Perfect, without blemish, Jesus is the reality thousands of years of animal sacrifice pointed to. Jesus completed and fulfilled the first covenant, cut in blood between God and God’s people.
Now, Messiah, having completed his mission, can take His seat on the royal throne of heaven, and rest His foot on restored creation, joining heaven and earth, the spiritual and physical realms, in a sacred whole.
It Is Finished
The writer took great care in explaining the magnificent truth he was presenting to his audience. What he was propounding was a radical departure from everything they understood as true. This was the core issue, the reason the readers of the Hebrews’ epistle were drifting from the faith. That Jesus was the complete and final sacrifice
did not seem true, it did not feel true, that one sacrifice for all time and eternity given by one man (no matter how sacred and pure) could be enough for all people everywhere, let alone even for one other person.
The draw of Jerusalem, of God’s Holy Habitation, the massive white-marble-and-sheets-of-gold temple Herod the Great had built, with its colossal golden menorah, flames leaping from every cup, causing the temple to shine like the sun, the gold catching and refracting the rays of light . . .
The high priest in his magnificent raiment, gleaming white turban, the great chestplate of gold and gems, the immense Altar of Sacrifice, kept burning day and night, and the worshippers coming with their sacrifices as squadrons of priests wielded their sanctified knives and the blood flowed like rivers of forgiveness . . .
It was in their bones and sinew, woven into the fibers of their souls.
How could they not offer sacrifices for their sins?
Did God not say they must?
And you shall bring to the priest, as your guilt offering to the Lord, a ram without blemish from the flock, or its equivalent, for a guilt offering. The priest shall make atonement on your behalf before the Lord, and you shall be forgiven for any of the things that one may do and incur guilt thereby.Leviticus 6:6-7 (NRSV)
They had put their faith in Jesus, they were believers. But they were also Bible-believing Jews, who knew their scriptures well. These were the faithful who had received Christ when they had recognized the One Whom they had pierced, and had been cut to the quick.
Now, walking with the Lord, taking in the teaching of the apostles while also faithfully keeping the festivals, their prayers, their study of the scriptures, and bringing offerings to the temple, they were torn. Their family and friends had pled with them, argued with them, and finally ostracized them—as the Law required of apostates. To those of Jewish faith, to worship a man was blasphemy, and to eschew the Levitical sacrificial system was heresy.
Jewish converts groaned under heavy opposition and even persecution from their community. It had to have been terribly painful for them to be turned out of their synagogues, to be barred entrance to the temple, to be turned away from every Jewish home, for the faces of all their loved ones to turn away every time they came near.
It is no wonder they felt that tug on their hearts to return to their roots.
But the writer, inspired by God through the divine power of the Holy Spirit, called out to them through this letter. The old ways are over and gone, the old covenant has been made null. Do not lose what Christ has done for you! Anchor your souls in the sacrifice that has cut the new covenant! Look to the High Priest Who has made atonement for you forever!
The Priest Is Sitting!
And every priest stands day after day at his service, offering again and again the same sacrifices that can never take away sins.
But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, “he sat down at the right hand of God,”
and since then has been waiting “until his enemies would be made a footstool for his feet.” For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying,
“This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws in their hearts,
and I will write them on their minds,”
he also adds,
“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”
Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.Hebrews 10:11-18 (NRSV)
He sat down.
The Levitical priests were always standing because their work was never done, but Jesus was able to say “It is finished.” That is why He sat down. Jesus has permanently, for all time and eternity, achieved for you and for me God’s forgiveness of our sin, and has broken down all the barriers between people and God.
They had received this when they had first heard the gospel. The two very last sentences in the Gospel of Mark, the earliest Gospel to be published, Peter’s gospel, say,
So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
And they went out and proclaimed the good news everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.Mark 16:19-20 (NRSV)
Later, Paul also wrote of this glorious truth in a letter that was circulated years before the writer of Hebrews set pen to papyrus.
God put this power to work in Christ when [God] raised him from the dead and seated him at [God’s] right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come.
And God has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.Ephesians 1:20-23 (NRSV)
All things under His feet.
Both Paul and the writer of Hebrews referenced an ancient, symbolic custom in which the conquering king would place his foot on the necks of his vanquished enemies, here described.
When they brought the kings out to Joshua, Joshua summoned all the Israelites, and said to the chiefs of the warriors who had gone with him, “Come near, put your feet on the necks of these kings.” Then they came near and put their feet on their necks.Joshua 10:24 (NRSV)
God’s word in heart and mind.
Then, the writer quoted from the fiery prophet Jeremiah, whose oracle spoke of a time when God’s people would have God’s words alive within them. The people had always understood that time to come at the remaking of the entire cosmos, when they inhabited the new heavens and earth, and when all the world would stream to Jerusalem to worship Almighty God.
But, the writer was saying, that time is today! By the power of God, you have the Spirit of Christ Who lives within you!
It has taken ten chapters for the writer to reach this point, and it is a turning point, which we will take a look at tomorrow.
12 thoughts on “Hebrews: And He Sat Down!”
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Thank you, friend in faith, may God continue to pour out the Lord’s grace and peace upon you, Joanne
God bless you Sister/Professor Joanne! Thank you for this very descriptive historical lesson outlining these particular circumstances with some very enlightening new information to me with your fine explanation and specifics relating to “conversion;” as you indicate it here with this sentence, “It had to have been terribly painful for them to be turned out of their synagogues, to be barred entrance to the temple, to be turned away from every Jewish home, for the faces of all their loved ones to turn away every time they came near.” Which I of course agree must have been so very painful; a rejection and distrust at least as bad to me, say likened to the condemnation by the community like that of Puritanical Colonial America during the 1600’s depicted in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s “The Scarlet Letter.”
