Hebrews 9-The Blood of Jesus

Hebrews 9-The Blood of Jesus

Today is Palm Sunday, a celebration of an important day in biblical history.  This day marks the story in the Gospels when Jesus was entering into Jerusalem on Sunday, five days before his crucifixion.

About 1/3 of the Gospels are devoted to this last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. 

Surely this is the most important week in human history, for if Christ is who he says he is—and the Book of Hebrews completely concurs with that—Jesus is the only and complete answer to the question, “How can I get right with God, and what is my assurance for life after death?”

Our chapter today is Hebrews 9.  This chapter is one of the best descriptions of why and how Jesus Christ is the answer for the greatest problem this world faces.  Without exaggeration.

This morning is about convictions:  I want every single one of us to have convictions…to be convinced by faith from the Scriptures…of the what’s and why’s and how’s of your faith. 

To be so convinced that you could explain it at the lunch table today to your family or a friend.   Explain why are you saved.  Explain with confidence HOW are you saved, meaning, how did it all actually occur in the heavenly realms, i.e., what transpired on earth and in heaven to bring you salvation.  Explain was God’s specific mechanism was to make all this happen.

Basically, I want you to know HOW and WHY from the Scriptures you are a Christian.

Our text this morning, Hebrews 9, can help you develop those convictions.  And it can change your life.  I am not interested in hearing, “Nice sermon, Pastor,” but walking away unchanged.  The Scriptures were written to change our lives as we understand it better and then walk by faith.  So if you and I are not changing, if we are not increasingly becoming more like Jesus day after day, month after month, then in some way we are not understanding and believing what we are reading. 

Hebrews 9

Today in Hebrews 9, we will read about priests, blood, a tabernacle, and the forgiveness of sins.

Our passage today may seem strange if you are newer to Christianity, and if you are unfamiliar with the Old Testament and how the people of Israel found relationship with Almighty God.

In page after page, the author of this beautiful book repeatedly tells us, “Jesus is better.”

Though the ways of Moses were good and holy, and it was God’s plan for a time, the ways of Christ are better.  So much better, that any other options besides Jesus are simply insufficient.    

Hebrews 9

So let’s read vs. 1-10.  This passage gives us a quick summary of how priests operated under the old covenant that God gave to Moses for Israel.

Hebrews 9 (CSB)

1 Now the first covenant also had regulations for ministry and an earthly sanctuary.

2 For a tabernacle was set up, and in the first room, which is called the holy place, were the lampstand, the table, and the presentation loaves.

3 Behind the second curtain was a tent called the most holy place.

4 It had the gold altar of incense and the ark of the covenant, covered with gold on all sides, in which was a gold jar containing the manna, Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant.

5 The cherubim of glory were above the ark overshadowing the mercy seat. It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.

6 With these things prepared like this, the priests enter the first room repeatedly, performing their ministry.

7 But the high priest alone enters the second room, and he does that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offers for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance.

8 The Holy Spirit was making it clear that the way into the most holy place had not yet been disclosed while the first tabernacle was still standing.

9 This is a symbol for the present time, during which gifts and sacrifices are offered that cannot perfect the worshiper’s conscience.

10 They are physical regulations and only deal with food, drink, and various washings imposed until the time of the new order.

Why all these details from the OT?  Let’s briefly summarize.

We can find all of this in Exodus and Leviticus, the 2nd and 3rd books of the Bible.  In broad terms, all of this was part of a ceremony that allowed the people of Israel to worship God and to find forgiveness.

The high priest—a descendant of Aaron—was the only person out of all of Israel who was allowed to enter into the inner room, the second room, called the Most Holy Place (vs. 3). 

Vs. 7 tells us that once a year on the Day of Atonement, he would enter this second room with the blood of animals.  First, he had to offer sacrifice for his own sins, for he was a sinner just like everyone else.  Then and only then was he able to offer sacrifices for the people.

This sacrifice “atoned” for Israel’s sin.  They found forgiveness.  But because it was just the blood of an animal, it was not effective to completely atone for all sins, past, present, and future.

So next year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would have to do this all over again.

Year after year after year. 

At this point, I like vs. 5:  he says, “It is not possible to speak about these things in detail right now.”  That gives me permission, it seems, to not give loads of details here.  But it’s all in the OT.  And these Hebrew Christians reading this document would have understood it all.

