The Fourth in a Series of Sermons on the Epistle to the Hebrews
The very fact that human priests are themselves sinners raises a number of important questions. How can sinful priests offer sacrifices that remove the guilt of our sin, unless they first offer sacrifices for themselves? And any sacrifices they offer–the blood of animals–only temporarily removes the guilt of our sins. Such sacrifices only delay the judgment of God, and they must be continually repeated by the priests not only for themselves, but also for those on whose behalf they are offered. It will take a perfect priest offering a perfect sacrifice, if we are to saved from the guilt and power of sin. This perfect priest is Jesus Christ who has made himself lower than the angels, suffered on the cross and tasted death, was raised from the dead and then ascended on high, before taking his place at God’s right-hand. And yet, this perfect priest is merciful to us because he himself has suffered and was tempted, just as we suffer and are tempted.
As we continue our series on the Book of Hebrews we come to the second half of the second chapter of this epistle, where the author continues to make his case for the superiority of Jesus Christ. As the author has shown us from the pages of the Old Testament, Jesus Christ is superior to angels. Jesus is superior to Moses. And Jesus is superior to the priesthood of Israel. While in the previous verses, the author has focused upon our Lord’s superiority to angels, in verses 10-18 of Hebrews 2, the author now begins to address a topic he will develop in great detail throughout the balance of this epistle–the superiority of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Jesus is a much greater priest who offers a much better sacrifice for sin.
Before we turn to our text this morning (vv. 10-18), a bit of review is in order. The church receiving this letter was very likely a small congregation meeting in a home in a large city (Rome or Alexandria?). It was composed of mostly Hellenistic Jews (Greek in culture, Hebrew in theology), who had recently converted to Christianity. A number of these people had come under a great deal of persecution from governing authorities, and from their Jewish friends and families in the synagogues they had ceased attending. Many, apparently, made professions of faith in Jesus Christ and were baptized, but then sadly renounced both when the persecution became too great.
The letter was know as the Epistle to the Hebrews is an unknown author’s response to this tragic situation. Likely written by someone in the Pauline circle, in this epistle the author preaches a sermon (the epistle is in the form of a homily–a written sermon) making a very powerful case that since God has spoken finally and definitely in the person of his son, Jesus Christ, and since Jesus Christ is greater than Moses, angels, and Israel’s priesthood, the New Covenant of which Christ is mediator is superior to the Old Covenant and its types and shadows. His main point is “why would someone want to return to that which is inferior (the Old Covenant) with a priesthood with perpetual and bloody animal sacrifices which were intended to foreshadow the once-for-all sacrifice for sin, made by Jesus Christ?”
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