Or another scenario where individuals are put under such suspicion and ridicule being so ostracized and really condemned in a way that put the individual under such a contemptuous high level of suspicion and admonition that could be downright frightful in those times! Perhaps even more like Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” when people were labeled witches and very horrible things could happen to such a person, while any such circumstance would in the least be leaving such a person in an extremely precarious position unlike anything we modern era folks ever have to deal with; at least not most!!
Thank you, I always learn reading your writings and become fascinated as well as inspired! A real pleasurable learning experience!
God bless you!
Amen, Brother Lawrence, amen. They went through very painful rejection, and your literary references were spot on. You and I know these first century Christians were headed into even more frightening persecution, as you indicate. My heart goes out to those ancient faithful ones, and to those who live in places where being a Christian brings even fatal oppression.
So thankful you spoke of them, that is the heart of our Lord. Grace and peace, Joanne
Amen again, Sister Joanne I thank God and you here for added insight and understanding!
When I think of the difficulty I faced when targeted by oppressive government over the last dozen years which is a long story but I can say here it was very difficult to deal with and extremely stressful; but I did have the wherewithal and some legal mechanisms, Pro Se only, to allow me a path to resist in order to protect myself with of course the hand of God through Jesus Christ actually the real power behind me, toward having any actual success and ultimately surviving some extremely difficult injury repercussions in a political workplace and heavy turmoil in my circumstances overall; yet I always felt like I had hope for tomorrow as long as I could physically make it, but in those to me most difficult times in my life I mention, in comparison it must have been beyond frightening to be branded in such a way as those people back then were; feeling like your whole world was closing in on you and that everyone you knew was against you; which would leave little to no recourse to address it all. I mean, we have to agree that as in my own personal experiences no matter how rough things got I was able to move forward with some hope of a better day to come, but I try to imagine how devastating it would be back in those ancient times to carry on; and it just seems like it would be practically hopeless, which is even too much for me to fathom if I really try to imagine myself in that circumstance after even having been persecuted though in a modernistic fashion; what could I do other than perhaps run away, become a shipmate on a pirate ship or get to some subtropical island to live out a lonely life with the monkeys and coconuts!!
But yes those first century Christians and their having to initially and onward for many years, practicing their faith in the catacombs; while if caught surely meant being put to death, now that was a terrifying way to have to love our Savior; my God those poor people went through a living hell! Dear God the martyrs and saints who were beheaded or burned at the stake, even my name sake Saint Lawrence I shudder to think that being a Christian was that hard to do, only then I realize today for example during the Syrian Civil War which began escalate to a fever pitch after 2011 many Christians that didn’t get the opportunity to flee that nation were persecuted and executed; so the same evil all those centuries ago is out there in some isolated areas for poor good Christians which is a horrid reality such a sad thought for me to realize!
I just send out a comment recently regarding that very early period of Christianity when Christ was crucified, and something was portrayed beautifully in an older classic film “The Robe” and the scene where Richard Burton as Marcellus Gallio Jean Simmons as Diana are shown walking to their execution just as the emperor orders them to be put to death for not renouncing Jesus, in a beautiful cinema graphically done shot that does give one the sense tat hey are happy and going to God’s kingdom while the emperor is a miserable wretch but I still get so sad thinking how it really was like that for people like back then! Here is that comment and video clip.
“A well-made film based around true events in the Bible when such movies were a staple such a different time than now! The performances and list of top billed stars for that period is beautiful! I really enjoy watching older films and have a good collection I’ve been putting together! This film “The Robe” and others like it make me cry, especially so, does “The Passion of the Christ” every Easter when I watch it again! I love that such movies were made and people did have much more moral integrity and virtue back then when they produced “The Robe” not that many years ago; and perhaps more of that can be elicited from today’s generation, as they hopefully see the wickedness all around now and wake up to how God intended us to live and love each other; then ultimately God through Jesus Christ! Amen.
One of Cinema’s all-time best movie scenes of “the Hope in Action” in a very artistic way as well as a real inspiration in the heart! I’m sure you like it!
I want to assume you’re very familiar with the film Joanne but either way is a beautiful thing to watch!
Thank you for the inspiring comment which got me to open up to all of this now!
God bless you and yours!
Brother in Christ Jesus,
What good words, Brother Lawrence!! I was swept up into your own story of faith and courage, and in your heart for our brothers and sisters in antiquity.
I read The Robe as a young girl, and it affected me deeply. Later, I was delighted to find the movie. You inspire me to watch it again, thank you! Grace and peace, Joanne
Wow thank you I was fading here and wondered if I was going to mess up too much but if anything was good enough to carry the discussion ahead a bit, I’m pleased! Then I figured if nothing else just the movie scene and musical score is worth it to me; and hopefully to you as much! And I just watched again; it makes me tear up!
This is wonderful Joanne! WOW! What an inspiring connection of dots as I have written you know in that essay converging conversations! These are dots God wants us to connect and they fit like clockwork or a glove even! You had that interest as a young girl, so beautiful, and then sought out the film!!! Fantastic! I’m so moved and touched by this! Watch it again as soon as you get the opportunity! I am too, I watched clips so far since sending that comment to another blogger, but I want to see the whole movie, it makes me cry; but I love those great movies and they are about our Savior! This weekend I will watch it for sure now!
God bless you!
Shalom Sister Joanne!!!
Shalom, brother in Christ!
Thank you again Sister! I hope you are having a very blessed day and my thoughts and prayers are with you!
Brother in Christ. Shalom, Joanne!
Sorry about the typos a bit tired a long day and not being as accurate as I should. If they distract and you wanted you can edit them! But I kid; you have plenty to do already!