In our study of the Book of Hebrews, the author keeps coming back to this central message: the supremacy of Jesus Christ. We've seen this in previous chapters talking about how Jesus is greater than the patriarchs of the Old Testament, the men that this Jewish Christian audience had looked up to as the founders of their faith, like Abraham and Moses. We've talked about how Jesus is greater than the high priests, those who were once tasked with making sacrifices to God on behalf of the people. We talked about yesterday in Chapter 8 that the work of Jesus was greater than the work of the first covenant, the one God made to His people through Moses. That message is reemphasized today, in chapter nine. The author of Hebrews explains to the audience that Jesus was the greatest sacrifice possible for their sins. And some of the questions that are answered in Hebrews 9 are why did Jesus have to die? Why don't we practice animal sacrifice anymore? And what was the old covenant missing that didn't make it better than this new covenant?
Well, the author explains that in the old covenant, people were still separated from God. In verse three, the author highlights aspects of how the Tabernacle was constructed in Exodus 26: the curtain that separated the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place – where God dwelt but where people could not go. But that separation between God and humanity was broken through the work of Christ. In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, it mentions that when Jesus died, this curtain was ripped top to bottom, symbolizing no more division between God and us, His people.
Another reason why the old covenant could never be the final plan is because the sacrifices were being made on Earth and that did not change the spiritual reality in heaven. That's what made the blood of Jesus different than the blood of animals. In verse 12, “it says with his own blood, not the blood of goats, not the blood of calves he entered the most holy place once and for all, and secured our redemption forever.” Our redemption was never going to be secured on Earth. We needed Jesus to die so that He could step back into heaven, securing our place in the Most Holy Place. This Most Holy Place wasn’t the part of the earthly Tabernacle, but heaven itself.
And though this old covenant system was what was given to as first, it says in verse 9, the gifts and sacrifices that the priests were offering were not able to cleanse the consciences of the people who brought them. This wasn't sustainable. People weren't able to be made truly right before God. Their sacrifices didn't change the patterns of sin and the cost of sin - which was spiritual death. The author of Hebrews uses all of these references to the Old Testament to prove that God's purpose was to not have everything point back to the old covenant. In verse 10, it says for that old system only deals with food and drink in various cleansing ceremonies, physical regulations that were in effect only until a better system could be established. God's purpose was to have everything point back to the new covenant made through Jesus, which was the better system that he always intended to establish. Verse 9 explains how everything that was just described with the Old Testament all is an illustration pointing back to the present time. Everything was meant to be a symbol, eventually leading to the sacrifice of Jesus.
Today, let us lean into this understanding that the blood of Jesus was enough to cover all our sins once and for all. You can ask yourself, do I feel like I still have to earn my forgiveness? Do I think that I have to do all the right things? Say all the right things? Follow all the right religious practices and then God will forgive me? Am I trying to cover my own sins, my own sacrifices? Or do I believe that Jesus's blood was enough to cover my sins? And as we lean into this New Covenant reality, the difference will be so evident in the way that we the difference will be evident to others in the way that we live in Christ.
We can ask ourselves, am I fully embracing the redemptive work of the cross, no strings attached? Am I allowing the work of Jesus to radically change my heart? Am I coming to Jesus? Out of a heart of repentance and of admiration for the work that he has done, is it more than just trying to ease our own guilt? As it says in verse 14, just think how much more the blood of Christ will purify our consciences as from sinful deeds that we can worship the living God.
Let us give thanks to Jesus for being the perfect sacrifice for our sins. We can praise him for doing on our behalf. What we were never going to be able to do on our own. There were never going to be enough sacrifices that we could ever make, and so we thank Jesus for stepping in. We can walk in freedom today under the new Covenant. Knowing that what Jesus did was more than enough to cleanse us from all sin. And like it says in verse 28, we can celebrate knowing that he's coming back again, not to die once more, but to bring us all back who are waiting on him.