April 1, 2017
Verse: Hebrews 9:11–9:12
Christ Lutheran Church
April 2, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
But when Christ appeared as High Priest of the good things to come; through the greater and perfected tent (not made with hands, that is not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy precincts. Not by the blood of goats and calves; but by his own blood; thus securing an eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:11-12
The holy Christian faith on which we stake our eternal existence, and from which we draw all our comfort, strength and peace in this life of labor … exists on its own plane! Sometimes it intersects with human reason, for example in the area of moral teaching. But more often than not it is incomprehensible to reason, and can only be understood, only appreciated by faith, and by faith alone.
There’s no way to explain, except to the baptized, what the writer to the Hebrews says in today’s epistle: that Jesus is the High Priest of the good things to come; or that his blood secures eternal redemption for us. Such things are unverifiable, and therefore incomprehensible, unless a person is enlightened by the Holy Spirit in holy baptism.
It’s like trying to explain the world to your goldfish. He has some comprehension that there is something beyond his bowl. He knows, at some level, that his food comes from above. He may see you standing in your living room using your cell phone. But don’t try to explain it to him, because he won’t understand! When it comes to the things of God, we are no more perceptive than the fish.
Why? Because sin has clouded the mental ray. It has rendered us “developmentally disabled” as regards the things of God. We don’t do too badly with the things that reason comprehends. We know, for example, that we can’t last very long without food, shelter, clothing or money. We don’t cross the street without looking, or drive without a seat belt. But do we comprehend the things of God? That by our own sins, and the sins of our fathers, we have excluded ourselves from the “good things to come.” And that we have nothing to look forward to but an unfulfilled life. Death without dignity! And an endless existence of getting exactly what we want … and there’s nothing worse than that!
But as the LORD had mercy on Israel, in spite of her serial acts of unfaithfulness, of spiritual adultery, he has mercy on us in spite of ours … and there’s nothing better than that! Indeed, there is no more important or powerful prayer the church prays than the Kyrie. “Lord have mercy upon us. Christ have mercy upon us. Lord have mercy upon us!” Because we live by mercy and by mercy alone!
But we must understand that redemption from sin is not simply a progression of thoughts, or series of talking points, even Biblical ones. But that it consists of the flesh of Christ, who “was made man,” and got in the fish bowl with us.
He is the High Priest of our salvation, and his flesh is the “greater” and “perfected” tent, not made with hands, but “begotten of the Father from eternity,” and sent by the Father to be our Redeemer; who by his blood shed on the cross, secured Eternal Redemption for us. Because in the divine scheme of things there is only one medicine that can cure sinners; one substance that can cleanse the soul: blood! But not any old blood will do!
The sacrifice of goats and calves, though instituted by God himself, was powerless to cleanse the conscience from dead works. But their virtue was derived from looking forward to the Great Sacrifice! To “the good things that have come,” in the words of our text. Indeed, for every animal ever sacrificed under the Old Testament system faith cried out: the body of Christ given for you. The blood of Christ shed for you. These are the good things that are come, the good things God has provided for you, the good things we are assembled to receive this day, and fulfilled in our hearing!
But nor are they an end in themselves. We don’t embrace redemption just in order to save our skin, but so that we might fulfill our humanity! So that we might worship the Living God. Not a dead god, imaginary god, or the gods of current culture such as the worship of animals, the environment, the planet and so on. But of the One who is the Lord and Giver of life! Who created us by the agency of our parents, who redeems us by the blood of Christ, who preserves us each day, and sanctifies so that we may be his own, live under him in his Kingdom, and serve him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness.
Only he can give meaning to our lives. Only he can raise us up above the animal instincts so highly praised and prized by the dead culture. Only he can give us noble thoughts, and inspire us to strive for holiness, goodness, truth and beauty. Only in baptismal union with Jesus can we fulfill the primary duty of every man, which is to fear, love and trust God above all things. To worship the Father in Spirit and Truth. Only from him can we learn the sacrificial love that denies self, takes up the cross each day, and follows Jesus in a life of love and service to one another. For as the Lord “did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28); even so we, his people, live to serve one another: and charity begins at home!
For all their chatter, the do-gooders of culture live only to serve themselves and their ideological masters (though they rarely know it). But those who have been cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ; and have entered the eternal precincts by baptismal and eucharistic union with him; rise above such poverty-stricken notions, and exist in order to love God above all things, and their neighbor as themselves. Amen.