I love meat. As it happens, I love fruit, nuts and vegetables too, and will happily live as a vegetarian for half the week. But I can’t go the whole hog – pardon the pun. Walk me down the meat aisle of the supermarket, past the speciality sausages and the cuts of beef, and I can’t help but be drawn to them.
But like most people today, I don’t really appreciate what it takes for me to eat the meat that’s on my plate. I don’t have to kill the animal myself, to watch its life blood drain away. I suspect if I did, I would feel very differently. Does that make me a hypocrite? Possibly!
As a culture we are now shielded from the true cost of what it means to eat flesh. Animals are ‘sacrificed’ in special places, far away from where we live, so what we experience is sanitised – an inanimate object packaged in cling film, like most of the other food we eat.
Such a removal of the reality of what it means to use animals in this way makes it much harder for us than it used to be to read the accounts of the Jewish sacrificial system. They feel strange to our ears now, even barbaric. And yet, it’s not so very far from how many of us relate to the same sorts of animals today.
And the system had a divine purpose. The life of the animals was given for ours. They won our forgiveness, our rightness with God. By their wounds, we are healed. The book of Hebrews takes this starting point and shows over 13 chapters how Jesus fulfilled and completed the whole system, so that it was no longer required. Christ was both a perfect priest (mediator between God and humans) and perfect sacrifice, winning through his one sacrificial death forgiveness and rightness with God for all people, for all time.
Or as this passage puts it: ‘he entered the most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, so obtaining eternal redemption’ (v12). What needed constant new sacrifices under the old system is now completed for all time – this is such a radical change that the author reminds us that this is a new covenant between God and humanity, which guarantees us an eternal inheritance (v15).
But how did this perfect transaction take place? Well, it involves the whole Trinity of God – Jesus offers himself to the Father ‘through the eternal Spirit’ (v14). The Spirit effected the offering of Christ to God – how amazing is that? We rightly praise Jesus for what he did for us, and God the Father for offering his only son, but very rarely do we give the Spirit any credit. And yet, Jesus’ sacrifice is offered to God through the Spirit. Wow!
Truthfully I’m not sure I’ve ever thought about that till today – which reminds us that with God there are always new treasures to find, new truths to inspire us. The Spirit’s task is to teach us all things (John 14:26): may God reveal a beautiful new truth to you today that captures your heart and fills you with joy.