Hebrews 9:11-15 | “The Temple Made with Hands” | Judica Sunday | 17 March 2013
(The 60th Anniversary of Hope Lutheran Church)
The first verses of the Epistle, Hebrews 9:11-12:
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.
In the Old Covenant the Lord had Moses fashion a tent, the tabernacle. It was the Holy Place. And in that tabernacle there was an inner room, the most Holy Place. It was dark, there was no window or door. The Ark of the Covenant was there with the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and God’s presence would rest atop this, on the mercy seat. No one would go in that room except for the High Priest, and only twice a year, both on the same day, the Day of Atonement, and he would not go there without blood.
The High Priest would go into the Holy Place carrying a bowl full of the blood of a bull, sacrificed on the altar for his own sins, and he would pour this blood over the Ark of the Covenant. And then he would leave, come out of the temple, sacrifice another bull (perfect and without blemish) for the sins of the people, and he would take the blood of that bull into the Holy of Holies, and put it also onto the Ark.
All of this was a preaching of the Gospel, a preaching of the sacrifice to come, the sacrifice of the Messiah. For the Ten Commandments were there in the Ark, and that is bad news. There stood the requirements of the law, the law that God requires, the law that you have not kept, testifying against you. But now the blood covers them, God’s wrath is set aside, the promise of forgiveness comes forth.
Now this rite for the Day of Atonement is what Hebrews is talking about, in fact, comparing what Jesus has done to what the priests of the Old Covenant did.
Jesus, after all, is the High Priest. He has blood, but not the blood of a bull, His own blood, the very blood of God. He has a tabernacle, but not the earthly tent, His sanctuary is the throne of God in heaven. Jesus takes His blood, the benefit of His death, and carries it before the face of the heavenly Father.
But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.
How wonderful, for sinners: how wonderful.
Imagine this: there is a huge stone wall in heaven, and every time you sin there is etched onto that wall your breaking of the Ten Commandments. Every time you want and covet and desire the things that God has not given you, tap, tap, tap, engraved in heaven is your sin. Every time you gossip, or spread rumors, or speak poorly of your neighbor, tap, tap, tap. Every time you take was is not yours, hold back something that could help your neighbor, act selfishly instead of generously, tap, tap, tap. Every lustful thought, every filthy word, every unchaste deed, tap, tap, tap. Every ounce of anger is recorded there, every moment of rebellion. And these are the sins against your neighbor, your sins against God cry out even more. Missing church, despising God’s holy Word, our neglect of prayers, and fearing and loving and trusting in everything but God, all of this comes before the Father and cries out for justice, for punishment. This is the accusing work of the Ten Commandments, they accuse you, and you are guilty.
Now is doesn’t really matter if you feel guilty, because you are, and in fact, your lack of concern about your own sin is another mark against you. It is one thing for a man to murder his neighbor, but if that man doesn’t even feel bad about it, if his conscience is so seared that it is not troubled, then the court will have an even harsher judgment.
So we have this horrifying picture of our sins testifying against us before the Father, and there is nothing we can do about it. But now imagine this, into this hall comes Jesus, with holes still in His hands and feet and side, and He carries a bowl full of blood, His own blood, drained from His body and He writhed on the cross. He takes that blood to this massive stone wall with the chiseled record of all of your sins, and He covers this wall with His blood. He covers your sin with His blood. And now, when the Father looks there to see your sin, imagine this, He sees reflected in the blood the face of Jesus.
This is what is happening in the text. “He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.” Your sins are forgiven, and the perfect righteousness of Jesus is given to you. And this transaction happens in the reality of the heavenly courtroom, the temple not made with hands.
But here we are, today, celebrating the 60th anniversary of Hope Lutheran Church, a church made with hands. What do we make of this?
In a most wonderful way, this text tells us exactly why Jesus has a church on earth, and we can be specific, why Jesus has this congregation, Hope Lutheran, at this place on the earth, because He wants us to know of the happenings in heaven. Jesus brings His blood and all the benefits of His cross before the Father in heaven, but He wants those benefits brought to you as well.
And Jesus has established means to get these benefits to us: His Word, His promise of the Gospel, His promise bound up to water (which is baptism) and His promise bound up to His Body and Blood (which is the Lord’s Supper). And where ever you find these things, you find the Holy Spirit, you find Jesus Himself, delivering the forgiveness of sins. And this is the church.
The church is the delivery system for the Lord’s promises. He gives His mercy an address, so we can find it, or better, so that He can find us. And that is what we celebrate today, not that there has been a thing called Hope Lutheran Church for 60 years, but that the Lord has dwelt among us with His promises, with His kindness; that He has put His name and His kingdom here, on us.
The same blood that Jesus brings before the throne of heaven He brings to us week after week. The same blood that cleanses heaven cleans your conscience. The same word of forgiveness that echoes in the halls of heaven now echoes in your ears and your heart: Jesus has died for you. His blood covers all your wrongs. Your sins are forgiven.
We rejoice that this promise has been preached in this place for the last 60 years, and we pray that this promise would always be heard here until the Lord returns for us. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding guard your heart and mind through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
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Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller | Hope Lutheran Church | Aurora, CO