Twenty-fifth Sunday after Pentecost
November 15, 2015
“Therefore Let Us Draw Near, Hold Fast, and Stir Up” (Hebrews 10:11-25)
Last week we looked at Hebrews 9, where we are told that Christ is our high priest. Today we continue on into Hebrews 10, where the writer expands on what it means that Christ is our high priest and then goes on to say what the implications of that are for our life. And we can sum those up this morning in three ways. Since Christ is our high priest, “Therefore Let Us Draw Near, Hold Fast, and Stir Up.”
Draw near, hold fast, and stir up. Let us draw near with a true heart. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope. And let us stir up one another to love and good works. These are the implications of Christ being our high priest that we will look at this morning.
But first let’s reorient ourselves to what it means when we say that Christ is our high priest. That’s where the writer to the Hebrews goes first: “And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which 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, waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”
Hebrews makes a comparison between the priests of Old Testament Israel and Jesus as our great high priest. The Old Testament priests would be standing in the tabernacle day after day, week after week, year after year, offering up sacrifices. There were sin offerings, guilt offerings, whole burnt offerings, all sorts of sacrifices for sins and trespasses, intentional and unintentional, going on every day of the year. And then on one day of the year, every year, on the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur, the high priest would enter the holy places of the tabernacle, first the Holy Place and then, going through the curtain, into the Most Holy Place. In that Holy of Holies, the high priest would take the blood of the atoning sacrifice and sprinkle it on the mercy seat, the cover of the ark of the covenant. This would serve as an all-purpose, comprehensive sacrifice to cover all the sins of all the people for that year. However, this Yom Kippur sacrifice, like all the daily sacrifices, had to be repeated, over and over and over again. This was showing, by their repetitive nature, that the blood of bulls and goats can never truly, fully, take away sins.
But then, those priestly sacrifices were never meant to do that. They were only a temporary, provisional solution that the Lord offered, and they were meant to point ahead to the one final sacrifice that would truly, fully, take away sins. And not just the sins of Israel, but the sins of the whole world. Those Old Testament priestly sacrifices pointed ahead to–and had validity because of–the one, once-and-for-all, final sacrifice made by Christ Jesus our Lord, the great high priest over God’s house, as well as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. As we sing in the hymn: “Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain could give the guilty conscience peace or wash away the stain. But Christ, the heav’nly Lamb, takes all our sins away; a sacrifice of nobler name and richer blood than they.”
Christ, the high priest. Your high priest. He offered up the one fully atoning sacrifice for all of your sins. You are completely covered. What the Son of God did for you on the cross, shedding his holy blood for you–this is enough, more than enough, to atone for all of your trespasses, to take away all of your guilt. Nothing more is needed. Jesus did it all. For you.
And now Christ has risen from the dead and has ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, from whence he will come on the last day to make death itself a footstool for his feet. Death is the last enemy to be destroyed, and it has already been defeated, by Christ’s own death and resurrection. And the day is approaching when Christ will return and raise up our dead bodies from the grave and restore all of creation. That day is coming, and it is assured, a sure thing. So we have this hope to hold on to.
Meanwhile, Christ is serving as our high priest in heaven, ever living to intercede for us. Friends, Jesus is praying for you, pleading your case before the throne of God. “Father, I’ve got this one covered. My blood has purchased her forgiveness. Do not hold her sin against her.” And God says, “I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.” Jesus is praying for you: “Father, grant help to this man and his family. I am their advocate and intercessor.” Brothers and sisters, this is what is going on in heaven, even now as we are sitting here. Jesus is governing all things on earth for the good of his church. Jesus is praying for us at the throne of grace, where we will find grace and mercy and help in every time of need.
Now in view of all this, with all this being the case, now we come to the “so what,” the implications all of this has for our lives. That’s where Hebrews goes with the “Therefore let us” statements. Therefore let us draw near with a true heart. Therefore let us hold fast the confession of our hope. Therefore let us stir up one another to love and good works.
The first “let us” statement: “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
“Let us draw near with a true heart.” We say that, don’t we, at the start of the service: “Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to grant us forgiveness.” And guess what? He does! No, you don’t have to guess. You can be sure, absolutely sure–absolution sure–that God does forgive your sin, for Christ’s sake.
So yes, beloved, let us draw near with a true heart. For our hearts have been sprinkled clean from an evil conscience, clean with the blood of the Lamb. Our bodies have been washed with pure water, in the waters of Holy Baptism. We have the full assurance of faith that God is for us and will hear our prayers. So let us draw near to God our Father in prayer, praying boldly and with confidence in every time of trouble, for ourselves and for others, knowing that God hears our prayers and will act mercifully, for Christ’s sake.
That’s the first “let us.” The second is this: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.” Let us hold fast the confession of our hope. We have a hope, and it is one strong enough to hold on to. God has promised this hope to us. He has promised that Christ will come again, to raise us up and take us home. He has promised to give us eternal life. And God is faithful to deliver on his promises. So let us hold fast the confession of our hope.
This means we confess it, we speak it out. We speak it forth, before one another and before the world. We are not ashamed–no, we are bold–to speak the hope that the Holy Spirit has planted in our hearts. In the face of a world that will mock our hope, in the face of enemies who would kill us for our hope, we are bold to declare before friend and foe alike the hope we have in Christ. Let us be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in us. And God will use the confession of our faith and our hope to work in the hearts of others, to strengthen their faith and even to bring some to faith. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope.
And now we come to the third “let us” here in this section of Hebrews: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Let us stir up one another to love and good works. And this happens as we meet together. When some of us don’t meet together, when we neglect the assembling of the brothers here in church, that stirring up and that encouraging suffers. So it is all the more important that we, frankly, come to church. Like, every Sunday. Not once a month. Not twice a month. Not just when it’s convenient and it doesn’t interfere with our precious plans. No, every Sunday, every Lord’s Day, and for other services and Bible classes and occasions also.
This is how and where and when we encourage one another. This is how and where and when we get to know one another and talk to one another and find out how we can stir one another up to love and good works. We find out who is hurting and how we can help. Even our physical presence in the pew is encouraging. We see our brothers and sisters here with us, and it is encouraging. We hear their voices, confessing the faith together with us in the Creed, singing with joy and praise together with us the hymns of the church, and it is encouraging. Friends, let us meet together and make it a habit, so that we can encourage one another in the faith and consider how we can stir one another up to love and good works.
“And all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” Yes, that day is drawing near, the day of Christ’s return. We don’t know when it will be, but we do know that it will be. And it will be glorious. Come, Lord Jesus! Maranatha: Our Lord, come!
And until that day, we know that we have a great high priest who has atoned for all our sins and who is standing for us as our own high priest in heaven. Therefore, beloved, let us draw near to God with a true heart in full assurance of faith. He is merciful, and he will hear our prayers. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering. He who promised is faithful, and he will deliver on his promises. And let us consider how to stir up on another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, but encouraging one another all the more. God has brought us into his family, the church, and he has done so for a purpose.
Let us draw near. Let us hold fast. Let us stir up. This may sound like a “let us” salad, but remember, there’s a “therefore” in front of it. For it’s all based on what Christ, our high priest, has already done. And that makes all the difference.