If this is your first viewing, please see my Introduction before reading this.
13 December. Hebrews chapters 7-10
Chapters 5 to 10 are a lengthy explanation (originally for the benefit of Jewish readers) of how Jesus has superseded all the requirements of the Jewish law, at least those that relate to sacrifices, food laws and anything else to do with Temple ritual. Judaism has of course moved on itself since those days and no longer has a Temple or sacrifices, so the distinction is not as great as it was. But the point is still worth making, that Jesus started a completely new way of relating to God.
There are several points to the writer’s argument, and some of them (such as Jesus being equivalent to the obscure priest-king Melchizedek from the time of Abraham) are rather too obscure to explore here. More to the point is the fact that the old system of sacrifice required an endless succession of priests who died like everyone else, making regular sacrifices in a specific place (the Tabernacle or Temple), using animal blood, to forgive sins that had been committed, but could not achieve atonement (putting right) for sins that people had not yet committed. So there was no end to that system and it had no effectiveness outside the Jewish community who participated in the rituals.
Until Jesus, that is. He came as the one who outlived death, so requires no successor. He shed his own innocent blood instead of that of young animals, so no animal sacrifices are needed. He ascended into heaven and is therefore connected with all places at all times, so his sacrifice is also effective at all times and places. And he came for the benefit of all humanity, whether or not of Jewish heritage.
So why does the Church re-enact Jesus’ last meal (and thus symbolically his sacrifice) every day in many places, and at least every month in most congregations? Isn’t it enough to take Communion once, as we are baptised only once? Although Jesus’ death is effective at forgiving the sins of those who confess them in faith, we fallible people constantly need to be reminded of that.
We also need to be reminded regularly that “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (9:28), which is why we have the annual season of Advent in which we are now living. And “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith.” (10:37).