But then in vs. 9 and 10, the author makes a key conclusion.  We must not miss it.  This old system was from God.  He instituted it.  It was his plan for a time with Israel.  But it was never the long term solution for finding a right relationship with God.  For forgiveness.  For a cleansed conscience from all our guilt and shame.  So this OT system for Israel was not enough. 

But God was planning ahead for something better. 

So here in vs. 1-10, all this detail from the OT is given because it points us to something much better.

A better high priest.  Chapter 8 last week tells us that the gospel is built on better promises.  From a better covenant.   And now we are going to see that the cleansing of our sins is better.  And our hope is better.

Now let’s continue reading.

Vs. 11-14:

11 But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. In the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation),

12 he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,

14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?

Our passages today and next week are bringing the arguments of the Book of Hebrews to a climax.  The author has been arguing the truthfulness and the glory and the superiority of Jesus Christ and this New Covenant, a covenant made by God for the sake of the people.

Jesus is better. Today we are reading that Jesus’ blood is better than the blood of animal sacrifices.

And most important of all:  our salvation is better.  It is “eternal redemption” in vs. 12. 

Vs. 11-14 are the key to the chapter, and a key point in the author’s argument in the entire book.

In vs. 11-12, Jesus didn’t appear in the earthly sanctuary, the tabernacle built by Moses and the temple built by Solomon.  He appeared in heaven itself.

And he didn’t bring the blood of goats, but the blood from his own body.  Once again, this is why the Incarnation of Christ is such a vital doctrine.  Only the God-Man, Jesus, had the right and the power and the authority and the holiness to die for the sins of the world, giving up his own blood.  Then to rise from the dead and ascend into heaven as the Glorious, Great High Priest, and the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Because Jesus’ sacrifice was perfect, our forgiveness is perfect.  Complete.  This means our salvation is complete.  It is eternal.  Vs. 12: “eternal redemption.”  We need to add nothing to it.  We don’t need to come back next year or next week and do something more or again.  The work is done.  We must stop trying to add to it. 

The argument in vs. 13-14 is one of the key verses in this entire book.  Let’s read it again.

13 For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh,

14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?

The author refers back to the old covenant God gave to Israel.  If the blood sacrifices of animals purified the flesh….i.e., purified externally…HOW MUCH MORE….how much more….

….how much more will Jesus’ blood cleanse us down to the inside.  Cleanse even our conscience.

(Our conscience is that inner, God-given ability to know right from wrong….though our consciences can get warped and seared.). Our conscience speaks to us of our guilt or our innocence before God.   Our conscience defends us at time, but it also accuses us.

And we carry around guilt and shame.  Sometimes a crushing guilt like a roaring lion within us, keeping us awake at night.  Prompting us to hide from God and from others.  Sometimes a low grade guilt that plagues us quietly but constantly within.

Vs. 13-14 is telling us that Jesus’ blood makes our forgiveness complete.  Our redemption from sin and death and hell is eternal.  Never ending.

This is great news, isn’t it?

And what is the fruit of all this?  We are now freed up to serve the living God!

Instead of guilt and shame that plagues us and hold us down…the gospel of the Blood of Christ liberates us.  We go from sitting on death row as prisoners to sin and judgment…. to standing in the palace of God Almighty as his adopted son and daughter.  Christ’s blood does not SORT OF save us.  It does not SORT OF forgive us.  It’s like being SORT OF pregnant.  You either are or you aren’t.   The blood and priesthood of Jesus saves us completely.  Radically.  Thoroughly.  Down to the very core of our being, our conscience.

Hebrews 7:25 CSB Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.

We are finally free to worship God with clear minds.  With forgiven hearts.  With heavenly honor.  With brilliant glory.

Vs. 15-28

Let’s finish reading the chapter.

15 Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.

16 Where a will exists, the death of the one who made it must be established.

17 For a will is valid only when people die, since it is never in effect while the one who made it is living.

18 That is why even the first covenant was inaugurated with blood.

19 For when every command had been proclaimed by Moses to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, along with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll itself and all the people,

20 saying, This is the blood of the covenant that God has ordained for you.

