Monday, June 28, 2010

Jesus' Final Sacrifice

I have a friend who once informed me that I am boring. She may not have said it in quite those words, but I knew what she meant. Apparently, I have a habit of repeating myself. If I tell someone a story, I easily forget and then tell them the same story later. It's difficult to do otherwise when there are so few entertaining events in one's life. I can only tell about not liking coffee very much so many times before I'm bound to tell it to the same person twice.

And with that, I offer a warning. I feel like this post could appear to be very similar to the one I wrote just a few days ago about Jesus' effective sacrifice. This is rightfully so, I think, but I do apologize for any way in which I may seem to repeat the same ideas. The idea of Jesus' sacrifice being a final sacrifice flows from the fact that it is effective. Because Jesus' death on the cross is able to wash away the stain of guilt and sin, it's the final sacrifice. It's all that's needed, because it's totally sufficient.

That isn't what it was like for the priests in the Old Testament. Because animal sacrifices were ultimately ineffective, the task of sacrifice was never fulfilled. The priest could never say, "Well, there's that. We can stop this whole messy business now." Instead, a constant stream of bleating animals made its way to the altar. Ever single year the high priest went into the Most Holy Place with the blood of the sacrifice to seek atonement, and every day other sacrifice were offered. Hebrews 10:11 says, "Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins."

Then Jesus comes and offers the self-sacrifice to which all the earlier sacrifices had pointed. And that's the end. Nothing else is needed. Hebrews 10:12 says, "But when this priest [Jesus] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God." The seated Jesus contrasts with the priest who is standing at the altar. One's work is completed; the other waits to sacrifice again.

The finality of Jesus' sacrifice underlines its sufficiency. It is "once for all" (Heb. 7:27). There is a temptation, however, to doubt the sufficiency of what Christ has accomplished. Many would say, "You're saying that salvation is found in Jesus, and that's it? That's ridiculous." In our culture that values self-help books and "pull yourself up by your own bootstraps" individualism, the idea of salvation resting solely in the act of another doesn't gel very well.

The same problem existed in the New Testament era as well. Just read the book of Galatians. Christians were distrustful of a salvation through Jesus alone, so they wanted to make it "Jesus Plus _________." Jesus Plus Circumcision. Jesus Plus Sabbath-keeping. Jesus Plus Dietary Laws. In such thinking, grace needs an amendment--something to tack on to it so that we have something to contribute to our own saving. Today it might be Jesus Plus Church Attendance. Jesus Plus Giving Money. Jesus Plus Not Drinking. Jesus Plus Getting an Ichthus Tattoo and Listening to Hillsong.

So let's remember that Jesus did the work for our salvation, and it means that we don't have to. That's a good thing, too, because we don't have the power to save ourselves. It takes God to reconcile mankind to God, and he did it on the cross.

The end.

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