Passage: Hebrews 10:19-25
As the third lockdown begins a sense of weariness has descended. Unlike the first lockdown where there was a novelty factor and we had summer to look forward to or the second mini-lockdown where we had Christmas around the corner, the third lockdown coincides with cold weather, short days, dark mornings and gloomy news. Once again parents are having to become home-schoolers overnight and many teenagers face a ‘motivation’ challenge with the cancellation of exams. Our front-line workers are being pushed to the limit, families are grieving and the economic burden gets bigger every day. When things are tough it’s easy to want to just throw in the towel. The letter to the Hebrews was written to largely Jewish Christians who faced many pressures. They were being harassed for their faith in Christ and tempted back to the trappings of Judaism, with the Temple, the Priests, sacrifices and the Law. But the message is clear, Jesus Christ is the fulfilment of all of these and to turn back to them is to turn away from Christ. In the face of our present challenges and the temptation to give in, we must also look to Christ in order to persevere.
Christ’s Sacrifice & Service for us
These first verses summarise what’s been written so far. Twice he says, “since we have”. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body.” (v19-20) In the Jewish Temple the Most Holy Place was the innermost section, partitioned off from the rest by an enormous curtain. God appeared in a cloud over the Ark of the Covenant and the only person allowed into this place was the High Priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement and only with the blood of animals as a sacrifice for sin. The curtain was like a giant No-Entry sign saying- sinful people are separated from a Holy God. But now, through the blood of Jesus, the No-Entry sign has been removed. The Gospels record that when Jesus died on the Cross- “the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom” (Matt 27:51) We now have Permanent Access to God through Christ. The second “since we have” tells us what Christ is doing now. Verse 21- “and since we have a great priest over the house of God.” The house of God is the church- not the building but God’s people. Christ serves the church as our high priest. He’s our advocate in heaven who continually pleads our case before His Father and wins! Why? Because our standing before God doesn’t rest on our performance but his. This is how Hebrews describes his role- “Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives for ever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (7v23-25) So we also have a Permanent Priest in Christ.
Our Response as His People
We read in v22-25 several times, ‘let us’. As Christians we’re not lone rangers but members together of the body of Christ. To persevere in these challenging times is a church-wide effort where we need each other. There are four responses-
#1 Upward in Faith (v22)- “let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water.” If we’ve trusted in Christ then our sins have been dealt with and our hearts cleansed by the Holy Spirit. There’s nothing that stands in our way from this permanent access to our loving, heavenly Father. We need to encourage each other that this is our privilege 24/7.
#2 Outward in Hope (v23)- “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.” Nothing can rob us of the hope that is ours in Christ. The writer describes this hope as “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” (6:19) Following Christ will sometimes be very hard and we may not understand why some things happen and other things don’t. We may miss out on things this world values and suffer for our faith. But like the heroes of faith, we persevere and don’t lose heart- “These were all commended for their faith, yet no one of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that together with us would they be made perfect.” (11:39-40) Encourage each other that in Christ, no matter how hard the trial, we have the gift of eternal life beginning now and lasting forever!
#3 Inward in Love (v24-25a)- “And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing” We may be in lockdown and face to face contact restricted for the next few weeks, but there’s lots that we can do to encourage each other; pick up the phone, text, message or email words of encouragement to one another; pray for each other daily; think the best of one another and be kind towards each other even though we may have different opinions about Covid and lockdown; serve one another in whatever way that we can; don’t retreat and wait for others to make the first move; keep meeting together on a Sunday, either in-person as the guidelines continue to permit or remotely. If you’re in a small group or the community group keep plugged-in even though you might have been on Zoom all day.
#4 Forward with Excitement (v25b)- “but let us encourage one another- and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Scripture makes clear that we don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but there is one cast-iron future certainty, and that is Christ’s return. His return will see an end to all suffering, pain, sin and death as he ushers in a new heaven and new earth. Encourage each other that the best is yet to come, as CS Lewis wrote- “If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that we were made for another world.” May we look back on these difficult days of lockdown as a time of spiritual renewal.