outside.
Jesus does all of these things, but in a unique way:
|1. The High Priest took off his priestly robes and dressed like everyone else (all the “sinners”) on the Day of Atonement.||1. Jesus became like us sinners, human and frail. He took off his robe to wash his disciples’ feet. His robe was taken from him when he was crucified.|
|2. The High Priest cleansed himself and his fellow priests.||2. Jesus needed no cleansing, but he cleansed his disciples|
|3. The High Priest went alone into the Holy of Holies.||3. Jesus goes into the Holy of Holies and opens a way so that we can follow.|
|4. The High Priest sprinkled the blood of sacrifices on the Ark of the Covenant, God’s throne, making forgiveness.||4. Jesus’ blood IS the sacrifice that goes to God’s throne, making forgiveness.|
|5. The High Priest used lots to choose between two goats. The goat he chose was killed as a sin offering.||5. Jesus was “chosen” by the people as the sin offering when Pilate asked them if they wanted Jesus or Barabbas.|
|6. The High Priest transferred the sins of the people onto the second goat, the scape goat.||6. Jesus received the sins of the people onto himself.|
Jesus is the perfect High Priest. He was sinless, but was tempted in every way as we are. He will never die, he now lives eternally. Don’t put your faith in people. People will fail you. Put faith in Jesus.
- People can only help you connect to God through Jesus.
- People grow old, falter, and die.
- People are fallible and sinful. Don’t be shocked when a Christian you respect falls into sin; they are human, too. There is only one perfect example of the Christian life, and he provides forgiveness for the rest of us.
Don’t put your faith in people. People will fail you. Put your faith in Jesus.
Jesus offered the perfect sacrifice for our sins: his own sinless life. Don’t put your faith in rituals; they are only shadows of the spiritual reality. Put your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.
- Cathedrals and liturgy are beautiful and worshipful if your heart is tuned toward God. But they are echoes, “” reflections of the only perfect sacrifice, the only perfect worship, which Jesus our High Priest offered on the cross.
- Even the Lord’s Supper, which we just celebrated, is powerful and effective only to the degree that our hearts are tuned toward God. The Lord’s Supper does not repeat the sacrifice; Jesus offered his sacrifice once and for all, “It is finished.”
- The Lord’s Supper is a living monument through which we remember what he did for us, and by which we are reminded that WE are sinners who need a savior, and that God provided.
- Don’t let your faith get old. We have a tendency to drift, to lose the newness. Our religion becomes a meaningless habit.
The writer of Hebrews warns his readers over and over; don’t drift, don’t forget, don’t become calloused. By prayer and study, keep your hearts fresh and open toward God.
Don’t put your faith in rituals; they are only shadows of the spiritual reality. Put your faith in Jesus’ sacrifice.
Do you need a savior? Only Jesus is perfectly fit for and capable of doing the job.
- He knows what we face. He has felt everything that we feel except guilt; he has even felt shame.
- He is perfect & sinless; he never dies, never fails, never turns away from his people.
Trust what he does for you.
- He made the perfect sacrifice for your sins, and no other sacrifice is needed.
- He has made you a priest & opened the Holy of Holies for you.
- He now sits at God’s right hand, interceding for you. You don’t need another mediator/intercessor.
Entrust yourself to the one who opened the way for you to come into God’s presence.
Entrust yourself to the one who sits directly at the right hand of God.
Entrust yourself to the one who, though sinless, was fully human; he who was tempted in every way as you are, who knows and understands everything that you go through.
Entrust yourself to the one who made the perfect sacrifice—himself. Entrust yourself to the one who made that sacrifice once, a sacrifice which does not need to be repeated. Entrust yourself to the one who made that perfect sacrifice and then sat down, his work finished, at God’s right hand.
Entrust yourself to the priest who makes YOU a priest, who opens the way for YOU to go into the very presence of God, who lives in YOU through the Spirit of God.