Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Creston, Iowa;
For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, since the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have any consciousness of sins? But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, “Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book.’ ” When he said above, “You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings” (these are offered according to the law), then he added, “Behold, I have come to do your will.” He does away with the first in order to establish the second. And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 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 10:1–14, ESV)
When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” (John 19:30, ESV)
(From a Sermon by Pastor Tim Pauls)
Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Once a year, once every year, a very important thing happened among the people of God. On the tenth day of the seventh month, all work was to cease. Everyone refrained from buying and selling. No one plowed a field. No one made bread. All work stopped, except for one person among all the people. The High Priest, especially chosen by God, was the only one who worked on the tenth day of the seventh month of every year.
He worked alone because what he was to do was of utmost importance. And the work he did on that day was different than all the other times he worked in the temple. Instead of the elaborate clothing that was usually worn, he wore only a simple white tunic. On that day, especially, he was to stand before YHWH in humility. First, he would offer a sacrifice for his own sin. The blood of a perfect bull was needed to purify him. According to God’s promise his sins were removed. Then he was to deal with the sins of the people.
The important work continued with the selection of two goats. The first was sacrificed before the Lord. It’s blood and the blood of the bull were taken into the holiest place in the temple. There it was sprinkled on the Ark of the Covenant. On the very place that showed the people that God was present among them. The sprinkled blood covered the sins of the people. In this way, once a year, every year, God made atonement for his people.
But, the important work was not finished. There was still the other goat that had been chosen. When the Priest was finished sprinkling blood in the most holy place, he returned to the other goat. Placing his hand on the goat’s head he would confess the sins of all Israel, and place the sins of the people on it. That goat was then driven out of the city into the wilderness, carrying the sins of all Israel away.
Every year, once a year, on the tenth day of the seventh month, again and again, God provided a means for the people to have their sins removed; a bull and two goats; spoken words and actions; and the people were cleansed.
It was messy business; throats were cut, blood was spilled, and sprinkled. It was difficult to watch, it wasn’t enjoyable. But it was necessary. God is serious about sin. The consequences of sin are the spilling of blood and death. The bloody business made that clear. It also made something else clear. God had provided a way for the people to be forgiven. The High Priest was chosen. The sacrifices were made. One goat would carry the sins of the people away, one goat would be slaughtered and blood was used to cover the sins so that God would not count them against the people anymore. That one important day was known to God’s people as: the Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur (which literally means the day of covering).
How can blood do something like that? Remember the hymn:
Not all the blood of beasts on Jewish altars slain;
Could give the guilty conscience rest or wash away the stain.
It wasn’t the blood of the goat that did anything. The sacrifice on that one day a year pointed instead to the sacrifice on one day that was yet to come.
It happened once. Not once a year, but once.
It was a working day in Jerusalem. In fact everyone was busy because the Sabbath was almost at hand and there was much preparation to be made. The people were bustling around, buying, selling, and making bread. The Romans were working, too. They had bloody business to deal with. Three men have been crucified outside of the city.
Even though everyone seems to be doing important work, one is doing more important work than everyone else. The High Priest is at work offering the sacrifice for sin. But, he’s not working in the temple; instead he is working from the cross. He is the High Priest not just for the Jews, but the High Priest of all people. His humility is evident, but really it’s showing in shame, as the simple white linen garment has been taken from him and he hang there naked, wounded, and bleeding. It is a bloody, terrible, grisly scene. We’ve seen so many pictures; so much jewelry; that I think we forget how awful it was. If you and I had been there we would have wanted to leave.
But don’t look away because this is your Day of Atonement. Really, He is Your Day of Atonement. As Jesus Christ hangs there on the cross, He is your High Priest. He offers a sacrifice for you. He is the goat whose blood is spilled. His blood covers all your sins so that they are no longer counted against you. Jesus Christ cleanses us from all sin. By His death on the cross he atones for your sins. His blood covers them all and for His sake God no longer counts them against you.
Jesus is also the scapegoat there on the cross. God, the Father, places your sins on him. In the past the goat, who bore the sins of the people was driven into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Jesus carries our sin to the grave, never to be seen again. Jesus will rise again from death, but our sin will not.
Jesus, High Priest, Sacrifice, and Scapegoat, suffers an eternity of hell for your sins. His sacrifice is worth an eternity of sacrifice. No more blood needs to be spilled. No more animals need shed their blood. God commanded that it be done once a year, every year, for all eternity. And that’s exactly what Jesus did; he made the bloody sacrifice for you, for every year, for all eternity, forever.
“It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” The writer of the Hebrews tells us, “But, by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” He has taken care of all sin for all time, there is nothing left to be paid.
Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “It is finished.” He’s not just talking about his life, he’s talking about the price paid for all sin, for all time. Jesus speaks these words loudly and clearly. His death isn’t like our death. Death robs us of power and ability we are no match for death it will have its way. But Jesus is stronger than death. He cries out in a loud voice because he has power over it. Death doesn’t take Jesus to the tomb; he carries death there. He dies, not because death takes him, but because he wants to die for you. He defeats death for you and rises again on the third day. “It is finished.” … Completed, done.” Nothing more can or needs to be done.
Whenever we face doubt, guilt and uncertainty; whenever there is persecution, illness, worry, suffering; whenever we face the consequences of sin; the words of Jesus from the cross give us great comfort. But no words of Jesus bring more comfort, especially as we consider our own death, then the words Jesus spoke as he, himself, died. Each of us must sooner or later (unless the Lord returns) face our own death. When some one will speak over us “There’s nothing more we can do.”
Even for the strongest Christian, death is a fearful future. And Satan takes great advantage of the situation. He is always trying to distract us, to take our eyes away from the cross. His most often used trick is to lie to us and convince us that we shouldn’t be afraid of death. “If my faith was strong enough, I wouldn’t be afraid to die. Maybe I’m not truly saved after all.” It is a lie of Satan; the final destructive act of a desperate and defeated enemy.
Do not believe the lies of Satan, believe, instead the truth of God. Satan misleads and lies; he convinces you that those feelings are true and right. But they are not. Jesus Christ, your Lord, does not lie. When Satan tempts you, don’t argue with him, speak instead the words of your Savior.
“It is finished.” There is nothing more to be done. You don’t have to wonder what you must still have to do, Jesus Christ has done it all.
“It is finished.” You don’t have to wonder if God is still remembering some hidden sin that you haven’t dealt with. He isn’t punishing you just a little before your life ends. He has taken all the punishment of sin and placed it on Jesus. There is none left for you.
“It is finished.” Jesus Christ has died for you and all your fears. Many Christians are afraid of death. It’s ok to be afraid, it is a fearful thing. But say the words again, “It is finished.” God has made you his own in Baptism. If you are a fearful child of God, you are still a child of God. Fear cannot harm you, it can still frighten you, but its power died on the cross. It is finished.
Jesus is your High Priest, and Sacrifice. He offered himself for your sin. What He did has taken care of it all, there is nothing left to do. Your salvation is sure; because the price has been paid in full. It is finished. Amen.
The peace of God, that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.