21 In the same way, he sprinkled the tabernacle and all the articles of worship with blood.

22 According to the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

23 Therefore, it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be purified with these sacrifices, but the heavenly things themselves to be purified with better sacrifices than these.

24 For Christ did not enter a sanctuary made with hands (only a model of the true one) but into heaven itself, so that he might now appear in the presence of God for us.

25 He did not do this to offer himself many times, as the high priest enters the sanctuary yearly with the blood of another.

26 Otherwise, he would have had to suffer many times since the foundation of the world. But now he has appeared one time, at the end of the ages, for the removal of sin by the sacrifice of himself.

27 And just as it is appointed for people to die once—and after this, judgment—

28 so also Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.

All this is possible in vs. 15 because Jesus is our Great Mediator.  None of us can access God directly without a mediator.  God is too holy and pure.  Someone must stand between us and find a way for us.  That way is a mediator with blood.  It was true for Israel.  It is for us.

But our way is better than Israel’s because Jesus is better.  He didn’t enter a manmade structure.  He entered heaven itself.

So here’s a question for us:

  1. Have you ever called on Jesus to be your Mediator? 

Have you ever looked to him for the forgiveness that only he can give, the forgiveness that comes from his blood?  If you have never done that, you must.  You have no other hope.  It’s not like Jesus is better, but then there are still 3 or 4 other options, all good.  No, he is not only better, he is the only option.  The only high priest.  His blood is the only cleansing.

Even in the OT, God gave one provision to the world for salvation:  and that was spelled out in the Law.   Salvation was through the high priest descended from Aaron.   Through the blood of a lamb or bull.  In the holy tabernacle built by Moses.

There was no other way given to man on earth but this.  And this is why Israel was to live in holiness, walk in faithfulness to God, and so display the light of God to the world.  They were to be the beacon of God, that the rest of the world might see and perhaps find God and forgiveness with him.

If you’ve read much of the OT, you know that largely Israel failed to be that light.  But this was God’s plan, and there was no other.

But now in Christ, God offers another way.  A better way.  The only way.  And this is why we proclaim this message at Stonebrook.  It’s why the church is to be on mission.

So if you have never called on Jesus to be your Mediator, Great High Priest, and Forgiver, look to him today and you will be liberated from the bondage of sin and death and find the best and only freedom in the world.  Eternal redemption.  And a cleansed conscience. 

  • For many others of you in this room, you have already called on Jesus.

He has saved you.  You have found forgiveness.

To all of you, here is your question:

Are you walking in ever-increasing joy and grace in this gospel message?

Are you bearing the fruit of the Spirit, increasingly so as the years go on?

Are you finding your conscience ever-more clear and free year-by-year so that you can serve the living God with greater joy and assurance?

If yes, praise God!  Keep learning.  Continue to go deep.  Continue abiding him daily.  Continue coming every Sunday to worship with God’s people.  This is God’s will for you.  Continue being on mission, living with God’s people as lights to this dark world.  Continue serving the living God with joy and hope.

If you are NOT walking in ever-increasing joy and grace in the gospel, then I propose that something is off.  Simply yet profoundly, I wonder if you are not refreshed in the message of Hebrews?  I wonder if you have forgotten how glorious this eternal redemption is?

We can read this book, and how these Hebrew Christians were being tempted to go back to the Old Covenant.  To circumcision, to the laws of Moses, to animal sacrifices.   And we think, “Well, I’ve NEVER thought about doing that.  So what does any of this have to do with me today?  Where is the relevance?”

But I wonder if we are more like these Hebrew Christians than we realize.  Like they were, we might be searching for ways other than Jesus to ease our guilty conscience.  To soften the shame we feel.

How do we try to do this without Jesus?  In a variety of ways.  We simply try harder.  To show how serious we are.  We try to follow the rules more closely.  We make excuses.  We justify our actions and thoughts.  But all such things are not that different than finding a priest of Aaron and the blood of a lamb or bull, and hoping you can find some rest from what plagues your soul.  Hebrews tells us it will never work.  All such things are external, not internal.  It may feel like it cleanses for the moment, but more will be needed tomorrow.  Hebrews tells us that instead, we have a better way.  And that way is a person.  His name is Jesus.

Let’s review a few key passages to anchor our hope in the gospel that Hebrews reveals:

I recommend you write these down, and make them part of your thinking.  To develop convictions.  To walk in the freedom of eternal redemption.

