November 12, 2021 • Life for Leaders
Scripture – Hebrews 10:11-14, 19-23 (NRSV)
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.
Therefore, my friends, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary 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 approach 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 hold fast to the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who has promised is faithful.
Because Jesus made a single offering, because he sat down, and because the Jesus who did that is the one who knows our every weakness, we have a beautiful new kind of access to God and can rest in complete assurance of God’s love. And I don’t just mean intellectual rest, believing in what Jesus did. I mean rest rest. We can relax. We can lean on the everlasting arms.
I don’t know about you, but there are certain sermons I can point back to in my life which represented such a momentous proclamation of the gospel that they transformed my understanding of the Christian life forever. They truly “broke open the Word of God,” as my grandfather used to say in my childhood when somebody did a good, faithful exegesis of a passage and proclaimed the Word.
There are five of these sermons for me. Someday I’ll tell you about the other four, but the one I remember today was a sermon on Hebrews 10. While as an Anglican I am not in a tradition where people usually title their sermons, I grew up United Methodist and I heard this sermon at my alma mater, Asbury, and it had a title: “Christ Sat Down.” The preacher, who was a professor of New Testament, used the reference in this passage to Christ sitting down to drive home a very important point: Christ’s sacrifice was once for all.
Humans, we learn in this passage, have tried to make sacrifices, but those sacrifices have not permanently taken away sin. Before we get too dismissive of the Jewish sacrificial system, it’s important to remember that those sacrifices were commanded by God, as we read in Leviticus and Deuteronomy. But we learn there as well that those sacrifices were meant to be time-limited. You would make a sin offering, and then after a while you would come back and make a sin offering again. Somehow what Jesus did for us changed that. After his once-for-all offering of himself on our behalf, he sat down, and he never has to get back up.
There are so many profound implications of this passage. One of the ones I love most is found almost right away in the text—in Hebrews 10:19-23. Because Jesus made a single offering, because he sat down, and because the Jesus who did that is the one (as we read in Hebrews 4) who knows our every weakness, we have a beautiful new kind of access to God and can rest in a complete assurance of God’s love. And I don’t just mean intellectual rest, believing in what Jesus did. I mean rest rest. We can relax. We can lean on the everlasting arms. We can stop chasing some kind of elusive work-life balance, stop bearing everything we have been bearing for so long, and just sit down.
In 10:19-23, the author of Hebrews uses terms of opening the curtain and being sprinkled clean and washed with water that would have made sense to those used to Temple worship, but now the author appropriates them to describe a new kind of worship not bound to the Temple in Jerusalem. Christians have historically interpreted the phrase about being “washed with pure water” as a reference to Holy Baptism, our entry point into the church.
Years ago, after that sermon that meant so much to me, the professor directed us to come forward to the baptismal font that sat in the front of our chapel. As we came forward and touched the water, he said to each of us a line often used in liturgies of baptismal remembrance—“Remember your baptism and be thankful.” In that precise moment, in the middle of what was for me a very troubling year, it affected me profoundly to be reminded of Christ’s love for me. It reminded me that, broken and suffering as I was, I could sit down.
He who promised is faithful. You can sit down too.
What do you need to rest from?
What does it mean to you to approach God with confidence in and assurance of his love?
Listen to “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms.” (This video was recorded at the church where the song was first performed over 100 years ago.) Lean on His arms in prayer and worship.
Lord, thank you for being faithful. Thank you for knowing our every weakness. Thank you for sitting down. Amen.
Find all Life for Leaders devotions here. Explore what the Bible has to say about work at the unique website of our partners, the Theology of Work Project. Commentary on today’s Life for Leaders theme can be found here: Jesus’ Intercession Empowers Our Life and Work (Hebrews 7:1–10:18)
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Jennifer Woodruff Tait (PhD, Duke University) is the editor of and frequent contributor to Life for Leaders. She is also the managing editor of Christian History magazine and web editor for the Theology of Work Project, and a priest in the Episcopal Church. She has written a book of poetry, Histories of Us. Jennifer lives in Berea, Kentucky, with her husband, Edwin, and their two daughters.
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