Thursday, August 16, 2012

Day 77: The Better Priest, the Better Sacrifice

That is what the author of Hebrews calls Jesus:  the better sacrifice.  He intentionally sets Jesus up against the priests of the old covenant, and the sacrifices of the old covenant, and declares Jesus to be better, more effective, good Forever.  Because he is perfect (unlike any other priest), he is able to save completely; because he died and rose and is now seated at God's right hand, he able to intercede continually for us.  That is one of his jobs.

And this kind of priest, and this kind of covenant was foretold, by Jeremiah, who wrote, "Look, the days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel...I will place their laws on their minds, and write them on their hearts....."  So God always intended for this old covenant to become real.

Some people think that this letter is written to Jewish Christians, who were considering abandoning their new faith, and returning to pre-messianic Judaism.  Sometimes the rhetoric makes me think so.  While I am one who holds fast to the new covenant given and sealed by Jesus (remember the idea that the death of the signee makes the well effective?), I also struggle with some of the words of this letter that seem to say that Judaism is now obsolete and is going away.  Is that what the letter writer is saying?

Jesus in Hebrews is not only the Better Priest, he is also the perfect sacrifice.  His sacrifice on the cross is not again-and-again, but once-for all, so no longer do we need to make sacrifices of animals to be reconciled with God.

On the other hand, if we fall away once we know the truth, this letter has harsh words for us: 'if we make the decision to sin after we receive the knowledge of the truth, there isn't a sacrifice for sins any longer."  What do you think of this?  Do you think that the author of Hebrews is referring to ordinary "sins", or something more encompassing?

Tomorrow we are on to the some of the most well-known passages of this letter.

What is faith?

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