Passage #1:

Hebrews 1:1–4 CSB Long ago God spoke to our ancestors by the prophets at different times and in different ways. 2 In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 4 So he became superior to the angels, just as the name he inherited is more excellent than theirs.

He is better because, simply, there is no one who can compare to him.  He is the Supreme One.

Like Peter said in John 6, “Lord, where else can we go?  You have words of life.”

No one anywhere in any nation in any age in any way ….can compare to Jesus.  He is unparalleled.  This is why our eyes must be fixed on him and him alone for life and hope and forgiveness and redemption. 

Then one of my all-time favorite Bible verses.

Hebrews 4:14–16 CSB Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens—Jesus the Son of God—let us hold fast to our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin. 16 Therefore, let us approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need.

Confidence.  Boldness.  The throne…not of judgment or condemnation…not of lots of good works to give you the ticket into the throne room.  No.  The throne of grace.  Let that sink in.  The throne of grace.

Why?  To receive mercy and find grace to help…..when you finally get your act together???  NO!  When you are in need.  When the guilt and shame are real, or even imagined.  We are commanded to draw near.  Do not pull away.  Do not fear.  Be at rest.  Draw near and find grace and mercy.  Now.

Hebrews 6:19–20 CSB We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20 Jesus has entered there on our behalf as a forerunner, because he has become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

We search so many things to give us stability.  To be anchors. People.  Our better performance.  Religious activities.  Serving more on a Sunday morning.  But we have one true anchor.  This hope of Jesus.  This gigantic chain is wrapped around us, and it extends into heaven with an anchor in the presence of God.  We are safe and secure with God through his Son, Jesus.  This is real hope. 

Hebrews 7:25 CSB Therefore, he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, since he always lives to intercede for them.

Saved completely.  Not mostly.  All the way.  Radically.  Nothing left outside.  And it’s because Jesus is alive.  He has raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.  He is there now interceding for us.  Defending us.  Cheering us on.

And now from our passage today:

Hebrews 9:13–14 CSB  For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14 how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God?

Eternal redemption (vs. 12).  Cleansed down to the conscience.  Our guilt and shame was taken by Jesus and it died with him when he died.  And we rose victoriously when he rose victoriously.  And we are finally free.  Finally free to serve the living God.

So from reviewing just these 5 passages…

Hebrews 1:1-4

Hebrews 4:14-16

Hebrews 6:19-20

Hebrews 7:25

Hebrews 9:13-14

What if we actually believed this?  Not simply on a theoretical basis.  Not casually.  Not as a religious exercise to answer on a hard exam, and then we forget them as soon as we leave the exam room.   

What if we believed these simple yet profound truths?

I can assure you, we will be changed.  In this story, we find something so radical, so heavenly, and so beautiful, that we ought to come to our senses and realize,

  • Who else is like the Son in his glory?
  • Who else offers grace and mercy in my time of need like he does? 
  • Who else can cleanse me down to my conscience level like he can? 
  • Who else offers hope, real, eternal hope like he does, like an anchor connecting my soul to heaven itself? 
  • Whom else can I serve who is more worthy?

If you have noticed that the Book of Hebrews overall does not have many commands like so many other epistles, your observations are correct.   There are some commands, for sure.

But the overall thrust of the book is this:  keep holding on to Jesus by faith.  Don’t give up on him.  Don’t look to other saviors.  Forsake all other attempts at finding righteousness and hope for eternal life.

If you want to experience freedom from guilt and shame…If you want more joy…If you want true hope in life…then take these passages.   Memorize them. Absorb them. Pray over them.  Worship Jesus for them. Ask that the Spirit would drive them into your heart like a hammer drives a nail. 

Again, the truths here in this remarkable book are not written to entertain us but to profoundly shape us from the inside out. 

This is why today, Palm Sunday, and next week, Easter, we celebrate the work of Jesus.

In his last week of his earthly ministry, Jesus endured the cross, taking the weight of the world’s sin and shame on his shoulders.

When you go home today, dwell on the truths we’ve looked at.  Pray for convictions in your own heart.  Pray for greater understanding and joy in your salvation.  And tell someone else what God has done for you in his Son.